SAEGAERT, DONALD RUSSELL Name: Donald Russell Saegaert Rank/Branch: W1/US Army Unit: 118th Aviation Company, 145th Aviation Battalion, 1st Aviation Brigade Date of Birth: 03 May 1940 (Hartford CT) Home City of Record: Berlin CT Date of Loss: 10 June 1965 Country of Loss: South Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 113521N 1065309E (YT056817) Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered Category: 1 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: UH1B Refno: 0096 Other Personnel In Incident: Joseph J. Compa; Robert L. Curlee; Craig L. Hagen; Walter L. Hall; Bruce G.Johnson; Fred M. Owens (all missing) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1991 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: J010 ON GND SED ALL DED - J SYNOPSIS: On May 25, 1965, Special Forces Detachment A-342 was airlanded at Dong Xoai, a district capital of Phuoc Long Province, through which the Viet Cong supply lifeline from Cambodia into War Zone D tracked. The Special Forces Detachment, together with Navy Seabees, built a camp and among other duties, assumed the MACV subsector role for Don Luan district. Intermittent Viet Cong mortar rounds lobbed into the new camp, and were considered only the usual harassment, but sightings of large VC formations nearing the town increased. At 2310 hours on the night of June 9, CIDG teams around the camp's perimeter were silenced by the 762nd and 763rd VC Regiments. There was no opportunity to warn the camp, and only a few survived. At 2330, the camp was heavily mortared, and came under a heavy ground assault. The camp was overrun, and most of the CIDG and LLDB withdrew. At the camp, 2Lt. Charles Q. Williams, seriously wounded, was directing the defense of the compound with singular valor and would later be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions at Dong Xoai. Before South Vietnamese relief forces could arrive, a team of advisors was sent in from Than Son Nhut, where MACV was headquartered. The team was aboard a UH1B helicopter from the 188th Aviation Company flown by Lt. Walter L. Hall. The crew consisted of Sgt. Craig L. Hagen, gunner; SSgt. Joseph J. Compa, crew chief; and WO Donald Saegaert, co-pilot. The advisors from MACV Special Detachment 5891 were SSgt. Robert L. Curlee, the medic; and Capt. Bruce G. Johnson and SFC Fred M. Owens, advisors. When the helicopter was disembarking troops on a plantation landing zone, it came under heavy mortar and small arms fire. The helicopter took off and started a climbing turn. Upon clearing some buildings left of the landing zone, the helicopter went into uncontrolled flight and in crashing, skidded into some parked vehicles and burst into flames. A circling pilot immediately established radio contact with Johnson, who stated that he was standing by the downed helicopter, and that the crew and other two advisors with him were dead. He reported that the situation was very bad - not to send anyone else in. Johnson stated that he was under heavy fire, and two mortar shells were subsequently seen to land in his vicinity. A subsequent search of the crash site was conducted when the area was resecured (on June 15), but no American remains were found, nor was Johnson seen. Villagers in the area reported that an American had been captured on that day, but no verifiable information has surfaced since that time. Villagers also stated that the Viet Cong had carried away the bodies of 7 Americans and had buried them. A captured Viet Cong film entitled "Dong Xoai in Flames" pictured the bodies of five or six Americans as well as several crashed helicopters. One of these helicopters bore the serial number 38557. The name tag "Owens" and the last two letters of another name tag, "ll" (possibly Hall's) are shown in the film, lending some more credence to the report that the Viet Cong took possession of the aircraft and that all aboard were killed. There is no real reason to suspect that any of the seven men aboard the UH1B shot down at Dong Xoai are, indeed, alive. But there is no question that the communists know the fate of these men. All of these men can be easily accounted for. It appears that Johnson, at least, may have been captured. Mounting evidence indicates that Americans are still being held prisoner in Southeast Asia today. As long as even one American remains alive, held unjustly, we owe him our best effort to bring him home. [ssrep6.txt 02/09/93] APPENDIX 1 South Vietnam Walter L. Hall Bruce G. Johnson Fred M. Owen Robert L. Curlee Donald R. Saegaert Joseph J. Compa, Jr. Craig L. Hagen (0096) On June 19, 1965, those involved in this loss incident were on board a UH-1B helicopter on a combat operation into a landing zone six kilometers from the town of Dong Xoai, Phuoc Long Province. Their helicopter was hit by ground fire and crashed. Captain Johnson, an advisor to the South Vietnamese Army's 5th Infantry Division, reported to another helicopter in the area that the aircraft's crew and all others on board were dead and his position was receiving incoming enemy mortar fire. There was no further transmission from Captain Johnson after the end of the mortar fire. A later search of the area failed to produce any sign of the seven servicemen. In late 1965, a Viet Cong produced film was captured which appeared to depict a portion of the battle at Dong Xoai. The film appeared to show the dead bodies of Sergeant First Class Owen and First Lieutenant Hall. Information was later received from another source that the seven U.S. were killed in this incident, four found in the helicopter and three others at the airstrip. Intelligence reports of unidentified U.S. POWs sightings several months before this incident occurred were received later and were placed in the file of these servicemen. One report associated with the capture of an American at the battle of Binh Gia was placed in Captain Johnson's file, but may have correlated to the capture of another Captain several months earlier. Captain Johnson was initially reported missing. Returning U.S. POWs were unable to provide information about his precise fate or the fate of the others. Captain Johnson was declared dead/body not recovered in February 1978.