Name: Ricardo Gonzales Davis 
Rank/Branch: Sergeant First Class/US Army 
Unit: CCN, MACV-SOG, 5th Special Forces Group 
Date of Birth: 17 March 1941 (Ft. Stockton, TX) 
Home of Record: Carlsbad, NM
Date of Loss: 20 March 1969 
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 152757N 1071443E (YC409110)
Click coordinates to view maps
Status in 1973: Missing in Action 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing) 


SYNOPSIS:  MACV-SOG, or Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, was a joint service high command unconventional warfare task force engaged in highly classified operations throughout Southeast Asia. The 5th Special Forces channeled personnel into MACV-SOG (though it was not a Special Forces group) through Special Operations Augmentation (SOA), which provided their "cover" while under secret orders to MACV-SOG. These teams performed deep penetration missions of strategic reconnaissance and interdiction that were called, depending on the time frame, "Shining Brass," "Daniel Boone," "Salem House" or "Prairie Fire" missions.

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 20 March 1969, SFC Ricardo G. Davis was assigned as the team leader of a six-man MACV-SOG Command and Control North (CCN) reconnaissance team operating deep within enemy-held territory. The assistant team leader, and the only other American assigned to this mission, was Sgt. James C. LaMotte. Their mission was to locate, identify and report on enemy activity operating in and moving through a mountainous region of eastern Laos that was covered in dense jungle and dotted with small clearings where several primary arteries of the Ho Chi Minh Trail were located.

As the patrol moved forward, they were attacked by a communist force of unknown size. During the initial exchange of gunfire, SFC Davis was struck in the upper chest and face. At the time Sgt. LaMotte was only two feet away and heard him call out, "Jim, Jim!" as he fell to the ground. Roughly 2 minutes into the firefight one of the indigenous team members worked he way over to Ricardo Davis' position. He saw that SFC Davis was covered in blood as he quickly checked his team leader for signs of life before removing his weapon and ammunition belt, then retreating to a better position from which to fight. Some 7 minutes later as the intense fighting raged around them, Jim LaMotte was also able to reach Ricardo Davis. He hurriedly checked the team leader's pulse and respiration, but could detect no signs of either one.

At the same time he performed his cursory examination of SFC Davis, he observed a large number of enemy soldiers advancing toward their position. Sgt. LaMotte realized the team was in a precarious position and in eminent danger of being overrun. He ordered the rest of the team to withdraw to a more secure location some distance away from the ambush site. At the same time he called in airstrikes on top of the battle site in an attempt to break the back of the enemy attack. Under the circumstances, the surviving team members were forced to withdraw under fire leaving Ricardo Davis where he fell.

After the battle, the surviving team members searched through the devastated area in and around where Ricardo Davis was last seen, but were unable to find any trace of him. Due to the region being under total enemy control from that day forward to the end of the war, no further search effort was possible.

The ambush site was located in jungle with dense undergrowth approximately 1 mile northeast of an east/west primary road and 2 miles west of a north/south primary road. A small mountain rose up to the east of it. This location was also 36 miles due east of the major US base of Kham Duc, South Vietnam; 2 miles southwest of Ban Dakchang, 11 miles southwest of the Lao/South Vietnamese border, Saravane Province, Laos.

After reviewing all the details surrounding the loss of Sgt. Davis, including the survivors witness statements, the US Army reached the following conclusions. They determined that Ricardo Davis had been wounded during the firefight and at the time the team withdrew under fire, there was a question of whether the team leader was alive or dead. Based on the information provided, they were unable to evaluate the extent of his wounds, although they appeared to be serious. Enemy troops overran the last known position of Sgt. Davis shortly after the other Americans pulled back. Likewise, there was sufficient time for enemy forces to withdraw from the battlefield with the wounded American prior to the airstrike. Ricardo Davis was immediately listed Missing In Action.

For every insertion like this one that was detected and stopped, dozens of others safely slipped past NVA lines to strike a wide range of targets and collect vital information. The number of MACV-SOG missions conducted with Special Forces reconnaissance teams into Laos and Cambodia was 452 in 1969. It was the most sustained American campaign of raiding, sabotage and intelligence gathering waged on foreign soil in US military history. MACV-SOG's teams earned a global reputation as one of the most combat effective deep-penetration forces ever raised.

Ricardo Davis is among 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.

If SFC Davis died of his wounds, he has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country if at all possible. However, if he was wounded, but alive when his position was overrun, he most certainly could have been captured and his fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different. Either way there is no question the NVA or Pathet Lao know what happened to him and could provide those answers and time they had the desire to do so. They also have the potential to return him or his remains to the nation for which he may well have given his life.

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.