Name: Robert Joseph Engen
Rank/Branch: E4/US Army
Unit: 507th Transportation Detachment, 2nd Squadron
Date of Birth: 03 April 1951 (Grand Forks ND)
Home City of Record: Stockton CA
Date of Loss: 18 February 1971
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 163910N 1062226E (XD465415)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: OH6A
Refno: 1705
Other Personnel in Incident: Gregory S. Crandall; Walter E. Lewellen (both
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 September 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. NETWORK 1998.
SYNOPSIS: LAM SON 719 was a large offensive operation against NVA
communications lines in Laos. The operation called for ARVN troops to drive
west from Khe Sanh, cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail, seize Tchpone and return to
Vietnam. The ARVN would provide and command the ground forces, while U.S.
Army and Air Force would furnish aviation airlift and supporting firepower.
The 101st Airborne Division commanded all U.S. Army aviation units in direct
support of the operation. Most of the first part of the operation, which
began January 30, 1971, was called Operation DEWEY CANYON II, and was
conducted by U.S. ground forces in Vietnam.
On February 8, 1971, early into the operation, a U.S. Army OH6A helicopter
was shot down about 8 miles east of Tchpone. This aircraft, flown by W1
Gregory Crandall, pilot, SP4 Robert J. Engen, scout/observer, and Sgt.
Walter E. Lewellen, crew chief, was conducting an aerial reconnaissance
mission when Crandall radioed that he was under heavy enemy fire. As he
maneuvered to evade the fire, the aircraft was seen to crash and catch on
fire. There was one major and six secondary explosions. About March 7, an
ARVN unit spotted the wreckage, but was unable to reach it to thoroughly
investigate. It was never learned for certain that the crew perished.
Losses were heavy in Lam Son 719. The ARVN lost almost 50% of their force.
U.S. aviation units lost 168 helicopters; another 618 were damaged.
Fifty-five aircrewmen were killed, 178 wounded, and 34 missing in action in
the entire operation, lasting until April 6, 1971.
In all, nearly 600 Americans were lost in Laos, but because we did not
negotiate with the Pathet Lao, no Americans held in Laos were released.
Since that time, over 10,000 reports have been received relating to
Americans prisoner, missing or unaccounted for in Southeast Asia. Although
many authorities are convinced that hundreds remain alive, the U.S. has not
secured the release of a single man.