|Name:||Eugene Allen Handrahan|
|Rank/Branch:||Sergeant First Class/US Army|
2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry,
25th Infantry Division
|Date of Birth:||30 July 1947|
|Home of Record:||St. Paul, MN|
|Date of Loss:||10 October 1968|
|Country of Loss:||South Vietnam|
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Missing in Action|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||(none missing)|
SYNOPSIS: For many years, the Vietnamese developed complex tunnel systems in many parts of the country. These tunnels served them well in their war with the French, and again against the US during our Vietnam War. Tunnel complexes with well concealed entrances were so vast that entire hospitals, living quarters and caches of supplies were often found by US troops. The Viet Cong could exist indefinitely in such elaborate tunnel systems, as well as travel fairly lengthy distances underground without being detected. Further, it was not uncommon for Americans to occupy an area above ground only to discover later that enemy troops were housed beneath them.
On 25 April 1968, then SP4 Eugene A. Handrahan, Gene as he was known to friends and family, departed for Vietnam and was assigned as a rifleman with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division.
On 10 October 1968, nearly halfway through his tour of duty, Company A was involved in a search and destroy mission in the densely populated and hotly contested area northwest of Saigon. SP4 Handrahan was the pointman for his squad as they moved forward to assault an enemy position hidden in a heavily forested grove of trees and undergrowth that formed a hedgerow. These hedgerows frequently separated rice fields from rubber plantations, hamlets, villages and towns that dotted the entire region. Rivers, canals, waterways and roads of all sizes ran in all directions.
As Company A was about to enter a hedgerow, a concealed Viet Cong (VC) force opened fire on them with small arms and machine gun fire. During the initial burst of fire, three men, including SP4 Handrahan, were wounded. Throughout the day the other two men were under constant observation by Command and Control helicopters stationed overhead. At no time did either man move or show any signs of life.
SP4 Handrahan could not be seen due to the vegetation surrounding him. However, his squad could hear him calling for help. Throughout the day, repeated attempts were made to reach the wounded men, but enemy fire prevented the US soldiers from reaching their friends. The location of loss was approximately 2 miles east of Rang Bang, 13 miles east the South Vietnamese/Cambodian border and 22 miles northwest of Saigon, Chu Chi District, Hau Nghia Province, South Vietnam.
Late in the day the officer in command of this mission determined that all three men were dead. He called in an airstrike and artillery fire to clear out the enemy position. The next day a ground search and rescue/recovery (SAR) operation was initiated. The bodies of the other two men were found and recovered. A large bomb crater was found in the vicinity of Gene Handrahan's last known position. However, digging into the edges of the crater failed to reveal any evidence of blood, remains or any of his equipment in or around it. At the time the formal search operation was terminated, Eugene Handrahan was immediately listed Missing in Action.
Some years later Gene Handrahan's family located surviving squad members who were participants in same operation in which SP4 Handrahan was lost. They told his family they could hear him yelling for help throughout the night, that he was wounded and could not move. They were unsure of the reason why he could not move, but believed it was either because of his injury(s), because of the enemy fire, or a combination thereof.
The squad members also told the Handrahan family that once the area was cleared by the bombing/shelling, they found an enemy "spider hole" tunnel entrance close to SP4 Handrahan's last known position. They believed it was probable that the VC had captured him and pulled him into the hole with them before the air strikes/bombing began.
In the years since the Vietnam War ended, a great deal of information has surfaced about the VC's massive and elaborate tunnel complex located in Chu Chi District, northwest of Saigon. Ironically, after the 25th Division arrived in Vietnam, they established their divisional headquarters compound directly over the Viet Cong's underground complex.
If Gene Handrahan died of his wounds, he has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, based on the circumstances of loss and the fact that he could easily have been captured, his fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different. Either way, there is little doubt that the Vietnamese know what happened to Gene Handrahan and could return him or his remains any time they so chose to do so.
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 military men in Vietnam were called upon to 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.