LOCKETT, DAVID
Name: David Lockett
Rank/Branch: Spec./US Army
Unit: 233rd Transportation Company
Age: 23
Home City of Record:
Date of Loss: 30 January 1991
Country of Loss: Iraq
Loss Coordinates:
Status: Missing in Action
Status 2002 - Released 03/04/91
Category: Released POW
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: Jeep
Other Personnel in Incident: Melissa Rathbun-Nealy (released)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 09 March 1991 from one or more of
the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence
with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Update POW NETWORK 2002.
REMARKS: OPERATION DESERT SHIELD
SYNOPSIS: On 30 January 1991, Spec. David Lockett and Spec. Melissa
Rathbun-Nealy, both from the 233rd Transportation Company, became missing
near the border of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Rathbun-Nealy was the driver and
Lockett a passenger in one of two heavy equipment transfer vehicles (tank
carrier or HET) delivering equipment to troops on that day. Rathbun-Nealy
and Lockett were transporting a repaired truck. The two vehicles took a
wrong turn and ended up in the middle of fighting as Iraqi tanks, armored
patrol vehicles and troops moved into the city of Khafji, Saudi Arabia. The
vehicles came under fire and one of them managed to speed out, but when the
occupants of the first vehicle looked back, they saw that the second, driven
by Rathbun-Nealy, had gotten stuck in the sand in attempting to turn around.
Marines from the 1st Marine Division deployed just two miles south of the
city organized a rescue party after the truck that escaped requested help.
As the Marine vehicles crept into the outskirts of the city, two Cobra
helicopters flew shotgun overhead. When they arrived at the spot where the
vehicle crashed, they found the truck abandoned with the passengers' duffel
bags and gas masks inside the vehicle. The material they had been
transporting was gone. The doors of the vehicle were open and the weapons
gone. The wheels were still spinning. No sign of the occupants was found;
there were no bloodstains seen. The vehicle was observed for the next three
days, wheels still spinning.
First Pentagon reports indicated that the crashed truck was occupied by
Rathbun-Nealy and Lockett. Later, Pentagon sources revealed that the two
missing from the crashed jeep had been rescued, but declined to name them.
Rathbun-Nealy and Lockett, the Pentagon said, were lost some distance away
from this loss location.
In early February, a captured Iraqi reported that he had been part of a
prisoner escort unit that took Lockett and Rathbun-Nealy to Basra, a
military command center and key port city just north of Kuwait. The site,
according to the source, was a primary target for allied bombers. The source
indicated that Rathbun-Nealy had an arm injury, but the source of the injury
is not known. The Pentagon, however, initially listed the pair as missing
from their post. Nearly two weeks following the incident, the Pentagon
changed the category to Missing in Action. Despite numerous reports that the
two had been captured, the Pentagon has not yet changed their status to
Prisoner of War. Some observers feel this is an apparent effort by the
Pentagon to downplay the existence of American prisoners of war.
By February 12, U.S. military officials were admitting to receiving
"conflicting information" on the missing pair. One official said "We are
reasonably confident that they are prisoners of war. Where they are,
precisely what shape they're in, we don't know."
Critics speculate on the "information gap" relating to this case. The loss
of a servicewoman in a combat zone would be unusual, if not embarrassing, to
the U.S. The two escaped soldiers would be attractive media targets had they
been associated with the loss incident of the first known black man and the
only female in the U.S. military to be missing since World War II.
Radio Baghdad later reported that Iraqi troops had captured many American
soldiers, both men and women. The broadcast said female POWs would be given
special treatment under Islamic law. This does little to assuage the fears
of Rathbun-Nealy's parents and other observers.
In late January, video interviews of Allied POWs were broadcast on Iraqi
television, and later broadcast in the United States. Several Allied POWs
made appearances and gave "peace" statements. All appeared to be speaking
under extreme duress and appeared to have been beaten. On January 20, the
Iraqis stated that POWs would be used as "human shields" to protect their
important military sites from attack by  Allied forces.
On March 3, 1991, both David Lockett and Melissa Rathbun-Nealy were released
in a group of six American POWs. They reported that, although they had been
held in solitary confinement much of the period, they had been well-treated.
Lockett and Nealy added details to their capture. Upon capture, the Iraqis
intended to leave Lockett, who was injured, behind. Nealy refused to leave
without him, and he was taken prisoner also. The blood in the front of the
truck convinced others in the transportation unit that Lockett had died.
They held little hope for his survival. Meanwhile, the Pentagon was
reporting to the families that there was no sign of violence at the truck.
The two were held at Basra until their release.