LACEY, RICHARD JOSEPH

Name: Richard Joseph Lacey   
Rank/Branch: Sergeant First Class/US Army           
Unit: Long Lines Detachment South,
Regional Communications Group, 
1st Signal Brigade Stratcom Communications Base,
South Vietnam 

Date of Birth: 25 August 1946
Home of Record: Pittsburgh, PA
Date of Loss: 31 January 1968 
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates:  104535N  1063940E  (XS816898)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing in Action 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground/Jeep
Other Personnel In Incident: William C. Behrens (killed, remains recovered) 

REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS:  Richard Lacey was 19 with a year and a half of college behind him when he volunteered for the US Army. He was selected for Officer Training, but elected instead to stay in a technical field after completing the first phase of Signal Corps schooling. After a year of technical training Lacey was qualified to repair and maintain long communication lines and was sent to Vietnam in the summer of 1967. He felt lucky to be stationed at the Stratcom Communications Base, which was located on the extreme southern edge of Saigon, approximately 5 miles due south of Tan Son Nhut Airbase, Gia Dinh Province, South Vietnam.

Richard Lacey had been in Vietnam six months when the Viet Cong's (VC) 1968 Tet Offensive began. One of the first moves communist forces made as they initiated their offensive was to disrupt American and Allied lines of communication as completely as possible.

During the early morning hours of 31 January 1968, when the breakdown in local communications was most critical, then SP5 Richard J. Lacey and SP4 William C. Behrens departed the Phu Lam Long Lines Detachment for the Regional Communications Group located in Saigon. Their assigned mission was to relay calls for assistance from areas under siege. The two soldiers, who were travelling by jeep with SP4 Behrens being the driver and SP5 Lacey the passenger, headed north into the city of Saigon.

Somewhere within the few miles between their base and the Regional Communication Group facility the two men vanished. In the chaos of the street-to-street battle that raged throughout Saigon, Richard Lacey and William Behrens were not immediately missed. This was, in large part, because all travel throughout the city had been totally disrupted by the VC's offensive. When personnel at their destination realized the two men were long overdue, headquarters was notified that they were missing.

Four days later, on February 3, 1968, SP4 William Behren's body was identified at the Tan San Nhut Mortuary by members of his unit. There are no records of where or how William Behren's remains were recovered, or who brought them to the mortuary.

As the communist offensive was brought under control, a formal search and rescue/recovery (SAR) operation was initiated for Richard Lacey. The streets between the Phu Lam Long Lines Detachment complex and the Regional Communications Group facility were thoroughly searched and local residents questioned. Between 8 and 15 April 1968, the jeep in which Richard Lacey and William Behrens were traveling was recovered at an unknown location. Unfortunately, the condition of the vehicle was not noted. Other than recovering the jeep, no trace of SP5 Lacey was found. At the time the formal search was terminated, Richard Lacey's status was changed to Missing in Action.

If Richard Lacey died in this loss incident, 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.

Our military men in Vietnam were called upon to 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.