PAYNE, NORMAN

Name Norman Payne
Rank/Branch: E5/US Army Special Forces
Unit: FOB 1, Command and Control North, 5th Special Forces Group
Date of Birth: 14 July 1939 (Greenville AL)
Home City of Record: Cleveland OH
Date of Loss: 19 December 1968
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 162130N 1065030E (XD978095)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Refno: 1343
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 30 June 1990 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 1998.

REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS: MACV-SOG (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and
Observation Group). MACV-SOG was a joint service high command unconventional
warfare task force engaged in highly classified operations throughout
Southeast Asia. The 5th Special Forces channeled personnel into MACV-SOG
(although it was not a Special Forces group) through Special Operations
Augmentation (SOA), which provided their "cover" while under secret orders
to MACV-SOG. The teams performed deep penetration missions of strategic
reconnaissance and interdiction which were called, depending on the time
frame, "Shining Brass" or "Prairie Fire" missions.

SGT Norman Payne joined the army in July, 1957. In Vietnam, he was assigned
to FOB 1, Command and Control North, MACV-SOG. On December 18, 1968, Payne
was serving as the patrol leader of a reconnaissance patrol on a mission in
Savannakhet Laos. The team was operating about six miles inside Laos, just
west of South Vietnam's A Shau Valley.

Early in the evening of the 18th, the team split into two elements and the
elements were preparing to set up a night defensive position when they were
attacked by fifteen enemy soldiers. SGT Payne was last seen by the team
leader, SP4 Donald C. Sheppard, moving away from his element's position in
an attempt to join the other team element. The other team members evaded
capture that night and were picked up the next day.

The team leader reported that a search team was sent in on the 19th and
found evidence that SGT Payne was alive [the evidence was not specified by
the Army in public records, but in now-classified records, it is stated that
a garbled emergency radio transmission, the last word of which sounded like
"bison" - Payne's codename - was received by Sheppard during extraction].
The search team had followed the route down an embankment and along a creek
bed which was traveled by the second element of the company and later by
Payne. The search team made contact with the enemy on December 20th and was
forced to withdraw without ever finding SGT Payne.

For every insertion like Payne's that was detected and stopped, dozens of
other commando teams safely slipped past NVA, Khmer Rouge and Pathet Lao
lines to strike a wide range of targets and collect vital information. The
number of MACV-SOG missions conducted with Special Forces reconnaissance
teams into Laos and Cambodia was 452 in 1969. It was the most sustained
American campaign of raiding, sabotage and intelligence gathering waged on
foreign soil in U.S. military history. MACV-SOG's teams earned a global
reputation as one of the most combat-effective, deep-penetration forces ever
raised.

The missions Norman Payne and others were assigned were exceedingly
dangerous and of strategic importance. The men who were put into such
situations knew the chances of their recovery if captured was slim to none.
They quite naturally assumed that their freedom would come by the end of the
war. For 591 Americans, freedom did come at the end of the war. For another
2500, however, freedom has never come. For nearly the 600 lost in Laos, the
war never ended. Although the Pathet Lao stated they held "tens of tens" of
American prisoners, the U.S. did not negotiate for them, and not one
American held in Laos was released.

Since the war ended, over 10,000 reports relating to missing Americans in
Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S., convincing many authorities
that hundreds remain alive in captivity. Norman Payne could be among them.
If so, what must he think of us?