Name: William Darrell Johnson
Rank/Branch: Sergeant First Class/USA

Company B, 3rd Battalion, 12th Infantry,
4th Infantry Division  

Date of Birth: 24 December 1946

Home of Record: Rocky Mount, NC

Date of Loss: 19 January 1968

Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 144324N 1074020E (YB876293)
Click coordinates to view maps  

Status in 1973: Missing in Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground

Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing)


SYNOPSIS: On 19 August 1968, then Private First Class William D. “Darrell” Johnson was a rifleman participating in a company-size search and destroy mission with his unit in the mountainous central highlands area of Sa Thay District, Kontum Province, South Vietnam.

As Company B swept through the rolling hills covered with patches of elephant grass, bamboo groves and trees, it was ambushed by North Vietnamese Army (NVA) regulars. During the ensuing vicious battle, the American perimeter was breached and PFC Johnson’s company nearly overrun. Out numbered and out gunned, the Americans withdrew under fire taking their wounded and dead with them. PFC Johnson’s platoon was ordered to cover Company B’s withdrawal. As they moved away from the battlefield, Darrell Johnson took the point position.

The covering platoon moved in the same direction as the main force. While working their way toward their firebase, PFC Johnson and 5 other soldiers entered a ravine to investigate an English-speaking voice. They did not rejoin their company. The ravine was located approximately 1 mile north of Hwy 512, 2 miles west of Hwy QL14, 8 miles east of the tri-border area where South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia meet and 9 miles northwest of Dak To.

A subsequent search of the battlefield and nearby ravine located the partially decomposing bodies of five of the six missing men. Each one of the soldiers died from fragmentation wounds and the bodies were left where they fell. After recovering the remains of the dead, an extensive air and ground search and rescue (SAR) operation was conducted for PFC Johnson. During the search, no trace of Darrell Johnson or his remains was found. At the time the search effort was terminated, Darrell Johnson was declared Missing in Action.

In 1974, analysts from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) associated a live sighting report “of a possible collaborator seen in coastal Quang Ngai Province” to Darrell Johnson. According to this document, “The American was reportedly captured from a truck convoy, and two others with him had escaped.” A copy of the report was placed in PFC Johnson’s military casualty file without explanation. Further, no reason was provided as to why this action was taken.

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 Darrell Johnson.

If Darrell Johnson died as a result of his loss incident or as a Prisoner of War in captivity, he has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if he survived, his fate like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different.

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.

Military men in Vietnam were called upon to live and fight 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.