WINTERS, DAVID MARSHALL

Name: David Marshall Winters 
Rank/Branch: Staff Sergeant/US Army 
Unit: 3rd Squad, Company D, 4th Battalion,
 31st Infantry,
196th Light Infantry Brigade 

Chu Lai, South Vietnam

Date of Birth: 18 October 1948
Home of Record: Delphi, CA
Date of Loss: 21 April 1967 
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 152118N 1084704E (BS622987)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing in Action 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Sampan
Other Personnel In Incident: Paul A. Hasenback; Daniel R. Nidds and Thomas A. Mangino; (missing) 

REMARKS:  DISAPPEARED ON SAMPAN

SYNOPSIS:  On 21 April 1967, 3rd Squad, was participating in a search and destroy combat patrol with 2nd Battalion, 31st Infantry, 196th Light Infantry Brigade in the densely populated and hotly contested region south-southeast of the large coastal American military base of Chu Lai, Binh Son District, Quang Ngai Province, South Vietnam.

The mission was completed by mid afternoon without incident. At the conclusion of the patrol, the patrol Leader, Lt. Krasnomowitz, arranged with local villagers to use two sampans to transport his squad on the Tra Bang River rather than have them walk back to base. Lt. Krasnomowitz and seven men from 3rd Squad were in the larger of the two sampans with SP4 Thomas A. Mangino, squad leader;  PFC Paul Hasenback, then PFC David M. Winters and PFC Daniel R. Nidds, riflemen; in the second one.

The two sampans moved toward the north through generally open countryside covered in rice fields, marshes and swamps as well as dotted with hamlets and villages, with the larger sampan in the lead and approximately 100 meters ahead of the smaller one. As they progressed northward, other Vietnamese sampans were seen along the way. The men in the lead sampan noted that a Vietnamese civilian was moving in his sampan toward the one carrying SP4 Mangino's squad and another sampan with 3 Vietnamese women was moving toward theirs. Shortly thereafter, the lead sampan developed a leak; so Lt. Krasnomowitz ordered the pace to be stepped up in order reach their point of debarkation as rapidly as possible.

The section of beach that was the patrol's destination was around a small bend in the river. Between 1530 and 1545 hours, the sampan with the single Vietnamese civilian in it pulled close to the sampan carrying SP4 Mangino, PFC Hasenback, PFC Winters and PFC Nidds. Lt. Krasnomowitz last observed SP4 Mangino's squad talking with the Vietnamese. He also noted the sampan carrying the Vietnamese women was still following his. The distance between the two sampans had increased to 200-250 meters before the first sampan rounded the bend and lost sight of the second. At the time it was last seen, the second sampan was approximately 3 miles south of the mouth of the Tra Bang River, 4 miles southwest of Chu Lai's southwestern runway, and 5 miles southwest of the base itself.

At 1515 hours, the first sampan arrived at its destination. The Americans disembarked on the beach, set up a security perimeter and waited for the second sampan to arrive. 20 minutes later when it failed to reach the rendezvous point, the patrol leader reported the situation to the command post. Command post personnel acknowledged the report and ordered Lt. Krasnomowitz's to remain in place to wait for the rest of his men.

Two hours later, the second sampan still had not arrived at the rendezvous point. Lt. Krasnomowitz again contacted the command post with a situation report. At that time, the command post declared the sampan overdue and initiated a search and rescue (SAR) operation. Two platoons arrived on-site to conduct a ground search long both sides of the river in both directions. A helicopter rigged with a loud speaker conducted a two-hour aerial search while broadcasting instructions to the missing men. The initial ground search continued until 0300 hours, 22 April. It resumed a few hours later at first light employing a wide variety of air and ground assets.

At 1000 hours on 22 April, US Navy divers arrived on-site to conduct a search of the Tra Bang River in and around the general location where the sampan was last seen. Ground units continued to search both riverbanks and interviewed local residents living along the river. At the same time helicopters crisscrossed the entire sector for any signs of the missing men. In addition to the aerial and ground search, the US Coast Guard was tasked to conduct the water-borne portion from point of departure to the mouth of the Tra Bang River.

The next day US forces expanded the search area. They requested, and were granted, permission to search an adjacent quadrant that was under the control of the 2nd Republic of Korea Marine Corps Brigade. The next day US Divers returned to conduct a second under water search downstream from the original site. The massive air/water/ground search continued until 3 June. When no trace of SP4 Mangino, PFC Nidds, PFC Winters and PFC Hasenback could be found, the search was terminated and all four men were listed Missing in Action.

On 9 May 1967, the 525th Military Intelligence Group (MIG) prepared an intelligence report documenting the first of several sightings of a group of 4 American Prisoners of War beginning less than two weeks after the sampan vanished. The crux of the report documents: "… the 5 May 1967 sightings of 4 POWs in the area with 2000 NVA." The evaluation of the report written at the time states: "Note: Mangino, Winters, Nidds and Hasenback are missing from vicinity 622987 on 21 April 67. The unidentified US POWs in this sighting of 5 May might well be them." This intelligence report bears the typed signature of Major Stafford. On 18 May 1967, the CIA received the 9 May military intelligence report and promptly placed copies of it in the files maintained by that agency on these men.

Just over two months after this loss incident, the CIA prepared Intelligence Cable "TDCS 314/1008 67 Field No. FVS-15, 314." This report, which was generated from two separate and unrelated sources, details the capture of four soldiers on 21 April 1967. It states: "...(the 4 soldiers were captured) on the Thuong Hoa River by a Binh Son District VC main force … they were to be moved to a western area." According to the CIA analyst, the two reports are "evaluated 'possibly true' by each of the sources mentioned hereunder..." The CIA report also makes note of Major Stafford, the US military intelligence analyst who evaluated at least one of the original sighting reports, who wrote in his own hand at the bottom of the report, "Note: E4 Mangino, E3 Nidds, E3 Winters and E3 Hasenback fit the description of the report." In 1977, the CIA reevaluated Intelligence Cable "TDCS 314/1008 67 Field No. FVS-15, 314." The analyst included the following comment: "The info in field RE: other source reporting (Exc. the Feb. 67 camp report) relates in all likelihood to Hasenback plus 3 lost on the Tra Bong River at BS 62x98x on 21 April 1967."

On 23 April 1968, US intelligence wrote an 18-page POW "Brightlight" report documenting: "Wartime source selected photos of PFC Nidds as 'possibly' one of dozens of US POWs seen in Military Region (MR) Thu Thien Hue. A recent evaluation of the identifications of each POW/MIA photo was placed in Daniel Nidds file." While the list of names was placed in the file, there was no mention regarding the accuracy of drawings of the camp in which these prisoners were being held or of the detailed personnel structure of the camp, including guards/cadre names, ages, section in which they worked, and the names of their home villages.

From a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) information report dated 31 October 1970, authored by DIA analyst Mrs. McAfee: "This is a Brightlights report (that) contains information relating to two POWs." On page one: "… possibly Hasenback, P.A., Mangino, T. A., Nidds, D. R., Winters, D. M. … details warrant checking by TAGO." Written in longhand in the margin of page five of this document are the names "Hasenback, Nidds, Winters" and the names Hasenback and Winters are circled.

From a "Joint Message Traffic" cable identified as "DD 173 dated October 1971 - MACV for JPRC (Joint Personnel Recovery Center), Subject Search Efforts: " the following additional sighting information is found: … our msg 081245Z Oct 71 subject above. The following info is provided: …Winters, David M. punch 5234 1967 possible POW. JPRC will provide further data …" and the cable is signed by Lt. Col. George W. Jenks.

In April 1991 the US government released a list of Prisoners of War and Missing in Action who were known to be alive in enemy hands and for whom there is no evidence that he or she died in captivity. This list, commonly referred to today as the USG's "Last Known Alive" list, includes Paul Hasenback, David Winters, Daniel Nidds and Thomas Mangino.

In May 1991, a US team under the auspices of the Joint Task Force for Full Accounting (JTFFA) was informed by a Vietnamese official that PFC Winters was dead. That official provided no evidence, proof of death or remains to support that claim. Further, he provided no information about the fate of the men lost with David Winters.

In August 1992, another JTFFA team returned to Binh Son District to pursue information about this loss incident. Team members interviewed witnesses who claimed to have first-hand or hearsay knowledge of it. Those witnesses stated that "four men were ambushed, and their bodies were thrown into the river to keep them from being observed by search and rescue helicopters." They also claimed "the bodies were later buried in three separate locations in an area that today is under the Tra Song River."

Two months later, in November 1992, John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, traveled to Vietnam. While there, he received a wartime diary written by Senior Colonel Pham Duc Dai and reportedly documenting the immediate deaths of the "Mangino four." Senator Kerry accepted Col. Dai's account at face value and declared the fate of Thomas Mangino, Paul Hasenback, David Winters and Daniel Nidds resolved. Interestingly, the wording and sentence structure in the Dai diary is eerily similar to the wording used by the witnesses in the August 1992 interviews.

The families obtained a copy of Col. Dai's diary and compared the information in it with the wealth of US intelligence generated about their loved ones during and after the end of the war. The four families signed a letter outlining the facts of the case. In regard to the diary, they wrote: "Our investigation, supported by official documents, proves the diary of Col. Pham Duc Dai to be, at best, a well written propaganda piece of the times. At worst, it is a deliberate attempt to mislead US investigators."

In spite of the fact that the US Army only listed SP4 Mangino, PFC Hasenback, PFC Nidds and PFC Winters Missing in Action, the US Government has tacitly admitted that the four men were in fact captured and Prisoners of War. If they died in captivity, each man has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if they survived, their fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different. Either way the Vietnamese could return them or their 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 men in Vietnam were called upon to live and fight under 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.