Name: Walter Ferguson, Jr.   
Rank/Branch: Staff Sergeant/US Army 
Unit: Company D, 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry, 1st Infantry Division 
Date of Birth: .13 August 1947 (Hampton, SC)
Home of Record: New York, NY
Date of Loss: 23 August 1968 
Country of Loss: South Vietnam/Cambodia
Loss Coordinates: 115051N 1063647E (XU757101)
Click coordinates to view maps
Status in 1973: Prisoner of War 
Category: 1
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing) 


SYNOPSIS:   Loc Ninh was located approximately 8 miles south of the South Vietnamese/Cambodian border on a 26 mile long by 15 mile wide mountain range running lengthwise from north to south. The mountain was surrounded by dense jungle containing numerous rubber plantations of various sizes. Loc Ninh was located approximately 5 miles south of the northern edge of the mountain. An Loc, which was also situated on the mountain, was approximately 13 miles to the south of Loc Ninh and was the capital of Binh Long Province, South Vietnam.

Then PFC Walter Ferguson, Jr. was assigned as a rifleman and truck driver in Company D, 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry, 1st Infantry Division. On 23 August 1968, PFC Ferguson's company was engaged in a fierce firefight with Viet Cong (VC) forces in the heavily forested area. The battle site was approximately 1 miles southeast of the village of Ap Loc Thanh, 2 miles northeast of Loc Ninh and 7 miles south of the South Vietnamese/Cambodian border. It was also 1 mile south of a primary road that ran southeast from Snuol, Cambodia to Ap Loc Thanh, then angled back to the northeast as it continued through the dense jungle and rubber plantations before reentering Cambodia.

Walter Ferguson was last seen by another member of his company carrying ammo boxes while pulling back with his unit as they attempted to break contact with the enemy and establish a more secure defensive perimeter. When it was discovered that he was not with the rest of his unit after the firefight, search and rescue (SAR) operations were immediately initiated. The battle site was searched for several days, but the only things found were his steel helmet and the two boxes of ammo he was believed to be carrying. At the time the formal search was terminated, PFC Ferguson was listed Missing in Action.

On 27 January 1973, the Paris Peace Accords went into effect ending American's longest war in history. Walter Ferguson's name appeared on the Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG) list of Americans who died in captivity which was provided to the US negotiators in Paris in early January 1973. That list indicated he died in May 1970. Further, based on statements made by POWs returning from Vietnam who were incarcerated with PFC Ferguson, his status was upgraded from Missing in Action to Prisoner of War.

Some of these camps in which Walter Ferguson was held prisoner were actually way stations the communists used for a variety of reasons. Others were regular POW camps. Regardless of size and primary function, conditions in the VC run camps frequently included the prisoners' being tied at night to their bamboo bunks anchored by rope to a post in their small bamboo shelters. In others they were held in bamboo cages, commonly referred to as tiger cages, and in yet other camps the dense jungle itself provided the bars to their cage. There was rarely enough food and water to sustain them, and as a result, the Americans suffered from a wide variety of illnesses in addition to their injuries and wounds.

According to statements made to their debriefers after Operation Homecoming, the returned POWs reported that the VC guards called Walter Ferguson "Wa." After months of captivity, Walter Ferguson appeared to the others to be mentally affected by brutal months of captivity. He began acting deranged and talked incoherently. Frequently he would suddenly jump on the guards, put voodoo hexes on them and would then be beaten for his actions.

The POWs were moved through several different prison camps. In May or June 1970, the guards broke camp once again. This time they were being moved to a jungle camp located just inside Cambodia, approximately 20 miles north of Loc Ninh, South Vietnam. According to several of the returnees, one day during the move between camps, Walter Ferguson asked permission of guards to use the latrine. When the guard approved it, he borrowed Raymond Schrump's shoes that had been left in a bunker. He patted Major Schrump on the back and head and told him not to worry.

Walter Ferguson had not been gone long when the other POWs heard the guard call out PFC Ferguson's name several times. They next heard the guard give the command to halt followed by the noise of brush being broken. A single shot was heard, then the sound of a body falling to the ground. At least one of the returned POWs reported hearing PFC Ferguson giggling. All of them reported hearing the sounds of a sucking chest wound as he continued to breathe. Further, the POWs knew the VC did not have the medical capacity to treat that type of serious wound. After a few minutes, they heard his death rattle and final gasp.

Shortly thereafter, the VC doctor and nurse brought back Raymond Schrump's boots. They told the others that Walter Ferguson was wounded and hospitalized. Later in various conversations at different points in time with the camp commander, at least 10 returned POWs were given tacit understanding that Walter Ferguson was dead. According to the returnees, the exact date PFC Ferguson died is estimated to be between 16 and 20 May 1970.

There is no doubt that the Vietnamese captured Walter Ferguson, and that he was shot and killed during a spontaneous escape attempt. Because of the facts and circumstances of his death as documented by other prisoners, there is no doubt the Vietnamese know where his remains were buried. Likewise, the Vietnamese could return his remains to his family, friends and country at any time they had the desire to do so.

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.

Military men in Vietnam and Laos 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.