My friend, patriot and artist William Davies sent me a copy of this powerful graphite drawing a few months ago. I saved it to publish with Bill's permission on this Memorial Day weekend to commemorate the men Uncle Sam forgot.
From Staff Sergeant Ray's bio at pownetwork.org:
On March 18, 1968, PFC James M. Ray and 1Lt. John G. Dunn were part of a unit on a road clearing mission with Montagnard soldiers on Highway 20 in Lam Dong Province, South Vietnam.
During the mission, both Ray and Dunn were captured by the Viet Cong and taken to Cambodia for detention. Dunn was released in the general prisoner release nearing the end of American involvement in Vietnam in 1973. Jimmy Ray did not come home.
Ray, who had been wounded during his capture, was rotated within the "system" of those POWs held in South Vietnam. He made escape attempts which infuriated his captors and they beat him severely and confined him with chains. He was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry for these escape attempts and resulting torture.
In April 1969, an American POW who escaped from the camp where Ray was being held with other POWs reported that Jimmy was alive and one of the healthiest of the POWs both mentally and physically. Jimmy was held apart from the other POWs, because of his attempts to escape.
In the summer of 1969, Jimmy became ill with malaria and reportedly died in November 1969 at a detention camp in the northern Tay Ninh Province/Cambodia area. Although there are "statements" attesting to Jimmy Ray's death, many years would pass before Jimmy's father would be able to trace and personally talk to POWs held with Jimmy. NOT ONE saw him dead - even those whose "statements" were in Jimmy's files!
PFC Ray's records are a tangle of inconsistencies. His death was "reported" when there was no witness, and this report was later retracted. A medal was awarded for gallantry in an escape occurring AFTER Jimmy was supposed to have died. However, no verified proof of his death was ever received.
Jimmy's family feels there is a strong chance that he is alive today, but if he is not, they know that the communist government of Vietnam certainly knows the fate of PFC Jimmy Ray, who, in the words of one POW, "wanted more than anything else to be free."
The Vietnamese state that Jimmy died on November 6, 1969, but have not produced proof of his death or returned a body.
James M. Ray was promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant during the period he was a prisoner of war.
This was written nearly 30 years ago.