MSG James Earl “Duke” Austin was killed on 18 February 1971. MSG Austin was assigned to an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team that had responded to a request for assistance from the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to clean up the Des-Me Trans Ammunition Storage Point. The Des-Me Trans Ammunition Storage Point, had sustained a mass detonation and explosive ordnance disposal specialists were called in to clean up the unexploded ordnance. MSG Austin was killed instantly when a M524 fuze functioned in a 4.2-inch white phosphorus mortar that he carrying to a holding area. MSG Austin was examining the fuze when the round expelled the fuze and booster, which embedded in his chest. The booster did not function and the mortar did not ignite but was smoking. MSG Austin’s body with the unexploded ordnance in his chest was flown by Army fix-wing aircraft to Saigon Military Hospital, where members of his former unit, the 170thOrdnance Detachment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) met the helicopter. The Explosive Ordnance Disposal team was not aware until the aircraft landed that the decease was one of their own, as MSG Austin had earlier served in the 170th. At the time of his death MSG Austin was assigned to the 44th Ordnance Detachment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), 3rd Ordnance Battalion, 53rd General Support Group, Army Support Command Saigon, United States Army, Vietnam, Chu Chi, Binh Duong Province, Republic of Vietnam. Other members of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team were SFC Ralph R. Tate, SSG Fremon Thomas, and SP5 David L. Curtis. MSG Austin was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart Medal and the Bronze Star Medal.
Additional Facts: Service Number: 312263788; MOS: 55D50; Born: 13 February 1932; Age: 39; Hometown: South Bend, Indiana; Buried: City Cemetery, South Bend, Indiana, Tour Started: 3 September 1968; Vietnam Memorial: Panel 05W Row 114.
*This bio was researched and authored by SGM Mike R.Vining, USA (Retired). Please send any additional information and/or corrections to the author of this bio by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The EOD Warrior Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of the information in bio.
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