STATE BY STATE /11 COUNTRYS
SOME OF ARIZONA'S MISSING HERO'S
Partial Remains Recovered near Crash Site December 1972
Name: Joel Ray Birch
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Unit: 16th Special Operations Squadron, Ubon AB, Thailand
Date of Birth: 20 January 1936
Home City of Record: Phoenix AZ
Date of Loss: 21 December 1972
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 152712N 1060048E (XC087086)
Status (in 1973):
Other Personnel In Incident: Rollie Reaid; George D. MacDonald; John Winningham;
Francis Walsh; James R. Fuller; Robert T. Elliott; Robert L. Liles; Harry
Lagerwall; Paul Meder; Delma Dickens; Stanley Kroboth; Charles Fenter; Thomas T.
Hart (all missing/remains returned --see text); Richard Williams, Carl E.
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 March 1990 with the assistance of
one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources,
correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews.
SYNOPSIS: An AC130A gunship, "Spectre 17", flown by Capt. Harry R. Lagerwall,
departed Ubon Airbase, Thailand on an interdiction mission to interrupt enemy
cargo movements along the Ho Chi Minh Trail on December 21, 1972. The crew
onboard numbered 16. During the flight to the target, the aircraft was hit by
ground fire and after 10 minutes of level flight, the fuel exploded. Two of the
crew, Richard Williams and Carl E. Stevens, bailed out safely and were
subsequently rescued hours later. The partial body of Joel Birch (an arm) was
later recovered some distance away from the crash site.
Heat-sensitive equipment which would pinpoint the location of human beings in
the jungles was used to search for the rest of the crew with no success. It was
assumed that the missing crewmen were either dead or were no longer in the area.
According to intelligence reports, several piles of bloody bandages and 5
deployed parachutes were seen and photographed at the crash site. Also, later
requests through the Freedom of Information Act revealed a photo of what
appeared to be the initials "TH" stomped in the tall elephant grass near the
crash site. A number of reports have been received which indicate Tom Hart, if
not others, was still alive as late as 1988.
In the early 1980's a delegation comprised in part of several POW/MIA family
members visited the site of the aircraft crash in Laos. Mrs. Anne Hart found
material on the ground in the area which she believed to be bone fragment. She
photographed the material and turned it over to the U.S. Government.
In February, 1985, a joint excavation of the crash site was done by the U.S. and
Laos from which a large number of small bone fragments were found. Analysis by
the U.S. Army's Central Identification Laboratory (CIL) in Hawaii reported the
positive identification of all 13 missing crewmembers. Some critics dubbed this
identificatin "Voodoo Forensics."
Mrs. Hart was immediately skeptical. She was concerned that the positive
identification of all 13 missing men onboard the aircraft had seemed too
convenient. She was further concerned that among the remains said to be those of
her husband, she found the bone fragment which she had herself found at the
crash site location several years before. She believed this was too much of a
Anne Hart had an independent analysis of the seven tiny fragments of bone which
the government said constituted the remains of her husband. Dr. Michael Charney
of Colorado State University, an internationally respected Board Certified
Forensic Anthropologist with nearly 50 years of experience in anthropology,
conducted the study.
"It is impossible," Charney wrote in his report, "to determine whether these
fragments are from LTC Hart or any other individual, whether they are from one
individual or several, or whether they are even from any of the crew members of
the aircraft in study."
Mrs. Hart refused to accept the remains and sued the government, challenging its
identification procedures. Her challenge produced additional criticism of CIL
and the techniques it uses in identifying remains. Some scientists, including
Charney, charged that CIL deliberately misinterpreted evidence in order to
identify remains. They said the Army consistently drew unwarranted conclusions
about height, weight, sex and age from tiny bone fragments. Eleven of the
"positive" identifications made on the AC130 crew were determined to be
"These are conclusions just totally beyond the means of normal identification,
our normal limits and even our abnormal limits," said Dr. William Maples,
curator of physical anthropology at Florida State Museum.
Among the egregious errors cited by Charney was a piece of pelvic bone that the
laboratory mistakenly said was a part of a skull bone and was used to identify
Chief Master Sgt. James R. Fuller. The Reaid ID had been made based on bits of
upper arm and leg bones and a mangled POW bracelet said to be like one Reaid
wore. The MacDonald ID had been made based on the dental records for a single
Mrs. Hart won her suit against the government. Her husband's identification, as
well as that of George MacDonald, was rescinded. The Government no longer
claimed that the identifications were positive. However, these two men were
listed as "accounted for."
Mrs. Hart's suit on behalf of her husband made it U.S. Government policy for a
family to be given the opportunity to seek outside confirmation of any
identification of remains said to be their loved ones. Mrs. Hart also believed
that the suit was successful in keeping her husband's file open. Reports were
still being received related to him.
In 1988, the Air Force forwarded a live sighting report of Tom Hart to Mrs.
Hart. The Air Force had concluded the report was false or irrelevant because
Tom Hart was "accounted for." Mrs. Hart again went to court to try and ensure
that her husband was not abandoned if, indeed, he is still alive. She wanted him
put back on the "unaccounted for" list.
In early March, 1990, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower
court decision that had ruled the U.S. Government erred in identifying bone
fragments as being the remains of Thomas Hart. The appellate court ruled that
the government is free to use "its discretion" in handling the identification of
victims of war and that courts should not second-guess government decisions on
when to stop searching for soldiers believed to be killed in action.
The court also denied Mrs. Hart's request to have her husband returned to the
"unaccounted for" list. "The government must make a practical decision at some
point regarding when to discontinue the search for personnel," the court said in
Most Americans would make the practical decision to serve their country in war,
if asked to do so. Even though there is evidence that some of this crew did not
die in the crash of the aircraft, the U.S. Government has made the "practical
decision," and obtained the support of the Justice system, to quit looking for
How can we allow our government to close the books on men who have not been
proven dead whose biggest crime is serving their country? If one or more of them
are among the hundreds many believe are still alive in captivity, what must they
be thinking of us?
Knowing one could be so callously abandoned, how many will serve when next asked
to do so? **********************************************************************PIKE, DENNIS STANLEY
Name: Dennis Stanley Pike
Rank/Branch: O3/US Navy
Unit: Attack Squadron 192, USS KITTY HAWK
Date of Birth: 02 July 1940
Home City of Record: Bagdad AZ
Date of Loss: 23 March 1972
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 152200N 1073400E (YC755030)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing)
SYNOPSIS: The USS KITTY HAWK was on duty in Vietnam as early as 1964 and had 131
combat sorties to its credit by the end of 1965, and many more through the
remaining years of the Vietnam war. The KITTY HAWK was one of the
Forrestal-class "super" carriers, and could operate up to ninety aircraft from
her angled deck.
One of the aircraft launched from the deck of the KITTY HAWK was the Vaught A7E
Corsair II, a single-seat attack jet utilized by both the Navy and Air Force in
Vietnam. The aircraft was designed to meet the Navy's need for a subsonic attack
plane able to carry a greater load of non-nuclear weapons that the A4 Skyhawk.
The aircraft's unique design completely freed the wingspace for bomb loading;
the Pratt and Whitney jet engine was beneath the fuselage of the aircraft. The
Corsair was used primarily for close air support and interdiction, although it
was also used for reconnaissance. A Corsair is credited with flying the last
official combat mission in the war - bombing a target in Cambodia on 15 August
LT Dennis S. Pike was an Corsair assigned to Attack Squadron 192 onboard the
KITTY HAWK in the spring of 1972. On 23 March, Pike and other aircraft from the
squadron were assigned a mission near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in Vietnam.
Pike did not return from the mission.
CDR Robert Taylor was the commanding officer of the KITTY HAWK based Attack
Squadron 192 and recalls the March 23 mission:
"We were on a mission just south of the DMZ," remembers Taylor. Government
forces were being overrun by the Viet Cong, and a T-28 with an American pilot
and Vietnamese observer also went down. We were on target about forty minutes
and finally had to leave. I watched Pike disappear on the way out, and that
scene, those ten or fifteen seconds, are embedded in my mind, lived over and
over. I was about a mile-and-a-half behind him, saw the smoke come out of his
tailpipe and called him up asking if there were any problems. He replied, 'Yeah,
I've got some oil pressure problems.' We were only about twenty miles inside of
Laos, and I told him to take a heading toward Da Nang. He rolled out and made
the turn from southwest all the way around to the east at five thousand feet. I
told him, 'If you pass three thousand feet and don't have anything left,
then [get] out.' He replied, 'Roger that,' followed by an 'Uh oh, there goes the
engine. Well, see you guys later.'" Pike indicated that he had to eject.
Taylor saw the canopy shatter and a black object came out. Taylor and his
wingman saw the ejection, but lost visual contact. Taylor is certain that
something left the airplane.
Four days prior to Denny Pike's aircraft failing, another A7 had failed, but
just after it had launched from the carrier. The pilot was recovered. There were
questions at that time as to whether to ground the aircraft, but it was kept in
After Pike's aircraft failed, the A7 was grounded. But the North Vietnamese were
staging an invasion on the south, and to ground the A7 meant to essentially
ground the entire strike force, and there was uncertainty as to the exact cause
of the two A7 accidents. It was finally concluded that the engine problems had
been caused by foreign object damage and the A7 was airborne once more.
Of 600 American servicemen lost in Laos during our military involvement in
Southeast Asia, not one was released when the war ended. The Pathet Lao insisted
that Americans held in Laos would be released from Laos, but the U.S. did not
include them in peace agreements reached in Paris in 1973.
Since the war ended in 1973, thousands of reports relating to Americans
prisoner, missing or unaccounted for in Southeast Asia have been received by the
U.S. Government. The official policy is that no conclusive proof has been
obtained that is current or specific enough to act upon. Detractors of this
policy say conclusive proof is in hand, but that the willingness or ability to
rescue these prisoners does not exist.
Men like Dennis Pike went to Southeast Asia because they were asked to do so by
the country they loved and served. That country, in turn, has a legal and moral
obligation to bring them home--alive.
SOME OF ARIZONA'S MISSING HERO'S
CASE SYNOPSIS: CANNON, FRANCES
Name: Francis Eugene Cannon
Rank/Branch: E2/US Army
Unit: Company D, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry 196th Light Infantry Brigade
(Americal) Chu Lai, South Vietnam
Date of Birth: 11 December 1944 (Alton IL)
Home City of Record: Phoenix AZ
Loss Date: 09 January 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 153551N 1081006E (AT964263)
Status (in 1973): Prisoner of War
Other Personnel in Incident: Company A: James A.Daly (released POW - 1973);
Willie A. Watkins (released POW 1969); Richard R. Rehe and Derri Sykes
(missing); Company D: Richard F. Williams (POW - remains returned 1985); David
N. Harker (released POW - 1973); James H. Strickland (released POW - 1969);
Thomas A. Booker (killed); "Coglin" (an unknown person whom Cannon said died)
REMARKS: 680901 ON PRG DIC LIST
SYNOPSIS: On January 8, 1968, PFC Richard Rehe, PFC Derri Sykes, PFC James A.
Daly and Cpl. Willie A. Watkins, members of A Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st
Infantry, 196th Light Infantry Brigade (Americal) were ordered to move down to
Happy Valley in Quang Tin Province, South Vietnam. "Charlie" and "Delta"
Companies had been sustaining heavy losses in previous days.
PFC David N. Harker, James H. Strickland, 1Sgt. Richard F. Williams, Sgt.
Thomas A. Booker, PFC Francis E. Cannon and "Coglin" were part of Delta
Company. During the fight, a mortar shell exploded near Cannon, the radioman,
killing Sgt. Booker and "Coglin". Harker, a rifleman, was stabbed in the side
with a bayonette. Strickland, a rifleman, was not seriously wounded. Cannon had
a large hole in his upper back and a smaller hole near his neck. The Company's
first sergeant, "Top" Williams, was shot through the right hand and injured an
arm. Harker, Strickland, Williams and Cannon were captured that day.
The next day, under heavy attack, Daly, Rhe, Watkins and Sykes were injured and
captured. Sykes, a rifleman, was hit 3 times as he and Watkins had jumped for
cover just when a grenade hit. Watkins was captured immediately, but thought
that Sykes was left behind, as the enemy rushed him (Watkins) from the area.
During his departure from the area, Watkins saw Daly, whom he thought dead,
lying in a rice paddy. Daly then moved and drew attention to himself and was
captured. Watkins later saw Sykes, bandaged and calling for water. Watkins and
Daly carried him along the trail after their capture, but were ordered to leave
him under a shed at a house on the trail on the first day. They never saw Derri
Watkins said that Richard Rehe, a grenadier, had also been taken prisoner that
day, but died in captivity from wounds sustained in the battle. Daly stated
that both Rehe and Sykes had been captured but had died the same day.
Cannon, Williams, Harker, Strickland, Watkins and Daly eventually were held
together in prison camps in Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam. For Americans as
well as Viet Cong, life in these camps was extremely difficult. The living
conditions were primitive, food scarce at times, and disease and dysentary
common, adequate medical treatment uncommon. It was not uncommon for POWs held
in the south to die of starvation or disease. It is also resonable to expect
that in such circumstances, one cannot predict behavior or its abberation.
While superhuman efforts were made to maintain the esprit de corps and military
order and honor, it was sometimes impossible not to revert to a basic, more
primitive nature for self preservation.
Top Williams, a veteran of World War II, and a big grey haired man, was
described as being a real professional. His injured hand became gangrenous, but
he survived this injury. He was receiving treatment and still probing for bone
splinters in his injured arm when he contracted dysentery and ultimately died,
September 27, 1968. Death from malnutrition and dysentery is extremely
unpleasant, and the victim suffers not only from the discomfort of dysentery,
but also from severe edema, and many times from halucinations. Williams'
remains were returned in 1985, after 17 years.
Frank Cannon, a handsome 6" tall man of 24 with deep set eyes, suffered from
the wounds he received by the exploding mortar shell. These wounds became
gangrenous, and although the wounds gradually improved by summer 1968, Cannon
grew continually weaker. By August, Cannon weighed only 90 pounds and slipped
into a coma. In early September 1968, Frank Cannon died. 17 years later, the
Vietnamese returned his remains to his country.
Willie Watkins, described as just over 6" tall, good-looking, lanky, very dark
skin, penetrating eyes, wiry and hard as a rock remained one of the strongest
prisoners and at times was a leader among his fellow POWs. According to some of
them, he "always had a Bible and a machete". He was never sick.
James H. Strickland, a rather short, blue-eyed, boyish looking man was known to
be a hard worker and to be as strong as a bull. He was also pointed out by the
Vietnamese as an example of a "progressive" prisoner, as was Willie Watkins.
The two were released from Cambodia on November 5, 1969.
James A. Daly, a conscientious objector, never felt he should have been in
combat. He had been waiting for notice to leave Vietnam, following a lengthy
process of appeal on the basis of his beliefs. Daly, a big man, "coffee and
cream color" was only slightly wounded when he was captured. His sense of self
preservation ensured that he lost a minimum of weight. He joined the "Peace
Committee" comprised of a number of other military men who opposed the war, and
official charges were brought against him upon his 1973 release by fellow POW
Col. Theodore Guy. In the wake of the POW release, charges were officially
David Harker also felt some anti-war sentiments, but it was said that he slowly
turned "reactionary" against the Vietnamese after he was moved to North Vietnam
after three years in the jungle.
Perhaps it is important to note that no returned POW would deny "collaborating"
with the enemy at some point in time. Technically, if a POW was ordered to work
or to perform any function whatever, the execution of this function would be
considered collaboration. Sometimes the abberation in conduct was a group
decision, made for the welfare of the unit. At other times, the desision to
cooperate was made for purely self-serving reasons - such as starvation,
reluctance to be tortured, loss of will to resist. It cannot be possible for
any person to judge this behavior not having experienced the horror that caused
Richard Rehe and Derri Sykes alone remain unaccounted for from the battle in
Quang Tin Province. Although it seems certain that they are both dead, the
Vietnamese deny any knowledge of them.
For many others who are missing, simple and certain death did not occur. Some
just vanished, others were known captives and never were returned. Still others
were alive and well and in radio contact with would-be rescuers describing the
approach of the enemy.
Tragically, thousands of reports have been received indicating that some
hundreds of Americans are still alive and in captivity in Southeast Asia. We
cannot forget them, we cannot write them off. They must be brought home.
**************************************************************************************************************************McMURRY, WILLIAM G. JR.
Name: William G. McMurry, Jr.
Rank/Branch: E4/US Army Special Forces
Unit: Company C, Detachment A-101, 5th Special Forces Group
Date of Birth:
Home City of Record: Scottsdale AZ
Loss Date: 07 February 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 163602N 1064058E (XD795360)
Status (In 1973): Released POW
Personnel In Incident: Dennis L. Thompson; William G. McMurry; Harvey G.
Brande; (all released 1973). Kenneth Hanna; Daniel R. Phillips; James W.
Holt; James Moreland; Charles Lindewald; (all missing); Eugene Ashley Jr.
REMARKS: RELEASED 730316 BY PRG
Source: Compiled from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S.
Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published
sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK.
SYNOPSIS: The Lang Vei Special Forces camp in the northwestern corner of
South Vietnam along Route 9, a mile and a half from the Laotian border.had
been established in late December 1966 as a result of the Special Forces
Detachment A101 having been moved out of its former Khe Sanh location. It
seemed ill fated from the beginning.
In March 1967, one of the worst tragedies to befall the Special Forces CIDG
program during the war occurred. U.S. Air Force released napalm ordnance on
the nearby village which spewed exploding fire over the camp, landing zone,
minefield and village. 135 CIDG and native civilians were killed, and 213
were horribly wounded, burned or disfigured.
Only two months later, on May 4, a Viet Cong night attack on the camp wiped
out the Special Forces command group, all in one bunker, and killed the
detachment commander and his executive officer, as well as seriously
wounding the team sergeant. This attack was a prelude to the larger siege of
Khe Sanh, and was a grim reminder of the dangerous neighborhood Special
Forces had moved into.
By January 1968, several North Vietnamese Army divisions had encircled the
Marine combat base at Khe Sanh, placing the more westerly Lang Vei Special
Forces frontier surveillance camp in imminent danger. The camp was occupied
by Detachment A101 commanded by Capt. Frank C. Willoughby. Willoughby was
rebuilding and reinforcing the camp at the time, while soldiers and
dependants from the Kha tribal 33rd Laotian Volunteer Battalion streamed
into the camp after being overrun by NVA tanks across the border.
On the evening of January 24, the camp was pounded by mortars in conjunction
with a heavy shelling of the Marine Khe Sanh base, which prevented any
effective artillery support for Lang Vei. 1Lt. Paul R. Longgrear had only
recently arrived with his Hre tribal 12th Mobile Strike Force Company to
help shore up defensive firepower.
The influx of the Laotians caused some problems. For example, the Lao
battalion commander refused to take orders from the American captain,
forcing the Company C commander, LtCol. Daniel F. Schungel, to come to Lang
Vei on his first Special Forces assignment on February 6 to provide an
officer of equal rank.
Camp strength on February 6 totalled 24 Special Forces, 14 LLDB, 161 mobile
strike force, 282 CIDG (Bru and Vietnamese), 6 interpreters and 520 Laotian
soldiers, plus a number of civilians.
Shortly after midnight on February 7, 1968, a combined NVA infantry-tank
assault drove into Lang Vei. Two PT-76 tanks threatened the outer perimeter
of the camp as infantry rushed behind them. SFC James W. Holt destroyed both
tanks with shots from his 106mm recoilless rifle. More tanks came around the
burning hulks of the first two tanks and began to roll over the 104th CIDG
Company's defensive positions. SSgt. Peter Tiroch, the assistant
intelligence sergeant, ran over to Holt's position and helped load the
weapon. Holt quickly lined up a third tank in his sights and destroyed it
with a direct hit. After a second shot at the tank, Holt and Tiroch left the
weapons pit just before it was demolished by return cannon fire. Tiroch
watched Holt run over to the ammunition bunker to look for some hand-held
Light Anti-tank Weapons (LAWs). It was the last time Holt was ever seen.
LtCol. Schungel, 1Lt. Longgrear, SSgt. Arthur Brooks, Sgt. Nikolas Fragos,
SP4 William G. McMurry, Jr., and LLDB Lt. Quy desperately tried to stop the
tanks with LAWs and grenades. They even climbed on the plated engine decks,
trying to pry open hatches to blast out the crews. NVA infantrymen followed
the vehicles closely, dusting their sides with automatic rifle fire. One
tank was stopped by five direct hits, and the crew killed as they tried to
abandon the vehicle. 1Lt. Miles R. Wilkins, the detachment executive
officer, left the mortar pit with several LAWs and fought a running
engagement with one tank beside the team house without much success.
Along the outer perimeters, the mobile strike force outpost was receiving
fire. Both Kenneth Hanna, a heavy weapons specialist, and Charles W.
Lindewald, 12th Mobile Strike Force platoon leader, were wounded. Hanna,
wounded in the scalp, left shoulder and arm tried to administer first aid to
Lindewald. The two were last seen just before their position was overrun.
Harvey Brande spoke with them by radio and Hanna indicated that Lindewald
was then dead, and that he himself was badly wounded. Daniel R. Phillips, a
demolitions specialist, was wounded in the face and was last seen trying to
evade North Vietnamese armor by going through the northern perimeter wire. .
NVA sappers armed with satchel charges, tear gas grenades and flamethrowers
fought through the 101st, 102nd and 103rd CIDG perimeter trenches and
captured both ends of the compound by 2:30 a.m. Spearheaded by tanks, they
stormed the inner compound. LtCol. Schungel and his tank-killer personnel
moved back to the command bunker for more LAWs. They were pinned behind a
row of dirt and rock filled drums by a tank that had just destroyed one of
the mortar pits. A LAW was fired against the tank with no effect. The cannon
swung around and blasted the barrels in front of the bunker entrance. The
explosion temporarily blinded McMurry and mangled his hands, pitched a heavy
drum on top of Lt. Wilkins and knocked Schungel flat. Lt. Quy managed to
escape to another section of the camp, but the approach of yet another tank
prevented Schungel and Wilkins from following. At some point during this
period, McMurry, a radioman, disappeared.
The tank, which was shooting at the camp observation post, was destroyed
with a LAW. Schungel helped Wilkins over to the team house, where he left
both doors ajar and watched for approaching NVA soldiers. Wilkins was
incapacitated and weaponless, and Schungel had only two grenades and two
magazines of ammunition left. He used one magazine to kill a closely huddled
five-man sapper squad coming toward the building. He fed his last magazine
into his rifle as the team house was rocked with explosions and bullets. The
two limped over to the dispensary, which was occupied by NVA soldiers, and
hid underneath it, behind a wall of sandbags.
At some point, Brande, Thompson and at least one Vietnamese interpreter were
captured by the North Vietnamese. Thompson was uninjured, but Brande had
taken shrapnel in his leg. Brande and Thompson were held separately for a
week, then rejoined in Laos. Joined with them was McMurry, who had also been
captured from the camp. The three were moved up the Ho Chi Minh trail to
North Vietnam and held until 1973. The U.S. did not immediately realize they
had been captured, and carried them in Missing in Action status thoughout
the rest of the war, although Brande's photo was positively identified by a
defector in April 1969 as being a Prisoner of War. A Vietnamese interpreter
captured from the camp told Brande later that he had seen both Lindewald and
Hanna, and that they both were dead.
Several personnel, including Capt. Willoughby, SP4 James L. Moreland, the
medic for the mobile strike force, and Lt. Quan, the LLDB camp commander,
were trapped in the underground level of the command bunker. Lt. Longgrear
had also retreated to the command bunker. Satchel charges, thermite grenades
and gas grenades were shoved down the bunker air vents, and breathing was
very difficult. Some soldiers had gas masks, but others had only
handkerchiefs or gauze from their first aid packets.
The NVA announced they were going to blow up the bunker, and the LLDB
personnel walked up the stairs to surrender, and were summarily executed. At
dawn, two large charges were put down the vent shaft and detonated,
partially demolishing the north wall and creating a large hole through which
grenades were pitched. The bunker defenders used upturned furniture and
debris to shield themselves. Willoughby was badly wounded by grenade
fragments and passed out at 8:30 a.m. Moreland had been wounded and became
delirious after receiving a head injury in the final bunker explosion.
Incredibly, the battle was still going on in other parts of the camp.
Aircraft had been strafing the ravines and roads since 1:00 a.m. Throughout
the battle, the Laotians refused to participate, saying they would attack at
first light. Sfc. Eugene Ashley, Jr., the intelligence sergeant, led two
assistant medical specialists, Sgt. Richard H. Allen and SP4 Joel Johnson as
they mustered 60 of the Laotian soldiers and counterattacked into Lang Vei.
The Laotians bolted when a NVA machine gun crew opened fire on them, forcing
the three Americans to withdraw.
Team Sfc. William T. Craig and SSgt. Tiroch had chased tanks throughout the
night with everything from M-79 grenade launchers to a .50 caliber machine
gun. After it had become apparent that the camp had been overrun, they
escaped outside the wire and took temporary refuge in a creek bed. After
daylight, they saw Ashley's counterattack force and joined him. The Special
Forces sergeants persuaded more defenders fleeing down Route 9 to assist
them and tried second, third and fourth assaults. Between each assault,
Ashley directed airstrikes on the NVA defensive line, while the other
Special Forces soldiers gathered tribal warriors for yet another attempt. On
the fifth counterattack, Ashley was mortally wounded only thirty yards from
the command bunker.
Capt. Willoughby had regained consciousness in the bunker about 10:00 a.m.
and established radio contact with the counterattacking Americans. The
continual American airstrikes had forced the North Vietnamese to begin
withdrawing from the camp. Col. Schungel and Lt. Wilkins emerged from under
the dispensary after it was vacated by the North Vietnamese and hobbled out
of the camp.
The personnel in the bunker also left in response to orders to immediately
evacuate the camp. They carried Sgt. John D. Early, who had been badly
wounded by shrapnel while manning the tower, but were forced to leave SP4
Moreland inside the bunker. 1Lt. Thomas D. Todd, an engineer officer in
charge of upgrading Lang Vei's airstrip, held out in the medical bunker
throughout the battle. That afternoon, he was the last American to pass
through the ruined command bunker. He saw Moreland, who appeared to be dead,
covered with debris.
Maj. George Quamo gathered a few dozen Special Forces commando volunteers
from the MACV-SOG base at Khe Sanh (FOB #3) and led a heroic reinforcing
mission into Lang Vei. His arrival enabled the Lang Vei defenders to
evacuate the area, many by Marine helicopters in the late afternoon.
Sgt. Richard H. Allen - Survivor
Sfc Eugene Ashley, Jr. - Awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for Lang
Harvey Gordon Brande - Captured - released POW in 1973
SSgt. Arthur Brooks - Survivor
Sfc. William T. Craig - Survivor
Sgt. John D. Early - Survivor
Sgt. Nikolas Fragos - Survivor
Kenneth Hanna - Missing In Action
James William Holt - Missing In Action
SP4 Joel Johnson - Survivor
Charles Wesley Lindewald, Jr. - Missing In Action
1Lt. Paul R. Longgrear - Survivor
SP4 William G. McMurry - Captured - released POW in 1973
James Leslie Moreland - Missing In Action
Daniel Raymond Phillips - Missing In Action
Maj. George Quamo - Killed in Action April 14, 1968
Lt. Quy - Survivor
LtCol. Daniel F. Schungel - appointed deputy commander of the 5th Special
Dennis L. Thompson - Captured - released POW in 1973
SSgt. Peter Tiroch - Survivor
1Lt. Thomas D. Todd - Survivor
1Lt. Miles R. Wilkins - Survivor
Capt. Frank C. Willoughby - Survivor
Wiliam McMurray retired from the United States Army as a Master Sargeant. He
lives in Arizona.
Larry J. Brugh and Liberty AWARD
POW/MIA RING AWARD POW/MIA AWARD