Name: Bruce Carleton Bessor
Rank/Branch: Captain/US Army
Unit: 219th Aviation Company, 
17th Aviation Group, 
1st Aviation Brigade 

Date of Birth: 10 January 1948 (Arlington, VA) 
Home of Record: Fairfax, VA 
Date of Loss: 13 May 1969 
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 152330N 1073600E (YC787037)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing in Action 
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: O1G "Bird Dog"
Other Personnel In Incident: Mike J. Scott (missing) 


SYNOPSIS   The Cessna O1 Bird Dog was one of the most versatile and exceedingly useful fixed-wing aircraft in Southeast Asia. It was used extensively as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) to provide low, close visual reconnaissance and target acquisition.

SFC Scott was assigned to Special Operations Augmentation, Command and Control Central, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observation Group (MACV-SOG). MACV-SOG 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 (although it was not a Special Forces group) 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 that were called, depending on the time frame, "Shining Brass" or "Prairie Fire" missions.

On 13 May 1969, then 1st Lt. Bruce C. Bessor, pilot; and SFC Mike J. Scott, observer; comprised the crew of an O1G aircraft (serial #51-16959) conducting a radio relay mission for a Special Forces MACV-SOG, Command and Control Central (CCC) team The reconnaissance team was operating just inside  Laos, approximately 7 miles west of Kham Duc, South Vietnam. Their mission was to locate and report on enemy activity along the 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.

At approximately 0800 hours, the reconnaissance team established radio contact with 1st Lt. Bessor's aircraft. The reconnaissance team heard aircraft engine noise to the southwest of their position followed by 15 rounds of enemy 37mm anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire. Next, the team heard the Bird Dog's engine sputtering, but heard no sound of a crash. Lastly, they heard a large volume of rifle fire from the same direction. The reconnaissance team lost radio contact with the aircraft and could not re-establish contact with either crewman.

The Bird Dog was flying over the rugged jungle covered mountains less than a mile southwest of the Lao/South Vietnamese border, 13 miles west-southwest of Kham Duc. This sector of eastern Laos was laced with several primary and secondary arteries flowing into the extremely important central highlands of South Vietnam.

Search and rescue (SAR) aircraft attempted to enter into the suspected crash site location, but cloud cover and enemy AAA fire prevented them from doing so. On 18 May, the area was visually searched, but no trace of the aircraft or its crew was found. At the time the formal search effort was terminated, Bruce Bessor and Mike Scott were listed Missing in Action.

Bruce Bessor and Mike Scott 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.

If the crew of the Bird Dog was killed in their aircraft loss, each man has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if they survived their loss, they most certainly would have been captured and their fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different. Either way, the communists know what happened and could provide answers any time they had the desire to do so.

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.