Name: Cecil Joe Hodgson 
Rank/Branch: Sergeant Major/US Army 
Unit: Headquarters & Headquarters Company Detachment B-52, Delta 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces 
Date of Birth: 28 July 1937 (Campbell, TX)
Home of Record: Greenville, TX
Date of Loss: 29 January 1966 
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 143704N 1085240E (BS719172)
Click coordinates to view maps
Status in 1973: Missing in Action 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Other Personnel In Incident: Frank N. Badolati and Ronald T. Terry (missing) 


SYNOPSIS:  On 28 January 1966, SFC Cecil J. Hodgson, team leader; SSgt. Frank N. Badolati, SSgt. Ronald T. Terry, MSgt. Wiley W. Gray, and two other Americans comprised a 6-man reconnaissance patrol operating in the heavily populated and hotly contested An Lao Valley, Binh Dinh Province, South Vietnam.

The An Lao Valley was long and narrow with rice fields interspersed with patches of tall elephant grass. Heavily forested mountains rose up on either side of the valley. Further, the area in which the patrol was operating was located approximately 1 mile west of the Song An Lao River, 12 miles west of Tam Quan, 13 miles due west of the coastline and 14 miles north-northwest of Hoai Nhon. It was also 34 miles south-southeast of Quang Ngai and 72 miles east of Dak To.

At 1205 hours on 28 January, the patrol came under Viet Cong ground fire. Almost immediately SSgt. Badolati was struck in the upper left arm by a bullet that severely mangled, and nearly severed, his arm. SFC Hodgson immediately applied a tourniquet just before the patrol broke contact. The Americans moved approximately 600 meters before stopping to treat Frank Badolati's arm. As soon as the patrol stopped, it was attacked again. The Americans immediately returned fire and then separated into two groups of three to attempt to evade the enemy.

Throughout the rest of the afternoon and night, Frank Badolati and two unidentified soldiers slowly, painstakingly moved through the rugged terrain as they evaded the VC. Periodically they would stop to adjust SSgt. Badolati's tourniquet. When they would loosen it, the mangled arm began bleeding profusely again.

In the darkness, they came to a streambed that flowed westward from the Song An Lao River. The Americans entered the stream and used it to hide their trail. Finally SSgt. Badolati stated to the others that he "could not go any further" and for them to leave him behind. The other soldiers selected a position two to three feet up the bank that was well concealed with shrubs and boulders. The three men remained in place from 0300 hours to 0515 hours. During that time, both men administered medical attention to Frank Badolati's mangled arm, however, his condition continued to deteriorate. They believed he died in the early morning of 29 January 1966. After his death, they were forced to leave Frank Badolati's body hidden in the boulders and scrubs as they continued to evade the VC. The two survivors successfully evaded and were recovered later by helicopter.

Meanwhile, MSgt. Gray, SFC Hodgson and SSgt. Terry, evaded the ambush site in a different direction from SSgt. Badolati and the other two team members. They successfully evaded the rest of that day and then settled into a hiding place for the night.

At first light on 29 January, the three men began moving again. At approximately 1600 hours, they were lying in elephant grass when they saw seven VC soldiers standing four feet to the right and rear of them. At that time Cecil Hodgson was armed with a 9mm pistol and within arm's reach of both Wiley Gray and Ronald Terry as the three men lay prone in the tall grass. The Americans opened fire on the enemy killing three of them immediately. During the ensuing firefight, MSgt. Gray heard Ronald Terry yell that he had been hit and saw him holding his right side. As MSgt. Gray continued to watch SSgt. Terry, he saw his body jump like he had been shot again. Wiley Gray did not see Ronald. Terry move again.

MSgt. Gray looked around for SFC Hodgson, but did not see him. He ran roughly 20 feet to a more defendable position and waited in ambush for the enemy. At that time Wiley Gray heard a burst of three shots he identified as coming from an enemy weapon, and then two shots that sounded like they were from SSgt. Terry's weapon. MSgt. Gray continued to evade the VC and was recovered the next day by helicopter.

Once the three survivors returned to base, each man was debriefed by military intelligence and a search and rescue/recovery (SAR) operation was immediately initiated for SFC Hodgson, SSgt. Terry and SSgt. Badolati. During the next four days the area in and around the An Lao Valley was searched by air, but found no trace of the missing soldiers. No ground search was possible due the continuing heavy enemy presence throughout the sector. At the time the formal search effort was terminated, Ronald Terry and Frank Badolati were reported as Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered while Ronald Hodgson was reported as Missing in Action.

Later the US Army conducted a Board of Inquiry to investigate and evaluate all known information surrounding the loss of SFC Hodgson, SSgt. Badolati and SSgt. Terry. During the Board of Inquiry, a medical officer testified that SSgt. Badolati's symptoms as described by the survivors indicated that he had bled to death from the serious wound to his left arm. The Board also determined that SSgt. Terry probably died from the multiple gunshot wounds he sustained during the skirmish. Because SFC Hodgson was uninjured when last seen by MSgt. Gray during the initial stage of the final firefight, the Board upheld his status of Missing in Action.

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 Cecil Hodgson.

There is no doubt that Frank Badolati died of his wounds and that Ronald Terry suffered multiple gunshot wounds that were possibly not survivable. However, for Cecil Hodgson, there remain only unanswered questions. If these soldiers are dead, each man has a right to have his remains returned to his family friends and country. If SFC Hodgson survived the running gun battle with the VC, there is no doubt he would 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 Vietnamese know what happened and could return them or their remains any time they had the desire 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 America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

American military men 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.