Name: Lee Delton Scurlock, Jr. 
Rank/Branch: Sergeant First Class/US Army 
Unit: Military Assistance Command, Vietnam               
Studies and Observation Group 
Command and Control Detachment
5th Special Forces Group, 
1st Special Forces 
Date of Birth: 10 November 1943 (Restful Lake, OH)
Home of Record: Restful Lake, OH
Date of Loss: 21 December 1967 
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 143327N 1071713E (YB464105)
Click coordinates to view maps
Status in 1973: Missing in Action 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Heli (helicopter)
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing) 


SYNOPSIS:  Military Assistance Command Vietnam - Studies and Observation Group (MACV-SOG) 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 through Special Operations Augmentation (SOA) that provided their "cover" while under secret orders to MACV-SOG. These teams performed highly classified, deep penetration missions of strategic reconnaissance and interdiction that were called, depending on the location and time frame, "Shining Brass," "Salem House," "Daniel Boone" or "Prairie Fire" missions.

When North Vietnam began to increase its military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary, as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some years before. This border road was used by the Communists to transport weapons, supplies and troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, and was frequently no more than a path cut through the jungle covered mountains. US forces used all assets available to them to stop this flow of men and supplies from moving south into the war zone.

On 20 December 1967, then Staff Sergeant Lee D. Scurlock was assigned as the radio operator of a six-man command and control team that was inserted by helicopter on a classified reconnaissance mission to locate and report on communist activity in the rugged jungle covered mountains of Attopeu Province just inside Laos southwest of the tri-border region where South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia join. The area of operation was also southwest of the extreme southern-most portion of the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail.

On 21 December, the day after being inserted, the team came under heavy enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire from both the front and rear. Lee Scurlock established radio contact with a flight of helicopters whose aircrews were assigned to the 119th Aviation Company. He requested an immediate emergency extraction operation. One of the helicopters, call sign "Gator 376," complied with the request. The steep terrain and jungle growth made a landing impossible so the pilot descended over a small clearing in the jungle, frequently referred to as a "hover hole," and dropped a rope ladder to the embattled team.

SSgt. Scurlock was the last man to climb the ladder. According to the helicopter crew and surviving team members, he climbed only three rungs of it on his first attempt before he lost his grip and fell back to the ground. Lee Scurlock was observed to remove his rucksack and radio, and then slowly begin to climb the rope ladder for the second time. According to the door gunner and Special Forces sergeant who both shouted encouragement to him, he appeared to be weak and possibly hurt.

Just before Lee Scurlock reached their outstretched hands, the helicopter came under heavy enemy ground fire from the front that shattered the aircraft's canopy causing flying glass to hit the pilot. As the pilot recoiled, he jerked the control stick. This violent action threw SSgt. Scurlock off the ladder and he fell approximately 50 feet to the ground. Those aboard the helicopter watched in horror as Lee Scarlock landed on his back, and then tumbled over his neck and head before rolling down the hillside until a small tree stopped his movement.

Due to the heavy enemy automatic weapons fire, the aircraft was forced away from the area. Later a search and rescue (SAR) team was inserted into the small clearing to search for Lee Scurlock. The SAR team searched in and around the area where SSgt. Scurlock was last seen, but they were unable to find any trace of him, his remains or signs of a freshly dug grave in or around the extraction site. At the time the formal search effort was terminated, Lee Scurlock was listed Missing in Action.

The area of loss is just west of the Lao/Cambodian border, approximately 7 miles southwest of Route 96 and 9 miles southwest of Ban Pakha, Laos. It was also 20 miles west-southwest of the tri-border junction, 33 miles west-southwest of Dak To, South Vietnam and 34 miles Southwest of the city of Attopeu, Laos.

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.

Lee Scurlock is among the nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos. Many of these men were known to be alive on the ground. The Laotians admitted to 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 that ended the war in Vietnam because Laos was not a party to that agreement.

If Lee Scurlock died as a result of wounds or his fall from the ladder, he has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if he survived, he most certainly would have been captured and his 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 men in Vietnam and Laos 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.