AIKEN, LARRY D.
Name: Larry D. Aiken
Rank/Branch: E4/US Army
Date of Birth:
Home City of Record:
Date of Loss: 13 May 1969
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 151000N 1080200E (BT252162)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
2007 PMSEA - changed the status of Aiken from EE to a new status of RR.
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 February 1991 from one or more
of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources,
correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. UPDATED
BY THE P.O.W. NETWORK.
REMARKS: 790710 RECOVERED FROM VC HOSPITAL
SYNOPSIS: The records of the millions of U.S. servicemen in Vietnam are so
extensive that errors and inconsistencies were bound to occur occasionally.
The same is true of those men who are missing, prisoner or otherwise
The case of Cpl. Larry D. Aiken is one example. Aiken, a negro, is listed as
missing on May 13, 1969. Intelligence later revealed that he had been
captured, but was "recovered" by unnamed individuals from a Viet Cong
hospital. Thus, on lists compiled which showed the status of each missing
American in 1973, Aiken was listed as a released POW.
At some point between 1973 and 1980, however, additional information must
have been received as Aiken's status was changed to escaped POW. Currently,
Defense Intelligence Agency classifies Aiken as a returned POW.
Because Aiken's name does not appear on many of the lists of returned POWs,
many POW/MIA activist groups maintain his name on file as one on whom
insufficient information is available. These groups are aware that even one
man could easily be forgotten because of clerical errors.
As reports mount that indicate Americans are still alive, POW/MIA groups
work harder to be sure that not a single man is forgotten.
Another version of what might have happened to Larry Aiken can be found on
pages 237 and 238 of Benjamin Schemmer's "THE RAID", published by Avon. It
Son Tay was not only not the first rescue attempt, in Southeast Asia in this
conflict. It was, in fact, the 71st "dry hole." In South Vietnam, Cambodia,
and Laos such rescue operations were mounted between 1966 an 1970. At least
45 of them, probably closer to 50, were triggered by reports of U.S. POWs.
Seventy-nine of the operations involved outright "raids." Of the 91 rescue
operations, 20 succeeded-in rescuing 318 South Vietnamese soldiers and 60
civilians. But of 45 raids mounted to rescue American prisoners, only one
succeeded. Army Specialist Fourth Class Larry D. Aiken was rescued on July
10, 1969, from a Viet Cong POW camp, but he died in an American hospital 15
days later of wounds inflicted by his captors just before his rescue. The
raid, apparently, had been compromised at the last minute.
All of the rescue missions before Son Tay had been handled within the Joint
Personnel Recovery Center (JPRC), a separate staff section within MACV
Headquarters in Saigon. The results of the JPRC's efforts were no less
heartbreaking than the raid on Son Tay. In December of 1966, for instance,
a confidential informant passed word of American prisoners being held by the
Viet Cong. The JPRC found his information credible and launched a raid.
There was a heavy fire fight in which 35 Viet Cong were killed and 34 others
detained. During interrogation, they confirmed that Americans had been held
in the camp. The prisoners had been moved just before the raid.
Some of the JPRC's raids failed because intelligence was compromised, others
because the rescues weren't launched quickly enough. This happened on one
raid in 1967 when a South Vietnamese escapee from a Viet Cong POW camp
reported the location of two camps containing American prisoners. His
report was challenged at first, then finally verified. A raid was launched,
and at one camp, 21 South Vietnamese prisoners were recovered. The other
camp was empty. Yet evidence showed that American POWs had been there. The
released South Vietnamese POWs said that the Americans had been moved about
30 days before the raid, after the escapee first reported the presence of
American prisoners there.
After Aiken's 1969 rescue, efforts to find POW camps and free prisoners in
South Vietnam and Cambodia intensified. In 1970 alone, 24 separate rescue
operations were conducted in the south. They failed to unearth even the
remains of a single U.S. prisoner. The rescue missions continued even after
the failure of the Son Tay raid. By 1973 such missions would total 119,
including 98 raids. Aiken would remain the only American ever to be