Name: Charles Franklin Bookout  
Rank/Branch: Sergeant First Class/US Army
Unit: Special Operations Augmentation, Command and Control North
5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces
Date of Birth: 01 December 1934
Home of Record: Oklahoma City, OK
Date of Loss: 04 July 1970
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 154852N 1071220E (YC362495
Click coordinates to view maps
Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing)


SYNOPSIS:SYNOPSIS: MACV-SOG, or Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, was a joint service 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 that were called, depending on the time frame, "Shining Brass," “Salem House,” “Daniel Boone” or "Prairie Fire" missions.

On 4 July 1970, SFC Charles F. Bookout was the reconnaissance team leader of a patrol operating in the rugged and isolated jungle-covered mountains approximately 2 miles west of the Lao/Vietnamese border, and 70 miles west-southwest of DaNang, South Vietnam; Salavan Province, Laos.

This area of eastern 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.

As the patrol moved forward, it was ambushed by a communist force of unknown size. In the initial exchange of gunfire, SFC Bookout was wounded. Another team member immediately examined him and found a single bullet hole in his back. Ten minutes later, the team leader stopped breathing. Due to the tactical situation and continuing enemy small arms fire, the rest of the team was forced to leave Charles Bookout’s body behind when they broke contact and moved to a clearing for emergency extraction. The remaining team members were safely rescued; however, darkness prevented a search and rescue (SAR) team to be inserted into the ambush site to recover the team leader’s remains. Later the decision was made that due to the heave concentration of enemy troops in the area, no further recovery operation was possible. Charles Bookout was listed 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.

Charles Bookout 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.

While the fate of SFC Bookout is not in doubt, he has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. 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 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.