|Name:||Curtis Roy Cline|
|Rank/Branch:||Staff Sergeant/US Army|
|Unit:||Company D, 12th
4th Infantry Division
|Date of Birth:||29 July 1949 (Coldwater, MI)|
|Home of Record:||Burlington, MI|
|Date of Loss:||18 September 1969|
|Country of Loss:||South Vietnam|
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Missing In Action|
|Other Personnel in Incident:||(none missing)|
SYNOPSIS: Curtis Cline joined the Army in January 1968 because he wanted to complete his military obligation to his country before pursuing his education. He went to Vietnam in May 1969, at age 20. According to his mother, PFC Cline volunteered to take a vacancy in Company D, 12 Infantry because he said; "I'll get home one day sooner than the others" he went to Vietnam with.
On 18 September 1969, then PFC Curtis R. Cline, rifleman, was on a combat patrol in dense double and triple canopy jungle approximately 16 miles southwest of the Kontum City, 17 miles northwest of Pleiku City and 32 miles east of the South Vietnamese/Cambodian border in an area near where Pleiku and Kontum Provinces meet.
Company D was in the process of crossing the Se San River, which generally ran from north to south and was quite muddy. Tree limbs and vines overhung the river's edge and the current flowed swiftly. According to other members of the patrol, PFC Cline was the second man with combat gear to cross the river. When he reached a point about mid-stream, Curtis Cline unexpectedly got water in his mouth. Unnerved, he inadvertently released his grip on the vine being used as a handhold to assist the men in maintaining their balance while making the crossing. The swift current carried him a few meters downstream where he caught hold of a safety line. After securing his grip on the line, Curtis Cline attempted to release his rucksack and equipment, which was weighing him down. As he struggled to do so, he began to splash vigorously and appeared to become disoriented to the soldiers waiting their turn to cross.
Two members of the platoon immediately dropped their own equipment on the riverbank and entered the water to assist their friend. One of the men found himself caught in a whirlpool. The other successfully swam to within 10 meters of PFC Cline before he disappeared under water. None of the other Americans saw Curtis Cline again. Both soldiers who tried to rescue PFC Cline exited the river unharmed.
Other members of the platoon went along both riverbanks downstream while the rescue attempt was in progress, but lost sight of PFC Cline when he submerged under the muddy water. Later the same day, an extensive search and rescue (SAR) operation was initiated using observation helicopters and additional infantry troops. After one week, the search was terminated when no trace of PFC Cline could be found in the Se San River or in the surrounding jungle. At the time formal search efforts were terminated, Curtis Cline was listed Missing in Action.
There is some doubt as to the fate of Curtis Cline. If he died as a result of this hazardous river crossing, he has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and the country he so proudly served if at all possible. However, if he successfully made his way to shore only to be captured by enemy forces known to be operating in the region, his fate, like that of many 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
America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.
Military men in Vietnam 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.