First Lieutenant James D. Dugger, Jr.
First Lieutenant James Dowel Dugger, Jr. was born on November 1, 1946, and was originally from Pottstown, Pennsylvania. He graduated and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant from East Tennessee State University in 1969 as an Aviation Officer. While at ETSU, 1LT Dugger served as the ROTC Cadet Battalion Commander where he exhibited exceptional leadership ability, and was an inspiration to his fellow Cadets.
Upon graduation, 2LT Dugger attended rotary aircraft school and earned his wings as a helicopter pilot. He was then deployed to the Republic of South Vietnam as a rotary wing Aviation Platoon Section Commander in the 57th AHC, 52nd Aviation Battalion, 17th Aviation Group, 1st Aviation Brigade.
1LT Dugger’s tour in Vietnam began on June 5, 1972. On October 16, 1972, 1LT Dugger was co-piloting a Huey in the Pleiku province in support of a variety of missions, including the insertion of a Special Forces team, efforts to reestablish radio communications with another team, and aerial recon of an American firebase that was receiving hostile fire. During this recon, the crew was made aware that a number of wounded were at the firebase and that medivac was needed as soon as possible. The crew made the decision to land at the firebase and extract the wounded.
After landing in the middle of the compound and loading the wounded, a round from a 57mm recoilless rifle entered the front of the helicopter and went through 1LT Dugger’s chest, killing him instantly, along with SP5 James Craig. Eventually, all friendlies were extracted with the exception of 1LT Dugger and SP5 Craig. The bodies of 1LT Dugger and SP5 Craig were recovered a week later that included a harrowing helicopter landing and the assistance of a Special Forces team. 1LT Dugger was 25 years of age at the time of his death.
1LT Dugger’s awards include the Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with Star, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.