|Unit:||Missionary - Christian Missions of Many Lands|
|Date of Birth:|
|Home of Record:||Ft. Washakie, WY|
|Date of Loss:||27 October 1972|
|Country of Loss:||Laos|
Click coordinates to view (4) maps
|Status in 1973:||Prisoner of War/Killed in Captivity|
|Other Personnel in Incident:||Evelyn Anderson (assassinated); Lloyd Oppel and Samuel Mattix (returned POWs)|
REMARKS: Not on Official POW/MIA Lists.
SYNOPSIS: In the late hours of Saturday, 27 October 1972, a small group of North Vietnamese soldiers (NVA) invaded the southern Laotian town of Kengkok where Missions of Many Lands maintained a missionary hospital facility. The communists took prisoners, including western missionary nurses Beatrice Kosin and Evelyn Anderson along with Samuel Mattix and Lloyd Oppel, a Canadian citizen, to a nearby village located in a small clearing surrounded by dense jungle. The village was located approximately 34 miles east-southeast of the major border town of Savannahket, 4 miles west of Bah Taleo Gnal and 17 miles northwest of the Lao/Thai border, Savannakhet Province, Laos.
There was a primary road running across this portion of southern Laos from east to west and cutting through the jungle approximately 1 mile north of the village. A second north to south road that began where it branched off of the east-west road was located roughly 2 miles west of the village. The lush jungle supported villages of all sizes and stretched out in all directions around the clearing and was laced with rivers and creeks throughout the region. It also provided protection for friend and enemy alike.
Several other Americans in Kengkok managed to escape detection and successfully contacted an American military base for assistance. At 0904 hours the following morning, 28 October, an American helicopter arrived and evacuated nine Filipinos, five Lao and the Americans who radioed for help. Less than an hour later, Sgt. Gerry Wilson returned by helicopter to try to locate the two American women known to have been kidnapped. Further, Lt. Colonel Norman Vaughn immediately set additional rescue plans into motion.
Meanwhile the Ambassador to Laos, McMurtrie G. Godley, learned from the Embassy staff in Vientiane that a search and rescue (SAR) operation was underway to attempt to recover the missionaries. Military helicopters were well on their way when the Ambassador ordered the mission to be aborted. This order came from the highest level of our government because the peace negotiations were pending and it was feared that a rescue attempt for Evelyn Anderson and Beatrice Kosin would compromise the "sustained level of progress" in the talks.
At 0300 hours on 2 November
1972, a radio message from Hanoi was intercepted by US intelligence. That
directive bluntly ordered the execution of Evelyn Anderson and Beatrice
Kosin. Later a captured NVA soldier, who was present during this entire incident,
told US military intelligence that after the women were captured; they were
placed back to back with their wrists tied with wire around the center post
of a hut. He also stated the women remained in that position for five days
Immediately after receiving the order to execute the two nurses, the communists simply set fire to the house where they were being held and burned them alive. Further, the NVA torched some 200 other huts thereby destroying the whole village. Reportedly, a later search of the smoldering ruins revealed the corpse of Miss Anderson with her wrist severed, indicating the struggle she made to free herself. There was no report of the condition of Beatrice Kosin's remains. Likewise, there was no explanation of why no attempt was made at the time to recover their remains.
After capture, Lloyd Oppel and Samuel Mattix were separated from the women and moved mostly by foot to Hanoi, North Vietnam. Once they arrived in the communist capital, the missionaries were imprisoned with American military POWs and later released with them on 28 March 1973 during Operation Homecoming.
It was speculated that the NVA considered the women to have been too much trouble to care for on the long trip to Hanoi, and preferred to abate their burden by killing them. Beatrice Kosin and Evelyn Anderson were not in Laos to kill, but to heal. Their reported deaths must be blamed not only on the communists who set the fire that killed them, but also on the nameless, faceless American bureaucrats who decided it was acceptable to permit their torture and death for political expediency.
Evelyn Anderson and Beatrice Kosin are among nearly 600 military personnel and civilians who disappeared in Laos. Many of these Americans were known to be alive on the ground. The Laotians admitted holding "tens of tens" of American Prisoners of War, but they 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. Sam Mattix and Lloyd Oppel are two of only 16 men - 7 civilians and 9 US military - who were captured inside the territorial boundary of Laos by the North Vietnamese and who were moved to North Vietnam within the first few weeks of captivity, then released during Operation Homecoming.
If Evelyn Anderson and Beatrice Kosin were executed as reported, then a serious war crime was committed and those responsible at all levels should be held accountable for their actions. Likewise, there is no doubt the communists know where their remains were buried and could return them to their families, friends and country any time they had the desire to do so. For others who remain unaccounted for their fates could be quite different.
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.
Missionaries, like military personnel, were called upon to operate in many dangerous circumstances, and they were prepared to lay down their lives or be captured, if necessary, in order to carry out their humanitarian work. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned in the same manner as American military men by their country.