|Name:||Gunther Herbert Wald|
|Rank/Branch:||Sergeant First Class/US Army|
Command & Control North (MACV-SOG),
5th Special Forces Group,
1st Special Forces
|Date of Birth:||07 January 1944 (Frankfurt, Germany)|
|Home of Record:||Bergen, NJ|
|Date of Loss:||03 November 1969|
|Country of Loss:||Laos|
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Missing In Action|
|Other Personnel in Incident:||William T. Brown, Donald M. Shue and two Montagnards (missing)|
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 3 November 1969, SSgt. Brown, team leader and demolitions expert; then Sgt. Gunther Wald, radio operator; SP4 Donald Shue, rifleman; and six Montagnards comprised a patrol operating 30 miles west of the South Vietnamese/Lao border in the isolated and rugged jungle-covered mountains near Ban Chakevy Tai, Savannakhet Province, Laos.
As the patrol moved through the area, it was ambushed by a numerically superior communist force. During the initial burst of automatic weapons fire, SSgt. Brown was shot through the body just below the rib cage. The communists lobbed in grenades, fragments of which struck SP4 Shue. At the same time, as Sgt. Wald was making radio contact for help, he was also struck by grenade fragments. Two of the six Montagnard team members were also wounded in the initial attack. All three Americans were last seen lying wounded on the ground by Pong, one of the four surviving team members, who were forced to withdraw under fire leaving the others behind. At the time he departed the area, Pong did not know the extent or severity of the wounds sustained by the Americans. Further, as the Montagnards were escaping the ambush site, they heard the communists shout: "Capture the Americans!" They successfully evaded capture and reported the results of the ambush once they made their way back to base.
Due to bad weather, a search and rescue (SAR) team could not be inserted into the area until 11 November. They searched the entire area, but could only find some web gear which was identified as belonging to the patrol members. More importantly, no personal equipment, weapons or graves were found in or around the battle site. Likewise, there was no trace of the men themselves. At the time the formal search effort was terminated, William Brown, Donald Shue and Gunther Wald were all listed Missing In Action.
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.
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.
Military personnel in Vietnam 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.
Gunther Wald was a career military man who spent 4 years in the US Marine Corps before enlisting in the US Army.