SD Vietnam War Memorial Dedication Please Support the Memorial Soldiers, Heroes, and teachers information



In Memory of  U.S. Army Specialist Fifth Class

James Richard Plate

Huron, South Dakota, Beadle County

September 14, 1948 – November 28, 1969

Died in Aircraft Crash in Pleiku, Vietnam

James Richard Plate was born September 14, 1948, in Huron, South Dakota, to Richard B. and Alma I. (Horsley) Plate. He had one sister, Connie. He attended McKinley Grade School and later went to junior and senior high school in Huron. James was involved in DECA and worked a lot during high school. He was also a Boy Scout and had earned the life scout rank. He graduated in June of 1967 from Huron High School. He worked at Armour & Co. in Huron and Chrysler Auto Plant in Belvidere, Illinois. A memory his sister, Connie, had of him was, “As a young child James had rheumatic fever, therefore, he could have gotten a medical ‘out’ of the service but felt it was a duty to serve.” He planned to use the GI Bill to go to college after the service. He was thinking about being a hotel manager or funeral director.

James’ draft number was one, but he signed up before he was drafted. He entered the army on February 13, 1968. Plate was trained first at Fort Lewis, Washington, and then to Crew Chief training at Fort Benning, Georgia. On January 15, 1969, he was sent over to Vietnam. Specialist Five Plate was stationed in Pleiku, South Vietnam in the 119th Aviation Company, 17th Aviation Group, 1st Aviation Brigade.

According to reports, U.S. Army Specialist Fifth Class James Richard Plate, “died the 26th of November 1969, in Vietnam while crew chief on a military aircraft, which crashed and burned.” Plate was on a volunteer mission when the helicopter he was riding struck some trees due to bad weather; all aboard were killed instantly. Sp/5 Plate had only nineteen days left before returning home.

Dated December 26, 1969, a letter was sent to Mr. and Mrs. Plate from James Plate’s commanding officer. It read:

It is with saddened heart and sincere sympathy that I offer the heartfelt condolences of the men of the 17th Aviation Group for the loss of your son, Specialist Five James R. Plate.

James was serving as crew chief of a UH-1H helicopter on November 26, 1969, flying in support of the 4th Infantry Division combat operation. James' aircraft was enroute to an Infantry outpost which critically needed supplies. Marginal weather conditions were encountered and forced the aircraft to fly low. James’ aircraft struck a cluster of trees approximately 200 yards from the landing area and crashed. Your son died instantly in the crash.

Specialist Five Plate’s body was recovered, returned to the United States, and was buried at Restlawn Memory Gardens in Huron. Military rites were conducted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion Post. The minister who led the service said, “He went off to a far-off land and did not return. He went there to do something we deem necessary…”

Sp/5 Plate won many awards including the Air Medal with many oak leaf clusters, which means he won the medal many times. His numerous air medals were awarded because he went on “many volunteer missions.”

James currently has one survivor, his sister, Connie Ray, who lives in Cloquet, Minnesota. Connie says, “My brother had already told us (his family) that he wanted to return on a second tour to Vietnam. He felt fighting against communism was a great cause.” She wrote in closing:

As in all young deaths, my parents’ lives were never the same. Their only son gone. I don’t recall them being bitter about the war but their hearts were broken and dreams shattered. They were ever so proud of Jim and missed him greatly. Now they are all three waiting in heaven for the rest of us to join them.


This entry was respectfully submitted by Megan Quinn, 8th Grader, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish, South Dakota, February 8, 2006. Information for this entry was provided by Connie Ray, sister, Cloquet, Minnesota, the Vietnam Veterans Bonus Application, and a Department of the Army Letter. Profile approval by Connie Ray.


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