Name: Robert Susumu Masuda 
Rank/Branch: Staff Sergeant/US Army 
Unit: Company B, 
1st Battalion,
508th Infantry, 
3rd Brigade, 
82nd Airborne Division 

Date of Birth: 19 October 1947 (Cleveland, OH)               
Home of Record: San Jose, CA
Date of Loss: 13 May 1969 
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 110326N 1062847E (XT618227)
Click coordinates to view maps

Staus in 1973: Prisoner of War 
Category: 1
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Other Personnel In Incident: David L. Munoz (missing) 


SYNOPSIS:  On 13 May 1969, then SP4 Robert Masuda and PFC David L. Munoz comprised a 2-man machinegun team assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry, 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division. Their company was participating in a reconnaissance-in-force mission to sweep through the hotly contested and densely populated countryside of Cu Chi where Viet Cong forces were known to be operating.

At roughly 0900 hours, their platoon searched a small village believed to be providing aid to the VC. The village, which was surrounded by rice fields and rubber plantations, was located approximately 7 miles east-northeast of Rang Bang and 21 miles northwest of Saigon, Phu Hoa District, Binh Duong Province, South Vietnam. When the platoon first entered the village, David Munoz and Robert Masuda set up their machinegun to secure the area and protect the perimeter while the rest of the patrol searched the village.

During the search, the soldiers found a large cache of rice believed to be supplies stored by, or intended for, local communist guerrillas. While members of Company B were busy destroying the rice cache, SP4 Masuda and PFC Munoz continued to guard the perimeter.

At about 1100 hours, the platoon moved out of the village to continue its mission. At 1800 hours, a head count was made. At that time it was discovered that the machinegun crew was missing. Elements of Company B began to retrace that day's route including the village where the rice had been found and destroyed. Other units were dispatched to assist in a thorough search in and around the village, but they were unable to find Robert Masuda and David Munoz.

However, while at the village, the Americans did find freshly fired AK47 shell casings and scattered spots of blood-soaked sand in the position where the two men were last seen. Also found in the area was a well that had recently been filled in with dirt. The well was partially excavated before dusk forced the Americans to depart the village.

The next day, Company A of the same battalion made another unsuccessful search of the village, well and surrounding countryside. On 18 May Company B returned to the area. This time they found an 82nd Airborne patch in a pack of cards that was immediately identified as having belonged to Robert Masuda. Since the weight of the evidence supported the belief that SP4 Masuda and PFC Munoz had been captured by VC forces, both men were listed Prisoners of War.

Some of the Viet Cong prison camps were actually way stations the VC used for a variety of reasons. Others were regular POW camps. Regardless of size and primary function, conditions in the VC run camps frequently included the prisoners' being tied at night to their bamboo bunks anchored by rope to a post in their small bamboo shelters. In others they were held in bamboo cages, commonly referred to as tiger cages, and in yet other camps the dense jungle itself provided the bars to their cage. There was rarely enough food and water to sustain them, and as a result, the Americans suffered from a wide variety of illnesses in addition to their injuries and wounds.

On 22 December 1970, the Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG), better known as the Viet Cong, released a list containing the names of American POWs whom they reported died while under their control. The PRG list did not include either David Munoz or Robert Masuda as American prisoners of War who died in captivity while under their control. Instead, the communist officials chose to deny any knowledge about the fate of the missing machinegun crew.

In February 1975, another well in the vicinity of Cu Chi was identified as the possible grave site of one or more Americans. It was excavated and the remains of an American serviceman and a local female were found. After digging a few more inches, the local workers unearthed an old, live hand grenade. Immediately they suspended operations pending the arrival of American military personnel.

Subsequent digging unearthed an old rusty bayonet scabbard. When the Explosive Ordnance Demolitions (EOD) team's mine detector registered evidence of additional metal material, which indicated the possibility that the well had been booby-trapped, the excavation was suspended and never completed. Military forensic experts examined the remains recovered in that well and determined they were not those belonging to either SP4 Masuda or PFC Munoz.

"Living with the face of the enemy" is a fact of life that Asian Americans faced in World War II and Korea, as well as in Vietnam. Above all else, these men and women were proud to be Americans. They served their country with the same honor and courage as Americans of other nationalities, but they did so under more difficult circumstances because of their appearance.

If Robert Masuda and David Munoz died as Prisoners of War, they have every right to have their remains returned to their families, friends and country. However, if they survived, their fate like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different. Either way there is no question the Vietnamese know what happened to them and could return them or their remains any time they had the desire to do so.

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.

American military men were called upon to 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 by the country they so proudly served. Robert S. Masuda and David L Munoz are the only two members of the 82nd Airborne Division who were declared POW/MIAs in the Vietnam War.