|Name:||Robert Curtis "Curt" Borton|
|Rank/Branch:||Gunnery Sergeant/US Marine Corps|
3rd Battalion, 1st Marines,
1st Marine Division
|Date of Birth:||24 June 1946 (Benton Harbor, MI)|
|Home of Record:||Wenfield, Mo|
|Date of Loss:||28 August 1966|
|Country of Loss:||South Vietnam|
Click coordinates to view (4) maps
|Status in 1973:||Missing in Action|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||John E. Bodenschatz, Jr.; Robert L. Babula and Dennis R. Carter (missing)|
SYNOPSIS: On 28 August 1966, Cpl. Dennis R. Carter, squad leader; then PFC Robert L. Babula, PFC John E. Bodenschatz, Jr. and PFC Robert C. "Curt" Borton, riflemen; were assigned to 1st Platoon, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division. The four Marines comprised a fire team assigned to establish an ambush site in Hoa Hai village, Hoa Vang District, Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam. The village was located approximately 500 meters south of the platoon's patrol base.
The sector in which 1st platoon was operating was densely populated and hotly contested approximately 2 miles west of the coastline, 3 miles southwest of Marble Mountain and 4 miles south-southeast of the southern end of the DaNang Airfield runways. It was covered in rice fields, small marshy areas, patches of scattered trees and villages of various sizes. It was also laced with several primary and secondary roads running generally north to south and foot/cart paths running between villages in all directions.
Highway QL1, the primary road running nearly the full length of both North and South Vietnam, was located roughly 2 miles to the west of the ambush site. The Song Vinh Dien River generally paralleled QL1 and to the east of the road. Route 518 connected several of the larger villages in the region and was located roughly ½ mile east of the fire team's ambush site.
At 0300 hours, the four members of the fire team departed the platoon's base camp. In addition to their own weapons, they were armed with pyrotechnics that were to be used as signaling devises. Their orders were to relocate in the same general area or return to platoon's patrol base in the event their ambush site was compromised, and to return to base no later than 0900 hours that morning.
When the fire team failed to return by 0900 hours, an immediate search operation was conducted of the area in and around Hoa Hai village by Company K. From 29 through 31 August, 3rd Battalion conducted a dovetailed search of the entire sector including all possible routes of egress in the event the team members had been captured. Local residents were questioned, but no information was forthcoming about the fate of the missing Marines.
Company K continued to ground search and on 4 September part of an American wristwatch and PFC Bodenschatz's two dogtags were discovered in the vicinity of BT061673. The search of the area was intensified in and around that location. Heavy engineer equipment was also employed in an effort to locate graves, but no further trace of the four Marines was found.
On 13 September, the 3rd Battalion cordoned off grid squares BT0567, 0667, 0566 and 0666. All inhabitants were assembled, screened and interrogated by an ARVN interrogation team from Hoa Vang District Headquarters. During this process, three Viet Cong suspects were retained for further questioning. While the ARVN team was successful in identifying VC personnel, they were unable to learn anything about the fate or whereabouts of Curt Borton, Robert Babula, John Bodenschatz or Dennis Carter.
With no other leads to follow, the Marine Corps reluctantly suspended the formal search effort. A Board of Inquiry was convened to review all known facts of the case. At its conclusion, the Battalion Commander wrote in his final determination that the four Marines were "probably captured." In spite of this, Robert Babula, Curt Borton, John Bodenschatz and Dennis Carter were declared Missing in Action.
During December 1966, PFC Babula's mother and sister sent a Christmas card to the members of Company K informing them that they had recently received new information that Robert was a Prisoner of War. However, they did not elaborate on who provided that information to them.
In 1975, information was declassified and given to all four families that indicated that since the fire team's disappearance, Marine Corps Headquarters had received two sighting reports documenting "three to four Americans being displayed in villages south of the area in which the fire team disappeared."
In April 1991 the US government released a list of Prisoners of War and Missing in Action who were known to be alive in enemy hands and for whom there is no evidence that he or she died in captivity. This list, commonly referred to today as the USG's "Last Known Alive" list, included Robert Babula, Curt Borton, John Bodenschatz and Dennis Carter.
If PFC Babula, PFC Borton, PFC Bodenschatz and Cpl. Carter died in their loss incident, each man has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if they survived, there is a very real probability they were captured by communist forces known to be operating in this region and their fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different. Either way there is no doubt the Vietnamese know what happened and could return them or their remains any time they had the desire to do so.
In a strange twist, information regarding one of the four Marines lost on 28 August 1966 came to light in the late 1980s and early 1990s. On at least four separate occasions Curt Borton's sister believes she has seen him in the United States. Three of these sightings occurred in the Northern Virginia/Washington, DC area. The forth sighting took place in Northern California after she moved to that state.
The information about these sightings was aired in a program by Unsolved Mysteries regarding the possibility that American Prisoners of War have been returned to the United States after Operation Homecoming in a US government sponsored "secret returnee" program. If this is the case, then Robert Borton; and possibly Robert Babula, John Bodenschatz and Dennis Carter as well; has been forced to exchange one form or captivity in Southeast Asia for another form here in this country.
Seemingly in response to the live sightings of Curt Borton in the US, on 8 February 1993, the Vietnamese returned only partial remains they stated belonged to PFC Borton. Further, the Vietnamese made no reference to, and returned no remains for, any of the other men missing in this incident. The reported remains were transported to the US Army's Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii (CIL-HI) for examination. On 21 April 1995, CIL-HI personnel announced the positive identification of these remains as belonging to Curt Borton.
The Borton family listened to and read the US government's case that they ignore the sightings of their son and brother, that they accept the remains as his in spite of the fact that there was no conclusive proof they were in fact his, and that they bury them full military honors. The Borton family declined to do so.
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 men in Vietnam were called upon to fight in many dangerous circumstances, and 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.