Name: Charles Elbert Beals 
Rank/Branch: Specialist/US Army 
Unit: Company D, 2nd Battalion,
506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division 
Date of Birth: 27 September 1949 (Union City, IN)
Home of Record: French Lick, IN
Date of Loss: 07 July 1970 
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 162643N 107114E (YD335193) 
Click coordinates to view  (4) maps
Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Other Personnel In Incident: Lewis Howard, Jr. (missing) 


SYNOPSIS:   On 7 July 1970, SPC Lewis Howard, Jr. and SPC Charles E. Beals were both riflemen assigned to Company D, 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division. Their company was participating in combat operation to interdict enemy troops and supplies moving through this sector, which was part of the communist's major infiltration route into the northern provinces of South Vietnam via the notorious Ho Chi Minh Trail.

The rugged jungle covered mountains at the northern edge of the infamous A Shau Valley were considered a major extension of the 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.

As their platoon advanced up a forested hill toward a suspected enemy position, SPC Howard was the pointman. SPC Beals, the assistant machine gunner and the rest of the machine gun crew, was also in the lead element when it was ambushed by a concealed enemy force of unknown size. The communists opened fire with at least 3 rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). The platoon leader, who was located behind the lead element, saw Lewis Howard struck by the first round. The Company's position was located approximately 9 miles northeast of the South Vietnamese/Lao border, 24 miles West of Hue City and 27 miles southeast of Khe Sanh, Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam.

At the same time, Charles Beals sustained a leg wound during the opening round of fire. Before the assistant machine gunner could be moved to cover, he was struck again in the back and neck by at least 3 rounds from an enemy machine gun. All attempts by the rest of the platoon to maneuver up to the point position to retrieve both wounded men, who were lying within a few feet of each other, met with heavy enemy machine gun and rifle fire. Because of this intense and concentrated crossfire, the rest of the platoon was forced to withdraw from the ambush site, leaving both men behind.

Over the next 6 hours, American personnel tried repeatedly to reach Charles Beals and Lewis Howard. The communists, who were well entrenched, continued to drive back each attempt to rescue their comrades. The intense enemy fire made further attempts to recover SPC Beals and SPC Howard impossible, and the Americans were forced to withdraw without them.

Charles Beals was thought to be dead because of the number of wounds he suffered and he was immediately listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered. The extent of Lewis Howard's wounds were unknown, and because it was believed there was a possibility he could have survived, PFC Howard was listed Missing In Action.

If Charles Beals and Lewis Howard died of their wounds, each man has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if they survived their wounds, 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, there is no doubt the Vietnamese could return Charles Beals and Lewis Howard either alive or dead 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 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.