|Name:||Walter Hugh Moon|
|Rank/Branch:||Major/US Army Special Forces|
|Unit:||Advisor, B Company,
Field Training Team-59,
7th Special Forces Group,
6th Bataillon d'infanterie (Lao)
|Date of Birth:||31 March 1923|
|Home of Record:||Rudy, AR|
|Date of Loss:||22 April 1961|
|Country of Loss:||Laos|
Click coordinates to view (4) maps
|Status in 1973:||Killed/Body Not Recovered|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||O. Roger Ballenger (released 1962); Gerald M. Biber and John M. Bischoff (missing)|
REMARKS: PROB KIA N AMBUSH AFT OVRUN
SYNOPSIS: White Star mobile training team missions, code name HOTFOOT, included training and advising allied personnel in military tactics and unconventional warfare programs at 5 Regional Training Centers. Theoretically, these Special Forces teams were pulled out of Laos in October 1962 as a result of an agreement reached in July that required all foreign military personnel to leave Laos. The North Vietnamese Army (NVA) blatantly continued to do business as usual in Laos thereby rendering that agreement useless. That forced American personnel to either retreat to the Chu Porn Mountains with Gen. Vang Pao's Meo tribesmen or return to civilian clothing to work undercover.
At various times during the 1950s and early 1960's, Special Forces advisors were forced to pose as members of the US Embassy, Program Evaluation Office (PEO) in Laos or the Combined Studies Group (CSG) in Vietnam. Either of these euphemisms strictly translated CIA. Under the auspices of the agency, White Star personnel trained 100-man Meo "Auto Defense de Choc" - shock teams - who were dispersed throughout the highlands to raid and ambush communist Pathet Lao forces. At other times they were the "eyes and ears" of MAAG, gathering intelligence and reporting on the progress of the allied troops they were advising. By July 1962, Operation White Star reached its peak strength of 433 uniformed Special Forces personnel.
This period of civil war and military coups in Laos resulted in major objectives being taken by Kong Le and his Paratroop Battalion. Kong Le had himself been a graduate of the CIA-sponsored Philippine scout and ranger school and had announced that he was fighting the corrupt royal government headed by Prince Souvanna Phouma. Kong Le found support from the Soviets, who assisted him in defeating Gen. Phoumi Nosavan's countercoup forces at the capitol city of Vientiane in December 1960. Pathet Lao troops were airlifted by the Soviets to take the Plaine des Jarres region in March 1961. Although Gen. Nosavan and Groupement 12 of the new Forces Armees de Laos continued to chase Kong Le and his troops, they were not successful in regaining the Plaine des Jarres.
In early March two Pathet Lao battalions drove Groupement 12 back toward Vang Vieng. Then Capt. Walter Moon's four-man Field Training Team FTT-59, MAAG, which was a split A-Detachment code named Team MOON, was based at Ban Pha Home, Xiangkhouang Province, Laos. Ban Pha Home was located roughly 30 miles north of Vang Vieng.
On 22 April 1961, Capt. Walter H. Moon, battalion commander; SFC John M. Bischoff, team medic; Sgt. O. Roger Ballenger, demolitions sergeant; and Sgt. Gerald M. Biber, radio operator; were American advisors to the 6th Bataillon d'infanterie (Lao). While on a mission near Phou Tesao in rugged, jungle-covered mountains approximately 15 miles north-northwest of Vang Vieng, 33 miles due west of Long Tieng, and 63 miles north of Vientiane, the 6th Bataillon d'infanterie (Lao) was ambushed by a heavy and accurate enemy artillery barrage. The communists rapidly flanked them. Capt. Moon radioed that the battalion was completely cut off, the perimeter defenses were collapsing and the Pathet Lao were quickly overrunning their positions. Shortly afterward, Capt. Moon was taken prisoner.
SFC John M. Bischoff, Sgt.
Gerald M. Biber and some Royal Lao soldiers jumped aboard an armored car
that was heading south on Route 13 in an effort to breakout. According
to Lao survivors, they crouched behind the turret, but the car came under
heavy grenade attack. Sgt. Bischoff fired a machine gun from the vehicle
until he was shot through the neck and killed. Sgt. Biber, who already
been wounded, was thought to have been killed by stick grenades thrown
against the armored car. The vehicle was halted and its crew captured.
Sgt. Roger Ba
llenger escaped through the jungle and linked up with small group of Royal Lao soldiers. Seven days later, as they continued to evade enemy troops, they found a boat and were going down river when they were surprised and captured by the Pathet Lao. Sgt. Ballenger remained a Prisoner of War in the massive cave complex, which also served as the Pathet Lao headquarters, at Sam Neua. On 15 August 1962, after the Geneva Agreements on Laos were signed, Roger Ballenger was released to American control. This same cave complex at Sam Neua where Sgt. Ballenger was held is the same extensive complex where scores of American prisoners were known or believed held both during and after the end of the Vietnam War.
Capt. Moon tried to escape twice during his confinement, and on the last attempt was wounded in the chest and head. According to Sgt. Ballenger, Walter Moon's head injury caused him to become mentally unbalanced. After several months of persecution, Capt. Moon was reportedly executed on 22 July 1961 in his prison quarters at Lat Theoung by a Meo guard and a Pathet Lao officer. The Pathet Lao have consistently denied knowledge of Walter Moon, Gerald Biber or John Bischoff.
In 1984, Colonel James "Bo" Gritz, a highly decorated retired Special Forces officer, traveled to Southeast Asia in search of American POWs. He brought back documents and a photograph of Capt. Moon from Laos and gave them to the US Government. Walter Moon's wife positively identified the photograph and his signature. Upon analyzing the photo, our government experts stated the photograph was made 6 May 1961, two weeks after Walt Moon's capture in spite of the fact that he was normally clean-shaven and the photo showed him wearing a full grown beard.
These documents were taken from a collection of some 250-300 documents, held by the Lao People's Army, that pertain to American POW/MIAs. While the Defense Intelligence Agency claims to have full knowledge of this collection, according to former Congressman Stephen Solarz, our government refuses to demand this information from the Lao government.
Whether or not Gerald Biber and John Bischoff survived the ambush on 22 April 1961 is unknown. Walter Moon, however, was a well documented, confirmed Prisoner of War whose remains - if he is in fact dead - could easily be returned to this country.
These men are among the nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos. Many of them 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.
If dead, Gerald Biber, John Bischoff and Walter Moon have a right to have their remains returned to their families, friends and country. However, if they survived, their fates like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, 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.
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.