Name: Ronald Eugene Smith
Rank/Branch: Sergeant First Class/US Army Special Forces 
Unit: Command & Control Central, MACV-SOG, 
5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 
1st Special Forces 
Date of Birth: 29 March 1940 (Kingman, IN)
Home of Record: Covington, IN
Date of Loss: 28 November 1970
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 143705N 1072737E (YB650174)
Click coordinates to view maps
Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing) 


SYNOPSIS:   SFC Ronald E. Smith was assigned as a rifleman on a 6-man long range reconnaissance patrol (LRRP) consisting of two Americans and four Vietnamese. The team's code name was "Kentucky/Louisiana." The Americans were assigned to 5th Special Forces Group, but were under orders from Command & Control, MACV-SOG.

MACV-SOG (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 Group channeled personnel into MACV-SOG (although it was not a Special Forces unit) through Special Operations Augmentation (SOA), which provided their "cover" while under secret orders to MACV-SOG. The 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 28 November 1970, the team was operating deep behind enemy lines just inside Laos in the very rugged and isolated tri-border region where South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia meet. At 1605 hours, the team was ambushed by a reinforced enemy company approximately 1 mile northwest of the boarder with Cambodia, 5 miles due east of Ban Pakha, Laos; 10 miles southeast of Dak Seang, South Vietnam and 16 miles due west of Dak To, South Vietnam; Attapu Province, Laos.

In the initial firefight, SFC Smith was struck by a volley of enemy automatic weapons fire. The team leader immediately went to his aid. When he turned SFC Smith over, the team leader saw that he had been hit in the forehead, chest and side. The team leader believed at the time that Ronald Smith was dead prior to his coming to the sergeant's rescue. While dragging his body to cover with the assistance of the team's machine gunner, the patrol was attacked again; this time with B-40 rocket propelled grenades (RPG). The rockets landed extremely close to both Ronald Smith and the machine gunner, killing the Vietnamese gunner instantly. The concussion from the PRG knocked the team leader unconscious.

The remaining Vietnamese team members broke contact with the enemy carrying their team leader with them. Under the circumstances, they were unable to bring the bodies of the two men who they believed were dead with them. Likewise, due to the heavy concentration of hostile forces in the area, no recovery operation was possible. Ronald Smith was initially listed Missing in Action. On 20 April 1971, the Department of the Army determined that SFC Smith had in fact died of his wounds some five months earlier and changed his status to 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 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.

Ronald Smith is 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 SFC Smith's fate is not in doubt, he has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. For other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, their fate could be quite different.

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

Military men in Vietnam and Laos were called upon to fly and fight 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.