DEXTER, BENNIE LEE

Name: Bennie Lee Dexter 
Rank/Branch: Senior Master Sergeant/US Air Force 
Unit: 33rd Combat Support Group Pleiku, 
South Vietnam 
Date of Birth: 18 July 1944
Home of Record: Bend, OR
Date of Loss: 09 May 1966 
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 123433N 1075016E (ZU089919)
Click coordinates to view (4) maps
Status in 1973: Prisoner of War 
Category: 1
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: M151 jeep
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing) 

REMARKS:  CAPTURE WITNESSED; JEEP FOUND

SYNOPSIS:  On 9 May 1966, then A2C Bennie L. Dexter was assigned to the 33rd Combat Support Group. On that date he departed Pleiku City by jeep for Ban Me Thuot City, which was located approximately 79 miles due south of Pleiku, Darlac Province, South Vietnam.

On 10 May 1966, Bennie Dexter was reported missing when he failed to report to his duty assignment. A search of his quarters was proved negative and he was placed in an AWOL status. Reports were received via intelligence agents revealing an airman matching Bennie Dexter's description was seen driving a jeep south on National Route QL14 near the border between Darlac and Quang Duc Province, South Vietnam.

The next day, 11 May 1966, the jeep that had been signed out to A2C Dexter was found abandoned with its hood up on Highway QL14 roughly 15 miles west-southwest of Ban Me Thuot and 17 miles east of the South Vietnamese/Cambodian border. Immediately US personnel initiated both a ground and aerial search of the area in and around where the jeep was found. Local villagers inhabiting the jungle covered countryside were queried about the missing American.

Intelligence gathered during the search stated that an airman matching Bennie Dexter's description was seen being escorted into the jungle by five armed Viet Cong (VC). Based on this information, and subsequent intelligence reports that confirmed Bennie Dexter's capture including the named location where he was being held, A2C Dexter's status was upgraded from AWOL to Prisoner of War.

When American military involvement ended in Southeast Asia, Bennie Dexter was not released from prison, nor did his name appear on any lists provided by the Vietnamese. On 10 May 1976 the United States government changed his status from the living category of Prisoner of War to Died in Captivity/Body Not Recovered under a Presumptive Finding of Death, the arbitrary status change from a living category to deceased one merely by the stroke of a pen.

In 1987, as part of the US government's efforts to resolve the mystery surrounding his case, Presidential envoy General John Vessey presented the Vietnamese with then classified information regarding Bennie Dexter in the hope it would spur them into action on his case. Unfortunately the tactic did not work as the Vietnamese continue to claim "they have no knowledge" regarding the fate of A2C Dexter.

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 Bennie Dexter.

If Bennie Dexter died in the hands of the enemy as a Prisoner of War, he has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if he survived, his fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different. Either way, there is no doubt the Vietnamese could return him or his remains any time they had the desire to do so.

Since the end of the Vietnam War 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 live and fight under 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.