Name: William Wentworth Wilbur "Bill" Stubbs                            
Rank/Branch: Staff Sergeant/US Army 
Unit: Special Operations Augmentation, 
Command & Control Central, 
5th Special Forces Group, 
1st Special Forces 
Kontum, South Vietnam 
Date of Birth: 06 August 1949 (Oak Harbor, WA)
Home of Record: Newport, WA
Date of Loss: 20 October 1969 
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 180524N 1050000E (YB705987)
Click coordinates to view maps
Status in 1973: Missing in Action 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Other Personnel In Incident: Richard Gross and Robert Mohs (rescued) 


SYNOPSIS:  MACV-SOG, or Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, was a joint service high command 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 Augmentations (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 location and time frame, "Shining Brass," "Daniel Boone," "Salem House, " "Steel Tiger" or "Prairie Fire.".

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, which was frequently no more than a path cut through the jungle covered mountains, was used by communist forces to transport weapons, supplies and troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam. US forces used all assets available to them to stop this flow of men and supplies from moving south into the war zone.

On 17 October 1969, SFC Richard "Dick" Gross, team leader; then Sgt. William W. W. "Bill" Stubbs, assistant team leader; SSgt. Robert "Bob" Mohs, radio operator; and six Montagnards comprised RT California, a special operations reconnaissance team conducting an eight-day intelligence gathering mission in Laos. The team moved from their Forward Operating Base at Kontum (FOB #2) onboard a US Army C-7 Caribou to the Special Forces A-Team border camp at Dak Pek where they spent the night.

On the morning of 18 October 1969, a South Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) Ch-34 helicopter from the VNAF's 219th Squadron inserted RT California into their area of operation. Members of a special operations air support unit who flew the VNAF helicopter, were known by their call sign "Kingbee." The region of eastern Laos in which the team was operating was identified as "target area S-7." Further, the entire region was laced with multiple primary and secondary east/west arteries of the Ho Chi Minh Trail that crossed into South Vietnam south of the major US base of Kham Duc.

At approximately 1130 hours on 20 October 1969, RT California stopped for a short break in a thickly wooded area on a steep mountainside in the vicinity of the Ho Chi Minh Trail to rest. The break coincided with the time of a regularly scheduled radio check with the onsite Forward Air Controller (FAC), call sign "Covey." Sgt. Stubbs was located up-slope in the team's defensive position during the rest break. Weather conditions at the time included a clear sky and a comfortable, mild temperature under the jungle canopy.

As RT California remained stationary, an enemy force estimated to be of platoon size moved into position above their location and attacked it. In the initial burst of gunfire, Bill Stubbs was struck several times in the head at close range by enemy automatic weapons fire. At the same time five Montagnards were wounded to varying degrees of severity by enemy gunfire. Dick Gross was also injured when he fell backwards twisting his knee and causing him to hobble through the rest of this action. As the fierce firefight continued, enemy troops threw hand grenades, three of which landed in Sgt. Stubbs' general location.

Because of the intense and accurate enemy gunfire, other team members were unable to move up the steep slope to reach Bill Stubbs. Five minutes later the surviving members of RT California were forced to withdraw under fire downhill and away from the point of contact leaving Sgt. Stubbs and much of their equipment behind.

The ambush location was in rugged jungle covered mountains approximately 19 miles west-southwest of Kham Duc, South Vietnam; and 4 miles southwest of the Lao/South Vietnamese border, Attopeu Province, Laos.

Over the next hour, the team fought a running gun battle with pursuing NVA forces. On several occasions as the battered team maneuvered through the harsh terrain, the survivors were forced to lay down suppressive automatic weapons fire in order to break contact with NVA who were closing on their position. After the first hour, the team was able to successfully put enough distance between themselves and the pursuing NVA to effectively break contact with them. The survivors continued to evade for a total of 5 hours with those most able carrying the more severely wounded team members.

Finally RT California reached a clearing on high ground that was suitable for a helicopter to land. Using their emergency radios, the team made radio contact on guard frequency, the emergency channel, with a fast moving jet aircraft that was in the area. The pilot notified the onsite FAC of his contact with the ground team, and in turn the FAC arranged for an emergency extraction. Two USAF A-1E Skyraiders provided air support to suppress nearby enemy troop movements while a US Army Huey helicopter swooped in to extract the team from the designated pick-up zone (PZ).

After rescue, the surviving team members learned the reason the Covey pilot was not overhead as briefed during the time the team was to make it's mid-day contact was because he was busy inserting other recon teams into their operational area.

The following day SFC Gross and a Special Forces search and rescue (SAR) team from the launch site at Dak To was inserted into the point of contact to search for Sgt. Stubbs. However, no trace of Bill Stubbs or any of the equipment left behind was found because the NVA had swept the area after the firefight and recovered everything of value. Likewise, SAR personnel found no sign of a freshly dug grave anywhere in or around the immediate area of the ambush. At the time the formal search was terminated, Bill Stubbs was reported as Missing In Action.

On January 1970, an Army Board of Inquiry reviewed the known facts and circumstances surrounding the loss of Sgt. Stubbs. They determined there was a chance Bill Stubbs survived and was captured, and officially declared him Missing in Action as a result of the action on 20 October 1969.

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.

William Stubbs is one of 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.

While Bill Stubbs was definitely wounded and possibly killed in this ambush, there is no way to know for sure. If he is dead, he has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. If, on the other hand, he survived his wounds he most certainly would have been captured by the enemy and his 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 have the answers and could return him or his 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.