EISENBRAUN, WILLIAM FORBES
Name: William Forbes Eisenbraun
Rank/Branch: O3/US Army Special Forces
Unit: SQ5891, Headquarters MACV
Date of Birth: 15 December 1931 (Los Angeles CA)
Home City of Record: Santa Ana CA
Date of Loss: 05 July 1965
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 151000N 1083932E (BS485780)
Status (in 1973): Prisoner/Killed in Captivity
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
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 2020.
REMARKS: 670807 DIC - ON PRG DIC LIST
SYNOPSIS: For Americans captured in South Vietnam, daily life could be expected
to be brutally difficult. Primarily, these men suffered from disease induced by
an unfamiliar and inadequate diet - dysentery, edema, skin fungus and eczema.
The inadequate diet coupled with inadequate medical care led to the deaths of
many. Besides dietary problems, these POWs had other problems as well. They
were moved regularly to avoid being in areas that would be detected by U.S.
troops, and occasionally found themselves in the midst of U.S. bombing strikes.
Supply lines to the camps were frequently cut off, and when they were, POWs and
guards alike suffered. Unless they were able to remain in one location long
enough to grow vegetable crops and tend small animals, their diet was limited
to rice and what they could gather from the jungle.
In addition to the primitive lifestyle imposed on these men, their Viet Cong
guards could be particularly brutal in their treatment. For any minor
infraction, including conversation with other POWs, the Americans were
psychologically and physically tortured. American POWs brought back stories of
having been buried; held for days in a cage with no protection from insects and
the environment; having had water and food withheld; being shackled and beaten.
The effects of starvation and torture frequently resulted in hallucinations and
extreme disorientation. Men were reduced to animals, relying on the basic
instinct of survival as their guide. After months in this psychological
condition, many POWs, lucky to survive, discovered that they were infinitely
better treated if they became docile and helpful prisoners. Unlike in the
North, the POWs in the south did not as naturally assume a military order among
themselves - perhaps because the preponderance of POWs in the North were
officers as opposed to a larger community of enlisted men in the South - and
frequently, there was no strong leader to encourage resistance and to bring
the comfort of order to a chaotic existence.
From the camps in the South came the group of American POWs ultimately charged
with collaboration with the enemy. These charges were later dropped, but are
indicative of the strong survival instinct inherent in man, and the need for
strong leadership. It is common knowledge that nearly all POWs "violated" the
Military Code of Conduct in one way or another; some to greater degrees than
others. Those who resisted utterly, the record shows, were executed or killed
in more horrible ways.
Americans tended to be moved from camp to camp in groups. One of the groups in
South Vietnam contained a number of Americans whose fates are varied.
Capt. William "Ike" Eisenbraun was attached to the 17th Infantry regiment of
the Seventh Division ("Buffalos") when he fought in Korea. He was awarded a
Purple Heart for wounds received in Korea. In 1961, Capt. Eisenbraun
volunteered for duty in Vietnam because he believed in what we were trying to
accomplish there. He was one of the earliest to go to Southeast Asia as an
advisor to the Royal Lao and South Vietnamese Armies.
On his fourth tour of duty, Eisenbraun served as Senior Advisor, Headquarters
MACV, SQ5891, U.S. Army Special Forces. He was at jungle outpost Ba Gia near
Quang Ngai in South Vietnam when the post was overrun by an estimated 1000-1500
Viet Cong force. Newspapers described it as "one of the bloodiest battles of
the war to date". A survivor told newsmen the Viet Cong attacked in "human
waves and couldn't be stopped." There were only 180 men defending the outpost.
Captain Eisenbraun was initially reported killed in action.
Later, two Vietnamese who had been captured and escaped reported that Capt.
Eisenbraun had been captured, was being held prisoner, and was in good health.
Through the debriefings of returned POWs held with Eisenbraun, it was learned
that he died as a POW. One returned POW said that on about September 1, 1967,
Eisenbraun fell out of his hammock (which was about five feet above a pile of
logs) and landed on his right side. For about 5 days after the fall, Eisenbraun
continued his daily activites, but complained of a severe pain in his side.
After that period he stayed in bed and at about 0100 hours on September 8,
LCpl. Grissett awakened PFC Ortiz-Rivera and told him that Eisenbraun had
Another POW said Ike had died as a result of torture after an escape attempt in
1967. Robert Garwood added that Ike had provided leadership for the prisoners
at the camp, and was an obstacle to the Viet Cong in interrogating the other
prisoners. He also spoke fluent Vietnamese, which made him a definite problem.
Garwood and Eisenbraun had been held alone together at one point in their
captivity, and Ike taught Bobby the secrets of survival he had learned in SF
training, and in his years in the jungle. Bobby states that Ike knew and taught
him which insects could be eaten to fend off common jungle diseases, and that
he and Ike jokingly planned to write a cookbook called "100 ways to cook a
rat". Garwood said that Ike had been severely beaten following the escape
attempt, and that one night he was taken from his cage and not returned. The
next morning, Garwood was told that Ike had fallen from his hammock and died.
Ike Eisenbraun was buried at the camp in Quang Nam Province along with other
POWs who had died of torture and starvation. His grave was marked with a rock
inscribed by Garwood. A map has been provided to the U.S. showing the precise
location of the little cemetery and grave, yet Ike's remains have not been
Bobby Garwood had been captured on September 28, 1965 as he was driving a jeep
in Quang Nam Province. Garwood made international headlines when he created an
international incident by smuggling a note out revealing his existance. The
note resulted in his release in March 1979, after having been a prisoner of war
for 14 years. The Marine Corps immediately charged him with collaboration and
assault on a fellow POW, and he was ultimately charged and dishonorably
discharged. He is the only serviceman to be charged with these crimes from the
Vietnam War, and many feel he was singled out to discredit the stories he has
told regarding other Americans held long after the war was over in Vietnam.
Several American POWs were held at a camp in Quang Nam Province numbered ST18,
including Eisenbraun, Garwood, Grissett, LCpl. Jose Agosto-Santos, PFC Luis
Antonio Ortiz-Rivera, Marine LCpl. Robert C. Sherman, Capt. Floyd H. Kushner,
W2 Francis G. Anton, SP4 Robert Lewis, PFC James F. Pfister, PFC Earl C.
Weatherman, Cpl. Dennis W. Hammond and Sgt. Joseph S. Zawtocki.
Agosto-Santos was captured when his unit was overrun in Quang Nam Province on
May 12, 1967. Cpl. Carlos Ashlock had been killed in the same action, and he
and Agosto-Santos had been left for dead. Agosto-Santos had been wounded in the
stomach and back. For about a month, he had been cared for in a cave by the
Viet Cong. Jose felt he owed his life to the Viet Cong. He was released in a
propaganda move by the Vietnamese on January 23, 1968. Ashlock was never seen
Ortiz-Rivera was a Puerto Rican who barely spoke English. His Army unit was
overrun in Binh Dinh Province several miles north of the city of Phu Cat on
December 17, 1966, and Ortiz-Rivera was captured. Ortiz-Rivera was not a
problem prisoner, according to other returnees. He was released with
Agosto-Santos January 23, 1968.
Cpl. Bobby Sherman told fellow POWs that he had been on picket duty with ARVNs
on June 24, 1967 when he decided to go to a nearby village to "get laid".
The Vietnamese girl he met there led him to the Viet Cong instead. Sherman had
been on his second tour of Vietnam. During his first tour, he had suffered
psychological problems because of the grisly job assigned to him of handling
corpses of his comrades killed in action. In the spring of 1968, Sherman,
Hammond, Weatherman, Daly, and Zawtocki, with the help of other POWs, attempted
to escape. Sherman beat a guard in the attempt and was recaptured and punished.
He was held in stocks for many days and fellow POWs said he "got crazy and
never recovered." They said he spent months as a "zombie" and "never was there"
after that. According to Harold Kushner, Bobby Sherman died on November 23,
1968. The POWs buried him in the little cemetery with Ike Eisenbraun. In March
1985, the remains of Bobby Sherman were returned during a period that
Eisenbraun's daughter was publicly asking the President to bring her father
home. A map had been published of the cemetery, and many wondered if there was
Capt. Harold Kushner had been the sole survivor of the crash of his UH1D
helicopter on a mountainside in Quang Nam Province on November 30, 1967.
Kushner was a Army Medical Corps Flight Surgeon and had broken a tooth and
sustained a wound to his shoulder when the helicopter crashed. He was
subsequently captured by the Viet Cong. During his captivity, his wife,
Valerie, became active in the effort to end the war, believing that was the
only hope her husband had of returning home. Kushner became ambivilent about
the war himself, and when held in North Vietnam, made propaganda tapes until
informed by the more organized prisoners captured and held in the North that it
was prohibited. Kushner was released March 16, 1973 from North Vietnam.
(Note: a number of other Americans were held with this group including PFC
David N. Harker; James A. Daly; Richard R. Rehe; Willie A. Watkins; Francis E.
Cannon; Richard F. Williams; and James H. Strickland. One detailed account of
the captivity of these men can be found in "The Survivors" by Zalen Grant.
Another can be read in "Conversations With The Enemy", written by Winston Groom
and Duncan Spencer. Homecoming II Project - 2408 Hull Rd. - Kinston NC 28501
-also maintains synopsis accounts of these men.)
W2 Francis Gene "Bones" Anton was the pilot of a UH1C helicopter, code name
"Firebird". On January 5, 1968, his crewchief was SP4 Robert Lewis III, and
door gunner was PFC James F. Pfister. The crew, flying out of the 71st Assault
Helicopter Company, was shot down as they were trying to assist C Company,
under heavy mortar attack at Happy Valley in Quang Nam Province. Their co-pilot
had escaped capture. Anton is one of the few POWs who believed that Garwood,
although clearly a collaborator, was still a loyal American, helpful to his
fellow POWs. Anton, according to other POWs was "always cussing the
Vietnamese". He was released from North Vietnam on March 16, 1973. When Cannon,
Williams, Harker and McMillan were brought to the POW camp at Happy Valley,
they found Anton, Pfister and Lewis well fed and clean. Pfister later made
propaganda tapes at the Plantation in Hanoi in April 1971. Garwood called him
the "head snitch" in one of the camps along the Rock River and White River in
South Vietnam. Both Pfister and Lewis were released on March 5, 1973. None of
the three were considered by superior officers to be among those who criminally
collaborated with the enemy.
Russ Grissett was on a search mission for a missing USMC officer when he became
separated from his unit on January 22, 1966. He was with the elite 1st Force
Recon, and was captured by the Viet Cong in Quang Ngai Province. Russ was
several inches over 6' tall and carried a normal weight of around 190 pounds.
After 2 years in captivity, however, his weight had dropped to around 125
pounds. Grissett suffered particularly from dysentery and malaria, and in his
weakened condition begged his fellow POWs not to tell him any secrets. He had
already been accused of sabotaging an escape plan by Kushner. He found it
difficult to resist, and willingly made propaganda tapes about "lenient
treatment". When Ortiz-Rivera and Agosto-Santos were released, he had "behaved"
enough that he was tremendously disappointed that he was not released with
them. During one period of near-starvation, in late November 1969, Grissett
caught and killed the camp's kitchen cat. It was a dangerous move, and fellow
POWs watched helplessly and innocently as guards beat Grissett for the crime
and he never recovered. Grissett was buried in the camp's cemetery by his
fellow POWs. Harold Kushner stated that Grissett died on December 2, 1969.
David Harker, another returned POW, stated that he had died at 3:30 a.m. on
November 23, 1968. On June 23, 1989, the U.S. announced that the Vietnamese had
"discovered" the remains of Russ Grissett and returned them to the U.S. (Note:
the "cat" incident spawned the assault charges against Garwood. Garwood,
enraged that others had stood by while Grisset was mortally beaten, back-handed
one of the bystanders in the stomach and asked, "How could you let them do this
to Russ?" Some witnesses stated that the blow was not a hard one intended to
injure, but seemingly for emphasis.)
Dennis Wayne "Denny" Hammond and Joseph S. Zawtocki were Marines who were
part of a pacification team when captured during the Tet offensive on February
8, 1968. Denny was a tall, lean, good-looking man thought to be part American
Indian. He attempted escape with the other POWs in the spring of 1968 and was
shot in the leg by Montagnards in a nearby village Denny had beaten a guard to
escape. Part of the "duties" of those POWs healthy enough was to harvest
oranges in nearby Montagnard orchards. The POWs were happy to do this because
it meant badly needed exercise and the opportunity for additional food. Daly
was once accused by guards of stealing oranges that Hammond had stolen. It was
on one of these workdays that the POWs effected their ill-fated escape. After
the escape attempt and recapture, Sherman remained relatively healthy for a
time, but in early March, 1970, died. He was buried near the camp and his grave
marked by a bamboo cross. (Hammond died on 7 or 8 of March, depending on the
Joe Zawtocki was a stocky, powerful, fair-haired man of Polish descent. He and
Garwood formed a close friendship and exchanged rings. Each promised the other
that if released alone, they would contact the other's family. Joe died on
December 24, 1968 of starvation and was buried near the POW camp. Davis, a
returnee, says that Garwood lost Joe's ring. Garwood states that, upon his
return, he gave Joe's ring to the Defense Intelligence Agency. Several years
later, he learned that DIA had never returned the ring to Joe's family. Joe
Zawtocki's remains were returned to the U.S. on August 15, 1985.
Perhaps one of the strangest cases involved in this group of POWs is that of
Pvt. Earl Clyde Weatherman. Weatherman was in the Marine brig at Da Nang where
he had been confined for slugging an officer in 1967. On November 8, 1967, he
escaped the brig (which constitutes desertion). Intelligence indicates that he
paid a Vietnamese driver to take him to his Vietnamese girlfriend's house, but
the driver instead delivered him to the Viet Cong. A tall, muscular young man
of about 20 years old with reddish-blond hair and blue eyes, Weatherman was
detained in the POW camps in Quang Nam Province, and was party to the ill-fated
escape attempt in the spring of 1968. Opinion was divided among the POWs
regarding the political loyalties of Earl Weatherman. Harker felt his alliance
to the Viet Cong was only an act. Weatherman had once said to him, "Don't
believe everything you hear about me." Others felt he was clearly a turncoat.
Perhaps Garwood stated it most accurately when he said, "Weatherman's only
crime was falling in love with the wrong person - a communist."
It was widely told that during the April 1, 1968 escape attempt, Weatherman was
killed. However, Garwood states that he heard of and saw Weatherman after 1973
when other U.S. POWs were returned, and years after his supposed death in South
Vietnam. Intelligence indicates that Weatherman continued to work for the
communists, and lived with a Vietnamese wife and family. One position said to
have been held by his was with the Vietnamese government's department of
construction - the Cong Tyxay Dung. Garwood last knew him to be at Bavi, living
with a Vietnamese woman.
In 1986, several national news articles revealed that intelligence documents
showed at least 7 missing Americans had been seen alive in Vietnam in the last
dozen years, including Weatherman. Some accounts added that Weatherman had
smuggled a note out of Vietnam that he wished to come home and bring with him
his wife and children. Weatherman's father was allegedly notified of this.
The POW/MIA groups reverberated with anticipation, knowing that if Weatherman
came home, a new source of information on those men still missing would be
available. Several activists questioned a Congressional aide regarding
Weatherman. They asked, "When will Weatherman be able to come home? We
understand the holdup is visas for his wife and children." The aide, with a
caring and sympathetic look on his face, replied, "I don't know. I just don't
Of this group of prisoners and missing, only Weatherman, Hammond, Ashlock and
Eisenbraun have not returned home, alive or dead. Ashlock was left for dead on
the battlefield. Hammond and Eisenbraun are dead, but still in enemy hands.
Weatherman, for whatever reason, chose love of a woman over love of his country
and remained behind. Can America close its doors to a man who may have a wealth
of information on Americans still alive in Vietnam? If he now wishes to return
to his homeland, can we be less forgiving to him that we were to those
Americans who fled to Canada to avoid the war?
An Army Captain From Orange Died in a Vietnam POW Camp; His Remains Are Still Not Home
... in an effort to find his remains; in 1998, his widow participated in a brief ceremony in Ike's honor, raising the POW/MIA flag at the Tustin Post Office...