Name: Robert Lee Curlee, Jr.
Rank/Branch: E6/US Army
Unit: 118th Aviation Company, 145th Aviation Battalion, 1st Aviation Brigade
Date of Birth: 26 September 1930
Home City of Record: Monroe NC
Date of Loss: 10 June 1965
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 113521N 1065309E (YT056817)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 1
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: UH1B
Refno: 0096

Other Personnel In Incident: Joseph J. Compa; 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.


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

A subsequent search of the crash site was conducted when the area was
resecured (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 buried them.

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.




Return to Service Member Profiles

On June 10, 1965, a UH-1B Iroquois (tail number 63-38557) with a crew of four and three passengers took off from Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Saigon, on a mission to extract personnel from the Dong Xoai Special Forces Camp, South Vietnam. The camp was under attack, and as the helicopter was disembarking its three passengers at the landing zone, it came under heavy mortar and small arms fire from enemy forces in the area. The helicopter took off and began climbing, but crashed shortly thereafter near Thuan Loi Airfield. One of the passengers radioed that everyone else on board was killed in the crash, and that he was taking heavy mortar and small-arms fire. The crew of another helicopter flying the same mission saw mortar rounds exploding in the area from where the passenger was last heard. Because of enemy activity in the area, a search and rescue mission could not be conducted. The four crew members and three passengers remain unaccounted for.

Staff Sergeant Robert Lee Curlee Jr. entered the U.S. Army from North Carolina and was a member of Detachment SD5891, Headquarters, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. He was a passenger aboard the UH-1B when it crashed on June 10, 1965, and his remains were not recovered. Today, Staff Sergeant Curlee is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

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

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.