COLLAZO, RAPHAEL LORENZO "LARRY"

Remains Returned 8 February 1993; Identified 19 May 1993
Name: Raphael Lorenzo "Larry" Collazo 
Rank/Branch: Sergeant/US Army 
Unit: Aero Rifle Platoon, Troop C, 3rd Squadron,
17th Cavalry, 12th Aviation Group 





Date of Birth: 24 August 1947 (New York, NY) 
Home of Record: Gardena, CA 
Date of Loss: 17 March 1968 
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 102643N 1060954E (XS275548)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Other Personnel In Incident: Jlynn "Jay" Ross, Jr. (remains returned) 

REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS:  Riflemen PFC Raphael L. "Larry" Collazo and then PFC Jlynn "Jay" Ross, Jr. were serving as pointmen for their respective units that were conducting a search and destroy mission in a sector US military intelligence suspected contained a major VC Headquarters and/or supply cache. It was located in the densely populated and hotly contested region approximately 25 miles south of the South Vietnamese/Cambodia border and 37 miles southwest of Saigon, Dinh Tuong Province, South Vietnam.

PFC Collazo's unit, Aero Rifle Platoon, Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 17th Cavalry; was inserted by helicopter roughly 1 mile northwest of Dong Tam and 2 miles west of Khiem Leh to investigate enemy activity in the vicinity. The entire region was covered in rice fields and small groves of trees. It was also laced with rivers, canals and waterways of all sizes.

The Americans encountered light resistance as they began to sweep through the rice fields. At approximately 1500 hours, PFC Ross' unit, an element of Company C, 3rd Battalion, 47th Infantry; was brought in to reinforce the sweep operation due to the increased level of enemy resistance Sgt. Collazo's unit began encountering. As the two units continued to press forward, they drew small arms and automatic weapons fire from a grove of trees in front of them.

The field commander immediately requested air support to suppress the ground fire. After helicopter gunships made several attack passes on the treeline, both units began to cross a 75-meter wide rice paddy that lay between them and the treeline. As they moved forward, PFC Ross assumed the position of right flank pointman. When he was 2-4 meters from a camouflaged bunker, communist forces opened fire. Other members of his unit reported that when the VC opened fire, Jay Ross was hit in the chest by several .50 caliber machinegun rounds and tumbled backwards into a ditch. Due to the location of the bunker complex in relation to the area in which he fell, no one was able to reach PFC Ross' position. Likewise, none of the witnesses could tell if he had been killed by the gunfire or only wounded.

On the left flank PFC Collazo moved forward as his unit's pointman on that side of the pincher movement. He had already destroyed an enemy sampan filled with ammunition and an enemy bunker when the VC opened fire on his position. He was moving down a canal bank to attack the next entrenched bunker when he was hit by a burst of automatic weapons fire. Other soldiers watched as he fell into the canal. They tried to reach him, but were repulsed by heavy and accurate small arms and automatic weapons fire.

As the battle raged around them, it became clear to the field commander that they were not able to hold their position against a well-entrenched enemy force. Once the situation was determined to be untenable, both units withdrew under fire. Because this area proved to be an entrenched and fortified VC stronghold, it was subjected to an intense artillery barrage and air strikes that night and throughout the next day.

After the fire support mission was completed, Troop C was once again inserted into the area on 19 March to conduct a search and rescue/recovery (SAR) sweep for Jay Ross and Larry Collazo. When no trace of either man could be found in and around their last known positions, the SAR operation was terminated. Jay Ross and Larry Collazo were immediately listed Missing in Action. A short time later, the loss incident was reviewed by personnel at higher headquarters. Jay Ross' Missing in Action status was upheld while Larry Collazo status was changed to Killed in Action/Remains Not Recovered.

On 8 February 1993, the Vietnamese unilaterally turned over two sets of skeletal remains reportedly belonging to Larry Collazo and Jlynn Ross. Shortly thereafter these remains were transported to the Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii (CIL-HI) for examination. One set was completely intact while the second set was missing only the left arm. Further, both sets of remains showed signs of having been buried.

On 19 May 1993 CIL-HI personnel positively identified the nearly complete set of remains as those of Larry Collazo through an anthropological examination and dental comparison. PFC Collazo's remains were returned to his family and was buried with full military honors in the Los Angeles National Cemetery on 25 May 1993.

Because no dental records could be found for PFC Ross, it took three years and major improvements in DNA technology for CIL-HI personnel to be able to identify the complete set of remains as those belonging to Jay Ross. On 14 June 1996 that identification was completed through the use of an anthropological examination and DNA. Shortly afterward his remains were returned to his family for burial.

The fates of Sgt. Collazo and PFC Ross are finally resolved and their families and friends have the peace of mind of knowing where their loved ones lie. For other Americans who remain unaccounted for, 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.

Military men in Vietnam were called upon to fly and 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.