COMPA, JOSEPH JAMES JR.
Name: Joseph James Compa, Jr.
Rank/Branch: E6/US Army
Unit: 118th Aviation Company, 145th Aviation Battalion, 1st Aviation Brigade
Date of Birth: 13 January 1931 (Beaver Falls PA)
Home City of Record: East Liverpool OH
Date of Loss: 10 June 1965
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 113521N 1065309E (YT056817)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel In Incident: Robert L. Curlee; Craig L. Hagen; Walter L.
Hall; Bruce G. Johnson; Fred M. Owens; Donald R. Saegaert (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.
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 re-secured
(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
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.