|Name:||Johnny C. Calhoun|
|Rank/Branch:||Staff Sergeant/US Army|
Military Assistance Command, Vietnam
Studies and Observation Group
5th Special Forces Group,
1st Special Forces
|Date of Birth:||14 July 1945|
|Home of Record:||Newman, GA|
|Date of Loss:||27 March 1968|
|Country of Loss:||South Vietnam|
Click coordinates to view maps (4)
|Status in 1973:||Missing in Action|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||(none 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 that were called, depending on the time frame, "Shining Brass," "Salem House," "Daniel Boone" or "Prairie Fire" missions.
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.
On 27 March 1968, then Sergeant Johnny C. Calhoun was the team leader of a six-man strategic reconnaissance patrol that was to locate, observe and report on enemy activity infiltrating into this vital and hotly contested region of South Vietnam. Their area of operation included a primary gateway from the notorious Ho Chi Minh Trail into strategic sections of Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam.
The team, which consisted of two Americans and four indigenous personnel, had completed its mission and was waiting extraction from a designated pickup zone (PZ) located in tall elephant grass along the western edge of the infamous A Shau Valley when they were assaulted by a numerically superior enemy force.
The PZ/battle site was just east of the rugged jungle covered mountains and approximately 1 1/2 miles west of the village of Ta Bat. The village was situated along a north/south flowing tributary of the Rao Lao Asap River, roughly 3 miles west of the river itself and 4 miles west of Route 548, the primary road that was also running north/south through the A Shau Valley. During the ensuing fierce firefight, Sgt. Calhoun provided covering fire for the rest of the team while they withdrew from the immediate point of contact.
The surviving team members escaped and evaded capture for roughly 20 hours after the initial contact before all five men were safely extracted by helicopter. During that time, the team members were engaged in several running gun battles with communist forces actively pursuing them. Because of the hostile threat in the area, no further ground search was possible. At the time the other team members were rescued, Johnny Calhoun was reported as Missing In Action.
The assistant team leader stated during the Board of Inquiry into the fate of Johnny Calhoun that he saw their team leader struck in the chest and stomach by at least 3 rounds of enemy gunfire, saw him fall to the ground and not move. The interpreter, Ho-Thong, stated to the Board that when Johnny Calhoun slumped to the ground, he pulled the pin from a grenade and clutched it to explode among advancing enemy troops. Due to the tactical situation, it was impossible to check Sgt. Calhoun for signs of life or to rescue/recover him from the field of battle. Because of the rapid retreat of the survivors from the area under intense fire, his ultimate fate is unknown.
The MACV-SOG teams performed exceedingly dangerous strategic missions. Johnny Calhoun knew that because of the nature of these missions, the communists would consider him to be an extremely valuable prisoner; and accordingly, determined that he would not allow himself to be captured. If he did not die, and was ultimately captured, he also knew the chances were slim that they would ever release him alive.
There is no question that Johnny Calhoun was wounded during the intense firefight and equally no question that he intended to kill as many of the enemy as he could. If he died of his wounds or the grenade explosion, he has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if communist personnel were able to capture and disarm him prior to him carrying out his plan, his fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different. Either way the Vietnamese know what happened and could return him or his remains 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.
American military men were called upon to 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.