PREISS, ROBERT FRANCIS, JR. "bobby"

Remains Recovered 20 June 1995; Identified 30 June 1998
Name:  Robert Francis "Bobby" Preiss, Jr.
Rank/Branch: Staff Sergeant/US Army
Unit:  Military Assistance Command Vietnam 
Studies and Observation Group, 
Command and Control North, 
5th Special Forces Group, 
1st Special Forces 

Date of Birth: 27 April 1945 (Queens, NY)
Home of Record: Cornwall, NY
Date of Loss: 12 May 1970 
Country of Loss:  Laos
Loss Coordinates:  160211N 1070853E (YC298740)
Click coordinates to view (4) maps

Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:  Ground
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)

REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS:   MACV-SOG, or Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, was a joint service high command unconventional warfare task force engaged in highly classified operations throughout Southeast Asia. The 5th Special Forces channeled personnel into MACV-SOG (though it was not a Special Forces group) through Special Operations Augmentation (SOA), which provided their "cover" while under secret orders to MACV-SOG. These teams performed deep penetration missions of strategic reconnaissance and interdiction which were called, depending on the time frame, "Shining Brass" or "Prairie Fire" missions.

On 12 May 1970, SSgt. Robert F. Preiss, Jr. was the team leader of a 6-man Special Forces reconnaissance team, call sign "Cobra," operating in the extremely rugged jungle covered mountains approximately 72 miles due west of DaNang, South Vietnam; 10 miles south-southwest of the western most edge of the infamous A Shau Valley, and 9 miles south-southwest of the Lao/South Vietnamese border, Xekong Province, Laos. At approximately 1200 hours, as the team took a water break on a hill overlooking a stream and near the village of Ban Glo, they were ambushed by a squad-sized NVA force. SSgt. Preiss suffered a mortal wound in the ensuing firefight and died within an hour. The team was able to break contact, but because of the tactical situation, they were forced to leave their team leader's body behind as they moved down the mountain to a helicopter evacuation site. Bobby Preiss was immediately listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

On 18 May 1970, a search and recovery (SAR) team was inserted into the ambush site to search for the body of SSgt. Preiss. From all indications, the battle area had been sterilized by a US bombing raid against enemy targets in that sector. SAR personnel discovered that a large rockslide covered the area leaving the only sign of Bobby Preiss being the smell of decomposing flesh from beneath it. The rocks were large and could not be moved without special equipment.

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 MACV-SOG missions conducted with Special Forces reconnaissance teams into Laos and Cambodia was 452 in 1969. It 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.

In 1995 a local hunter found some of the missing sergeant's remains. Then in May of that year a Laotian villager led a joint US/Lao team to the rocky mountain slope where a few bone fragments were found. In March 1998, another joint recovery team returned to that remote ambush site to continue excavating the rock pile for as much of Bobby Preiss' remains as possible. All bone fragments recovered from the ambush site were combined and later identified by Central Identification Laboratory - Hawaii as those of the Special Forces sergeant. Robert F. Preiss, Jr. was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Bobby Preiss was among nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos. Many of these men were known to be alive on the ground. The Laotians admitted holding "tens of tens" of American Prisoners of War, but these men were never negotiated for either by direct negotiation between our countries or through the Paris Peace Accords which ended the War in Vietnam since Laos was not a party to that agreement.

While the fate of Bobby Preiss is finally resolved and his family has the peace of mind of knowing where their loved one now lies, for other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, their fate could be quite different.

American servicemen in Vietnam and Laos were called upon to operate in many dangerous circumstances 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 so proudly served.