ROWE, JAMES NICHOLAS "NICK"
Deceased James Nicholas Rowe is buried in Section 48 Arlington National Cemetery.
Name: James Nicholas "Nick" Rowe Rank/Branch: O2/US Army Special Forces Unit: Detachment A-23, 5th Special Forces Group Date of Birth: Home City of Record: McAllen TX (res. Potomac MD in 1973) Loss Date: 29 October 1963 Country of Loss: South Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 092626N 1050917E (WR170435) Status (in 1973): Escaped POW Category: Acft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Other Personnel in Incident: Humberto R. Versace (missing); Daniel L. Pitzer (released 1967); At Hiep Hoa: Claude D. McClure; George E. Smith (released 1965); Issac Camacho (escaped 1965); Kenneth M. Roraback (missing).
Source: Compiled by HOMECOMING II 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 May 2002 with information from American Ex-POWs historian, Helen Smith. 2014
REMARKS: 681231 ESCAPED
SYNOPSIS: The U.S. Army Special Forces, Vietnam (Provisional) was formed at Saigon in 1962 to advise and assist the South Vietnamese government in the organization, training, equipping and employment of the Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) forces. Total personnel strength in 1963 was 674, all but 98 of whom were TDY from 1st Special Forces Group on Okinawa and 5th and 7th Special Forces Groups at Ft. Bragg. USSF Provisonal was given complete charge of the CIDG program, formerly handled by the CIA, on July 1, 1963.
The USSF Provisional/CIDG network consisted of fortified, strategically located camps, each one with an airstrip. The area development programs soon evolved into combat operations, and by the end of October 1963, the network also had responsibility for border surveillance. Two of the Provisional/CIDG camps were at Hiep Hoa (Detachment A-21) and Tan Phu (Detachment A-23), Republic of Vietnam. Their isolated locations, in the midst of known heavy enemy presence, made the camps vulnerable to attack.
On October 29, 1963, Capt. "Rocky" Versace, 1Lt. "Nick" Rowe, and Sgt. Daniel Pitzer were accompanying a CIDG company on an operation along a canal. The team left the camp at Tan Phu for the village of Le Coeur to roust a small enemy unit that was establishing a command post there. When they reached the village, they found the enemy gone, and pursued them, falling into an ambush at about 1000 hours. The fighting continued until 1800 hours, when reinforcements were sent in to relieve the company. During the fight, Versace, Pitzer and Rowe were all captured. The three captives were photographed together in a staged setting in the U Minh forest in their early days of captivity.
The camp at Hiep Hoa was located in the Plain of Reeds between Saigon and the Cambodian border. In late October 1963, several Viet Cong surrendered at the camp, claiming they wished to defect. Nearly a month later, on November 24, Hiep Hoa was overrun by an estimated 400-500 Viet Cong just after midnight. Viet Cong sympathizers in the camp had killed the guards and manned a machine gun position at the beginning of the attack. The Viet Cong climbed the camp walls and shouted in Vietnamese, "Don't shoot! All we want is the Americans and the weapons!" Lt. John Colbe, the executive officer, evaded capture. Capt. Doug Horne, the Detachment commander, had left earlier with a 36 man Special Forces/CIDG force. The Viet Cong captured four of the Americans there. It was the first Special Forces camp to be overrun in the Vietnam War.
Those captured at Hiep Hoa were SFC Issac "Ike" Camacho, SFC Kenneth M. Roraback (the radio operator), Sgt. George E. "Smitty" Smith and SP5 Claude D. McClure. Their early days of captivity were spent in the Plain of Reeds, southwest of Hiep Hoa, and they were later held in the U Minh forest.
"Ike" Camacho continually looked for a way to escape. In July 1965, he was successful. His and Smith's chains had been removed for use on two new American prisoners, and in the cover of a violent night storm, Camacho escaped and made his way to the village of Minh Thanh. He was the first American serviceman to escape from the Viet Cong in the Second Indochina War. McClure and Smith were released from Cambodia in November 1965.
Rocky Versace had been torn between the Army and the priesthood. When he won an appointment to West Point, he decided God wanted him to be a soldier. He was to enter Maryknoll (an order of Missionaries), as a candidate for the priesthood, when he left Vietnam. It was evident from the beginning that Versace, who spoke fluent French and Vietnamese, was going to be a problem for the Viet Cong. Although Versace was known to love the Vietnamese people, he could not accept the Viet Cong philosophy of revolution, and spent long hours assailing their viewpoints. His captors eventually isolated him to attempt to break him.
Rowe and Pitzer saw Rocky at interludes during their first months of captivity, and saw that he had not broken. Indeed, although he became very thin, he still attempted to escape. By January 1965, Versace's steel-grey hair had turned completely white. He was an inspiration to them both. Rowe wrote:
..The Alien force, applied with hate, could not break him, failed to bend him; Though solitary imprisonment gave him no friends, he drew upon his inner self to create a force so strong that those who sought to destroy his will, met an army his to command..
On Sunday, September 26, 1965, "Liberation Radio" announced the execution of Rocky Versace and Kenneth Roraback in retaliation for the deaths of 3 terrorists in Da Nang. A later news article stated that the executions were faked, but the Army did not reopen an investigaton. In the late 1970's information regarding this "execution" became classified, and is no longer part of public record.
Sgt. Pitzer was released from Cambodia November 11, 1967.
1Lt. Nick Rowe was scheduled to be executed in late December 1968. His captors had had enough of him - his refusal to accept the communist ideology and his continued escape attempts. While away from the camp in the U Minh forest, Rowe took advantage of a sudden flight of American helicopters, struck down his guards, and ran into a clearing where the helicopters noticed him and rescued him, still clad in black prisoner pajamas. He had been promoted to Major during his five years of captivity.
Rowe remained in the Army, and shared his survival techniques in Special Forces classes. In 1987, Lt.Col. Rowe was assigned to the Philippines, where he assisted in training anti-communists. On April 21, 1989, a machine gun sniper attacked Rowe in his car, killing him instantly.
Of the seven U.S. Army Special Forces personnel captured at Hiep Hoa and Tan Phu, the fates of only Versace and Roraback remain unknown. The execution was never fully documented; it is not known with certainty that these two men died. Although the Vietnamese claim credit for their deaths, they did not return their remains. From the accounts of those who knew them, if these men were not executed, they are still fighting for their country.
---------------------------- NICK ROWE: U.S. KNEW INDEPENDENTLY OF THREAT TO HIS LIFE INTELLIGENCE WAS NEVER PASSED ON
Special to the U.S. Veteran by James Neilson
In the Fall prior to Col. Nick Rowe having been gunned down on April 21, 1989 by members of the communist New Peoples' Army (NPA) in the Philippines, the U.S. State Department's Intelligence and Research Bureau had assimilated reliable information on the Communist Party's intensified efforts to ferret out and execute "deep penetration agents" working for the CIA inside the Philippines' communist organization, U.S. Veteran News and Report has learned.
The seriousness of this threat contrasted significantly with the State Department's having ignored Rowe's own warnings that the NPA, the Philippine equivalent of the Vietcong, was planning major terrorist acts against U.S. military advisors.
A highly decorated Green Beret and Vietnam veteran who survived five years of captivity in a Viet Cong prison camp, Rowe was chief of the army division of the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG) providing counter-insurgency training for the Philippine military. In this capacity, he worked closely with the CIA, and was involved in its nearly decade-old program to penetrate the NPA and its parent communist party in conjunction with Philippine's own intelligence organizations.
Rowe was killed instantly by one of a volley of bullets that were fired from an M-16 and a .45-caliber pistol from the hooded NPA occupants of a small white car that had pulled alongside Rowe's unarmored chauffeur-driven limousine in the Manila suburb of Quezon City.
By the time Rowe was killed, however, the State Department had known for months about the Philippine Communist Party's efforts to identify CIA-backed agents which had been infiltrated into the party's ranks since the early 1980's. The State Department also knew that "a number" of these agents had already been captured, interrogated and executed. For almost a year prior to Rowe's assassination by the NPA, the State Department had been monitoring the communist's counter- intelligence efforts, and knew that the CIA's assets in the party were in jeopardy as a result.
By February, 1989, Rowe had developed his own intelligence information which indicated that the communist were planning a major terrorist act. As a result of the intelligence and his analysis of the situation in the Philippines, Rowe wrote Washington warning that a high-profile figure was about to be hit and that he, himself, was No.2 or No.3 on the terrorist list.
The State Department ignored Rowe's letter and apparently never warned him about the seriousness of the threat. Intelligence sources say Rowe was a "classic expendable;" that he was not warned because he likely would have tried to safely get out any agents he personally knew of inside the NPA or communist party.
"Undoubtedly there were some who didn't want to loose those assets," an intelligence source said.
One reason such assets may have been deemed important enough not to alert Rowe to the threat was that the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) was receiving information on possible growing Cuban involvement with the NPA.
Six months before Rowe's murder, the DIA had learned that Cuban advisors appeared to be assisting the NPA in the South-Central Luzon province, one of the two provinces where the NPA was focusing on ferreting out CIA agents within its ranks.
Neither the DIA or the State Department would comment on any of the intelligence it has collected on the NPA or Communist Party. Although Rowe was a visible military official and certainly a target for the communist terrorists, some intelligence sources believe his assassination resulted from his having been fingered as a possible control officer or trainer of agents inside the NPA or Communist Party who had been identified and interrogated.
Evidence suggests that Rowe's Vietnam experience was not coincidental to his selection as a target. In June of 1989, from an NPA stronghold in the hills of Sorsogon, a province in Southern Luzon's Bicol region, senior cadre Celso Minguez told the Far Eastern Economic Review magazine that the communist underground wished to send "a message to the American people" by killing a Vietnam veteran.
"We want to let them know that their government is making the Philippines another Vietnam," Minguez, a founder of the communist insurgency in Bicol and participant in the abortive 1986 peace talks with President Corazon Aquino's government told the REVIEW.
In May 1989, U.S. Veteran News and Report reported that according to a source who had served under Rowe, the Vietnamese communist also wanted Rowe dead and very likely collaborated with the Philippine insurgents to achieve that goal.
The source who wished to remain anonymous said that prior to Rowe being assigned to the Philippines in 1987, at one point in Greece while Rowe was on assignment, Delta Force, the U.S. anti-terrorist organization, moved in, secured the area and relocated Rowe. They had received reports that Vietnamese communist agents were planning an action against Rowe.
"He was a target when he went over there because of his dealings with the North Vietnamese and his time as a prisoner," Robert Mountel, a retired Special Forces colonel and former commander of the 5th Special Forces Group, subsequently explained, confirming what the other source had said. "They had him on their list."
Despite the clear danger especially posed to Rowe and other intelligence operatives, Rowe was not given a heavily armored car to travel in. One reason for this, U.S. Veteran News and Report has learned, is that budget cuts for the Defense Attache System (DAS) for 1989 had resulted in a 72 percent cut in the DAS's vehicle armoring program, causing the program to be canceled entirely last year (except for a skeleton infrastructure maintained to handle basic functions). This had a direct impact on the DAS's ability to provide adequate security to U.S. personnel abroad, according to a well-placed intelligence source.
--------------- The book "Pacific Stars and Stripes, VIETNAM Front Pages" published in 1986 states:
Five Star Edition Vol. 19, No. 304 Friday, Nov. 1, 1963
3 Aides Seized in Vietnam Battle
Saigon (AP) ....The three Americans listed as missing and believed captured were two officers and an enlisted medic. Stragglers returning from the rout said both officers had been wounded early in the fight -- one in the head and one the other in the leg.
The Army identified the three as Capt. Hubert R. Versace, Baltimore; 1st Lt. James M. Rowe, McAllen Tx; and Sgt. Daniel L. Pitzer, Spring Lake, N.C.....
Five Star Edition Vol 21, No. 270 Tuesday, Sept. 28, 1965
Report 2 Advisers Executed Saigon (UPI) -- The viet Cong executed two captive servicemen Sunday morning, the clandestine Liberation Radio said late Sunday night.
The communist radio identified the two Americans as Capt. Albert Rusk Joseph and Sgt. Kenneth Morabeth (as received phonetically)......
June 20, 2005 This appeared at the Belmont Club blog:
The assassin of Col. James Rowe, the "political prisoner" Danilo Continente, is scheduled to be freed from prison on June 28th after serving his maximum sentence. Philippine President Fidel Ramos refused to pardon Continente during his term of office despite representations by 'human rights organizations'. But with his sentence served, Continente will soon be a free man. The left-leaning Philippine Daily Inquirer has started a countdown to the blessed moment.
In just nine days, Donato Continente becomes a free man. And for him, freedom means becoming a full-time father to his 6-year-old son. Continente, 43, one of two men convicted in the killing of US Army Col. James Rowe in 1989, is set to be released from the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) in Muntinlupa on June 28. Bureau of Corrections records show that he has served the maximum sentence of 16 years.
His chief regret, the Inquirer says, has been an inability to spend time with his son, conceived on a conjugal visit.
During the occasional visit, after the child had become comfortable with his father, they would spend the allotted eight hours chatting and frolicking in the prison's playground. "He would often ask me if it was really a prisoner because he couldn't see barred cells and barbed wire." ... Continente was initially convicted as a principal in the murder of Rowe, for which he was given a life sentence on Feb. 27, 1991. But upon review, the Supreme Court ruled in August 2000 that he was only an accomplice and lowered his sentence to 14 years. He was recommended for release thrice under the Ramos administration's amnesty program: In January 1993, by the Presidential Review Committee secretariat; in June 1993, by the Department of Justice, and in 1994, by the Presidential Committee for the Grant of Bail, Release on Pardon and Parole. But Continente remained behind bars, allegedly because of pressure from the US government.
The Left always kept the faith with Continente, who at the time of the murder was a staff member of the Philippine Collegian, the student newspaper of the national university, famous for its radical politics. Ever and again they clamored for his release as they are even now doing for terrorists imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay. The New York Times reports:
May 29 - In the last few months, the small commercial air service to the naval base at Guant namo Bay, Cuba, has been carrying people the military authorities had hoped would never be allowed there: American lawyers. And they have been arriving in increasing numbers, providing more than a third of about 530 remaining detainees with representation in federal court. Despite considerable obstacles and expenses, other lawyers are lining up to challenge the government's detention of people the military has called enemy combatants and possible terrorists.
It's a way of sending them their love, showing that they care. And they do. Describing the treatment of terrorists confined in Guantanamo, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said:
"If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control," he said, "you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings."
In contrast, Colonel Nick Rowe's fate has always been to be forgotten, though he didn't seem to resent it. When Rowe was held captive as a POW in Vietnam, during which he suffered from dysentary, beri-beri and fungal attack -- diseases unknown in Durbin's Guantanamo -- he protected his fellow prisoners by concealing his identity as a Special Forces Officer, which if revealed would single them out for special cruelty. His deception worked for months. But the Left did not forget.
Acting on a request from the North Vietnamese, students in a so-called anti-war organization in the United States researched public records and formulated biographies on Americans captured in Vietnam. After reading Lt. Rowe's biography, his Viet Cong captors became furious. They marched him into a cramped bamboo hut and forced him to sit on the damp clay floor. Several high ranking Viet Cong officials were staring down at Lt. Rowe. They held out a piece of typed onion skin paper.
"The peace and justice loving friends, of the National Liberation Front, who live in America, have provided us with information which leads us to believe you have lied to us," they informed Lt. Rowe. "According to what we know, you are not an engineer . . . you have much military experience which you deny . . . You were an officer of the American Special Forces."
Lt. Rowe sat dumbfounded, unable to comprehend that his own people would betray him. He felt it was over. He had lied to the communists for five years. Worse in their eyes, the Viet Cong had believed him. They had lost face and, for that, he would be punished. Soon after, the Viet Cong Central Committee for the National Liberation Front sent orders to Rowe's camp ordering the cadre to execute the uncooperative American prisoner.
On the day Lt. Rowe was being led to a destination for execution, he and his small group of guards were caught on the edge of an American B-52 saturation bombing raid. The guards scattered, leaving Lt. Rowe with only one. Lt. Rowe knew he had nothing to lose. He bided his time until the remaining guard carelessly moved to Rowe's front, whereupon Lt. Rowe bludgeoned him with a log and escaped. Not only did Lt. Rowe survive his ordeal as a POW, he escaped and emerged stronger than before his capture, more committed to the American ideal and more convinced than ever that what the communists had planned for Vietnam and the world was a blueprint for tyranny and human suffering. Nick Rowe frustrated the communists. They never broke him. They never shook his faith in the American system. He was the quintessential American fighting man, unable to be broken mentally or physically.
The communists, however, never forgot Lt. Nick Rowe. They never forgot the threat men such as he posed to them and their view of world domination. Shortly before 7 a.m. on April 21, 1989, a small white car pulled alongside a gray, chauffeur-driven vehicle in a traffic circle in the Manila suburb of Quezon City. The barrels of an M-16 rifle and a .45-caliber pistol poked out the window of the white car and spit out more than two dozen shots. Twenty-one of them hit the gray car. One of the rounds hit Col. James "Nick" Rowe in the head, killing him instantly. The hooded NPA killers had ties to the communist Vietnamese, Rowe's old enemies in Vietnam. It took the communists nearly 25 years, but they finally silenced Nick Rowe. What they could not do in a jungle cage in South Vietnam's U Minh Forest through torture, intimidation, and political indoctrination, they did with a .45 and an American-made M-16 on the streets of Manila.
AIRBORNE & SPECIAL OPERATIONS MUSEUM FOUNDATION
100 Bragg Blvd. · Fayetteville, North Carolina 28301 • (910) 643-2766 · FAX (910) 643-2793
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT:
January 16, 2012 Airborne & Special Operations
100 Bragg Blvd., Fayetteville NC 28301
(910) 643-2774, firstname.lastname@example.org
POW Exhibit on Display at The Airborne & Special Operations Museum
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. –A very special exhibit will be on display in the Airborne & Special Operations
Raymond C. Shrump a prisoner of five years is quoted “Some of
these men died in my presence, and I can assure
you not one—not one ever lost faith in his country, his God, or in you, his fellow man.” Utilizing dioramas and
media technology the visitors will be immersed in the times. According to Dr. Nicole Suarez, Museum curator,
“Nineteen prisoners of war will be highlighted; some of these soldiers and/or their families will be at the opening
of the exhibit.”
A focal point in the exhibit is Colonel James “Nick” Rowe a U.
S. Army officer, one of only thirty-four
American prisoners of war to escape captivity during the Vietnam War. Rowe was kept in a cage made of
saplings, measuring 3 feet by 4 feet by 6 feet. The exhibit includes a realistic “tiger cage”, a replica of the one
that imprisoned Rowe. Rowe later developed the rigorous SERE training program taught to high-risk military
personnel. Visitors will be able to enter an immersive indoctrination hut an example of one used in the U Minh
Forest, better known as the "Forest of Darkness," in southern Vietnam.
A quote by Daniel Pitzer captured with Rowe has been contributed
for the title of the exhibit. “…having spent
four years in the hands of the VC, I will never again be the same after being
For more information call the ASOMF at 910-643-2774 or email@example.com.
# # #
DIA Dedicates Building to Col. Rowe
May 2, 2014
The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in Charlottesville dedicated a building today to a former prisoner of war, and Army colonel who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
Alex Rowe didn't have the chance to get to know his father, but he certainly knows his father's legacy.
“It gives you chills,” says Rowe. “While I was sitting there I said wow that my dad they are talking about.”
On Friday, the DIA dedicated a building at Rivanna Station in Charlottesville in honor of Alex's father, Colonel James Nicholas Rowe, who was killed on duty in 1989.