The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

January/February 2006
Veterans Initiative Task Force Report
   
 

Progress On Many Fronts

BY BILL DUKER, SPECIAL ADVISER

Ngok Tavak

Tom Perry, a Special Forces medic, went missing during the battle of Ngok Tavak on May 10, 1968. Witnesses later placed Perry in captivity. The VITF began inquiring in 1994 about what happened to Perry. Background information has been provided by JPAC and DPMO. Previous meetings by the VITF with Vietnamese officials in Hanoi and with members of the Veterans Association of Vietnam (VAVN) in Danang and Quang Nam Province resulted, unfortunately, in no new information.

However, on the most recent VITF trip meetings with the Peoples Committee and VAVN in Quang Nam Province, Col. Anh, president of the VAVN in Quang Nam Province, said that he had met with a POW and mentioned Perry, saying that he was a patient in an NVA hospital. He said that when Perry healed from his wounds, he was moved out of the hospital by another unit. He did not know what happened to Perry after that.

This information was given immediately to JPAC and DPMO. They will re-interview Col. Anh as soon as possible. Both DPMO and JPAC believe, however, that in light of previous information provided by Col. Anh, he is probably referring to another American POW case. The Perry family was briefed about this new information.

Kham Duc

Prior to the VITF meetings with Vietnamese officials, JPAC requested that the VITF ask that the Vietnamese delay any strip mining in the Kham Duc area until the last of the Joint Field Activities (JFA) excavations have been completed. This request was made by the VITF in meetings in Hanoi and Quang Nam Province. While meeting with the Peoples Committee in Quang Nam Province, the Vice Chair agreed that the excavations in Kham Duc should take priority over the strip mining project. However, the excavations must be completed by next spring.

JPAC plans to complete two site excavations beginning in February that should take approximately 60 days. Previous excavations have produced both American and Vietnamese remains. This is the first time that any Vietnamese official, in Hanoi or locally, has agreed to delay the strip mining until the sites have been completed. This statement of commitment was immediately reported by the VITF to the U.S. Ambassador in Hanoi, the U.S. Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City, JPAC Headquarters in Hawaii, JPAC Detachment 2 in Hanoi, and DPMO.

Edward Arlo Willing

At the request of a family intermediary, the VITF requested an update from JPAC in Hawaii and Hanoi concerning the status of Edward Arlo Willing. On July 21, 1968, Willing went missing while attempting to return to his unit at Tu Cau Bridge. JPAC has stated that new information has been obtained from a principal witness and a re-interview, survey, and possible excavation will take place this spring.

Humbert Roque Versace

In 2004, the VITF met with the Peoples Committee and VAVN in Can Tho. The VITF requested the cooperation and support of the planned excavation of the burial site of Humbert “Rocky” Versace. An initial dig did not reveal any remains. With new information, JPAC plans to excavate a different site after draining a canal. Versace recently received the Medal of Honor posthumously. Information about Rocky Versace while he was in captivity can be found in Five Years to Freedom by fellow POW James N. “Nick” Rowe.

Bien Hoa

During the last VITF trip, as a result of a chance encounter by POW/MIA Committee Chair Bob Johnston and VITF member Grant Coates, information was received about the possible grave site of three or four Americans. To the best of the informant’s knowledge, these remains never have been excavated. This information was immediately passed on to JPAC, which intends to begin interviews early in the spring.

Dog Tag

While the VITF team was about to depart from Ho Chi Minh City to return home, a Vietnamese American approached the team with a dog tag, a copied image of the dog tag, and information concerning an American who was shot down near Nha Trang. This information was given to Paul Mather at DPMO. Mather investigated and determined that the dog tag image was valid and that the information corresponded to an American who was KIA and had been shot down near Nha Trang. His remains had been recovered and returned to his family. Mather contacted the Vietnamese American and requested that he mail the dog tag to the appropriate Casualty Office. The Casualty Office will contact the family to determine whether the family wishes to receive the dog tag.

Central Highlands

At the request of JPAC, the VITF, during the last several years, has been pushing hard with Vietnamese officials for the resumption of JFAs in the Central Highlands. The Central Highlands have been closed off because of political and religious issues among the minority Vietnamese. VITF will continue to advocate for access to the Highlands.

Lima Site 85, Laos

Recently the Associated Press reported that one set of remains, those of USAF Tech Sgt. Patrick L. Shannon, were recovered from a battle at the secret bombing control radar site known as Lima Site 85 in Houaphan Province, Laos. On November 3, 1968, Lima Site 85 was attacked and overrun by enemy commandos. Eight Americans were rescued; eleven were not. This has been one of the most significant and controversial sites from the war in Laos.

The question of what happened to the eleven who were not rescued has been one of the most frustrating POW/MIA cases of the war. It seemed as though they disappeared into thin air. Since this battle, live sightings were reported. In 2004, with the cooperation of two of the commandos who overran the site, the remains of Shannon were recovered on a mountain ledge below the site.

Adding to the mystery is the fact that, along with Shannon’s remains, are boots, fragments of clothing, and other personal items that indicate other Americans were on or near the ledge. According to the two commandos, after they overran the site, they threw the bodies of the Americans off the cliff. The remains of Shannon were returned to the Central Identification Lab in Hawaii on July 4, 2004. Positive identification was made on November 10, 2005.

As a policy, the VITF does not identify specific individuals. However, when the VITF has been given authorization from either the family or a family intermediary, and if the name has already been made public, the VITF generally will identify the individuals for the purposes of reporting only. We strongly recommend that those who receive these reports be very judicious in how, and with whom, they discuss this information. Please recognize the sensitivity of this information and the need to protect family privacy.

   

Visit The VVA Veteran archives
to locate back issues.

E-mail us at TheVeteran@vva.org


     Home | Membership | Publications | Events | Government Relations | Contact Us
Press Releases | Benefits | Meetings & Special Events | Collectibles | Contributions and Sponsorships | Site Index

Vietnam Veterans of America ® 
8605 Cameron Street, Suite 400
Silver Spring, Maryland  20910-3710
301-585-4000, Fax 301-585-0519, 1-800-VVA-1316  

Copyright © 2005 by the Vietnam Veterans of America. All rights reserved.