James Joseph Ahern, III

1947 - 2003

Air Force
Vietnam War

Their Story

On January 14, 1947, James J. Aherns III was born to James Jr. and Helene Ahern. He had three siblings, William, Maureen, and Carol.1 James joined the Air Force during the Vietnam War,2 enlisting in June 1966.3 The Vietnam War started in 1954 based on political divisions within the country. In 1945, Vietnam defeated the French colonial administration that ruled Vietnam. After the defeat, the country had to decide how to govern Vietnam. North Vietnam wanted a communist government similar to China and the Soviet Union. South Vietnam wanted a democratic government and became allies with the United States. The Soviet Union and China aided North Vietnam with weapons, supplies, and advisors. The United States aided South Vietnam and in 1969 there were more than half a million U.S. soldiers stationed in Vietnam. As the cost and the casualties grew, it became too much for the United States and they withdrew all combat units by 1973. South Vietnam lost the war when North Vietnam invaded in 1975. There were around two million civilian casualties, 1.1 million Vietnamese soldier casualties, and over 58,000 U.S. soldier casualties.4

The Air Force was originally sent over in 1961 starting at 151 Airmen and sixteen propeller airplanes. The majority of these soldiers were not trainers or advisors, but combat Airmen. The Air Force soldiers that got to help train South Vietnamese pilots, were shown to be emotionally mature and stable people. R. Frank Frutell stated that “unfortunately, not all were mentally attuned to teaching members of other cultures.” By the end, the Air Force occupancy had reached 95,000 U.S. Air Force soldiers and 1,800 aircraft. This growth was due to President John F. Kennedy who came into office ready to enforce more action towards North Vietnam.5

James was an Airman 3C while serving in the Vietnam War.6 An Airman with a “3C” title has a specialty in communications and computer systems related to aircraft.7 However, Airmen in general help service and maintain the aircraft. They also help with assisting on landing and take off, food services, and crash situations. Some of their duties might be to fuel the aircraft, clean the weapons, load ammunition, airing tires, and more.8 He was discharged in March of 1967. He then lived in Denver, Colorado, with his wife, Jean.9

Later in life, James had four children. Their names were Jennifer, Jaimie, Julie, and James, IV.10 He was a member of Teamsters Local #673. James passed away on October 22, 2003. He was buried in the Rock Island Arsenal for his service during the Vietnam War.11


1 Ancestry. “James J. Ahern III.” Accessed August 16, 2022.

2 Find a Grave. “James J. Ahern III.” February 25, 2011.

3 Ahern, James J Iii in U.S. Veterans’ Gravesites, ca.1775-2019 – Fold3

4 Spector, Ronald H. “Vietnam War.” Britannica. Last updated March 13, 2022.

5 Correll, John T. “The Air Force Enters the Vietnam War.” Air Force Magazine. Last updated May 5, 2022.

6 Find a Grave. “James J. Ahern III.” February 25, 2011.

7 Smith, Stewart. “Air Force Enlisted Jobs: Specialty Codes.” The Balance Careers. Last updated June 18, 2019.

8 Kilchermann, Lori. “What Does an Airman Do?” Practical Adult Insights. Last updated August 5, 2022.

9 U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 – Ancestry.com

10 Ancestry. “James J. Ahern III.” Accessed August 16, 2022.

11 Find a Grave. “James J. Ahern III.” February 25, 2011.