|Rank/Branch:||Master Sergeant/US Army Special Forces|
|Unit:|| Command and Control Detachment
5th Special Forces Group,
1st Special Forces
|Date of Birth:||10 May 1934|
|Home of Record:||McAllen, TX|
|Date of Loss:||12 July 1967|
|Country of Loss:||Laos|
|Loss Coordinates:||161901N 1070216E (YD177031)
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Killed/Body Not Recovered|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||Robert J. Sullivan (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 12 July 1967, MSgt. Samuel Almendariz, team leader; and SFC Robert J. Sullivan, assistant team leader; Harry Brown, radio operator; and 8 indigenous personnel comprised a reconnaissance team that was operating in the rugged jungle-covered mountains due west of the northern end of the A Shau Valley approximately 1 mile south of the Lao/Vietnamese border, 43 miles west south west of Hue/Phu Bai, South Vietnam and 19 miles east-northeast of Tavauac, Salavan Province, Laos.
As the reconnaissance team moved through their area of operation, it came under heavy enemy attack. From 1100 hours until 1600 hours the team was engaged in a running gun battle with enemy forces. Of the 11 men, only Harry Brown was able to successfully escape and evade the communist force that was in hot pursuit. After rescue, he reported that both MSgt. Almendariz and MSgt. Sullivan had been mortally wounded during the 5 hour battle. He also was able to provide basic data of where the bodies of the team leader and assistant team leader were located.
On 16 July, a platoon-size search and recovery (SAR) force was inserted into the area of contact, but was unable to locate the bodies of either man. Likewise, they found no signs of freshly dug graves. At the time the SAR operation was terminated, Samuel Almendariz and Robert Sullivan were declared 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.
Samuel Almendariz and Robert Sullivan are 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 MSgt. Almendariz and SFC Sullivan is not in doubt, each man has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. Above all else, each man has the right not to be forgotten by the nation for which he gave his live.
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 American Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.
American servicemen in Vietnam and Laos 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.