Decorated Vietnam War pilot, ex-POW dies in Las Vegas (James O’Neil)

Retired Air Force Col. James W. O’Neil, a decorated Vietnam War pilot and ex-prisoner of war who spent six months in the “Hanoi Hilton” Hoa Loa prison camp, died June 7 of complications from a heart ailment, his widow said. He was 82.

He will be buried at noon Monday with full military honors at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City.

After his last active duty assignments at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, and England Air Force Base, La., in 1980, the couple retired in Las Vegas where he had been previously stationed at Nellis Air Force Base when he flew F-105 Thunderchief “Wild Weasels” during the Vietnam War.

“He was my hero. He had a lot of medals and ribbons,” said Nancy O’Neil, his wife of 59 years.

“He was a good dad and we had a good life. He loved what he did. He had no complaints,” she said Thursday.

While flying the two-seat F-105, a fighter, bomber, reconnaissance jet in 1972, O’Neil and his radar operator, or GIB, which stands for “guy in the back,” were trying to evade a surface-to-air missile.

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