Name: Edward Arlo Willing 
Rank/Branch: Gunnery Sergeant /US Marine Corps 
Unit: Battery D,
2nd Battalion, 
13th Marines, 
1st Marine Division 
Date of Birth: 28 August 1949 (Wilmington, DE)
Home of Record: Wilmington, DE
Date of Loss: 21 July 1968 
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 155700N 1081300E (BT075659) 
Click coordinates to view maps
Staus in 1973: Missing in Action 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing) 


SYNOPSIS:   On 21 July 1968, then LCpl. Edward A. Willing was a radio operator assigned to a Forward Observation Team attached to the 1st Battalion, 27th Marines positioned near Tu Cau Bridge. That afternoon LCpl. Willing departed the Tu Cau Bridge compound to pick up mail for his team. At roughly 1600 hours, he checked in with Headquarters and Supply Company for the mail, then joined friends for evening chow at the 3rd Battalion, 27th Marines mess hall.

After dinner he commented to his friends that he needed to get back to the bridge because he had guard duty that evening. He left the mess hall, put away his mess gear, said goodbye to his friends and began the short trip back to the bridge. When last seen, Edward Willing was wearing a green T-shirt, cartridge belt, and helmet. He was also carrying his M-16 rifle.

Meanwhile, at 1700 hours, LCpl. James L. Brookhart was standing watch in the 80-foot high "Bravo" tower at the Marine outpost near the Tu Cau Bridge. He heard several shots coming from the direction of the bridge and checked out the activity in that direction through a spotter scope. He saw a Vietnamese man dressed in dark clothing, trotting away from a group of approximately ten children, who were standing on the side of the road. James Brookhart noted that the man was carrying a carbine and moving away into the treeline on the north side of the road.

Looking back to the group of children, LCpl. Brookhart saw them dragging a body across the road and into the treeline on the south side of the road. Unfortunately, because his view of the body was obstructed, he could not tell if the body the children were dragging away was that of a civilian or a Marine. LCpl. Brookhart immediately radioed the Command Operations Center reporting this incident and telling them that it occurred approximately 2500 to 3000 meters (less than 2 miles) down the Tu Cau Road from his position.

The terrain along the road and bridge complex is generally flat with heavy vegetation divided by sandy clearings. The location of the Tu Cau Bridge is approximately 3 miles south of the south end of the DaNang Airbase runways and 3 miles west of the coastline, Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam.

Following this incident, Edward Willing was missed by LCpl. Charles C. Reeder II, the Marine who was to stand the first watch of the evening with him. Shortly thereafter LCpl. Reeder and SSgt. Joseph L. Storzum checked the area around the Tu Cau Bridge for any sign of LCpl. Willing. When none could be found, preparations were initiated for a search and rescue (SAR) operation to begin at first light.

The next morning several Marine patrols, one of which included LCpl. Brookhart, conducted additional searches of the Tu Cau Bridge and surrounding area including the location of the shooting incident. Viem Tay village, which was located only 400 meters south of the bridge and to the side of Tu Cau Road, was also carefully searched. The patrol questioned 47 Vietnamese nationals through an interpreter and offers of money were made for information leading to the recovery of the missing Marine. However, no trace of him or his equipment was found. Likewise, none of the villagers where able to provide information about his whereabouts.

Throughout the war the Viet Cong (VC) were not known to drag off the bodies of dead Americans, particularly so close to a heavily manned position. Further, because no blood trail was found, the Marine Corps believed if the body being drug off by the children into the treeline was indeed Edward Willing, he was possibly only unconscious. The search continued through 2 September 1968. At the time the formal search was terminated, Edward Willing was listed Missing in Action.

If Edward Willing died in the hands of the VC, he has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if he survived, his fate like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different. Either way, under the circumstances surrounding his loss, there is no question the Vietnamese know what happened to him and could return him or his remains any time they had the desire to do so.

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.

American 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.