Name: Robert Duval "Bob" Owen 
Rank/Branch: Sergeant First Class/US Army 
Unit: Command & Control,
5th Special Forces Group 
Date of Birth: 21 December 1938
Home of Record: Chatham, VA 
Date of Loss: 23 May 1968 
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 161730N 1070600E (YD258028)
Click coordinates to view  (4) maps
Status in 1973: Missing in Action 
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Other Personnel In Incident: Glen O. Lane (missing) 


SYNOPSIS:  Glen Lane was the patrol leader of a spike team under orders to MACV-SOG in Vietnam. MACV-SOG, or Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, was a joint service 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" or "Prairie Fire" missions.

Oscar Eight was the code name given to a sector of eastern Laos located in rugged jungle covered mountains approximately 25 miles northwest of the infamous A Shau Valley. The area encompassed the junction of Highway 92, which was a primary north-south artery of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and Highway 922, which branched off and ran directly east where it crossed into South Vietnam at a strategic point near the northern edge of the A Shau Valley. Oscar Eight was also located at the southeastern end of a large and narrow jungle covered valley that had two primary roads running through it, one on each side of the valley with Highway 92 being the road on the west side. A power line ran parallel to Highway 92 and sometimes crossed it. In addition to the roads and power line, the Hoi An River also flowed through the valley passing the road junction roughly 1 mile west of it.

More American aircraft were downed in the vicinity of the junction of Highways 92 and 922 than any other place in Laos. This was because burrowed deep in the hills of Oscar Eight and located just to the east of the road junction was North Vietnamese General Vo Bam's 559th Transportation Group's forward headquarters. It was also the Ho Chi Minh Trail's control center as well as containing the largest NVA storage facility outside of North Vietnam. Oscar Eight was defended by consecutive belts of anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) guns of all sizes that were not only stationed on the ground, but also mounted on platforms in the trees. All of these AAA batteries were expertly camouflaged.

On 20 May 1968, then SFC Glen Lane, team leader; and SSgt. Robert D. Owens, assistant team leader; and 4 Nung strikers were assigned to a 6-man reconnaissance spike team (RT), call sign "RT Idaho." Their mission was to infiltrate the denied area of eastern Laos code named Oscar Eight to locate and report on NVA activity in this vital sector. RT Idaho was inserted by helicopter into the rugged mountains just west of the Lao/South Vietnamese border and west of the town of A Loui.

At 1024 hours, RT Idaho made its only radio contact with the onsite Forward Air Controller (FAC), call sign "Covey." The team reported they were unable to talk because NVA troops were all around them. When Glen Lane and Robert Owen failed to make further contact with Covey, a search and rescue (SAR) operation was immediately initiated.

Later the same day another spike team, "RT Oregon," was inserted by helicopter into the same landing zone (LZ) used by RT Idaho. This 12-man search team fanned out to locate any sign of RT Idaho. Shortly thereafter they found and followed a recently used trail leading away from the LZ. Approximately 50 meters down the trail, members of RT Oregon saw signs of a firefight where concussion grenades had exploded.

At the same time RT Oregon was examining RT Idaho's ambush site, an estimated company-sized NVA force attacked them. During the running gun battle that ensued, RT Oregon suffered one killed and the rest wounded. The SAR team narrowly escaped when rescue helicopters extracted them under fire. Because of the heavy enemy presence in the area, no further ground search for SSgt. Owen and SFC Lane was possible.

In their debriefing report, the SAR team members stated they believed SFC Lane, SSgt. Owen and the Nung strikers had been stunned by the concussion grenades and were captured by NVA counter-recon specialists. At the time the formal search was terminated, Robert Owen and Glen Lane were listed Missing in Action.

For every insertion like this one that was detected and stopped, dozens of others safely slipped past NVA lines to strike a wide range of targets and collect vital information. The number of MACV-SOG missions conducted with Special Forces reconnaissance teams into Laos and Cambodia was 452 in 1969. It was the most sustained American campaign of raiding, sabotage and intelligence gathering waged on foreign soil in US military history. MACV-SOG's teams earned a global reputation as one of the most combat effective deep-penetration forces ever raised.

Glen Lane and Robert Owen are among nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos. Many are known to have been alive on the ground after their loss incidents. Although the Pathet Lao publicly stated on several occasions that they held "tens of tens" of American prisoners, not one American held in Laos has ever been released.

If SFC Lane and SSgt. Owen died in the ambush of their recon team, each man has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if they survived, they certainly were captured and 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 communists could return them or their remains any time they had the desire to do so.

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.

Military personnel in Vietnam and Laos were called upon to undertake many dangerous missions, 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 proudly served.