|Name:||Steven Andrew "Steve" Haukness|
Officer State Department
DaNang, South Vietnam
|Date of Birth:|
|Home of Record:|
|Date of Loss:||31 January 1968|
|Country of Loss:||South Vietnam|
|Loss Coordinates:||162721N 1073540E (YD770210)
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Prisoner of War|
|Other Personnel in Incident:||(none missing)|
REMARKS: 740816 REMS RECOV - 750323 ID'D
SYNOPSIS: Tet, the Chinese lunar New Year, is the principle Vietnamese holiday. In many ways, it is like Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve and everyone's birthday rolled into one. And as a rule, all sides in the Vietnam War called a truce during this annual three-day holiday.
On 30 January 1968, Steven A. Haukness, a Foreigner Service communicator stationed at the DaNang consulate general caught a ride on an Air America aircraft from DaNang to the city of Hue in order to enjoy a few days of leave during the Tet holiday in the old Vietnamese imperial capital. Also on board the flight was fellow Foreign Service Officer J. R. Bullington. Mr. Bullington was engaged to a Vietnamese, Tuy-Cam, who also worked for the US State Department as a Foreign Service National employee. Her family resided in Hue and this was to be the young couple's last opportunity to celebrate Tet with her family before their wedding and transfer to another assignment outside of Vietnam.
Steve Haukness planned to stay with a third American, Steve Miller, another Foreign Service officer and classmate of J. R. Bullington's who was based in Hue with the US Information Agency. Further, J. R. Bullington had made arrangements to stay with Albert Istivie, a Franco-Vietnamese resident who's company (SIPEA) operated electric power plants in both Hue and DaNang.
After arriving in Hue, Steve Haukness and J. R. Bullington checked in with Americans in the intelligence section to learn the current status of enemy activity in Thua Thien Province. These reports warned of a large-scale communist offensive to be initiated sometime around Tet, but intelligence information gathered about pending attacks was so plentiful that they were now considered commonplace. Moreover, such an attack was expected before or after the three-day holiday period, not during it.
During the formal dinner, one of Tuy-Cam's elderly uncles warned that he had heard the enemy was planning to attack the city that night. The attitude of the dinner guests, including the Americans, was either unconcerned or fatalistic. Most were veterans of other attacks, which were nothing more than raids that certainly involved fighting and danger, but were over by dawn. The communist's pattern in the past was to retreat to hideouts in the countryside to avoid the overwhelming firepower of American and ARVN forces. At approximately 2300 hours, Steve Haukness and Steve Miller departed for Mr. Miller's residence while R. J. Bullington headed for the power plant's guest quarters with Albert Istivie.
At 0300 hours on 31 January the city awoke to the sounds of incoming mortar rounds and small arms fire. At that time no one realized Hue was under a coordinated attack by three North Vietnamese regiments plus several rocket and combat engineer battalions supported by Viet Cong (VC) local force units. The only installations communist forces failed to capture in the initial attack were the ARVN 1st Division headquarters compound in the northern part of the city and the MACV compound occupied by roughly 100 American military advisors on the south side.
During the early stage of the communist offensive, R. J. Bullington, with the assistance of Albert Istivie, managed to escape from the power plant now under NVA control to the reasonable safety of a nearby French priest's home. Father Cressonier, the priest, had been in Vietnam for over 30 years and was well known to friend and foe alike. In addition to the resident priest, Father Poncet, who had been forced to flee his post at Khe Sanh, was in residence. Father Cressonier's plan was that if the NVA questioned him about Mr. Bullington, they would be told that the newest arrival was a Canadian priest there for a visit.
Over the next several days all inhabitants of Hue were optimistic that US and ARVN troops would soon retake the city. More than any other city, Hue embodied the Vietnamese culture, history, traditions and sense of National identity. Both sides knew that the loss of the city would signal the loss of the war. Unfortunately, no one realized the strength of NVA forces or the determination with which they intended to hold Hue. At first the Americans counterattacked with a lone company, then a single battalion and finally only three battalions for the immense task of clearing the dug-in enemy force of seven battalions from the south side of the city.
According to J. R. Bullington, his greatest fear was not from the incoming artillery or small arms fire, but rather from the a knock on the door by communist cadre members which could result in his arrest. That knock never came because in the early stages of the occupation NVA and VC cadres were instructed to leave French residents alone since France was perceived as being opposed to American involvement in the war.
J. R. Bullington survived undetected and was liberated on 8 February 1968. However, other Americans trapped in Hue were not so lucky. After the battle, the body of Steve Miller was found in a field behind a Catholic seminary that had been used as a prisoner collection point by the NVA. His arms had been tied behind him and he had been executed with a shot in the back of the head. Other American civilians captured in Hue were eventually moved north to Hanoi for imprisonment and later released during Operation Homecoming. During the extensive search that followed retaking Hue, there was no trace of Steve Haukness and authorities believed he had been captured and moved out of the city along with other captives. At the time search efforts were terminated, Steve Haukness was listed as a Prisoner of War.
During the nearly year and a half between the time the Paris Peace Accords went into effect on 27 January 1973 and Saigon fell to the communists on 29 April 1975, search and recovery teams from Joint Personnel Recovery Command (JPRC) combed the Vietnamese countryside in an attempt to investigate and recover as many missing American as possible. JPRC personnel were lead to a gravesite where the remains of Steve Haukness were recovered on 16 August 1974. These remains were later identified as those of Steve Haukness.
While the remains of Steve Haukness were returned to his family, friends and the country he gave his life for, the fate of many other Americans who are unaccounted for throughout Southeast Asia remains in doubt.
Since the end of the Vietnam War, 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.
US Government civilian personnel, like the US military, were called upon to function under 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.