CASE SYNOPSIS: RORABACK, KENNETH MILLS

Name: Kenneth Mills Roraback
Rank/Branch: E8/US Army Special Forces
Unit: Detachment A-21, Company B, 5th Special Forces Group
Date of Birth: 09 February 1932 (Brooklyn NY)
Home City of Record: Baldwin NY
Date of Loss: 24 November 1963
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 105444N 1061914E (XT441071)
Status (in 1973): Killed in Captivity
Category: 1
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground

Other Personnel in Incident: Claude D. McClure; George E. Smith (both released
1965); Issac Camacho (escaped 1965); At Tan Phu: James N. Rowe (escaped 1968);
Humberto R. Versace (missing); Daniel L. Pitzer (released 1967).

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
1997

REMARKS: EXECUTED 650926 - ON DIC LIST

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.


The book "Pacific Stars and Stripes, VIETNAM Front Pages" published in 1986
states:

Five Star Edition
Vol. 19, No. 304
Friday, Nov. 1, 1963

# 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).....