CW5 James E.
26 June 1946 - 23 May 2001
[Story provided by Roger C. Green Jr.]
James E. Cary was born in Richmond, VA on June 26, 1946. Jim was the only son and youngest of two children born to James and Laura Cary. His father was a career officer and veteran aviator of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, who retired as a Colonel from the Air Force in 1966. Young Jim graduated from Pensacola High School, Pensacola, FL in 1965. Following high school he attended Pensacola Junior College. After about two years of college Jim joined the Army in March 9, 1967. After completion of basic training at Ft Polk, LA, Jim requested and received orders for Ft. Wolters, TX to begin primary helicopter training on May 29, 1967. Jim was a member of WORWAC class 67-25 and completed the advance phase of his training at Ft. Rucker, Alabama on April 8, 1968.
Warrant Officer Jim Cary, after a month of leave, arrived in the Republic of Vietnam on 6 May, 1968 and was assigned to the 281st AHC and eventually became a highly trained and skilled pilot with the 1st platoon, Rat Pack.
On 5 November 1968, in support of 5th Special Forces Group’s “Delta Project,” Jim was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroic actions that day. Warrant Officer Cary distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions while serving as aircraft commander of a UH-1H helicopter during the extraction of a Special Forces reconnaissance patrol team in contact with enemy forces west of Da Nang. The primary pickup ship attempted to reach the landing zone, but was forced to abort because of highly accurate enemy fire. Tactical air strikes were called in to suppress the enemy fire. Upon completion of the air strikes, Warrant Officer Cary spotted the team in a small opening between two ridgelines, descended to tree top level, and initiated a high speed, low-level approach towards the team. As he maneuvered, intensive enemy fire was directed at his ship. Despite hostile fire, dense vegetation, and poor visibility, he skillfully brought the aircraft to a low hover over a pile of rocks, thereby enabling the team to safely board the aircraft. Warrant Officer Cary’s courage and sound judgment were the decisive factors in the success of the mission. His actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United State Army.
Jim completed his Vietnam tour on 28 April 1969 and was reassigned to Fort Wolters, TX as a “tac” officer at the primary helicopter school. On December 10, 1969, Jim accepted a direct appointment to First Lieutenant, Field Artillery. In early 1971 Jim completed the field artillery basic course and while enroute to Vietnam, completed the Cobra transition course. Jim’s second tour was from 6 July 1971 to 7 July 1972 with two units, B/4/77 ARA 101st Aviation Battalion and the 334th Aerial Weapons Company (Sabers).
When Jim returned to the states he was assigned to Fort Knox, KY with the 7th Squadron, 1st Cav. In 1973 the Army began reduction in forces and Jim was honorably discharged and released to the army reserves on September 16, 1973.
After discharge Jim went into the automobile business in the Fort Knox area. In 1981 when Jim became a friend with some National Guard pilots he decided to join the Kentucky Army National Guard. At that time I was the company commander of the UH-1 lift company and was more than happy to have another 281st pilot in the unit. Coming from the 281st there was never any doubt about his flying skills and abilities. Jim wanted to fly Huey’s and was not particularly interested in getting his commission back. He joined the Guard as a CWO-2 on February 2, 1981. At that time I also had another former Intruder (1967) CWO-2 Jim Thieman. .
Jim Cary served more than twenty years in the Guard attaining the rank of CWO-5. His last assignment was as Aviation Safety Officer for the 63rd Aviation Group. During his years in the Guard, Jim became an Instructor Pilot in the UH-1 and also in the UH-60 when the state’s aviation was modernized in 1984.
In his civilian life Jim flew many years for state government and was a Captain on the Governor’s S76 Sikrosky. On August 7, 1992, Jim made national news by heroically crash-landing the Governor and his party when the tail rotor malfunctioned on the S76. His exemplary courage and experience saved the lives of all six persons on board. Jim was seriously injured but recovered and returned to flying. He received the Kentucky Medal for Valor from the Governor for his actions that day.
Besides the daily regimen of raising a young son and his work, Jim found time to become an ardent sailboat enthusiast. He owned a 30 foot sailboat that he kept on Cave Run Lake and would spend many of his weekends on the boat.
On 23 May 2001, Jim, as a good Samaritan, was helping friends locate their daughter who had been kidnapped and assaulted by her estranged husband. They confronted the husband at his place of business and at some point the husband opened fire with an automatic weapon, hitting Jim multiple times. Unknown to the searchers the wife was trapped inside the trunk of her husband’s car. In the standoff with police the husband committed suicide.
Jim was laid to rest on 26 May, 2001, in the Camp Nelson National Cemetery, located about 10 miles south of Lexington, KY.
Survivors include a son, James Michael Cary, Frankfort, KY; two daughters, Sandra McMichael and Julie Cary, both of McDonough, GA; Jim’s father, James G. Cary, Pensacola, Fl; his mother, Laura M. Holland, Miami, Fl; and a sister, Barbara Ham, Oahu, Hawaii.
Story provided by:
Roger C. Green Jr.