GASSMAN, FRED ALLEN
Name: Fred Allen Gassman
Rank/Branch: E5/US Army Special Forces
Unit: MACV-SOG, C & C North, 5th Special Forces Group
Date of Birth: 05 September 1947 (Egland Field FL)
Home City of Record: Ft. Walton Beach FL
Date of Loss: 05 October 1970
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 161126N 1070527E (YC227912)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel In Incident: David A. Davidson (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.
SYNOPSIS: In Vietnam, Sgt. Fred A. Gassman was assigned to Command and
Control North, MACV-SOG (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and
Observation Group). MACV-SOG was a joint service high command unconventional
warfare task force engaged in highly classified operations throughout
Southeast Asia. The 5th Special Forces channeled personnel into MACV-SOG
(although it was not a Special Forces group) through Special Operations
Augmentation (SOA), which provided their "cover" while under secret orders
to MACV-SOG. The teams performed deep penetration missions of strategic
reconnaissance and interdiction which were called, depending on the time
frame, "Shining Brass" or "Prairie Fire" missions.
On October 5, 1970, SSgt. David Davidson and Sgt. Gassman were members of a
joint American and Vietnamese reconnaissance patrol operating about 12 miles
inside Laos. The patrol had established their night position west of Ta Bat
when they were attacked by a hostile force. According to the two surviving
indigenous patrol members, Davidson was hit once in the head during a long
burst of enemy fire while the team was attempting to evacuate the area, and
fell down a ridge, after which he lay motionless with appeared to be a fatal
At about 1300 hours, Gassman radioed the overhead aircraft that they were
being hit from three sides, and that they were low on ammunition and
requested an emergency extraction and air strikes. As he attempted to
retrieve the homing device, he stated on the radio, "I've been hit, and in
the worst way", followed by several groans before the radio went dead. The
surviving indigenous patrol members said that they last saw Gassman lying
motionless with a large hole in his back.
One unsuccessful search and recovery attempt was made shortly after the
incident, but further attempts were curtailed due to the difficult tactical
situation in the area. Davidson and Gassman remain missing. All other team
members were successfully extracted.
There is every reason to believe that the enemy forces surrounding the night
encampment know what happened to Davidson and Gassman, yet no information
has been secured regarding their fates.
Nearly 600 Americans were lost in Laos, and although the Pathet Lao stated
on several occasions that they held American prisoners, the U.S. did not
negotiate with the Pathet Lao for their release. Since that time, reports
have flowed in indicating that hundreds of Americans are still alive,
waiting to be free. Did Davidson and Gassman die on October 5, 1970? Or are
they still in Laos, wondering why the country they fought so proudly for has
not come to rescue them?