GASSMAN, FRED ALLEN

Name: Fred Allen Gassman 
Rank/Branch: Sergeant/US Army 
Unit: Military Assistance Command - Vietnam      
Special Operations Augmentation
Command & Control North,
 5th Special Forces Group,
1st Special Forces 

Date of Birth: 05 September 1947 (Eglin Field, FL)
Home of Record: Ft. Walton Beach, FL
Date of Loss: 05 October 1970 
Country of Loss: Laos 
Loss Coordinates: 161126N 1070527E (YC227912) 
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Other Personnel In Incident: David A. Davidson (missing) 

REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS:  MACV-SOG, or Military Assistance Command Vietnam - Studies and Observation Group (MACV-SOG) was a joint service unconventional warfare task force engaged in highly classified operations throughout Southeast Asia. The 5th Special Forces channeled personnel into MACV-SOG through Special Operations Augmentation (SOA) that provided their "cover" while under secret orders to MACV-SOG. These teams performed highly classified, deep penetration missions of strategic reconnaissance and interdiction that were called, depending on the location and time frame, "Shining Brass," “Salem House,” “Daniel Boone” or "Prairie Fire" missions

On 5 October 1970, SSgt. David A. Davidson, team leader and Sgt. Fred A. Gassman, assistant team leader, were assigned as rifleman to a joint American and Vietnamese reconnaissance patrol, code named "RT Fer De Lance." The team was inserted into the extremely rugged and isolated jungle-covered mountains approximately 70 miles west-southwest of DaNang, South Vietnam; and 12 miles west of the Lao/South Vietnamese border, Salavan Province, Laos.

The patrol had established their night position on a ridge just south of Route 922, just west of Ta Bat and 10 miles west of the infamous A Shau Valley when they were attacked by an enemy force of unknown size. According to the two surviving indigenous team members, in the ensuing fire fight SSgt. Davidson was hit once in the head during a burst of enemy fire from an automatic weapon while the team was attempting to evacuate the area. He fell down the ridge, and lay motionless with what appeared to be a fatal head wound. David "Babysan" Davidson was on his third year with SOG and was held second only to legendary Jerry "Mad Dog" Shriver in respect and achievements..

At about 1300 hours, Sgt. Gassman radioed the on site Forward Air Controller (FAC) that NVA were advancing toward their position from three sides. Further, he stated they were low on ammunition and requested an emergency extraction along with air strikes. Fred Gassman then attempted to retrieve the team's homing device. During his last radio contact he stated, "I've been hit, and in the worst way," followed by several groans before the radio went dead. The surviving indigenous patrol members, who were successfully extracted, reported they last saw Fred Gassman lying motionless with a large hole in his back. One search and recovery (SAR) attempt was made shortly after the incident, however, no trace of either missing American could be found. Further search attempts were curtailed due to enemy forces in the area and the difficult tactical situation. David Davidson and Fred Gassman were immediately listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

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.

David Davidson and Fred Gassman are 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.

While the fate of SSgt Davidson and Sgt. Gassman is in little doubt, they have a right to have their remains returned to their families, friends and country they gave their lives for. 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.