Did James Kim die because of the war?

Over at the blog "Left I on the News", they're arguing that James Kim - the fellow who died in the Oregon wilderness - might not have died if Oregon's National Guard were here at home; and not in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The story of the Kim family sadly ended in tragedy today when the body of James Kim was found dead. The Kim family was stuck in a snowbank on a remote road in Oregon for nearly two weeks; after more than a week of not being found, James Kim had set out on foot to try to find help.

And when the rest of his family was located in their car, alive, it was by a helicopter hired privately by his family, not by any government agency. Government agencies were, after too long of a delay, searching for the missing family, but more than a thousand of those who could have -- should have -- been searching for the family were not - members of the Oregon National Guard. More than 800 of them are in Afghanistan right now, with some unknown other number in Iraq. A thousand people who signed up for the National Guard to safeguard the lives of their neighbors, only to see one of their neighbors die while they were off fighting the so-called "war on terror." ...

Update: I just learned that both discoveries - the original discovery of the wife and children and the subsequent discovery of the dead husband - were made by helicopters chartered by their family. That's not to say that public personnel weren't involved in the search, but it emphasizes all the more how the potentially much larger resources that should be available through the government were sorely lacking, and could well have prevented a tragic death.

Read the rest. Discuss.

  • Former Salem Staffer (unverified)

    Are you serious?????????? Jackson County (right next to Josephine County)does over 100 search and rescue missions every year, most of them successful. They don't require the National Guard's help. This just seems like a pathetic attempt to politicize something that shouldn't be politicized. Blaming the war for some guy getting stuck on a snow-covered road is taking things a little too far.

  • Ben Brown (unverified)

    It is a bit of a stretch but it does have a certain ironic ring to it. Or should I say "Iraqic"?

  • Marc (unverified)

    The reality of the situation is that you would have better luck finding a person with 10 helicopters than 5. And a better chance if you have 25, instead of 10, and so on.

    If this is something that the guard would normally assist with, then I think its a valid point that more searchers equals a better chance of finding a lost person. My assumption is that after someone was missing for a week, that the guard would probably be involved by that point. So yes, obviously this can be used as a "i hate GW" kind of event, but I do think there is some truth behind the idea that the NG could have been a big help.

    I also want to mention that I in no way want to belittle the efforts of everyone involved. A debt of gratitude is owed to everyone who assisted in looking for James, and they deserve nothing but thanks and respect for putting themselves in harms way to help another.

  • Chris (unverified)

    Sure, it's possible.

    But it would be wise to consider the validity or merit of such counterfactual histories and the implicit assumptions they make.

  • Gary Adamsek (unverified)

    Don't forget to blame the online maping service that apparently led them astray. In fact they should be sued for causing Kim's death. Don't stop there. Also find the vandals who cut the lock on the gate to the road that was supposed to be closed and try them not only for vandalism, but for the murder of Kim. Lastly, pull soon to be ex SecDef Rumsfeld before Congress and grill him about the low troop numbers in Iraq. Wait.....low troop numbers??? Right. That's the left's usual argument about the failures in Iraq and now apparently there are TOO many troops over there and it has led to the death of a man lost in the wilderness. Brilliant.

  • Diana (unverified)

    The one thing I have been wondering about is the insistance from the Forest Service and the BLM that they had closed and locked the gate to the dead-end logging road on Nov. 1 but that the lock had been vandalized. What are the chances that some random person vandalized that lock between Nov 1 and Nov 25, on the gate to the same dangerous road that doomed the Kims?

    I'd bet money that the Forest Service never locked the gate. Because of budget deficits, there just aren't enough federal and state employees anymore to get the work done. Oregon State police is understaffed - it is incredible that James Kim's father had to hire private helicopters to search for his son.

  • jami (unverified)

    i was struck that the helicopters that found both kati and james kim were both hired by the family. daily kos had a good post on this the day james kim's body was found. where were the other helicopters?

    of course the kims made a mistake, but it's pretty pathetic that two toddlers were lost in the woods for nine days and their grandparents had to pay to get them successfully rescued. what if it had been a family with fewer resources?

  • (Show?)

    Why is it difficult to believe that a lock was vandalized? That sort of thing happens all the time, when people (hunters, hikers, whatever) don't wish to be inconvenienced by rules, even rules designed to keep them safe.

    Kim died because he drove his family somewhere he should have not driven, given better judgment. And he died because he violated a cardinal rule of survival and left his vehicle instead of waiting for rescue. Blaming the Forest Service, or even the war, is ridiculous. There is such a thing as personal responsibility, for cripes' sake.

  • Uncle Aldo (unverified)


    It is called elk season. Or more specifically, elk season in the southern Oregon coast range. If a gate in the doesn't get cut during that it is safe for the rest of the year. This year it went from November 10 - 14th and 17 - 25th in the Chetco Unit. Only 95 tags issued. Shouldn't be too hard to track down those hunters.

    That said, they claim it was locked on November 1, after the end of deer hunting season, but deer season didn't end until November 3rd. Hopefully just mixed messages.

  • David (unverified)

    1) The piece overreaches. I would bet very few additional resources would have been made available if the National Guard wasn't in Iraq. I presume some of the Oregon guard remains in Oregon. How many of them joined the hunt?

    2) It is actually reasonable that someone removed the lock, not to steal the lock but to gain access to the area for hunting or whatever. Beyond locks, we need big signs -- visible above snow that closes the area so even if the gate is open, folks know what's ahead of them.

    3) James Kim is dead because he violated SAR Rule #1 -- He left the car. Cars are almost always found before people who leave them. Ironically, while Kati showed great courage in saving the kids, the kids probably saved her. Had she not been "tied down" with the kids, I wonder if she wouldn't have walked off into the snow with her husband.

    4) Add a handheld GPS and/or a small ham radio walkie-talkie to the mix and the Kim's probably would have been rescued within 24 hours.

    Thank you to all the brave searchers who risked their own lives saving others and bringing closure to this family.

  • Sunbeam (unverified)

    The helicopter that originally found Kati Kim was NOT hired by the family. It was a private citizen named John Rachor, a rancher/owner of several Burger Kings, who used his own helicopter to look in the area, on his own, without any pay or incentive from the Kim family or anyone else. He then radioed in her position, and the hired helicopters did the rescue, but he found them.

    Please get your facts straight.

  • Larry (unverified)

    "Please get your facts straight."

    Please!! Everyone knows that Bush lied, people died. Katrina? Yep, Bush's fault! Global Warming? Also the Bushitler gone and done it. Forest fires? Uh huh, that Bush for you. The exKGB dude killed with radioactive stuff? Well, that one was Putin, but Bush told him to do it.

    You see, everything is Bush's fault.

    Facts? We don't need any stinkin facts!

  • clabber_grrl (unverified)

    The reason he died is that some asshole anti gub-mint hunter thought the rules didn't apply to him, and cut the lock.

    These are the same sort of vermin who cut the locks on the dam in Klamath Basin and killed millions of fish in order to serve their greed. Welfare-queen ranchers who wouldn't even exist without subsidies from the government they profess to be "free" of.

    Anti-environmental terrorists. Or as The Oregonian calls them, "protesters".

  • outdoors (unverified)

    This isn't the sort of thing the national guard would normally be mobilized for. Plus, the troops from Oregon that are in Iraq are but a small fraction of the Oregon National Guard. Further, I am not sure about the case of Oregon, but most National Guard units serving in Iraq are using equipment (read helicopters, etc) owned by the regular standing army, and not the equipment owned and operated by the states. The Kim tradgedy is awful, but lets not give a tragic set of circumstances misplaced significance beyond the grief of the family and those who care about them.

  • Lee (unverified)

    Poster "elsewhere": your post is one of the most disgusting posts I have ever read. I recently lost my kitty, if only the National Guard were around. signed, former medic in the Oregon National Guard-one year active, five years serving Oregon.

  • jami (unverified)

    sunbeam, thanks for the correction. it was nice to read that a random guy with a helicopter did such a great thing. but i still wish that the helicopters my taxes pay for had been available to do this, instead of mowing down middle eastern wedding parties.

  • Linda Snyder (unverified)

    YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING...Blame the war? Blame the choice that was made to travel down an unknown road in the middle of the night. Or blame fate. Blaming won't change the outcome. There were people searching, praying and doing everything possible to find Mr Kim. It is a terrible thing that's happened to this family. We have a cultural problem of thinking that the government is responsible for all our ills. We have lost our sense of "danger" when stepping or driving into the wilderness. I live in a remote part of Oregon and see tourist and travelers think they can wander around and if they make a mistake, someone will take care of them. Too often it ends in a tragedy that could have been prevented by common sense. It seems that the Kim's used much common sense, even at that, they were not prepared for their ordeal. (My comment by no means blames them.) We see all ages and background's of people, check their "caution" from taking a unmarked road, driving too fast on winding roads, hiking trails or rafting dangerous rivers. They die because they put themselves in a dangerous situation. The sad part is that these are nice, good people who pay the price for being naive with their lives. This is wilderness, not a movie set. Example, this fall I was berry picking about 17 miles off a paved road when an older couple stopped and asked me "where are we"? They had been driving for hours on a Forest Service road. They had starting somewhere by Bend, they were lost and didn't have a clue that they were near Lomolo Lake, *10 miles away. If they had run out of gas or had not happened to find a stray berry picker, they might still be lost. It's search and rescue people, the sheriffs, neighbors, caring local people that need to be thanked. I'm truly sorry for the loss of life. We still have a little boy that was not found at Crater Lake and another college student lost in the North Umpqua River. There have been hundreds of hours spent searching for these people. The National Guard would not have made a difference in any of these situations. I am sorry for the loss of a loved one and please know that everytime I pass one of the roadside memorials, I remember them. Linda Snyder

  • Rick Fritts (unverified)

    I agree with Linda that people must take responsibility for their own lives when travelling in remote country.

    The Kim family drove into a rugged backwoods area lacking the correct vehicle, sufficient gas, equipment, radio (CB or sat pone), and many other items. They were on vacation and it was very unfortunate that James Kim died when they attempted a "short cut" to the coast from the InterState. I am deeply sorry for his unneeded loss.

    Someone cut the lock on a gate to a sideroad, and left the gate open The main road is mostly two-lane (not what news stories report) and the only paved road through the Oregon Coast Range in SW Oregon (other routes are roughly 60 miles north or south). The side road they took was a gravel logging road. There was no exit as you leave on the same road that you drive into the harvest unit. It is a maze of secondary roads the loop around on themselves. Not for visiting without BLM and Forest Service maps, and definitely not in winter.

    It was an unfortunate set of circumstances ending in loss of life.

    Locks are cut all the time out in the backwoods. Rule of thumb is not to venture into back country this time of year unless overly prepared. Several people were stuck in snow drifts in these recent storms. At least two cases were in the Oregon Cascades; one young man spent two weeks in his vehicle, but had a sleeping bag and warm hat.

    There is a National Guard unit in Merlin, Oregon, near where James Kim got lost. Guard and military helicopters are used for rescure missions. I think everyone is guessing here about their availability and we should assume only one was available (it was a Blackhawk). Many local and trained volunteers and agency people went out on foot, ATVs and Snow cats (operate on top of snow). They found his trail, but they were too late. At least 100 people were searching.

    It was amazing that James Kim survived for a relatively long time under demanding, dangerous conditions. It was quite cold there, and it pierces right through you as there is high humidity.

    As the undersheriff stated: they did nothing wrong but try to survive. I and many others can point out ways to improve your chances of survival, but that has been covered.

    Pointing blame at the govt, far off war(s), etc. is probably less useful at this stage than considering what we learned here --- if anything. Get prepared or stay on the InterState or other main arterials, especially in inclement weather.

    Our condolences to the Kim family.

    Rick, native Oregonian

  • ws (unverified)

    Yes, what an unfortunate turn of events for the Kims. Also in the Oregonian tonight: about a mile down the road was a summer lodge with leftover provisions. Apparrently it wasn't marked on his map, so he took the wrong road.

    Leaving the car was one thing, but failing to double back so as to return by 1 pm was a big mistake. Mistakes are easy to make under such circumstances.

  • (Show?)

    Of all the reasons to oppose the Iraq war--and there are many--this post is the most over-the-top ones I've heard. It cheapens the anti-war effort when the facts of the war, and the reasons for going in, offer sufficient targets for Bush's infamy.

    Les AuCoin U.S. Congressman D-OR (ret)

  • Laura loves pictures (unverified)

    Yes I agree with you, this tragedy proves that goverment is not really able to help in a situation like this. I find it was a very poor performance by the responsible officials.

    Thank you for sharing this story with me !

  • engineer (unverified)

    Saw this letter to the editor in today's O. I suppose this is GW's fault as well??

    "Another tragedy, in the city"

    "Bold headlines, live news shots, moment-by-moment updates and now we find even satellite imagery was used to find a lost person in the woods. While the Kim family tragedy is making front-page headlines and mass media coverage from all points, I found it interesting that buried in the back of the Metro section Thursday was an article about a homeless man who died after he "might accidentally have set himself on fire" while trying to stay warm.

    No bold headlines, no live news shots, no news conferences with the sheriff.

    I guess it shows where our hearts truly are. We wait on the edge of our seats for a live video feed of a man walking out of the woods with his rescuers but don't bother to blink an eye at the news of a man so desperate to stay warm right here in the metropolitan area that he dies. Merry Christmas."

    DAVE SMITH Damascus "

  • concerned mommy (unverified)

    I've wondered the same thing myself. Because I am not a woman of means and my family certainly does not have the funds to rent helicopters for a search mission....

    If this happened to my family would anyone try to find us? A pregnant woman, a nine month old, and a techie of 35...

    All I'm saying is we'd all be a lot safer if we could have some troops back home. If our government had the resources to protect it citizens on their own soil. This is discussed in part in the new Iraq Study Group Report.

  • Judson (unverified)

    Everyone is going to pass on some day. His family should be very angry at the person who wrote this article for manipulating it to promote their political agenda. It seems to me that he got to live, love and have kids before passing on. Congrats buddy! All I can say is I hope I get to live that long. If not, oh well, I won't be alive to care. On a side note. If you're right with God, then it won't matter when you die. And if we're wrong and he doesn't exist, then it won't matter. But, if we're right and he does exist, and you don't get right with him, then it will matter alot.

  • Judson (unverified)

    To Dave Smith: You have a very good point. The writer of this article doesn't really care about the people. He only cares about getting his politicle point out there. Look at the way he's turned this man's death into a discussions about Iraq.

  • brenda (unverified)

    We can blame the war for causing just about anything, if enough of a stretch is made. As for mobilizing the National Guard, it's would help to be specific about what units of the Guard elsewhere thought needed deployment. Would he/she want the Army Band, an Armored unit, a Public Affairs unit, infantry, truck maintanence? All are components of the Oregon National Guard. Those units are NOT trained in search and rescue. They have their specifc functions. just as rescue units do. Having untrained personnel engage in SAR is asking for trouble. One more comment about the Guard: it's great to think the Guard can go and do anything. How many of the posters actually are Guard members? This is a classic case of wanting someone else to do the dirty work. Condolences and sympathy to the Kim family and thanks to all who participated in the search for the Kim family.

  • Mister Tee (unverified)

    Heartfelt condolences to the Kims and all who mourn...

    That said, this tragedy serves as a prime example of how the "roadless forests" wackos are endangering the lives of all who recreate in/traverse our national forests. If every BLM/Logging road was improved to four and six lane highways with guardrails on both sides, then it would be much easier to maintain them in winter. It would also facilitate search and rescue when people get lost.

    We should also consider building nuclear powerplants in the National Forests/Parks where inclement/snowy weather is common. That would permit all the new superhighways to be heated and fully illuminated at night.

    We are putting American lives in danger by not improving and maintaining these roads and electrifying these so called wilderness areas (aka "death traps").

  • SV (unverified)

    It's a bit of a stretch. But no more of a stretch than suggesting that Google Maps was at fault. %^/

  • engineer (unverified)

    It's interesting to me how whenever a tragedy occurs there's always a rush to blame or find fault with someone or something. Guess what, sometimes things happen which are beyond anyones control, and no one is to blame.

    Somewhat off-topic, I find it alarming that some are advocating gating off (more) back-country roads or otherwise preventing access to prevent a similar event from occurring. It seems to me that the notion that one can in a relatively short period of time be in a remote area with no cell phone coverage and responsible for one's own safety is part of our identity as people who choose to live in the west and Oregon in particular. The woods arent disneyland. There is some risk. We wouldnt have it any other way.

  • Steve (unverified)

    Verrrrry classy and dignified!!!

    Let's take someone's death and use it as an opprotunity to advance our political ambitions. Am glad to see the Republicans are not alone in this aspect.

    Now if we can only gang up a lot of cancer deaths or crash a plane or two right before the election to blame on George Bush, I'll be really impressed.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)

    Don't get me wrong, my heart goes out to the Kim family, but the bottom line is this: one of America's top technology writers died because he did not believe in one of oldest methods of communication on Earth -- a simple "Road Closed" sign.

    I think the Romans invented them.

    And, while I have been 110percent against this stupid war since the morning of 9/11 (when I saw it coming) to blame this tragedy on the war is beyond absurd.

    It's black helicopter time.

  • G. chell (unverified)

    The Kims were wealthy enough that they could have flown to Seattle instead of driving, and taking a vacation along the Oregon coast along the rainy season, perhaps a vacation in the Death Valley would have been better at the end of November. The weather was too dangerous to be driving anyway. But, the vandals, the extended family and the law enforcement are also to blame for this disaster. The family should have contacted law enforcement when they did not show up on monday instead of waiting till wednesday. The law enforcement should have thought about all the routes the Kims could have taken to reach the Oregon Coast and there were two exits (actually three if you go even further south)....other travellers have been stuck on the same road as the Kims before...and the law enforcement should have used their collective heads.

  • lin qiao (unverified)

    I'm wondering what it is about our society that leads people to look for an explanation and somebody to blame whenever tragedy strikes.

    One might just as sensibly blame the company that produced the tires on Mr Kim's car. Or the company that refined the gasoline.

    Having Uncle Sam federalizing the Oregon National Guard in order to fight the war in Iraq as a discount was bad before the Kim family took a wrong turn, and it's still bad.

  • (Show?)

    There are several facts in today's Oregonian story that shed light on what's been said here:

    • an Oregon National Guard helicoptor found the "heat spots" that ultimately located James Kim's body
    • a Jackson County helicoptor lowered the basket to recover the body
    • the Josephine County sheriff (or was it deputy?) who was interviewed for the story said there was no clear authority conducting the rescue mission in the first several days.

    And...is it just me, or does concerned mommy's comment above sound like astroturf? Not that the concerns expressed aren't legit...they just match the original post a little too perfectly.

  • Kent (unverified)

    If you were talking about Alaska then you would actually have a very good point. The pararescue squadrons of the Alaska Air National Guard are by far the most elite and highly trained wilderness rescue teams in Alaska. And they've been on heavy rotation to Bush's wars.

    Also, a friend of mine and former co-worker who is the founder and leader of the Juneau Mountain Rescue SAR team was recently deployed to Iraq with his Guard unit and he was certainly not alone. Volunteer SAR units throughout Alaska have been depleted as a result of multiple Guard deployments to Iraq.

    It isn't so much that the regular Guard gets called out for SAR work in Alaska. But it is most certainly the case that a lot of the local community volunteer SAR teams are heavily manned by guys who are also in the Guard.

    I don't know as much about southern Oregon but I suspect it's pretty much the same.

  • Aaron (unverified)

    Kari or whomever posted this post is total BS--that is the nicest I can say about it.

    The lack of local resources for any serious SAR effort has been noted in several other posts on the blog.


    We are at half or over of state trooper since when---how many state troopers have those two counties in their region. Are they part-time/full-time, how often is their rotations in that area? Remember people Oregon NG is only called in if needs be. If we had a full staff state police force and then the rural local/county forces not overworked as well; then Oregon NG would not be called upon a non-state level emergency that often.

    As Congressman AuCoin stated--It cheapens the anti-war effort .........

  • Eric (unverified)

    Mr. Kim died because he made wrong choices. He chose to continue when the signs clearly warned him not to. He chose to drive onward rather than go back and take the right cutoff This person was supposed to be intelligent. Instead, he abandoned his intelligence.

  • Gran (unverified)

    Quoted from above... And when the rest of his family was located in their car, alive, it was by a helicopter hired privately by his family, not by any government agency.

    Incorrect... A private individual, John Rachor of Medford, OR, familiar with the area and with his own 'copter chose to go look where they rest weren't looking and discovered the footprints on the road and then the car and 3 of the Kims, not the private company hired by James' father.


  • lin qiao (unverified)

    You've got to love this weird obsession with whether the search helicopter that found the Kims' car was privately hired or not.

    Yes, privately hired found him: well, that obviously proves that government cannot do anything right.

    No, privately hired did not find him: well, that obviously proves that private pilots are doofuses and pilots working for government departments are superior.

    Pick your prejudice and find what you expected to find all along.

    FWIW, I work for a public science agency that hires private pilots when we need aircraft. The public/private dichotomy is not so simple.

  • SkipSmith (unverified)

    I heard Rumsfeld cut the lock on the gate.

  • Mister Tee (unverified)

    This windstorm never would have happened if Gore was in the White House. He cares more than Bush. Just look at New Orleans: Bush's favorables dived when people died.

    People shouldn't have to die in the richest nation on the planet.

    Global warming is the only reason these tragedies keep happening. Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the climate was less violent and the temperatures hardly ever changed at all. Every dinosaur respected all the other dinosaur's inate right to exist and achieve their full potential. Even if Dino had two mommies, or dressed differently, the other dinosaurs never laughed and called him names. Then the humans came along, and ruined everything.

    <h2>Except for the Native Americans, who carried on the dinosaur tradition of being good stewards of the Earth, and not fighting with each other, and not killing other species for food and clothing. Everybody pulled their weight, gee our old La Salle ran great. Those were the days.</h2>

connect with blueoregon