CREED, BARTON SHELDON "BART"

Name: Barton Sheldon "Bart" Creed 
Rank/Branch: Lieutenant Commander/US Navy 
Unit: Attack Squadron 113 USS RANGER (CVA-61) 
Date of Birth: 03 April 1945 (Peekskill, NY)
Home of Record: Peekskill, NY
Date of Loss: .13 March 1971 
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 161210N 1063300E (XC664922)
Click coordinates to view maps
Status in 1973: Prisoner of War 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A7E "Corsair"
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing) 

REMARKS:  MAY HAVE BEEN CAPTURED

SYNOPSIS:  The A7 Corsair was the US Navy's single seat, light attack jet aircraft that featured advanced radar, navigation and weapons systems, and could carry a 15,000-pound bomb load. Nicknamed the "Sluf," the A7E with its more powerful TF-41 turbofan engine, was the most advanced version of the Corsair to fly combat missions in Southeast Asia. Its state-of-the-art weapons delivery computers made the Sluf's pilots' the best bombers in the fleet. The Corsair was also flown by Air Force and Marine air wings in Southeast Asia.

It was no secret by this point in time that North Vietnamese Army units were openly operating in areas of Laos that were part of the notorious Ho Chi Minh Trail. This "highway" was frequently little more than a path cut through the jungle used by the enemy to move troops and supplies from North Vietnam, through neutral Laos, into South Vietnam. US forces used all assets available to them to stop this flow of men and material from moving south into the acknowledged war zone.

Oscar Eight was the code name given to a sector of eastern Laos located in rugged jungle covered mountains approximately 25 miles northwest of the infamous A Shau Valley, Saravane Province, Laos. The area encompassed the junction of Highway 92, which was a primary north-south artery of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and Highway 922, which branched off and ran directly east where it crossed into South Vietnam at a strategic point near the northern edge of the A Shau Valley. Oscar Eight was also located at the southeastern end of a large and narrow jungle covered valley that had two primary roads running through it, one on each side of the valley. Highway 92 ran along the west side and Highway 919 along the east. A power line ran parallel to Highway 92 and sometimes crossed it. In addition to the roads and power line, the Hoi An River also flowed through the valley passing the road junction roughly 1 mile west of it.

More American aircraft were downed in the vicinity of the junction of Highways 92 and 922 than any other place in Laos. This was because burrowed deep in the hills of Oscar Eight and located just to the east of the road junction was North Vietnamese General Vo Bam's 559th Transportation Group's forward headquarters. Also contained within Oscar Eight was the Ho Chi Minh Trail's control center as well as the largest NVA storage facility outside of North Vietnam. Further, this region was defended by consecutive belts of small arms, automatic weapons and anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) guns of all sizes that were not only stationed on the ground, but also mounted on platforms in the trees. All of these firing positions, including the AAA batteries, were expertly camouflaged.

On 13 March 1971, then Lt. Barton S. "Bart" Creed was pilot of an A7E (tail #NE-315, aircraft #157589) and the section leader in a flight of two that launched from the deck of the USS Ranger on a late morning strike mission against heavily entrenched enemy positions in the area of the primary road junctions in Oscar Eight.

At 1115 hours, while recovering from an attack run, Lt. Creed's aircraft was struck by ground fire and went out of control. He managed to eject from the damaged Corsair, but broke an arm and a leg in the process. Once on the ground, he established radio contact with his wingman and reported his condition to him. His wingman, in turn, called in search and recovery (SAR) helicopters to extract the downed flight leader.

Over the next few hours, Lt. Creed maintained radio contact with other pilots, including the on-site Forward Air Controller (FAC) who was directing all rescue operations. As SAR personnel approached the injured pilot's position, enemy gunners drove them back with intense and accurate ground fire. Barton Creed's last radio message was: "Get me out now, get me out now! They are here!"

At the time of his last radio transmission, Bart Creed's position was approximately 6 miles due south of the road junction of Highways 919 and 922, 18 miles southwest of the Lao/South Vietnamese border and 32 miles southwest of Khe Sanh, South Vietnam. It was also in jungle covered rolling mountains 3 miles south of the village of Ban Tanai Un Tai and 20 miles north-northeast of Ban Nong Boua, Savannakhet Province, Laos.

During the next 24 hours four attempts were made to locate and rescue Lt. Creed, but each attempt failed. At the time the formal search effort was terminated, he was initially listed Missing in Action. However, in early 1973 that status was later upgraded to Prisoner of War. After Operation Homecoming in 1973, a returned POW stated in his debriefing, that he saw what he believed was Barton Creed's ID card among a stack of other ID cards. Further, another returnee told Lt. Creed's mother that a prison guard had drawn a picture of an aircraft like the one her son flew and then pantomimed putting a leg split on a large American.

From 1981 to 1984, the Special Forces Detachment, Korea (SFDK) was charged by President Reagan with the responsibility of collecting live POW information throughout Southeast Asia. SFDK was commanded by Major Mark Smith, himself a returned POW from the Vietnam War. Through his efforts, and those of team Intelligence Sergeant Mel McIntire, an agent net of 50 agents was established, specifically in Laos. This intelligence net resulted in Major Smith compiling a list of some 26 American POWs by name and captivity location with Bart Creed being one of them.

In April 1984, Major Smith received a message from one of his agents specifying that on 11 May three US Prisoners of War would be brought to a given location on the Lao/Thai border. The only prerequisite was that an American be on the Thailand side of the border to receive the men. When this information was reported up his chain of command, Major Smith's team was ordered not to leave Korea, to destroy all documents pertaining to LIVE POWs and were sent back to the United States 6 months early. This documented information was provided to the United States Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in sworn testimony on 28 January 1986.

According to information provided by Major Smith, Bart Creed was commonly referred to by the local residents of the region in which he was being held as "the handsome one." Further, by the early 1980s, he had lost one leg and used a makeshift crutch to get around.

In April 1991 the US government released a list of Prisoners of War and Missing in Action who were known to be alive in enemy hands and for whom there is no evidence that he or she died in captivity. This list, commonly referred to today as the USG's "Last Known Alive" list, included Bart Creed.

In 1992, a National Security Agency (NSA) correlation study of all communist radio intercepts pertaining to missing Americans, which was presented to the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs in a classified format, was finally declassified and made public. According to this document, 4 North Vietnamese radio messages were intercepted and correlated to this incident. The NSA synopsis states: "Note; loss attributed to AAA. …Company 12 of the 44th AAA Battalion fired heavily …bursts. A pilot bailed out and the … sent aircraft to fly cover for him. At 1245G Company 12 opened fire again and shot down one H-4. At 1300G Company 12 shot into flames one 37. Later, an unspecified unit opened fire and damaged a helicopter. Two teams from Company … seized a …. Pilot who was identified as being a major and also shot down another helicopter. At 1830G there was … plot to rescue the pilot."

The NSA correlation study continues: "C-44 (sic) shot down one A-7 … on the spot. … The 44th Battalion shot down one A-7 and one HU-1A on the … and captured the … pilots alive. 18th AAA Battalion; … Company 3 shot down in flames one A-7. Company 1 and Company 2 shot into flames one F-100."

Barton Creed is one of 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 that ended the War in Vietnam since Laos was not a party to that agreement.

There is no question that Bart Creed was very much alive, but wounded when captured by NVA forces openly operating in Laos. The only question is did he die in captivity or does he continue to survive today? If he is dead, there is also no question the communists could return his remains any time they had the desire to do so. However, if he survived as the intelligence information indicates; his fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, 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 America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

Fighter pilots were called upon to fly 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.