BOTT, RUSSELL PETER
|Name: Russell Peter Bott
Rank/Branch: E6/US Army Special Forces
Unit: Detatchment B-52 DELTA, 5th Special Forces Group
Date of Birth: 05 September 1936 (North Easton MA)
Home City of Record: Worcester MA
Date of Loss: 02 December 1966
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 165048N 1063158E (XD634633)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident: Willie E. Stark (missing with Bott); Daniel
Sulander; Irby Dyer (missing from UH1D exfiltration aircraft)
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 in 2000 with a
quoted except from the book, GONE NATIVE, Random House/Ballantine Books.
SYNOPSIS: In late November 1966, Russell Bott and Willie Stark were inserted
about 1 1/2 miles into Laos west of the DMZ along with a number of
Vietnamese Special Forces (LLDB) "strikers". The team, a long-range
reconnaissance patrol (LRRP), was soon discovered by a superior North
Vietnamese force, members of the 325B NVA Division. A two day running battle
Near the end, Bott radioed that he was down to one grenade ond one magazine
of ammunition. He also stated that several of the Vietnamese members of his
team were dead or wounded. Willie Stark was wounded in the chest and leg,
but was alive. Bott requested exfiltration at that time. He refused to leave
his wounded teammate to seek safety, and in his last radio message, Bott
indicated that he was going to destroy his radio, that he felt capture was
Two gunships working the area were hit by enemy fire. Also, the exfiltration
helicopter from 281st Assault Helicopter Company was hit, and crashed and
burned, killing the crew of four and Irby Dyer, a medic from Det. B-52 Delta
who had gone in to help treat the wounded. The wreckage of the plane and all
five remains were found in searches conducted December 10-13. The remains,
which had been horribly mutilated by the enemy, were left at the site. When
a team returned to recover the remains, U.S. bombing and strafing activities
had destroyed them further. The identifiable remains of three of the crew
were recovered, but those of Daniel Sulander and Irby Dyer were not.
Searches for Bott and Stark were unsuccessful. Vietnamese team members who
evaded capture reported that they had heard North Vietnamese soldiers say,
"Here you are! We've been looking for you! Tie his hands, we'll take him
Sgt. First Class Norman Doney, who was Operations Sergeant at that time at
B-52 headquarters at Khe Sanh, overheard the Intelligence Sergeant on the
"52 Desk" reviewing intelligence about Bott. Doney states that it was
reported that Bott was seen with his arms tied behind his back going through
a village, and that he was alive 3 days after he became missing.
Bott, Dyer, Sulander and Stark are among nearly 600 Americans lost in Laos
during the Vietnam war. Although the Pathet Lao stated on several occasions
that they held "tens of tens" of American prisoners, not one man held in
Laos was ever released...or negotiated for. Dyer and Sulander died for their
country. Stark's fate is unknown. He may have died from his wounds or
survived to be captured. Bott, at least, could be one of the hundreds of
Americans experts believe to be alive today. He was loyal to his comrades
and to his country. If he is alive, what must he be thinking of us?
The following is an excerpt from "Gone Native"; a book by retired Special
Forces First Sergeant Alan G. Cornett , who served in Vietnam from 1966 to
1973. This excerpt is located in Chapter 5 from pages 74 to 79.
"Team Viper We're Hit Bad"
The next evening, Wednesday, 29 November 1966, I watched as Sgt. Russ Bott
and Sgt. Willie Stark and four Vietnamese loaded into a waiting UH-1H
helicopter. Their call sign was Team Viper, and their AO (area of operation)
was tucked up close to Laos and North Vietnam. Everybody was camouflaged
and dressed to kill.
The weather was "dogshit", with rain showers, gusting winds, and a very low
cloud ceiling. When the team left to be inserted, the flying weather was
marginal, and I thought that the mission should have been aborted, but
knowing how many people respected my opinion, I wasn't going to say a thing.
I learned later that as the insertion helicopter got closer to the
operational area, the higher elevation put the team right into the cloud
ceiling. That forced the helicopter to weave around the mountains as the
pilot tried to maintain a course to the designated LZ in the growing
darkness. The pilots could have aborted the mission, but they were under
intense command pressure to insert the team. From so low a altitude the
pilots made a critical navigational error, mistaking a swollen stream for a
river checkpoint. When the helicopter pilots returned to base, the consensus
was that they must have missed the LZ and inserted the team somewhere in
Laos. At Khe Sanh, the winds howled that night as sheets of rain blasted my
Command was in the shit because of potentially embarrassing political
fallout of having a United States Army helicopter land operating ground
forces outside the borders of South Vietnam. An honest mistake made in the
midst of high-risk combat operations was being aggravated by distorted
The next morning, Thursday, an Army radio-relay plane from Da Nang arrived
on station and reported that the entire operational area was socked in.
Team Viper had made contact with the relay and wanted to know its exact
position. They had realized that they were in the wrong area, and wanted a
forward air controller (FAC) to pinpoint the team's location. During the
early morning the team reported a brief contact and firefight with the
enemy, but broke the contact and reported that it was moving east and north.
By midmorning at Khe Sanh, the winds had died down to about twenty knots. I
could see about two hundred yards, and the clouds were at two hundred feet.
A FAC plane, piloted by John Flanagan and carrying a Delta recon sergeant in
the backseat, left at midday to try to locate Team Viper. After some
exceptional flying by the FAC, the team was pinpointed in Laos but close to
the DMZ (demilitarized zone) - and in the center of a suspected North
Vietnamese regiment. On arriving back at Khe Sanh, the pilot pointed out on
the operations map that Team Viper was four or five klicks northwest of
where we'd thought they were. Flanagan also informed command that he had
sighted numerous armed NVA around Team Viper. But the team's mistaken
position on the operations map was not changed to reflect the FAC's
information. The winds that night were so strong that I had to go out and
secure the tent to keep it from blowing away.
Friday dawned to horrendous weather. A thirty- knot wind was blowing clouds
across the Khe Sanh plateau . It was raining intermittently, but the rain
was coming in horizontally due to the weather. It was extremely bad weather,
and my thoughts were with Team Viper and another recon team led by Staff
Sergeant St. Laurent that was also out in the storm. The radio relay plane
from Da Nang had picked up a garbled radio transmission from Team Viper and
understood that they had again made contact with the enemy, and in the
ensuing firefight, several members of the team had been wounded. Just prior
to my learning of Team Viper's new problem, one of the Vietnamese rangers
had came over to me, and asked if I would remove a cyst from his leg. I
removed the cyst, and as I was suturing him up, Master Sergeant Stamper came
into the tent, and told me to get my aid bag and be ready to go at a
moment's notice. At the same moment, Sgt. Irby Dyer walked into the tent,
and Stamper told him that he would have to go, not me. That hurt.
The commander had decided to launch a rescue extraction. Involved were a
pickup ship, a spare pickup, a command-and-control (C&C) helicopter, and two
gunships. Stamper went back to the TOC to monitor the radios, and Dyer went
to the helicopter pad. He was to be the belly man on the extraction
helicopter. More important, he would be able to help with the wounded. I
quickly finished up with the Ranger, then hurried over to listen with
Stamper to the radio transmissions between the rescue ships and Russ Bott.
We could only hear the C&C's portion of the radio transmission as it
repeated what was being transmitted by Team Viper. The team was asking if
the choppers had launched, and reported that one American (Willie Stark)
was badly wounded, and that the team was unable to move. A short time later,
we heard another one-sided conversation. Team Viper was receiving sporadic
fire. By then they had one seriously wounded, and two others with lesser
wounds. That news was fueling our anxieties. Adding to Team Viper's problems
was the fact that the rescue ship couldn't locate the team. Occasionally,
the team w could hear the sounds of choppers, but they couldn't figure out
which of the five helicopters they were hearing. Finally, a radio
transmission was relayed back to Khe Sanh, asking if the FAC (John Flanagan)
could fly out in his aircraft and pinpoint the team.
Some incredible brave flying was done that day by Flanagan. With Delta recon
Sergeant Tommy Tucker outfitted in ass-kicking gear in the backseat, they
took off into a vicious shearing wind. The winds at Khe Sanh were gusting to
fifty knots. When Flanagan arrived in the operational area, the helicopters
had only twenty minutes of fuel left. Talking to Team Viper, Flanagan
recognized Russ Bott's voice immediately, and he heard the background
chatter of automatic weapons and grenades exploding as a vicious firefight
was in progress. Bott told Flanagan that Stark was hit bad, that the
Americans had become separated from the three Vietnamese on the team, and
were completely surrounded. Flanagan told Bott to key the handset on his
radio so that the FAC could home in on the signal. Guided by the signal,
Flanagan overflew Team Viper's position, and Russ Bott gave him the codeword
"payoff." Flanagan then told Bott to pop smoke so that he could direct the
rescue ship in. Purple smoke was observed and confirmed, and Flanagan saw
that the team was located in elephant grass on the crest of a small knoll.
When Flanagan overflew the team's position, he drew no ground fire, so he
cleared the pickup helicopter in. When a rescue helicopter came to a hover
about ten feet above the team, the whole world exploded. The elephant grass
parted, and from dozens of camouflaged spider holes and gun emplacements,
vicious automatic weapons fire was brought to bear on the helicopter. It had
been a trap, and Team Viper had been the bait.
The FAC launched a marking rocket so the gunships could pour fire into the
enemy positions to protect the pickup helicopter. But the pickup helicopter
rose, banked left into the air for about two hundred feet, then continued
banking to the left, finally rolling over , and plunging straight down,
auguring nose-first into the ground. It burst into a ball of flames as it
continued to roll down the small knoll, killing the two pilots, the two door
gunners, and Sgt. Irby Dyer in the process. On the second pass, the lead
gunship had its fire control system shot out. That was a bad day for our
Back at Khe Sanh, we were catching bits and pieces of the horrible drama as
it unfolded. We heard the commander order Team Viper to break up, and
escape and evade. Then the helicopters transmitted that they were at
critical fuel levels and returning to base. The team was being abandoned,
and not by choice. It was a gut-wrenching moment, and I could see gears
churning in Master Sergeant Stamper's head. He looked at me, and voiced
something like "We've got to help them." I knew then that I was going to be
a part of it.
Meanwhile, above Team Viper's position, Flanagan was witness to a
heartbreaking moment. The last radio transmission from Russ Bott was, "FAC,
please help us, we're hit bad." It was from a brave soldier that wouldn't
abandon his best friend even though he had been told to do so. Alone, armed
with only marking rockets, and smoke grenades, Flanagan tried what he
already knew was futile, but try he did. He expended his rockets on the
active gun emplacements, and then flew a wideturnaround back over the team's
position. All he saw was trampled grass. He found no sign of the team. When
he flew over the downed helicopter, all that he saw was a wisp of smoke
rising from the charred hulk of the helicopter wreckage. There was no
movement, and no sign of life. Flanagan flew back to Khe Sanh. I witnessed
the hair-raising landing he preformed in a vicious fifty-knot crosswind. So
many brave men.
Forget-Me-Nots, Inc. 2/28 /2019
Concerning Southeast Asia POW/MIA families:
Many of you may remember Eleanor Bott Gregory who was very visible at family meetings and at POW/MIA events throughout the years. She is well remembered by those of us in the Northeast. She never stopped searching for answers about her brother, Pete Bott, who, as she always said, "stayed behind to tend to his wounded sergeant." Sadly, she died on January 17th of this year. The following is from her obituary which was sent to me by her daughter, Donna.
Eleanor B. Gregory
SHREWSBURY – Eleanor B. (Bott) Gregory, 85, of Shrewsbury, passed away peacefully, in the comfort of her home…on Thursday, January 17, 2019. Her loving husband of fifty years, Edward Gregory, and their daughter, Doreen A. Needham, both predeceased her in 2002.
Eleanor was the loving mother of seven children, six of whom survive her, three daughters… three sons…She is also survived by a brother…nine grandchildren,…five great grandchildren,…many nieces and nephews. Eleanor was one of six children born to Mary (Kosciuczyk)…She was predeceased by four siblings, Peter Bott, who was lost in the Vietnam War, Fred Bott who was killed in action in the Korean Conflict, Mary Dusak, and Jane Rivers.
Having been born in North Easton, she was raised in Worcester, she graduated from Commerce High School, later moving to Leicester, finally settling in Shrewsbury in 1962. She was a long-time member of St. Mary’s Church, but was married in and celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary in St. John’s Church in Worcester. For many years, Eleanor was a custom drapery maker and very proud of the many installations she was involved with throughout the area. In retirement she was honored to be a driver for special needs students and was delighted to watch them progress as they grew.
She was a member of the National League of Families, and with her mother was a member of Gold Star Mothers. Having been involved in Veterans support, through the loss of her brothers, it was her pleasure to travel with her husband throughout the United States for the many Veterans meetings and War Memorial dedications he was involved with….
In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory may be made to Tatnuck Park, 340 May Street, Worcester, MA 01602, or to Trinity Hospice, 534 Southwest Cutoff, Suite 9, Worcester, MA 01607.
Eleanor was wonderful woman who was in constant motion, and it was my pleasure to know her. Her spirit and love of family will always be remembered and treasured. May perpetual light shine upon Eleanor, and may Eleanor rest in peace.
I have retyped and included the case narrative of Staff Sergeant Russell Peter Bott, Eleanor’s brother, from the 1987 Vessey’s files.
ON 2 DECEMBER 1966, SERGEANT FIRST CLASS WILLIE E. STARK AND STAFF SERGEANT RUSSELL P. BOTT WERE MEMBERS OF A LONG RANGE RECONNAISSANCE PATROL. THE PATROL WAS ENGAGED BY SUPERIOR VIETNAMESE FORCES IN VICINITY OF GRID COORDINATES XD 634633, APPROXIMATELY TWO KILOMETERS SOUTHEASAT OF DONG KONE MOUNTAIN, SAVANNAKHET PROVINCE, LAOS. DURING THE FIRE FIGHT, SERGEANT FIRST CLASS STARK WAS REPORTEDLY WOUNDED. STAFF SERGEANT BOTT WAS LAST OBSERVED, UNINJURED, TENDING TO SERGEANT STARK. WARRANT OFFICER DANIEL A. SULANDER AND SERGEANT IRBY DYER III WERE TWO MEMBERS OF A FIVE-MAN CREW ABOARD A UH-1D HELICOPTER, IN A FLIGHT OF SEVEN HELICOPTERS, ON A SEARCH AND RESCUE MISSION FOR SERGEANT FIRST CLASS STARK AND STAFF SERGEANT BOTT. OTHER MEMBERS OF THE FLIGHT OBSERVED THE HELICOPTER, SERIAL NUMBER 65-10088, LAND AND PICK UP AN UNIDENTIFIED INDIVIDUAL. DURING THE SUBSEQUENT TAKE-OFF, THE HELICOPTER WAS SEEN AS IT CRASHED AND BURNED APPROXIMATELY 300 METERS SOUTHWEST OF THE PATROL’S LOCATION IN VICINITY OF GRID COORDINATES XD 633631. TWO OTHER MEMBERS OF THE RECONNAISSANCE PATROL SUCCESSFULLY EVADED THE AREA AND REPORTED THAT STAFF SERGEANT BOTT HAD REFUSED TO ABANDON SERGEANT FIRST CLASS STARK. ON 10 DECEMBER 1966, A RECOVERY TEAM REACHED THE CRASH SITE AND IDENTIFIED FIVE REMAINS THAT COULD NOT BE RECOVERED DUE TO APPARENT "BOOBY" TRAPS. DURING THIS GROUND INSPECTION, NUMEROUS BOOT PRINTS WERE OBSERVED, AND THE REMAINS AT THE WRECKAGE APPEARED TO HAVE BEEN RELOCATED. ON 15 DECEMBER 1966, THE PARTIAL REMAINS OF FOUR INDIVIDUALS WERE RECOVERED FROM THE CRASH SITE AND SUBSEQUENTLY IDENTIFIED.
Sergeant First Class Willie E. Stark and Staff Sergeant Russell P. Bott remain unaccounted for to this date.