SANDS, RICHARD EUGENE

Name: Richard Eugene Sands
Rank/Branch: Corporal/US Army 
Unit: Company A, 1st Battalion, 
46th Infantry, 
198th Light Infantry Brigade 
Chu Lai, South Vietnam 
Date of Birth: 09 November 1947
Home of Record: Springfield, IL
Date of Loss: 12 May 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 152607N 1074808E (ZC007083)
Click coordinates to view maps
Status in 1973: Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)

REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS:   Kham Duc Special Forces camp (A-105), was located on the western fringes of Quang Tin Province, South Vietnam. In the spring of 1968, it was the only remaining border camp in Military Region I, and was located 46 miles southwest of DaNang, on a narrow grassy plain surrounded by rugged, virtually uninhabited jungle. The camp and airstrip were bordered by the Ngok Peng Bum ridge to the west and Ngok Pe Xar mountain, looming over Kham Duc to the east. Steep banked streams full of rapids and waterfalls cut through this tropical wilderness.

In late March 1968, US intelligence picked up information that the 2nd NVA Regiment, well over 10,000 men strong, was moving from North Vietnam, through Laos, and intended to enter South Vietnam somewhere south of Kham Duc, on it way to the DaNang area. An intelligence team, comprised of 3 Australian advisors and their Chinese Nung Mike Force, was charged with the responsibility of locating, tracking and reporting on the enemy movement. They established a base of operations five miles south of Kham Duc, in the old abandoned French fort of Ngok Tavak located between the Vietnamese/Lao boarder and Route 14.

The commander of the 2nd NVA regiment determined that neither Ngok Tavak nor Kham Duc could be bypassed because of the threat each posed to his flank once the regiment moved past them. Kgok Tavak was assaulted in the early morning hours of 10 May 1968. At the same time, the NVA began blasting Kham Duc at 0245 hours with heavy mortar and recoilless rifle fire in an attempt to "soften up" the entrenched US and allied troops.

During the next two days, the battle for Kham Duc continued unabated. In that fierce fighting 19 Americans were captured, became Missing in Action or Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered as the Americans and allied troops tried desperately to hold on. In the end, those survivors who could not be evacuated were given orders to escape and evade from Kham Duc.

On 12 May 1968, Cpl. Richard E. Sands was a rifleman assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry, 198th Light Infantry Brigade. Prior to the NVA commencing its attack, his unit had been airlifted into Kham Duc from Chu Lai to beef up the defensive manpower of the camp. Shortly after 1200 hours, the decision was made to immediately extract all personnel from the beleaguered camp. This evacuation was disorderly and, at times, on the verge of complete panic.

Cpl. Sands' unit was picked up by a CH47 helicopter, and shortly after take off it was hit by .50 caliber machine gun fire at an altitude of 1500 to 1600 feet. Cpl. Sands, who was sitting in the vicinity of the door gunner, was hit by one of the incoming rounds. During the evacuation from the burning aircraft, four personnel and a medic checked Richard Sands for any sign of life, and all indicated he had been killed instantly. The helicopter made a controlled landing on the airstrip and caught fire. Because of the impending danger of incoming enemy mortar rounds, the fire, and the enemy presence in the area, those attempting to remove him from the wreckage were ordered to abandon his remains. Later that day the burned out hulk of the CH47, which still contained the body of Cpl. Richard Sands, was pushed to the side of the runway.

On 18-21 July 1970 and again from 17-20 August 1970, search and recovery (SAR) teams returned to Kham Duc to search for the remains of those Americans who were missing and unaccounted for. On 20 August 1970, personnel from Graves Registration probed and dug through the wreckage of the helicopter, but were unable to locate any trace of his remains.

For Cpl. Richard Sands, there is no doubt of his fate. However, he has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. For many other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Indochina, 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 America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

Military men 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.