Name:  Howard B. Carpenter 
Rank/Branch: Sergeant/US Army
Unit:  Command and Control Detachment
Headquarters and Headquarter Company
5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces 

Date of Birth: 23 February 1944
Home of Record: Youngstown, OH
Date of Loss: 06 March 1967
Country of Loss:  Laos
Loss Coordinates:  161817N 1070226E (YD180036)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 3
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:  Ground 
Other Personnel in Incident: (None missing)


SYNOPSIS:   Sgt. Howard B. Carpenter was assigned as a rifleman to a special operations exploitation team that was infiltrated deep into enemy held territory to interdict NVA troops and supplies being transported from North Vietnam.

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.

On 6 March 1967, the company-size force, comprised of US Special Forces personnel and their ARVN company, were ambushed by an enemy force of unknown size as they moved through the extremely rugged jungle-covered mountains in an area approximately 29 miles southwest of Hue and 70 miles northwest of DaNang, South Vietnam; just inside the Lao/Vietnamese border, Salavan Province, Laos.

During the ensuing fierce firefight, Sgt. Carpenter left his position to recover team members who had been wounded. As he left his position, he came face to face with several enemy soldiers. He immediately killed two of them with his shotgun, but while firing at the third, his gun jammed and he was shot through the left arm and chest killing him instantly. His body was carried back into the perimeter by two members of his unit where they removed his equipment and covered his body with a poncho. Due to the adverse situation caused by continued enemy attacks and the number of wounded personnel that had to be assisted, the members of the company were forced to leave Sgt. Carpenter's remains, along with those of other allied team members who had been killed, hidden in the dense jungle. Because of the intense enemy presence in the area, no search and recovery (SAR) operation to recover Howard Carpenter's remains were possible, and he was immediately listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

Howard Carpenter 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 which ended the War in Vietnam since Laos was not a party to that agreement.

While the fate of Sgt. Carpenter 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.