Name: Karl Wade Lawson 
Rank/Branch: E4/US Army Special Forces 
Unit: Company A, Detachment B-36 (Provisional), 
5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces 
Date of Birth: 21 May 1947
Home of Record: Terre Haute, IN
Date of Loss: 09 April 1968 
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 115641N 1070545E (YU265191)
Click coordinates to view maps
Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered 
Category: 3
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing) 


SYNOPSIS:  On 1 August 1967, Project RAPID FIRE (Special Recon) was organized at Long Ha to furnish II Field Force, Vietnam with strategic and tactical reconnaissance, since the impending transfer of Project SIGMA (B-36) to MACV-SOG would otherwise leave III Corps without an adequate reconnaissance capability. The project was terminated on 23 May 1968 when B-36 was converted from provisional status to a mobile strike force command role and designated Project SIGMA.

MACV-SOG, or Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, was a joint service high command unconventional warfare task force engaged in highly classified operations throughout Southeast Asia. The 5th Special Forces channeled personnel into MACV-SOG (though it was not a Special Forces group) through Special Operations Augmentation (SOA), which provided their "cover" while under secret orders to MACV-SOG. These teams performed deep penetration missions of strategic reconnaissance and interdiction that were called, depending on the time frame, "Shining Brass," "Salem House," "Daniel Boone" or "Prairie Fire" missions.

On 9 April 1968, SP4 Karl W. Lawson, was assigned as a rifleman to a phase two reconnaissance operation in Tay Ninh Province, South Vietnam. His detachment had been inserted by helicopter into their area of operation just east of the Song Ta Nien River, 13 miles south-southeast of the South Vietnamese/Cambodian border, 34 miles east-northeast of Loc Ninh and 79 miles north-northeast of Saigon.

The detachment secured the landing zone (LZ) before setting out on a designated heading toward their target, a confirmed enemy base camp hidden in the rugged jungle covered mountains. The American force had moved only about 600 meters when they came under enemy ground fire. After assessing the situation, the detachment commander established radio contact with headquarters requesting an immediate artillery fire support mission against the identified enemy base camp.

Shortly thereafter, the artillery fire commenced. One of the three 175mm sight rounds that was fired to zero in the target fell short, exploded in the trees and rained shrapnel over that portion of the perimeter being guarded by SP4 Lawson and some of the detachment's indigenous personnel. Karl Lawson and one of the ARVN were killed instantly. The detachment medic immediately checked them for signs of life. Based on the severity of the wounds and no signs of life, the medic pronounced both men dead.

After the enemy base camp was destroyed and the area secured, the remains of the dead were placed in body bags. The detachment commander called for a medivac airlift for the wounded and dead; however, because of the dense jungle, the helicopter could not land. The helicopter hovered over a small opening in the jungle canopy and used McGuire rigs to retrieve those men being medically evacuated.

As the remains of Karl Lawson were being lifted out of the jungle with the remains of others who had been killed, SP4 Lawson's body bag was inadvertently dropped. It was seen to fall into the rugged jungle terrain a short distance away from the recovery point. An aerial search was immediately initiated and continued for two days. At the same time, three ground search parties conducted as thorough of a ground search as possible given the density of the vegetation and hilly terrain in which his remains were lost. As part of the overall recovery effort, a sniffer mission was also flown in the hope of detecting his corpse. Unfortunately, no trace of SP4 Lawson was found. At the time the formal search was terminated, Karl Lawson was reported as Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

There is no question that Karl Lawson died of wounds received from friendly fire and that his remains were lost under such circumstance that made recovery impossible at the time. He has the right to have his remains returned to he family, friends and country if at all humanly possible. Above all else, he has the right not to be forgotten by the nation for which he gave his life.

For other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, 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 American Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

American military personnel were called upon to fly and fight 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 - or lost - by the country they so proudly served.