BRELLENTHIN, MICHAEL Name: Michael Brellenthin Rank/Branch: E3/US Marine Corps Unit: Company B, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines, Khe Sanh Date of Birth: Home City of Record: Date of Loss: 25 February 1968 Country of Loss: South Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 164500N 1061500E (XD850410) Status (In 1973): Killed In Action Category: Acft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground Refno: 1061 Other Personnel In Incident: Ronald Ridgeway (Released 1973); several others from same unit Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 June 1990 from one or more of the following: correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources including U.S. Veteran News & Report (April 1990), interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 1998. REMARKS: **NOT ON MISSING LISTS** SYNOPSIS: PFC Ronald L. Ridgeway and LCPL Michael Brellenthin were in a Marine weapons platoon assigned to a patrol outside the perimeter of the Khe Sanh Combat Base. At approximately 9:30 a.m., the patrol made contact with an NVA force of unknown size. Although the ambush site was within view of the base, Brellenthin's unit was pinned down by heavy fire and attempts to reinforce it were driven back by the NVA. When the Marine unit finally was able to break contact and return to base, they were forced to leave their dead behind. It was several days before they could attempt to recover the dead because of heavy enemy activity. When they were finally able to get back into the area, the Marines found that repeated harassment and interdiction fire had badly scrambled the remains of their fellow Marines. They recovered what they had thought were the remains of nine dead Marines, none of whom could be individually identified. Among them, according to the government forensics experts, were Brellenthin and Ridgeway. Those sets of remains were combined with the remains of nine Navy men who had died in a separate incident and were interred in a mass grave in St. Louis. On January 28, 1973, PFC Ronald Ridgeway, one of those 18 "dead" and buried servicemen, was released from a POW camp in Hanoi. Ridgeway had been held in South Vietnam with known POWs such as Harvey Brande, William G. McMurray, and Dennis L. Thompson. The U.S. had no idea any of these men were POWs until they were released. Ridgeway had come back from the dead, much to the chagrin of the U.S. Government. Although the relatives of seven of the Marines believed buried in St. Louis found little hope in Ridgeway's return, Brellenthin's wife, Ruth, thought it entirely possible that her husband might have escaped with Ridgeway. How many others, she wondered, had been captured without the U.S. finding out? For five years the government refused to give Mrs. Brellenthin information about Ridgeway's whereabouts so she could question him about the incident. When she finally found him on her own, it was 1978, 10 years after the ambush. Ridgeway told her he had not seen Michael Brellenthin during or after the ambush. But an intelligence report obtained by Mrs. Brellenthin indicated that in late February, 1968, approximately 20-30 American POWs were sighted near Khe Sanh. According to the report, "Source observed several of the PWs wearing 'strange caps.' He described this cap as olive drab in color and made of cloth. The caps described resemble the USMC fatigue cap." The U.S. Government continued to state unequivocally that LCPL Michael Brellenthin had been killed in action because Mrs. Brellenthin could not produce proof otherwise. Although the government lacked positive evidence that Michael was dead, its assumption that he was dead overruled Mrs. Brellenthin's assumption that he might be alive. The Marine Corps has admitted that some of those "buried" men could have been captured, but that it is doubtful. Even though considerable doubt surrounds the identification of the Marines buried in St. Louis, and, indeed, some of them might have survived, official status change was denied. Since the war ended, over 10,000 reports of Americans prisoner, missing or unaccounted for have been received by the U.S. Government. It would not be erroneous to speculate that if the U.S. received a first-hand live sighting report on Michael Brellenthin, that report would be debunked because "Michael Brellenthin is dead." Although many experts who have reviewed the largely-classified information relating to Americans still missing in Southeast Asia have concluded that hundreds of them are still alive in captivity, the USG cannot seem to make up its mind. Meanwhile, how many wait for their country to come for them? Who will look for men like Michael Brellenthin? Michael Brellenthin was married only two weeks prior to his going to Vietnam. His wife, who has recently remarried, is still actively pursuing information as to her husband's fate. Ronald Ridgeway was hastily promoted to the rank of Sergeant, in keeping with military procedure relating POWs, upon his release.