Name: Marshall Frederick Kipina K022p
Rank/Branch: Staff Sergeant/US Army
Unit: 131st Aviation Company 14th Aviation Battalion
Date of Birth: 18 December 1944 (Augusta, ME)
Home of Record: Calumet, MI
Date of Loss: 14 July 1966
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 144000N 1063700E (XB740219)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing In Action
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: OV1C "Mohawk"
Other Personnel in Incident: Robert G. Nopp (missing)


SYNOPSIS: The Grumman OV1C Mohawk arrived in Vietnam in 1962 with various models serving continuously throughout the war. It became an increasingly familiar sight from one end of Vietnam and Laos to the other. This twin engine aircraft was handy when only short, rough runways were available and ground units needed almost instantaneous photo coverage. Gradually increasingly effective sensors and radar were produced including side-looking aerial radar (SLAR). Further, surveillance techniques using infrared detection equipment and a forward-aimed camera proved especially useful since the communists relied heavily on darkness to conceal their activities. The Mohawk also had the ability to carry both offensive armament and defensive weapons. This made the sturdy OV1C not only an excellent FAC and intelligence gathering aircraft, but one which could give close air support to ground troops in need of assistance.

At 2300 hours on 13 July 1966, Capt. Robert G. Nopp, pilot, and then PFC Marshall Kipina, observer/airborne sensor operator; comprised the crew of an OV1C aircraft (serial #612675), call sign "Iron Spud." The Mohawk departed Phu Bai Airbase on a classified single aircraft night surveillance mission over the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The mission identifiers for these types of reconnaissance missions were "Steel Tiger" and "Tiger Hound." Prior to take off, all radios, navigational aids and altitude instruments were reported functioning properly. It was carrying 4 hours of fuel for its 2 hour mission. Weather conditions in the area were moderate thunderstorms, heavy rain and poor visibility.

This area of extreme south-eastern Laos was considered a major artery of the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail. When North Vietnam began to increase its military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary, as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some years before. This border road was used by the Communists to transport weapons, supplies and troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, and was frequently no more than a path cut through the jungle covered mountains. US forces used all assets available to them to stop this flow of men and supplies from moving south into the war zone.

The last known voice and radar contact with the Mohawk was made at 2314 hours on 13 July. At that time there was no indication of trouble. Loosing radar contact with aircraft in this region of Laos was quite common due to the mountainous terrain. Later when it was determined the aircraft was overdue, a ramp check of all airfields to which Capt. Nopp could have diverted were contacted, but none could provide any information about the missing Mohawk.

The location of last contact placed the Mohawk approximately 25 miles southwest of the city of Attopeu, in the area code named "Golf," Attapu Province, Laos. This area consisted of extremely rugged, jungle-covered mountains. Search and rescue (SAR) operations commenced at first light. During the search, a parachute containing a decapitated body was sighted hanging from a tree. Because of the circumstances surrounding this sighting, no attempt was made to recover the body because it was believed it was a trap to draw in SAR aircraft. Later US intelligence determined the body in the parachute was in fact a dummy and not one of the missing crew members.

During SAR operations, no beepers were heard and no trace of the aircraft or it crew were found. At the time the formal SAR effort was terminated, both Robert Nopp and Marshall Kipina were listed Missing in Action. Further, because the US Army believed they disappeared sometime after midnight, their date of loss was established as 14 July 1966.

In April 1969, a CIA intelligence report, which was generated by DaNang Regional Intelligence, compiled a very detailed description of the Viet Cong's Huong Thuy District (South Vietnam) committee headquarters, along with details of a communist prison camp. This camp was located approximately 20 miles south of Hue/Phu Bai and 40 miles northwest of DaNang. The document included maps of the facility as well as information on many of the communist staff, including names, backgrounds and jobs performed.

Also included in this document was a list of 22 American POWs by name who were positively identified from pre-capture photographs. An additional list of 32 Americans tentatively identified was also attached. The source stated that following the 1968 Tet offensive, prisoners were transferred from this camp to either North Vietnam or to an agricultural camp at an unknown location near the South Vietnam/Lao border. Marshall Kipina was named as one of the 22 positively identified POWs. There was no indication if Robert Nopp was also incarcerated in this camp. None of the families of those listed as positively or possibly identified Prisoners of War were ever told of this report until it was declassified in 1985 - some 17 years later.

Robert Nopp and Marshall Kipina 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.

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.

Pilots and aircrews in Vietnam and Laos were called upon to fly 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.