SOOTER, DAVID WILLIAM DECEASED
Name: David William Sooter Rank/Branch: W1/US Army Unit: (probably Company B, 4th Aviation Battalion, 4th Infantry Division) Date of Birth: Home City of Record: Vallejo CA Date of Loss: 17 Feb 1967 Country of Loss: South Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 140522N 1072245E (YA568588) Status (in 1973): Released POW Category: Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: OH23G
Other Personnel In Incident: none missing, but held with men from at least two other incidents including: Incident on 18 May 1967: Joe L. DeLong (missing); Incident on 12 July 1967: Martin S. Frank; Nathan B. Henry; Cordine McMurray; Stanley A. Newell; Richard R. Perricone (all released); James F. Schiele; James L. Van Bendegom (both missing)
REMARKS: 730305 RELSD BY PRG
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 2004.
SYNOPSIS: In the spring of 1973, 591 American Prisoners of War were released from prisons and camps in Vietnam. Among them were six of a group of nine U.S. Army 4th Infantry Division personnel captured in and near Pleiku Province, South Vietnam during the year of 1967 whose lives had been intertwined for the past six years. All had belonged to that part of the "Ivy Division" which was assigned to Task Force Oregon conducting border operations called Operation Sam Houston (1 Jan - 5 Apr 67) and Operation Francis Marion (5 Apr - 12 Oct 67).
On February 17, 1967, W1 David W. Sooter was the only man captured from a OH23 helicopter downed at the southeastern edge of Kontum Province near the edge of Pleiku Province, and near the Cambodian border.
PFC Joe Lynn DeLong was the machine gunner for his company, on a company-sized patrol in Rotanokiri Province, Cambodia on May 18, 1967. (Note: most records list this loss as in South Vietnam, and coordinates place it in the Ia Drang Valley, Pleiku Province, South Vietnam near the border of Cambodia, but U.S. Army casualty reports state that the loss was in Kotanokiri Province, Cambodia.) While on patrol, his unit was hit by a Viet Cong force of unknown size and cut off from the rest of the company. DeLong's platoon formed a defensive perimeter and attempted to hold their position. Later that day, at about 1830 hours, DeLong's platoon position was overrun. The next morning, another unit reached his position, and was able to account for all platoon members except for DeLong. It was later learned that DeLong had been captured.
Nearly two months later, on July 12, 1967, SP4 Martin S. Frank, PFC Nathan B. Henry, Sgt. Cordine McMurray, PFC Stanley A. Newell, PFC Richard R. Perricone, SP4 James F. Schiele and PFC James L. Van Bendegom, all members of Company B, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division, were conducting a search and destroy mission along the Cambodian border when their position was overrun by the Viet Cong. With the execption of Schiele, all the men were captured. The U.S. Army notes that Schiele and Van Bendegom were captured by the North Vietnamese, while the others, apparently, were captured by Viet Cong.
PFC Schiele was seen by his platoon leader as his unit was forced to withdraw, leaving him behind. He had been hit a number of times by automatic weapons fire in the legs and chest and was thought to be dead. PFC Perricone stated in his debrief upon return to the U.S. that the enemy camp commander of Camp 102 told him that SP4 Schiele had died of wounds received in the fire fight. However, since there was no positive proof of death, the U.S. government placed Schiele in a Missing in Action category. Classified information given to the Vietnamese by Gen. John Vessey in 1987, however, states that both Schiele and Van Bendegom were captured by the North Vietnamese.
PFC Vanbendegom was also wounded in the engagement, and was seen alive by other Americans captured in the same battle about one week after his capture at a communist field hospital in Cambodia, not far from his capture location. One of the released Americans was later told by the commanding North Vietnamese officer at his prison camp in Cambodia that SP4 Vanbendegom had died of his wounds. Vanbendegom was categorized as a Prisoner of War.
The other seven Americans were held in prison camps on the Vietnam/Cambodia border for several months. According to the debriefs of releasees Sooter and Perricone, they and DeLong had attempted to escape from a border camp in Cambodia on November 6, 1967, but were recaptured the same day. Two days later, Sooter and Perricone were shown DeLong's bullet-ridden and blood-soaked trousers and were told that DeLong had been killed resisting recapture. The Vietnamese included DeLong's name on a list of prisoners who had died in captivity (saying he died in November 1967), did not return his remains, and did not offer any explaination.
Sooter, Frank, Henry, Perricone, McMurray and Newell were all released by the PRG in 1973. Frank was never known to be a prisoner by the U.S. Henry was injured, and maintains a permanent disability today. The U.S. is certain the Vietnamese also know the fates of DeLong, Schiele and Vanbendegom, but the Vietnamese continue to remain silent.
Since the end of the war, only a few score of the many remains the Vietnamese could provide have been returned to U.S. control. Each return of remains signals some political move by the Vietnamese. Strong moves towards normalization of relations began in the mid-80's, which most Americans would not oppose. As evidence mounts that hundreds of Americans are still held captive by these same governments the U.S. is rushing to befriend, many concerned Americans believe that in our rush to leave Indochina, we abandoned our best men. And that in our rush to return, we will sign their death warrants.
More on David Sooter's captivity can be found in the pages of Benjamin Schemmer's "THE RAID" by Avon. It states in part:
Dave Sooter, a twenty-two-year-old Army warrant officer, was flying H-23 helicopters for the lst Cavalry Division when he was shot down over South Vietnam. It was February 17, 1967, less than seven months after he'd finished flying school, when his helicopter was suddenly hit. It exploded 50 feet above the trees. Sooter remembers breathing fire. He passed out before his burning helicopter hit the trees.
When he came to four or five hours later, Sooter was already a prisoner. His captors gave him three days to recover some strength, then marched him to a camp hidden in the jungle about ten miles inside the border of northern Cambodia. He was held there for three years. On November 2, 1967, Sooter tried to escape. He was caught within hours, and his legs and arms were put in stocks while he suffered helplessly as ants and mosquitoes feasted on his festering new wounds. Within a week, he was near death. One night he "saw Jesus' face" and began praying. The next day his captors took off his stocks. That night they put them back on. When morning came, the stocks came off again. Dave Sooter turned into a devout Christian.
As well as he can fix the date, Sooter's long march to North Vietnam began on November 8,1969. He walked for 43 days. He guesses he walked 600 miles-over jungle covered mountains, exhausted from the tropical heat, miserable from the frequent rains, weak from malnutrition. When he reached the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Vietnam, he was put on a truck; it drove right up the Ho Chi Mnh Trail, at night, and landed him a week or two later in a prison camp near Hanoi. Sooter thinks the miserable, cramped new prison may have been at Ap Lo, near Son Tay. Wherever it was, discipline at the camp was lax; the beatings were sporadic, not regular.
He could not recall where he was moved next, but less than a year later, he and his fellow prisoners heard the raid on Son Tay - aircraft overhead, small arms firing, explosions, SAMs screaming through the air. Four days later, with no explanation, the North Vietnamese moved them all into the Plantation in the northern part of downtown Hanoi. Almost every prisoner who had been moved north from South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos was soon put into the same camp. A few days after Sooter arrived at the Plantation, an English-speaking North Vietnamese officer told them about the Son Tay raid. He claimed that North Vietnam had known about it two weeks ahead of time. But when no one paraded newly captured prisoners or American bodies, Sooter knew he was lying. And the camp guards, Sooter noticed with relief and amusement, were too busy digging trenches and foxholes or practicing air raid drills to hassle the prisoners much.
David Sooter is deceased.
He was in a helicopter. Probably a US observer of the Ecuador/Peru war over gold producing areas in the jungles at the time (1983-1986). ) The helicopter went down in the jungles of Ecuador (1985). The Ecuadorian military wouldn't give me any information at the time. I don't know the details of the loss, nor the exact date. He might have been shot down. The mission is still classified.