Name:  James Derwin Cohron 
Rank/Branch: Sergeant First Class/US Army 
Unit:  Headquarters and Headquaters Company, Military Assistance Command-Vietnam Studies and Observation Group 
Date of Birth: 11 November 1938 
Home of Record: Centerville, IA
Date of Loss: 12 January 1968 
Country of Loss:  Laos
Loss Coordinates:  162745N 1064800E (XD929208)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing In Action 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:  Ground 
Other Personnel in Incident: 2 indigenous personnel

SYNOPSIS:   Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observation Group (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 (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 which were called, depending on the time frame, "Shining Brass" or "Prairie Fire" missions.

On 12 January 1968, then SSgt. James D. Cohron, was assigned as a rifleman of Spike Team "Indiana" which was on a reconnaissance combat mission deep in enemy held territory. 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.

SSgt. Cohron was the second man from the rear of the formation as they moved through their mission area. When the team was approximately 48 miles due west of Hue, South Vietnam; 1 mile south of the Lao/Vietnamese border and 8 miles north-northeast of Tavauac, Salavan Province, Laos, it was ambushed by an enemy force of unknown size. After an extensive, fierce exchange of gunfire, the Spike team broke contact by evading through a gully to a predetermined rally point where they established a defensive position on a small hill. At that time the team leader discovered that James Cohron and two indigenous team members were missing. The team's view of their path of evasion to the rendezvous location was obstructed by tall elephant grass making it impossible to visually locate James Cohron and the others. Attempts to raise them by radio also failed. Due to the tactical situation and the reconnaissance team's mission being compromised, they were forced to call for helicopter extraction. Two days later, a search and rescue (SAR) team made its way to the ambush site. While they were unable to locate the missing team members, they did find a small spot of blood where the initial contact was made. Further, they found Cohron's food ration which was identified by the empty cigarette package inside. When no other trace of three men was found, all ground search efforts were terminated and James Cohron was immediately listed Missing in Action.

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.

James Cohron 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.

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.