Over the years, James had developed a love of flying and graduated from the Spartan School of Aviation in Tulsa.
“Oh, yes, he loved to fly,” Annie Whited, who still resides in Norman, said Tuesday.
The military’s call was strong, and in 1948, Whited entered the Reserves.
“Dad served with the Thunderbirds,” said son James P. Whited of St. Leonard, Md. “He applied for officer candidate school. When he was called back up, he went to OCS and was promoted.”
Whited received his commission in 1951 and was stationed in Germany.
In the late 1950s, he was sent to Korea. While there, his family stayed stateside in Dothan, Ala.
“We lived in Alabama nine years,” the younger Whited said.
In 1956, Whited was promoted to captain and then to major in 1962.
It was that last promotion that ultimately led to a fateful day over Laos.
Dothan, Ala., 1962
While serving in Alabama, Whited was assigned to the OV1-Mohawk program. The jet had just been released to the Army for service.
Whited worked with the OV-1 at the Army Aviation school at Fort Rucker, Ala.
“My father was in this unit in 1962/63,” Whited said. “This was when the OV-1 was transferred from the builder to the Army to enter service. There were a number of serious accidents, well crashes, early on in the program and three or four fatal crashes occurred.”
While at Fort Rucker, Whited was gaining proficiency with the new aircraft.
“He had been there six to eight weeks, training in the co-pilot seat while he got up to speed,” his son said. “Because of the problems they had with the plane, they needed pilots familiar with the OV-1 in Vietnam. So, he was sent to Vietnam.”
Maj. Whited was a family man in his 40s approaching 20 years in the service. He was about due for military retirement.