Name: Ruben C. Bailon
Rank/Branch: Civilian
Unit: Merchant Marine, SS Express Baltimore {Merchant Marine Historians say
this ship is the EMPRESS BALTIMORE}
Date of Birth: 25 November 1930
Home City of Record:
Date of Loss: 25 December 1965
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 160400N 1081300E (CR081220)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 3
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground

Other Personnel In Incident: Stephen O'Laughlin (remains returned)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 30 June 1990 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.


SYNOPSIS: Ruben Bailon was a Merchant Marine seaman aboard the ship SS
Express {EMPRESS}  Baltimore. On Christmas Day, he and the second officer,
Stephen O'Laughlin went to the harbor town of Qui Nhon, South Vietnam, to
arrange for a flight to Saigon to find and assist the return of the ship's
captain, who had been sick. They stayed in a cheap hotel.

The hotel owner reported seeing the two in the hotel bar the next day, but
neither boarded their planes that day. They simply disappeared. The two had
about $300 between them.

On May 26, 1968, a Vietnamese being interrogated in Binh Dinh Province
identified O'Laughlin's photo, stating he had seen Steve and two other
American POWs in a Viet Cong jungle camp near Da Nang, where he himself had
been held several months. The Vietnamese stated he saw Steve last in early
May 1968, before his own escape. Steve's family was not notified of the
report until 1972.

A rallier later identified Bailon's photograph as a prisoner he had seen.
CIA analysis could find no reason for the identification as no other U.S.
POWs had reported being held with Bailon or O'Laughlin.

In June 1973, remains were recovered from a grave in Phu Yen Province, which
were identified in December 1976 as those of Stephen O'Laughlin. It is
reported that he was captured in a Saigon hospital. No one is looking for
Steve any longer.

Ruben Bailon is among nearly 2400 Americans who remain missing. Thousands
of reports have convinced experts that many are still alive, held captive.
Bailon is one of scores of civilians who disappeared. He could be alive. If
so, what must he be thinking of his country? Why don't we bring these men

Stephen M. O'Laughlin's name is not engraved on the Vietnam Veterans
Memorial in Washington D.C.


                        PROJECT X

                        SUMMARY SELECTION RATIONALE

NAME:BAILON, Ruben and

O'LAUGHLIN, STEPHEN M.,, Civilians,, Merchant Seamen



RATIONAL FOR SELECTION: Both individuals were identified in photographs by
government ralliers as having been prisoners of war. The last reported
sighting was three years after their disappearance. No correlated reports
of death have been received for either individual.

REFNO: 0223 19 Apr 76


1. On 25 December 1965, Second Officer Stephen M. O'Laughlin and Seaman
Ruben (NMN) Bailon, both  the Merchant Marine, disappeared while assigned to
the SS Express {EMPRESS}  BALTIMORE which was anchored in the port of Qui
Nhon, South Vietnam. The last known location of these two men was in the
Casino Bar in Qui Nhon with a Eurasian female identified as Marie Simons.
Both men possibly took lodging at a hotel at 72 Gia Long in Qui Nhon, but
this can be confirmed only by a single witness. on 26 May 1968, a rallier
identified Stephen O'Laughlin from a photograph as being a PW he observed
several weeks earlier. The sighting occurred on 5 May 1968 at an unknown
camp location near Da Nang. In September 1968, a rallier identified Ruben
Bailon from a photograph as a Pw in a camp near the Ashau Valley. The date
of the sighting is unknown. Single photo identifications cannot be
considered enough evidence for a change of status of either individual. (The
coordinates CR 081 220 are given for Qui Nhon City.) (Ref 1 - 6)

2. ADO LMR II Comment - Numerous inquires were made to the Province
Representative, Province Chief, National Police 31 and other possible
sources of information in the area. The PubCom program saturated the area
with generalized requests for information, but all of these efforts
produced no results. These individuals' names and identifying data were
turned over to the Four-Party Joint Military Team with a request for any
information available. No response was forthcoming, Second Officer
O'Laughlin and Seaman Bailon are currently carried in the status of


1. LTR (U), from James March, 8 Jan 66.

2. LTR (U), From Mrs. Ross O'Laughlin, 30 Jun 66.

3. Telegram (U), 18 Jan 66.

4. LTR (U), MACPM, 29 Jan 66.

5. MSG.(C)CI Team 2nd Bn(PROV)525 MIGP Qui Nhon, 030705Z Jun 68.

6. RPT (U), HQ 3rd MARDIV (REIN) FMF #002A6068, 18 Sep 68.


1. Ruben (NMN) Bailon 0223-0-01

2. Stephen M. O'Laughlin 0223-0-02

                 * National Alliance of Families Home Page


At 06:52 PM 1/4/2011, you wrote:

I don't remember the exact date but it was close to the end of my tour (I came back to the US in February of 1966).  I was the coxswain of C-22 a Mike Boat (LCM-8) of the 544th Transportation Company.  The other crewman in the boat was the engineer.  I believe that my engineer on that day was Sp5 Samuel (Johnny) Johnson.  If it wasn't him, it would have been Sp5 Larry Metzgar.

It was in the evening, I don't remember the exact time.   The tide was going out.  The Qui Nhon bay is very large and the exit from the bay to the ocean is narrow.  This creates very fast currents during tide out.  We had rounded the entrance to the harbor, past the cement loading ramp ( I'm including a file with a hand-drawn map).  When we passed the civilian part of the harbor, at a short wooden pier there were two white men getting ready to board a small wooden boat that was manned by a Vietnamese.  I remember at least one of the men as being slight in body size.  When the first man tried to step down from the pier into the boat, he lost his balance and fell into the water.  The other man tried to grab him and fell in as well.  In a second they were carried out by the current.  I swung  my boat around and we tried to find them but they were gone.  We searched for a while but there was no sign of them.  When we got back to the pier, we were told that the men were merchant seaman who had hired the boat to take them back to their ship.  Nothing more was said, nobody reported anything as far as I know.  I understand that it seems strange that this was not reported to the authorities but it was Viet Nam and that's the way things were.

Carlos s Pereyra




Return to Service Member Profiles

On December 26, 1965, the Merchant Marine vessel SS Express Baltimore was anchored at the port of Qui Nhon, Nghia Binh, Binh Dinh Province, South Vietnam. That day, two members of its crew went missing for unknown reasons. They were both last seen in the Casino Bar in Qui Nhon. 

Seaman Ruben Bailon entered the U.S. Merchant Marine from California and was one of these two crew members. Attempts to locate him or his remains following his disappearance have been unsuccessful. 

Based on all information available, DPAA assessed the individual's case to be in the analytical category of Deferred.

If you are a family member of this serviceman, DPAA can provide you with additional information and analysis of your case. Please contact your casualty office representative.

Service member profile discrepancy? Please help us ensure the accuracy of each profile by submitting documentation about a service member profile.