LAWS, DELMER LEE

Name: Delmer Lee Laws 
Rank/Branch: Sergeant First Class/US Army 
Unit: Headquarters & Headquarters Command, 
5th Special Forces Group, 
1st Special Forces 
Date of Birth: 07 August 1935
Home of Record: Mineral Point, MO
Date of Loss: 29 July 1966
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 163109N 1063606E (XD709269) 
Click coordinates to view maps
Status in 1973: Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered 
Category: 3
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing

REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS:  On 29 July 1966, SFC Delmer L. Laws was one of three American Special Forces personnel and seven ARVN who comprised a reconnaissance patrol operating in the rugged jungle covered mountains approximately 13 miles southwest of Khe Sanh and 62 miles west-northwest of Hue, South Vietnam; 1 mile west of the Lao/South Vietnamese border and 21 miles southeast of Muang Xepon, Savannakhet Province, Laos.

As the patrol stopped by a small stream, they were ambushed by a communist force of unknown size. Team members disbursed along the trail into defensive positions. SFC Laws was last seen by patrol survivors in a crouched position communicating with the team leader via hand signals indicating he heard something in the rear of the patrol. The team then came under automatic weapons fire from their rear and flank positions. During the ensuing firefight, 1 American and 2 ARVN were caught in the enemy's crossfire and instantly killed. The team leader rallied the remaining team members and they moved north to evade capture. Before departing the area, the team leader was unable to locate SFC Laws.

On 31 July, and again on 4 August 1966, a search and rescue (SAR) team was inserted into the ambush site. They reported that based on material evidence found at the site, everyone caught in the killing zone was killed instantly and those remains were recovered. They thoroughly searched the site of contact and surrounding area, but found no trace of Delmer Laws. In spite of the fact that the last time the survivors saw SFC Laws he was uninjured; the remains of other team members who were killed outright including another American and were left where they fell; and in spite of the fact that the communists were not known to carry off the bodies of dead Americans, Delmer Laws was listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

For every insertion like this one that was detected and stopped, dozens of others safely slipped past NVA lines to strike a wide range of targets and collect vital information. The number of missions conducted with Special Forces reconnaissance teams into Laos and Cambodia was 452 in 1969. Later in the war most of these teams came under the command of Military Assistance Command Vietnam - Studies and Observation Group (MACV-SOG), and was the most sustained American campaign of raiding, sabotage and intelligence-gathering waged on foreign soil in US military history. MACV-SOG's teams earned a global reputation as one of the most combat effective deep-penetration forces ever raised.

Delmer Laws is among nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos. Many are known to have been alive on the ground after their loss incidents. Although the Pathet Lao publicly stated on several occasions that they held "tens of tens" of American prisoners, not one American held in Laos has ever been released.

Since the end of the Vietnam War, over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE American Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

US military personnel in Vietnam and Laos were called upon to undertake many dangerous missions, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed, or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they proudly served.