Navy Cmdr. killed during the Vietnam War identified as Californian

Honoring Our Fallen:  CalVet honors members of the U.S. Armed Forces who made the ultimate sacrifice for our great nation. Efforts continue to bring home those who went missing in action, including 72,906 American service members unaccounted for from World War II, 7,699 from the Korean War and 1,594 from the Vietnam War.

Early last week, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, killed during the Vietnam War, were identified as those of Navy Cmdr. James B. Mills, of Bakersfield, California.

Vietnam Veteran James MillsOn Sept. 21, 1966, Mills, a Naval Radar Intercept Officer (RIO), and the pilot, Capt. James R. Bauder, USN, were assigned to Fighter Squadron Twenty One, aboard the, USS Coral Sea, flying in an F-4B in a flight of two aircraft on a night armed reconnaissance mission over then-North Vietnam.

During the mission, the other aircraft lost contact with Mills’ aircraft, and his plane did not return to the ship. No missiles or anti-aircraft artillery were observed in the target area and no explosions were seen. An extensive search was conducted with negative results. Based on this information, Mills was declared missing in action.

Between 1993 and 2003, the loss of the Bauder/Mills aircraft was investigated a total of 15 times, with no success.

In 2006, during Joint Field Activity 86, the investigation led to a possible underwater crash site. Five underwater investigations were required in order to determine the aircraft wreckage correlated to Bauder/Mills’ loss.

In 2011, the Air Force Life Science Equipment Laboratory, now an element of DPAA, was able to positively identify the recovered wreckage as the Bauder/Mills aircraft.

Between 2010 and 2017, Underwater Recovery Teams (URT) from DPAA conducted excavations of a submerged aircraft crash site in the waters immediately off Quynh Phuong Village, Quynh Luu District, Nghe An Province, Vietnam. During the excavations, numerous pieces of aircraft wreckage, consistent with the Bauder/Mills aircraft, were found, as well as possible osseous material. The remains found were identified as Mills’ pilot, Bauder.

In June, 2018, a DPAA Joint Recovery Team conducted another excavation, finding additional remains.

To identify Mills’ remains, DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence.

DPAA is grateful to the government of Vietnam for their partnership in this mission.

Today, there are 1,594 American servicemen and civilians still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. Mills’ name is recorded on the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, and the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, along with others who are unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

For information regarding funeral services, contact the Navy Service Casualty office at (800) 443-9298. For more on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at, find them on social media at or call (703) 699-1420.

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