HARGROVE, JOSEPH NELSON
Name: Joseph Nelson Hargrove Rank/Branch: E3/US Marine Corps Unit: F BLT/2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, 3rd Marine Division Date of Birth: 15 May 1951 Home City of Record: Mt. Olive NC Date of Loss: 15 May 1975 Country of Loss: Cambodia/Over Water Loss Coordinates: 101800N 1030830E (TS960400) Status (in 1973): Missing in Action Category: 2 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground Refno: 1998
Source: Compiled 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 in 2010.
Other Personnel in Incident: Daniel A. Benedett; Lynn Blessing; Walter Boyd; Gregory S. Copenhaver; Andres Garcia; Bernard Gause Jr., James J. Jacques; Ronald J. Manning; James R. Maxwell; Richard W. Rivenburgh; Antonio R. Sandoval; Kelton R. Turner; Richard Van de Geer (all missing on CH53A); Danny G. Marshall (missing on Koah Tang Island); Elwood E. Rumbaugh (missing from a CH53A)
REMARKS: 750515 MAYAGUEZ INCIDENT LOSS
SYNOPSIS: When U.S. troops were pulled out of Southeast Asia in early 1975, Vietnamese communist troops began capturing one city after another, with Hue, Da Nang and Ban Me Thuot in March, Xuan Loc in April, and finally on April 30, Saigon. In Cambodia, communist Khmer Rouge had captured the capital city of Phnom Penh on April 17. The last Americans were evacuated from Saigon during "Option IV", with U.S. Ambassador Martin departing on April 29. The war, according to President Ford, "was finished."
2Lt. Richard Van de Geer, assigned to the 21st Special Ops Squadron at NKP, had participated in the evacuation of Saigon, where helicopter pilots were required to fly from the decks of the 7th Fleet carriers stationed some 500 miles offshore, fly over armed enemy-held territory, collect American and allied personnel and return to the carriers via the same hazardous route, heavily loaded with passengers. Van de Geer wrote to a friend, "We pulled out close to 2,000 people. We couldn't pull out any more because it was beyond human endurance to go any more..."
At 11:21 a.m. on May 12, the U.S. merchant ship MAYAGUEZ was seized by the Khmer Rouge in the Gulf of Siam about 60 miles from the Cambodian coastline and eight miles from Poulo Wai island. The ship, owned by Sea-Land Corporation, was en route to Sattahip, Thailand from Hong Kong, carrying a non-arms cargo for military bases in Thailand.
Capt. Charles T. Miller, a veteran of more than 40 years at sea, was on the bridge. He had steered the ship within the boundaries of international waters, but the Cambodians had recently claimed territorial waters 90 miles from the coast of Cambodia. The thirty-nine seamen aboard were taken prisoner.
President Ford ordered the aircraft carrier USS CORAL SEA, the guided missile destroyer USS HENRY B. WILSON and the USS HOLT to the area of seizure. By night, a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft located the MAYAGUEZ at anchor off Poulo WaI island. Plans were made to rescue the crew. A battalion landing team of 1,100 Marines was ordered flown from bases in Okinawa and the Philippines to assemblE at Utapao, Thailand in preparation for the assault.
The first casualties of the effort to free the MAYAGUEZ are recorded on May 13 when a helicopter carrying Air Force security team personnel crashed en route to Utapao, killing all 23 aboard.
Early in the morning of May 13, the Mayaguez was ordered to head for Koh Tang island. Its crew was loaded aboard a Thai fishing boat and taken first to Koh Tang, then to the mainland city of Kompong Song, then to Rong San Lem island. U.S. intelligence had observed a cove with considerable activity on the island of Koh Tang, a small five-mile long island about 35 miles off the coast of Cambodia southwest of the city of Sihanoukville (Kampong Saom), and believed that some of the crew might be held there. They also knew of the Thai fishing boat, and had observed what appeared to be caucasians aboard it, but it could not be determined if some or all of the crew was aboard.
The USS HOLT was ordered to seize and secure the MAYAGUEZ, still anchored off Koh Tang. Marines were to land on the island and rescue any of the crew. Navy jets from the USS CORAL SEA were to make four strikes on military installments on the Cambodian mainland.
On May 15, the first wave of 179 Marines headed for the island aboard eight Air Force "Jolly Green Giant" helicopters. Three Air Force helicopters unloaded Marines from the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines onto the landing pad of the USS HOLT and then headed back to Utapao to pick up the second wave of Marines. Planes dropped tear gas on the MAYAGUEZ, and the USS HOLT pulled up along side the vessel and the Marines stormed aboard. The MAYAGUEZ was deserted.
Simultaneously, the Marines of the 2/9 were making their landings on two other areas of the island. The eastern landing zone was on the cove side where the Cambodian compound was located. The western landing zone was a narrow spit of beach about 500 feet behind the compound on the other side of the island. The Marines hoped to surround the compound.
As the first troops began to unload on both beaches, the Cambodians opened fire. On the western beach, one helicopter was hit and flew off crippled, to ditch in the ocean about 1 mile away. The pilot had just disembarked his passengers, and he was rescued at sea.
Meanwhile, the eastern landing zone had become a disaster. The first two helicopters landing were met by enemy fire. Ground commander, (now) Col. Randall W. Austin had been told to expect between 20 and 40 Khmer Rouge soldiers on the island. Instead, between 150 and 200 were encountered. First, Lt. John Shramm's helicopter tore apart and crashed into the surf after the rotor system was hit. All aboard made a dash for the tree line on the beach.
One CH53A helicopter was flown by U.S. Air Force Major Howard Corson and 2Lt. Richard Van de Geer and carrying 23 U.S. Marines and 2 U.S. Navy corpsmen, all from the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines. As the helicopter approached the island, it was caught in a cross fire and hit by a rocket. The severely damaged helicopter crashed into the sea just off the coast of the island and exploded. To avoid enemy fire, survivors were forced to swim out to sea for rescue. Twelve aboard, including Maj. Corson, were rescued. Those missing from the helicopter were 2Lt. Richard Van de Geer, PFC Daniel A. Benedett, PFC Lynn Blessing, PFC Walter Boyd, Lcpl. Gregory S. Copenhaver, Lcpl. Andres Garcia, PFC James J. Jacques, PFC James R. Maxwell, PFC Richard W. Rivenburgh, PFC Antonio R. Sandoval, PFC Kelton R. Turner, all U.S. Marines. Also missing were HM1 Bernard Gause, Jr. and HM Ronald J. Manning, the two corpsmen.
Other helicopters were more successful in landing their passengers. One CH53A, however was not. SSgt. Elwood E. Rumbaugh's aircraft was near the coastline when it was shot down. Rumbaugh is the only missing man from the aircraft. The passengers were safely extracted. (It is not known whether the passengers went down with the aircraft or whether they were rescued from the island.)
By midmorning, when the Cambodians on the mainland began receiving reports of the assault, they ordered the crew of the MAYAGUEZ on a Thai boat, and then left. The MAYAGUEZ crew was recovered by the USS WILSON before the second wave of Marines was deployed, but the second wave was ordered to attack anyway.
Late in the afternoon, the assault force had consolidated its position on the western landing zone and the eastern landing zone was evacuated at 6:00 p.m. By the end of the 14-hour operation, most of the Marines were extracted from the island safely, with 50 wounded. Lcpl. Ashton Loney had been killed by enemy fire, but his body could not be recovered.
Protecting the perimeter during the final evacuation was the machine gun squad of PFC Gary L. Hall, Lcpl. Joseph N. Hargrove and Pvt. Danny G. Marshall. They had run out of ammunition and were ordered to evacuate on the last helicopter. It was their last contact. Maj. McNemar and Maj. James H. Davis made a final sweep of the beach before boarding the helicopter and were unable to locate them. They were declared Missing in Action.
The eighteen men missing from the MAYAGUEZ incident are listed among the missing from the Vietnam war. Although authorities believe that there are perhaps hundreds of American prisoners still alive in Southeast Asia from the war, most are pessimistic about the fates of those captured by the Khmer Rouge.
In 1988, the communist government of Kampuchea (Cambodia) announced that it wished to return the remains of several dozen Americans to the United States. (In fact, the number was higher than the official number of Americans missing in Cambodia.) Because the U.S. does not officially recognize the Cambodian government, it has refused to respond directly to the Cambodians regarding the remains. Cambodia, wishing a direct acknowledgment from the U.S. Government, still holds the remains.
------------------------ National Alliance of Families 02/26/00 Newsletter
Inadvertently Left Behind - Within the next several months, the Defense Department will announce the remains identification of servicemen lost on May 15th 1975, at the Kho Tang Island, Cambodia. Eighteen airman, sailors and marines were lost during an attempt to free the U.S. merchant vessel Mayaguez. A detailed article by Lisa Hoffman of Scirpps Howard News Service , published in the Washington Times, on February 23rd 2000 details incident and the evidence that three men were inadvertently left behind... alive.
"...absent is a final accounting of the fate of three Marines who inadvertently were left behind on the island when the rest evacuated. They are believed to have been captured and executed days later."
"The tragic story of the Kho Tang battle began with the seizure of the Mayaguez off the southern coast of Cambodia, 12 days after the fall of South Vietnam's capital, Saigon. President Ford ordered U.S. forces to rescue the 39 crew members."
"By the time the Marines launched their assault, the Cambodians had released the Mayaguez sailors on the Cambodian mainland. An intelligence failure left the Marines unaware that their services no longer were needed."
"More than 230 Marines stormed ashore on Kho Tang, expecting an easy job of overcoming a small enemy encampment numbering no more than 20. Instead, they were met by a well-armed force of 150. A furious battle lasted three hours. Among the losses was the CH-53A helicopter, on which 13 GIs died. In all, 18 U.S. troops were killed.
"The Marines drew back and waited 15 hours to be evacuated from the island, in what became one of the most dramatic rescues of the war. A three-man machine gun team, which included Covington, Ky., native Gary Hall, was dispatched to protect the troops' flank during the withdrawal. But in the fog of battle, the team was mistakenly overlooked. It wasn't until the next day that their absence was realized. By then, it was too late to go back."
"Although their fate is not entirely certain, it is believed the trio survived for several days before being captured and killed. One reportedly was shot to death after being caught stealing food from the Khmer Rouge camp . The other two apparently were bludgeoned to death."
"It wasn't until 1992 that military investigators with the Pentagon's Joint Task Force-Full Accounting operation, which is in charge of accounting for U.S. MIAs, were able to explore either the island or the helicopter wreckage just offshore."
"By 1995, the team - which faced obstacles ranging from unexploded ordnance, poisonous snakes, fierce storms and tropical diseases - had come up with an elaborate method of essentially salvaging the CH-53A chopper so it could be searched for remains. They built a dam around the helicopter and pumped out the water and sand.
"Despite a quarter century of squalls, tides and scavengers, the investigators managed to recover 161 human bone fragments and a few personal effects - all that was left of the GIs, according to Tom Holland, scientific director for the Army's identification lab.
"Later, scientists determined that the bones came from 13 different men. It took another three years to "harvest" enough DNA from the bones and then match it with DNA samples taken from maternal relatives to definitively identify nine of them."
"That left four men unidentified. The remains of three of them were too small to obtain a DNA sample."
Three Marines were left behind on Koh Tang. They are Joseph Hargrove, Gary Hall and Danny Marshall. In the almost 25 years, since that battle, we wonder if anyone has ever explained to the Hargrove, Hall and Marshall families how these men were "inadvertently left behind." Or, why it was "to late" to go back for them. Imagine what these men thought as they waited for rescue and their thoughts when they finally realized no one was coming for them.
One Families Thoughts - The following was sent to us, by Sandy Hargrove. She is the sister-in-law of Joseph Hargrove, "inadvertently left behind" on Kho Tang Island.
"Joseph Hargrove was lost on May 15th 1975 his 24th birthday. I know the whole Hargrove family just knows that Joseph was sacrificed. We were never told the truth."
"Joseph's older brother Lane was killed on April 21,1968. When Lane was going over he was asked if he wanted to go to Canada by one of his older brothers who had already done his time in the Army. Lane said no he wanted to go to Nam."
"In those days we honestly believed that the government cared about us as people. They wouldn't send someone to a foreign country and have him risk his life for no reason... or would they. What we know now and what we knew then. With all that we have gone through I think we would have all gone to Canada with him."
"So Lane was blown up stepping on a land mine and his little brother Joseph just got left behind. So will someone tell me how this country is a better place because it is missing Joseph and Lane Hargrove. Joseph is a human being not a number. How dare anyone to think they can just forget about them. If it wasn't for Ralph writing that article in Popular Science over a year ago I would still get the standard reply I usually get when I mention the Mayaguez. "The What?"
"Well Joseph never came home because of that What. How easily people forget . But now there is a movement out there to hold the government accountable. I love my country don't get me wrong but the people who run it haven't done a very good job as far as Viet Nam. If anything I hope the guys deaths will prevent this from happening again."
"There are other little Hargroves growing up now Thank you God. Maybe they all will have a chance to grow up and have families not just some of them. The families that Lane or Joseph never had, leave a big empty spot at the family reunions." Sandy Hargrove
National Alliance of Families For The Return of America's Missing Servicemen World War II - Korea - Cold War - Vietnam
Dolores Alfond - 425-881-1499 Lynn O'Shea --- 718-846-4350 Web Site ------- http://www.nationalalliance.org E-mail ---------- firstname.lastname@example.org
Bits 'N' Pieces May 20, 2000
MIA Marines Identified From Mayaguez Incident - From the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense - News Release May 18, 2000 - "Six Marines missing in action from the Vietnam War have been accounted for and their remains are being returned to their families for burial in the United States ."
"They are identified as Lance Cpl. Gregory S. Copenhaver, Port Deposit, Md.; Lance Cpl. Andres Garcia, Carlsbad, N.M.; Pfc. Walter Boyd, Norfolk, Va.; and Pfc. Kelton R. Turner, Los Angeles, Calif. The names of two Marines are being withheld at the request of their families."
"...Between 1991-99, U.S. and Cambodian investigators conducted seven joint investigations, led by the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting. Additionally, on three occasions Cambodian authorities unilaterally turned over remains believed to be those of American servicemen. In October and November 1995, U.S. and Cambodian specialists conducted an underwater recovery of the helicopter crash site where they located numerous remains, personal effects and aircraft debris associated with the loss. The USS Brunswick, a Navy salvage vessel, enabled the specialists to conduct their excavation off shore. In addition to the support provided by the Cambodian government, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam also interviewed two Vietnamese informants in Ho Chi Minh City who turned over remains that were later positively identified...."
"...Analysis of the remains and other evidence was made by the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii, which also conducted all the remains recovery operations. The CILHI made extensive use of mitochondrial DNA as one of the forensic identification tools to establish the identity of these men...."
Mayaguez Documentary - We hope you all saw the excellent documentary on the Mayaguez incident aired by the Discovery Channel. Titled "Seized at Sea" this documentary provided detailed information on the actual battle as well as the behind the scenes political decision making that led to the ill-fated rescue.
An interview with one of the Cambodian soldiers provided information on three Marines left behind alive. According to the Cambodia the three emerged from the jungle three days after the battle, seeking food and water.
The fate of the three, Joseph Hargrove, Danny Marshall and Gary Hall remain unknown.
Another Question - viewers of "Seized at Sea" were left with is -- Just what does the "I" in "CIA" stand for. Based on the information provided by the CIA for this operation the "I" sure didn't stand for "Intelligence."
Mayaguez Correction - In the last edition of "Bits" we referred to the Mayaguez as USS Mayaguez. The correct designation is S.S. Mayaguez. The difference, USS denotes a United States Naval Ship. The S.S. denotes a commercial freighter. The Mayaguez was a civilian ship. Thanks to Dewey Martin, U.S. Merchant Marines (Ret) for bringing this to our attention.
CBS News Online http://cbsnews.com/now/story/0,1597,266790-412,00.shtml
CBS News Online http://cbsnews.com/now/story/0,1597,267060-412,00.shtml
A Military Mission Gone Wrong A New Look At The Mayaguez Incident
ARLINGTON, Virginia, January 24, 2001 (CBS) In a two-part series, CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports on new information that casts doubt on the declared success of a 25-year-old military mission.
At the motel where she works, the graveyard shift can be lonely. But Gail Hargrove has had 25 years of practice being alone.....
By Matthew Whittle Published in News on April 12, 2007 01:51 PM
Fighting to get Joseph back home
Few members of the Hargrove family talk about it -- not because they want to forget, but because going back to the day they learned that their son, Joseph, was gone, remembering how it took 20 years to find out what had happened and knowing they still haven't brought him home, is simply too painful....
========================================================== Goldsboro News Argus - Goldsboro,NC,USA
Officials say no to plea to travel to gravesite
Early last week, Cary Turner got the news he had been waiting for, but it wasn't what he wanted to hear.
A month after learning that the U.S. Army was planning a trip to the Cambodian island his cousin, Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Hargrove, was left behind on in 1975, Turner found out that his request to accompany the recovery team had been denied.....
By Matthew Whittle Published in News on July 16, 2007 01:45 PM
Fresh off his trip to Cambodia, Cary Turner said last week that while he was glad to be home, he was disappointed to not be coming back with any news about his cousin Joseph Hargrove, who was one of three Marines left behind on Koh Tang Island in 1975.....
Published in News on February 11, 2008 01:46 PM
Mayaguez MIA family still awaits final word
Jacksonville Daily News
I wear a Prisoner of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) bracelet engraved with Lance Cpl. Hargrove's name. I have worn it everyday, all day, for 10 years. ...