SHARK, EARL ERIC

Name: Earl Eric Shark   
Rank/Branch: Sergeant First Class/US Army 
Unit: 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon,
Company C, 1st Battalion,
28th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division 

Date of Birth: 23 May 1946
Home of Record: Pomona, CA
Date of Loss: 12 September 1968 
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 115314N 1063737E (XU772145) 
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing in Action 
Category: 1
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing) 

REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS:  On 12 September 1968, then Sgt. Earl E. Shark was assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division that was conducting a reconnaissance-in-force mission. The mission's area of operation was located in rugged jungle covered mountains approximately 1 mile south of a primary road, 2 miles northeast of Loc Ninh Airfield, 6 miles south of the South Vietnamese/Cambodian border, and 75 miles north of Saigon, Binh Long Province, South Vietnam.

Sgt. Shark was serving as the pointman for the 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon as the platoon advanced up a hill approximately 6 kilometers northeast of the town of Loc Ninh. His unit came under intense enemy fire. The radio operator with Sgt. Shark transmitted that both men had been wounded and needed help. When the point element came under fire from a superior enemy force, according to witnesses, Earl Shark was wounded in the upper torso. His radioman was also hit by the same burst of fire, but was five to ten meters behind the sergeant. The platoon leader and his radioman reached and rescued the wounded radio operator, then crawled to within 5 to 10 meters of Earl Shark. They could see no movement, heard no noise, and saw no visible sign of life.

As the firefight continued, the platoon leader threw a hand grenade at an enemy soldier located in an entrenched bunker in front of Sgt. Shark. The grenade fell short and exploded closer to the wounded American than to the enemy soldier. Fragments from the grenade fell close enough to Sgt. Shark to set off the smoke grenades attached to his web gear, but Earl Shark still made no voluntary movement. Due to heavy enemy fire, the platoon leader and his radio operator were forced to withdraw without retrieving Sgt. Shark.

Three days later, on 15 September, the unit was able to reach the area where Sgt. Shark was last seen. The search and rescue/recovery (SAR) team found Sgt. Shark's helmet and part of his canteen in the position where he had last been seen, but found no trace of him. Because of the circumstances of loss, the Army believed he "was captured and probably died of his wounds in captivity." This position is supported by US government documents. However, in spite of that belief, at the time the formal search operation was terminated, Earl Shark was listed Missing in Action.

Almost immediately intelligence reports were received and correlated to Earl Shark by US military intelligence agencies. These reports indicated that although seriously wounded, Earl Shark was alive, captured and survived for roughly 5 days before dying as a result of his wounds and complications following the amputation of one of his legs. He is reported to have died at K101 Dispensary in Cambodia and was reportedly buried west of the hospital.

On 22 December 1970, the Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG), better known as the Viet Cong, released a list containing the names of American POWs who they reported died while under their control. The PRG list included Earl Shark as having Died in Captivity. Ironically, at the end of the war the VC refused to return the remains of Sgt. Shark in spite of the fact they acknowledged holding him prisoner.

Earl Shark died under the direct control of the VC who could return his remains to his family, friends and country any time they have the desire to do so. For other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, their fate 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 POWs remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

Military men in Vietnam 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 served.