Special Forces Losses in Southeast Asia This Week, 6-12 Mar, 1957-75

Here’s another installment of our list of SF casualties, on the way to assisting the USA to the Silver Medal in the Southeast Asian War Games. The next couple of paragraphs, before the table, are the boilerplate that goes with this series of posts.

The list was a life’s work for retired Special Forces Command Sergeant Major Reginald Manning. Reg was beloved for his sharp mind and sense of humor; among other tours he survived one at what was probably the most-bombarded SF A-Camp in the Republic of Vietnam, Katum. (“Ka-BOOM” to its inmates). As a medic, some of Reg’s duties in the camp were not a joking matter, and that’s all we’re going to say about that.

There is a key to some of the mysterious abbreviations and codes, after the list.

May God have mercy on their souls, and long may America honor their sacrifices and hold their names high in memory.

Here is the key to the status codes for the Causes of Death or Missing in Action, and also a decoder for some of the common abbreviations:

Year

Mo.

Day

Rank

First

Last

Unit

Code

Nation, Location, Circumstances

1967

03

6

E-5 SGT

Howard B.

Carpenter

05B4S

KIA, BNR

Laos; B-50, FOB2, YD180036, Operation DAWES, 21k WNW of A Luoi

1967

03

6

E-4 SP4

Burt C.

Small, Jr

11B4S

MIA-PFD, died in captivity

SVN; A-108, Minh Long, Quang Ngai Prov., BS533587 8k north of camp

1967

03

6

E-6 SSG

Michael F.

Stearns

12B4S

KIA

SVN; A-108, Minh Long, Quang Ngai Prov., BS533587 8k north of camp, w/ Sanchez looking for SP4 Small

1967

03

6

E-8 MSG

Thomas J.

Sanchez

11F5S

KIA, DSC

SVN; A-108, Minh Long, Quang Ngai Prov., BS533587 8k north of camp, w/ Stearns looking for SP4 Small

1968

03

6

O-5 LTC

Robert

Lopez

31542

KIA, BNR (recovered 10/07/94)

SVN; CCN, FOB1, Phu Bai, YC456958, in CH-46 shootdown 4 km NE of Ta Bat, FOB C.O.

1969

03

6

O-3 CPT

John T.

McDonnell

31542

MIA-PFD, BNR, helicopter crash

SVN; w/ 77th Arty (ARA)/101st in AH1G #67-15845; ZC177968: had 2 prev tours w/ SF; one w/ A-321

1970

03

6

E-5 SGT

Walter B.

Foote

05B4S

KIA

SVN; A-413, Binh Thanh Thon, Kien Tuong Prov., w/ MSG W. D. Stephens

1970

03

6

E-8 MSG

Willie D.

Stephens

11F5S

KIA

SVN; A-413, Binh Thanh Thon, Kien Tuong Prov., w/ SGT Foote

1970

03

6

W-4 CW4

George E.

Railey

631A7

DNH, vehicle crash

SVN; C-2, ??where??, Pleiku Prov., jeep accident??

1970

03

6

E-7 SFC

James W.

Finzel

11B4S

DNH, drowned

SVN; CCN, RT Moccasin, drowned while at the beach at CCN

1968

03

7

E-5 SP5

Little J.

Jackson

91B4S

KIA, DOW

SVN; B-52, 5th Ranger Co. Advisor, YD558043 19k NE of A Luoi, Thua Thien Prov., Opn Samurai IV

1968

03

8

E-4 SP4

John M.

Tomkins

91B4S

KIA, DOW (WIA on 2/25/68)

SVN; A-109, Thoung Duc, Quang Nam Prov., convoy returning from Da Nang, w/ Beals

1969

03

8

E-6 SSG

James E.

Janka

11B4S

KIA

SVN; 1 MSFC, B-16, 11th MSF Co, Nung Company XO, at A-102, Tien Phuoc, Quang Tin Prov.

1969

03

8

O-4 MAJ

Peter L.

Gorvad

31542

KIA

SVN; w/ 1st Cav, Bn Cdr at LZ Grant northeast of Saigon

1966

03

9

E-7 SFC

Raymond

Allen

11C4S

KIA, DWM

SVN; 5 MSFC, A-503, at A-102, A Shau, Thua Thien Prov.

1966

03

9

E-6 SSG

Billie A.

Hall

91B4S

KIA, DSC

SVN; 5 MSFC, A-503, at A-102, A Shau, Thua Thien Prov., inside the perimeter

1966

03

9

E-5 SP5

Phillip T.

Stahl

91B2S

KIA, DWM, DSC

SVN; A-102, A Shau, Thua Thien Prov.

1967

03

9

E-8 MSG

Frank C.

Huff

11B4S

KIA, war accident

SVN; 2 MSFC, A-219, on BlackJack 23; 1st Platoon Leader; BR552875; bomb from friendly aircraft

1968

03

9

E-7 SFC

Dale R.

Karpenske

97D4P

DNH, accidental self destruction

SVN; 441MI, 1st SFG, OP-35, Bien Hoa Prov.

1969

03

9

E-6 SSG

Tim L.

Walters

11F4S

KIA, DWM (recovered 02/16/99)

Laos; CCN, Ops-32, XD524658, shotdown aboard O-2A 67-21425 40k NW west of A-101 (old) Lang Vei

1971

03

9

E-7 SFC

Merle E.

Loobey

11F40

KIA

SVN; Advisors, Kien Giang Prov

1966

03

10

E-5 SGT

James L.

Taylor

11B4S

KIA, DWM, BNR

SVN; 5 MSFC, A-503, at A-102, A Shau, Thua Thien Prov., YC485845, WIA in camp and died during E&E

1966

03

10

E-5 SGT

Owen F.

McCann

05B4S

KIA, DWM

SVN; A-102, A Shau, Thua Thien Prov.

1968

03

10

E-5 SGT

Warren C.

Lane

11B4S

KIA

SVN; w/ 11th LIB, Quang Ngai Prov.

1969

03

10

E-5 SGT

Allan D.

Mortensen

91B4S

KIA

SVN; 3 MSFC, B-36, Long Khanh Prov., CENTURIAN VI??

1970

03

10

E-4 SP4

Stephen A.

Spiers

91B4S

KIA, DOW

SVN; B-52, Recondo Plt, Phuoc Long Prov., Opn Sabre & Spurs, YT318768 13k SSE of A-344, Bunard

1968

03

12

E-7 SFC

Estel D.

Spakes

05B4S

KIA

SVN; A-109, Thoung Duc, Quang Nam Prov., his CIDG patrol was overrun


SVN SF KIA Status Codes:

BNR – Body Not Recovered. (Known to be dead, but his body was left behind).
DOW – Died of Wounds. (At some time subsequent to the wounding, days/weeks/months).
DNH – Died Non-Hostile. (Accident, disease. There’s a couple suicides among them).
DWM – Died While Missing. (Usually implies body recovered at a different time during the war).
KIA – Killed In Action.
MIA – Missing In Action.
PFD – Presumptive Finding of Death. (This was an administrative close-out of all remaining MIAs during the Carter Administration).

Common Abbreviations

A-XXX (digits). SF A-team and its associated A-camp and area.
AATTV – Australian Army Training Team Vietnam. Their soldiers integrated with SF in VN.
BSM, SS, DSC, MOH: Awards (Bronze Star, Silver Star, Distinguished Service Cross, Medal of Honor).
CCC, CCN, CCS. Command and Control (Center, North and South). Covernames for the three command and support elements of the Special Operations Group cross-border war.
MGF – Mobile Guerrilla Force, indigenous personnel led directly by US.
MSFC – Mobile Strike Force Command, indigenous personnel led directly by US. Aka Mike Force.

We’ll cheerfully answer most other questions to the best of our ability in the comments. Note that (1) it’s Reg’s list, and we can’t ask him any more, and (2) it was Reg’s war, not ours, and all our information about SF in the Vietnam war is second hand from old leaders and teammates, or completely out of secondary sources.

13 thoughts on “Special Forces Losses in Southeast Asia This Week, 6-12 Mar, 1957-75

  1. Looserounds.com

    We are all diminished.

    What the heck did those designations of “B-50, B-52 etc etc” for those different Special Forces units in those unit names? I have wondered about that for years. I understand the A team and so on, and I know and get the names of the units like SOG and Mike force. But I have never understand the reason some of those ( units?) had names like B 52 and Project Gamma, What is a SF “project and what meets that criteria and why did some of them have the B XX names? I have read Vietnam War history most of my adult life but never could get myself wrapped around all those mix of names

    Reply
    1. Hognose Post author

      A teams used to have three digit numbers, and corresponded to an SF Team led by a captain. B teams (Major) had 2 digit numbers. SF Companies in the 1960s were an admin level led by a Lt. Colonel, but in Vietnam were C-Teams. Groups (Colonel) have one-digit numbers; after a short time with ad hoc “Special Forces Vietnam,” 5th SF Group’s flag moved to Nha Trang, and under 5th were C, B and A teams.

      5th Group — all Vietnam.
      The C teams broke down by the South Vietnamese Corps or Military Regions.
      C-1 — I corps / MR I
      C-2 — II corps / MR II
      C-3 — III corps / MR III
      C-4 — IV corps / MR IV
      C-5 — nongeographical special operations. This is where the “projects” were organizationally.
      Each C team had B teams so B-10 had some of the A teams (A-101, A-104, etc.) in I Corps, and B-11 had A-111, 113, etc. So if you know a Vietnam era team number you know where it was, kind of. 100 series were up north, 300 in the Central Highlands, 400 the Mekong Delta.

      Later (circa 1972 or so) the B teams were made into the deployment version of what was in peacetime an SF company with the Major the commander, and three old Lt.Col. “Companies” renamed Battalions to line up with most of the rest of the Army.

      In Vietnam, the numbers were a little off. Most B Detachments had an area they covered with teams deployed in 1-team camps, but some did not have a geographic orientation. Det. B-52 aka Project Delta was a nationwide (RVN) reconnaissance element. B-55 handled a variety of special operations. B-56 (Sigma) was another on-the-ground special intelligence/reconnaissance mission, and B-57 (Gamma) was a human intelligence operation that was heavily staffed by non-SF intel officers; its relation to SF was largely a cover and reporting relationship, although SF officers were assigned there, also (one who comes to mind is Al “Buck” Buckelew).

      The Greek letter names were used for special ops within SF for a period in the late sixties, but people liked them and they stuck. Names changed frequently for no reason other than Organization Man’s aching desire to screw with organizations. The organization known as Delta Force or 1st SFOD-D that still exists today was named after the Vietnam era unit by its first leader, who had been a controversial leader of Vietnam era Delta.

      So it was logical, up to a point, and just grew, after that.

      Reply
      1. LCPL Martinez USMC

        Hog,

        I really appreciate this list. A very relevant lesson in history.

        Any chance you can also do a booklist, chronological if possible on the stories of these guys?

        Aside from watching Platoon (Born on the 4th and Heaven & Earth) and We were Soldiers (plus Kubriks Full Metal Jacket), the only books i’ve read in full re Vietnam war is Herrington’s Stalking the Viet Cong (and of course, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._John_Poole ‘s books).

        For example, what book would have the story of this epic shoot-out?

        Reply
        1. Looserounds.com

          man there are tons of good books out there on Vietnam Special forces for all peope, SOG, War Stories of the Green Berets, Secret Commando, Triumph Frosaken, Assualt on Dak Pek, Night of the silver stars, Tan Phu. A Better War, Across the Fence, Black Jack 33. Billy Waugh’s book. many many first hand accounts and good scholarship out there.

          Reply
          1. LCPL Martinez USMC

            I have read Billy Waugh’s book, but not so much for the Vietnam stuff, rather for the Somalia and Afghanistan stories.

            I’ve just become interested in all this, LR… thanks for the book list above, will check ’em out.

          2. Hognose Post author

            Anything by John Plaster. Anything by Tilt Meyer.

            ETA — both of whom ran recon with SOG, and can really write. (It was Meyer’s profession; he became a newspaperman in California, and still lives there). Tilt’s full name is John Stryker Meyer.

        2. whomever

          One not to miss is ‘Five Years to Freedom’ by James Rowe. It’s not a military history in the usual sense – he was a POW kept in SVN for five years before escaping, but it’s one of the most inspirational books I’ve ever read. Another is ‘Escape from Laos’ by Dieter Dengler – a Navy pilot held in Laos who eventually escaped. There’s a movie about him, too: ‘Little Dieter Needs to Fly’ which is very moving (albeit it’s by that documentary maker who has The Worlds Most Annoying Voice).

          ‘Dustoff’ by Michael Novosel is another. Ltc B-29 pilot, gave up his commission and enlisted as a warrant helicopter pilot to get to VN, got a MoH. His son was also a helicopter pilot; thay have the distinction of being the only father/son pair to have each rescued the other after a shootdown.

          There’s a zillion general histories, which these aren’t, but these stand out in my memory. In the general history department, after you’ve read a few of those, read ‘The Street Without Joy’ by Bernard Fall. It’s about the French defeat – and it’s depressing because he documents the mistakes they made – which we repeated.
          ‘The Village’ by Bing West describes the tactics that might have actually worked – Marine platoon moves into a village long term, befriends and protects the locals, ambushes the VC. Dang – now I see that he’s written a bunch of other books I’m going to have to read :-(.

          (HN, I’d also be interested in any other suggestions you have. I was juuuust to young for Vietnam, so have an interest, but my only knowledge is from reading)

          Reply
          1. Hognose Post author

            Whomever, we are rough contemporaries then, and all the books you recommend are excellent ones. Bernard Fall, the French journalist, actually was killed in Vietnam after publishing the book. I believe every American general read it. Novosel actually served in SF briefly, although he wasn’t SF qualified. As a late-30s guy who was a freshly minted warrant officer flight, the Army had no idea where to send him, so they sent him to SF. (“The snake-eaters will figure out what do do with him.”) He flew in the flight platoon of the 6th SFG(A) for a time before going to Vietnam, and he says very good things about SF in his book. Old-timers who knew him in 6th say they were not surprised when he wound up volunteering for Dustoff, and getting the MOH.

            Most of the general histories are dull, and slanted. Karnow’s is probably least bad. Bruce Palmer’s book is a rare look at the war from a general in a subordinate position, there are many insights to the character of Creighton Abrams, whom Palmer served and admired.

            David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest is a typical Acela Corridor, military-hating Jewish journalist’s very-well-written splash of contempt for the military. It should still probably be read, with it in the back of your mind that Halberstam is not an ethical narrator.

            Conversely, there are authors whose books should be ignored. Wilfred Burchett (Well-Fed Bullshit, as the troops called him) was an Australian who wrote for Communist publications, and either was a Soviet Agent of Influence, or aspired to be. Douglas Valentine has not written a single book without fabricating events and assigning evil motives to people he has not bothered to interview. He also has been victimized — in his case, he was a ready victim — to phony SEALs, etc., with fabricated war stories.

            That brings us to Stolen Valor, by Burkett and Whitley. Everybody needs to read this, even though it will make your teeth grind and your stranglin’ thumbs twitch.

          2. whomever

            Thanks – Palmer was a new one for me, I just ordered it. Between that and the Bing West titles I haven’t read, this morning has cost me $30 for 8 books on bookfinder. I’m glad books are cheaper than guns :-)

          3. LCPL Martinez 29 Palms

            thanks, Fellas,

            i’ve got a lot of catching up to do, will get on this list.

            re Billy Waugh, sorry not Somalia, but his surveillance work in Sudan.

  2. Larry Kaiser

    I am reminded in a strange way of Stalin’s quote, “One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic. Seeing these people presented this way, a few at a time, moves me in a way that I have only felt at the wall. The BNR and DOW abbreviations hide a million tears.

    Reply
  3. DSM

    The entries of MSG Sanchez and SSG Stearns being killed searching for SP4 Small really struck a strong emotion. I searched for MSG Sanchez’s DSC citation. No one having never worn a uniform would understand what would cause a man to go back in.
    Contemporary with this was a video of Marines fighting, in Hue if I remember correctly, where a reporter asks a Marine why he just rushed out into the open under fire to drag a wounded man back. His answer simple and reflecting a slight amount of incredulous to the question, “He’s a Marine.” As if there would need be any more reason. Glory be to Him who gives us such people for a while.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *