WILSON, PETER JOE

Name: Peter Joe Wilson
Rank/Branch: Sergeant First Class/US Army 
Unit: Military Assistance Command Vietnam 
Studies and Observation Group,
Command and Control Central 
5th Special Forces Group, 
1st Special Forces 
Date of Birth: 23 August 1938 (Ridley Park, PA)
Home of Record: Pulaski, NY 
Date of Loss: 19 October 1970 
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 143500N 1072530E (YB618135) 
Click coordinates to view maps
Status in 1973: Missing in Action 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Other Personnel In Incident: (none) 

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 19 October 1970, then SSgt. Peter J. Wilson was the team leader of a long range reconnaissance patrol (LRRP) operating in the hotly contested jungle-covered mountains of the tri-border region where South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia join. The team was ambushed by a numerically superior enemy force while moving through an area approximately 1 mile west of a well established road located 20 miles west-southwest of Dak To, South Vietnam; 6 miles south-southeast of Ban Pakha and 2 miles north of the Lao/Cambodian border, Attapu Province, Laos.

This area of extreme southern Laos was considered a major artery of the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail. When North Vietnam began to increase its military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary, as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some years before. This border road was used by the Communists to transport weapons, supplies and troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, and was frequently no more than a path cut through the jungle covered mountains. US forces used all assets available to them to stop this flow of men and supplies from moving south into the war zone.

After the fourth contact with enemy forces during the ensuing running gun battle, and with the enemy remaining in close pursuit, SSgt. Wilson directed Sgt. John M. Baker to the front of the patrol and told him to continue to the east if the column was split. At that time, Peter Wilson was covering the rear of the patrol while assisting Djuit, a wounded indigenous team member. Sometime later Sgt. Baker heard SSgt. Wilson transmit, "May Day, May Day" over his emergency radio. He also heard the sounds of a firefight coming from the direction of the separated men. When no further communication could be established, an intense aerial search was initiated. This search continued for 3 days, but was unable to locate any trace of the missing team members. At the time formal search efforts were terminated, Peter J. Wilson was 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.

Peter Wilson 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.

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 American Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

American servicemen in Vietnam were called upon to operate in many dangerous circumstances both on and off duty, 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.