ORTIZ-RIVERA, LUIS ANTONIO

Name: Luis Antonio Ortiz-Rivera 
Rank/Branch: Private First Class/US Army 
Unit:  
Date of Birth:
Home of Record: Rio Piedras, PR
Date of Loss: 27 December 1966 
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 141305N 1085900E (BR815730)
Click coordinates to view maps
Status in 1973: Released POW 
Category:
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing) 

REMARKS:  680123 RELEASED

SYNOPSIS:  On 27 December 1966, PFC Luis A. Ortiz-Rivera was a member of the US Army. His unit was participating in an operational mission in populated and hotly contested mountains approximately 6 miles west of a single-track railroad line and 7 miles west of Highway 1. Both the highway and railroad line paralleled one another and ran the full length of South Vietnam along the coastline to a point west of Saigon where they both turned west and continued into the capital city.

PFC Ortiz-Rivera's unit was engaged in a firefight with Viet Cong (VC) forces. During the battle, Luis Ortiz-Rivera was captured. The VC moved PFC Ortiz-Rivera north to an established prison camp known as "ST18." The battle site was located approximately 13 miles northeast of Vinh Thanh, 15 miles west of the coastline, 17 miles north-northwest of Phu Cat and 96 miles south-southeast of Tam Ky, Binh Dinh Province, South Vietnam.

Some of the VC POW 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.

Six months later Marine Corps LCpl. Jose Agosto-Santos was incarcerated with other American POWs including Luis A. Ortiz-Rivera in camp ST18. Like PFC Ortiz-Rivera, LCpl. Agosto-Santos was from Puerto Rico. Both men barely spoke English. To the other POWs, the two Puerto Ricans seemed to be unduly subservient and amiable toward their captors. Further, they were showered with favoritism as the VC endeavored to exploit their Hispanic identity.

On 23 January 1968, just before the beginning of the communist initiated Tet offensive, the VC released PFC Luis A. Ortiz-Rivera and LCpl. Jose Agosto-Santos in a propaganda move during a ceremony outside a hamlet near the provincial capital of Tam Ky. The day after their release, the remaining POWs were moved to another camp located some six hours to the northwest of ST18.

Ironically, neither the Marine Corps nor United States government had any idea Jose Agosto-Santos survived his wounds until the time he was released from captivity. During their debriefing, Luis Ortiz-Rivera and Jose Agosto-Santos told US intelligence personnel they behaved as a model prisoners because they felt they owed their lives to the Viet Cong. Both men gave valuable information about the VC POW camp system and other American prisoners in the camp.

Some of the Americans left behind in the VC POW camp later died  others survived and returned to US control during Operation Homecoming. Still others were alive and well when last seen by those who returned in 1973. For those who died while under the control of the communists, they have a right to have their remains returned to their families, friends and country. For those who were last known alive, their fate 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 American Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

Military personnel in Vietnam 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 by the country they so proudly served.