|HARRIS, GREGORY JOHN
Name: Gregory John Harris
Rank/Branch: E4/US Marine Corps
Unit: H/3/11 1st Marine Division
Date of Birth: 01 October 1945
Home City of Record: Syracuse NY
Date of Loss: 12 June 1966
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 145800N 1084900E (BS670578)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing)
HARRIS, GREGORY JOHN
I have finally updated the Greg Harris website with some information that will be new for many of you. Have no fear, we are on it and making the necessary waves to see to it that this doesn't fall through the cracks. We still have a lot of fight in us and until Greg is home, we will not give up. What kind of Marine family would we be if we gave us?
Semper Fi, The McDonald Family Syracuse, NY
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 July 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 06/2016.
SYNOPSIS: Gregory J. Harris was a radioman with a South Vietnamese company operating in Quang Ngai Province, South Vietnam. On June 12, 1966, the 5th Vietnamese Marine Battalion Headquarters was overrun by Viet Cong forces, and according to the U.S. Marine Corps, Harris was captured.
Two officers with Harris were killed, but the South Vietnamese saw Harris captured alive and apparently unhurt. According to Marine Corps records, Harris died in captivity.
The Defense Department has never classified Gregory Harris as a prisoner of war eventhough the Marine Corps believes he was captured and died in captivity. He was placed in a casualty status of Missing in Action.
In the summer of 1973, after Harris did not return with the released prisoners of war, his mother, Catherine Helwig, did something quite remarkable to tell the world that all the men did not return. She walked 450 miles in one month from Buffalo, New York to New York City. When asked why she did this, she responded, "If your child was lost in the forest you would not stop the search at the end of twenty-four hours. I can't look for my boy...it's better than staying awake night after night."
At the same time Mrs. Helwig was walking, then-President Nixon was declaring the task of accounting for the remaining missing, "Highest priority". President after President termed the accounting "highest national priority". Not too much has changed. The men are still in Southeast Asia. Their sons, daughters and grandchildren are marching and protesting because mounting evidence indicates that many of them are still alive.
It's time America insisted that "highest priority" meant just that...and that the U.S. Government get very serious about bringing Americans home from Southeast Asian prisons.
Gregory J. Harris was promoted to the rank of Master Sergeant during the period he was a prisoner of war. Marine Corps records list his home city as Syracuse, New York.
I have a cousin, who was seen, captured alive on June 12, 1966 in Quang Ngai Province, VS.
Mind you we are realistic people and we realize that there is little hope of his safe return, but we strive for a truthful accounting of him by our government.
I have been trying to research his case, I have found out he was listed in Project -X, ( he was one of 57 men in that investigation) he was also listed in the Vessey Discrepancy case's (he was one of 119 men listed in that)
In the Vessey investigation, a joint team talked to 8 witnesses stating that he was shot and killed on June 12, 1966 . What I can make out from this investigaton, that took place in 1990 is that they talked to the village people and they talked to the communist (VIET CONG) but they didn't talk to the other side, meaning the 5th Vietnamese marine battalion that participated in the battle.
LS suggested that that I file through the Freedom Of Information Act with the DPMO for all files on Gregory. I did this and I also requested all in- formation on him in the Project-X cases. Their reply back to me is as follows-- DPMO advises, reguarding your request for Project X files , that it has no records of any such project in connection with Gregory John Harris, USMC, further DPMO advises that the files on Gregory John Harris have been declassified and placed in the public domain in the LOC.
Now I'm just a farm girl, but I would think If there was any information to be had, on my cousin, that the DPMO , an agency that deals with POW/MIA'S affairs, should have it. For them to say they have no records of any such Project in connection with Greg , just doesn't sit right with me.
Now I don't believe that there is a government conspiracy, but I do believe the investigation is a little one sided. They kind of disreguarded what the Marine Corps reported two days after it happened, and went with the recollections of the viet cong, 31 years later. I don't understand that, so I'm searching for answers that feel right with me. I am married and the mother of three boys, that report would not have been acceptable to me if it was about one of my sons.
I would like to tell you about my cousin, (this keeps him alive in my heart and mind).
Gregory John Harris or "Butchie "as the family called him, was born and raised in Fulton, New York. He was an only child raised by his mom. He was the first grandchild and the apple of my grandfathers eye. He spent weekends and summers on his Grandfathrs farm, where he learned to hunt and fish and pretty much take care of himself. All of us grandchildren (his cousins) looked up to him, he was our fearless leader, our big brother and confidant, all rolled up in one. We would play hide an seek in the hay loft, have green apple wars in the orchard, boys against girls (boys always won) and at night when the chores were done we would go swimming in the pond and have a camp fire. Butchie taught us camp fire songs such as" Mrs O Leary". He also saved a neighbor from drowning in that pond. (He was our hero)
When he left for Vietnam, he left behind his mom and a big old black dog by the name of Inky. Well Inky waited for him to come home , but he didn't--- Inky died, so his mom went out and got another big old black dog for him to have when he got home, but he didn't come home. His mom died, in 1974, of cancer, fighting to the very end for the safe return of her son. The family has picked up the fight. He would be so proud of his mom she did all a mother could do for her son and more. I hope I can be like them both.
Thank You for all your help, the family will continue to fight. Chris Lafrate
Hope is the thing with feathers That perches in the soul, And sings the tune without the words, And never stops at all-
Subject: Gregory John Harris Date: Tue, 14 Oct 1997 07:40:51 -0400
I have been trying to help the family of Greg Harris find additional info on him. As you know, Harris is one of the Project X cases. His cousin came to Natl POW Recognition Day services here in Albany NY and to their dismay found that Greg's name is not on the memorial of those killed or missing from NYS. Inadvertently his name shows up as possibly from Toledo OH. His family has no idea why his name is listed as possibly from OH and would like to set the record straight. Harris was born in Syracuse NY and entered the military from Syracuse. We ask that any info furnished to inquiries not reflect Toledo OH regarding Greg Harris.
Tri-County Council Vietnam Era Veterans KEVIN V. KISTER, Secretary/Director 257 Osborne Rd Albany NY 12211
Phone 518.459.2442 or FAX 518.438.5954 Email: TCCVNEV@albanyonline.net
[r0358.97] PROJECT X SUMMARY SELECTION RATIONALE
NAME: HARRIS, Gregory J., CPL, USMC
OFFICIAL STATUS: MISSING
CASE SUMMARY: SEE ATTACHED
RATIONALE FOR SELECTION: Two Vietnamese who were wounded during the same action from which CPL Harris disappeared reported his capture by Viet Cong Forces. Although there are no reports confirming CPL Harris as a Prisoner, there have been no subsequent reports of his death.
REFNO: 0358 04 Aug. 75
(U) CASE SUMMARY
1. On 12 June 1966, CPL Gregory J. Harris, radio operator, was with the 5th Battalion of the Vietnamese Marine Corps on a search and destroy mission in the vicinity of BS 670 578 in South Vietnam. The unit was attacked by the Viet Cong and suffered heavy losses. CPL Harris was then missing. As friendly forces gained fire superiority they were able to recover some bodies, but not CPL Harris, during a two hour search. The Viet Cong remained in the area throughout the night. (Ref 1)
2. On 13 Jun 66, a three hour search of the area recovered more bodies of the dead and wounded however no trace of CPL Harris was found. An interrogation of two wounded Vietnamese revealed that one saw CPL Harris moving out of the area into some heavy foliage and the other one saw him being captured by the Viet Cong. These two men later died so they could not be questioned further. ARVN agents in the area at the time reported on 14 Jun 66 that two Vietnamese Marines were captured by the Viet Cong. There was no mention of an American prisoner. All the personnel that were with the 5th Vietnamese Marine Battalion on 12 Jun 1966 were accounted for except the two Vietnamese Marines who were reported captured and CPL Harris. (Ref 1)
3. During the existence of JCRC the hostile threat in the area precluded any visits to or ground inspections of the sites involved in this case.
4. CPL Harris is currently carried in the status of Missing.
(U) REFERENCES USED:
1. (U) RPT, lst Marine Div, Investigation Report 22 June 1966.
* National Alliance of Families Home Page
==================================== From: "Mary Ann Reitano" <email@example.com> Subject: Update on POW/MIA Case of Cpl. Gregory J. Harris, USMC (Group A) Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2007 15:33:32 -0400
This weekend, along with my Aunt Chris, I went to Washington, DC for the Annual POW/MIA Family Meetings. This is always an emotional time for us, this year in particular as there has been a lot of new information that has been so convincing that we have petitioned the Navy to have Greg's status changed from MIA to POW. It was obvious by what you will soon read that there are many in Washington who do not want to see this happen as it will open a flood gate for many other families to try the same thing. To put it lightly, we were met with much resistance.
I don't think I have ever experienced such an emotional swing as I did between Thursday and Friday of this past week. On Thursday we had a meeting with our Congressman to ask for his help and a little bit of influence to get the people at the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) to give us, at the very least, a fair shake. I have to say that at first I was unsure of the level of commitment we could expect from the Congressman but about 20 minutes into our conversation, he reminded us that he has gone to Vietnam a few times and brought up Greg's case to them and also tried to get Greg's dogtag out of the Military Museum in DaNang for us. Then suddenly, he moved a piece of paper from the top of his desk and extended to us a silver plated circular container, resembling a jewelry box, with the seal of the House of Representatives engraved on it. As I held the container in my hand, I looked up at him and whispered, "Is this what I think it is?", he smiled and said, "Open it". There is that 5 inch diameter box was indeed what I had thought, the dog tag bearing the name, GJ HARRIS. I took in a breath and handed the box to my aunt as we both sat there, tears pouring down our faces and I don't think there was anyone else in the room who did not have a tear in their eye. He had done what we had always been told was the impossible. Through her tears Aunt Chris told him that this was the first concrete thing that anyone had done for us in over 40 years. It was the closest I had ever physically been to Greg. It was a unique and rare emotion to hold it in my hand, only wishing it would talk and tell the true story of how it came to the museum. I was just thinking that some of you on this list had most likely looked at that tag hundreds of times never knowing that it would ever have the significance it had today.
So, we obviously thanked the Congressman profusely and felt a small victory as we returned to our hotel. We then made some calls to share the news of the Congressman's gift with the rest of the family. That evening there was also a panel discussion as part of the Family Meetings and we had the opportunity to share the story with those assembled and there was not a dry eye in the place.
Friday, we hoped would be another day like Thursday, instead, it was sheer hell. We had an appointment with Greg's case analyst, someone we had never met and now wish we never had. Over the past few years we had found so many holes in the now infamous sandbar story that we felt we had enough evidence to get them to look elsewhere for Greg. With every discrepancy, error and impossibility presented to her she simply reasoned it away. She tried to discredit another analyst with much more experience than she will ever have by stating that he was a horrible writer and she, in the past, had to correct many of his errors. This man mind you, has written two books, one fiction and the other non-fiction, something that I could kick myself for not having remembered at the time to use a retort.
Another document came to light about 4 months ago which stated that the VC Battalion Commander of the unit that Greg was fighting at the time of his capture had admitted in her personal history of the war, published in 1997, that during this battle his unit had captured an American. The analyst was unaware of the fact that we had obtained the document elsewhere and tried to pass its contents off to us as "hearsay" in Greg's case summary file. I questioned her for a few minutes about the document, which she insisted was irrelevant, then suddenly pulled it out from my folder and asked her why she refered to its contents as second hand information when the document itself stated it was firsthand information. She then went on to say that it says firsthand but didn't mean first hand. .... Yeah, right! .... This is just one small example of the circus like atmosphere of this meeting. Not to mention the fact that, due to the presence of a representative from our Congressman's office, there were five men in suits, including a USMC Major, who were there listening to the proceedings. They included, the head of the USMC Casualty Office, the USMC Liaison to DPMO, DPMO's Legislative Affairs Representative, the POW/MIA Liaison to USMC Casualty and of course, the Major. Thankfully we were so focused on the task at hand that we didn't even have time to be intimidate although I am sure that was the intent.
The final blow to the meeting, after presenting just about all of the strong evidence we had, was when I outright asked the analyst, "What is it going to take to get us off the sandbar?", without a second of hesitation she looked at me and simply nodded and said, "You're not". A few minutes later, we were told that another family was waiting to see the analyst so we had to end soon. As the meeting was coming to a close and we were putting away our papers, she had the utter and complete audacity to say to me, "Mary Ann, Do you know what I would love to see? ... I would love to see you use these amazing investigative skills that you have to help another family who could really use it." Thankfully, at that moment, I had my retort ready, "My family comes first", I said. We spoke briefly with the representative from the Congressman's office who, I felt, was processing what she had just witnessed and was still trying to make sense of it all. She said that she was going to speak with the Legislative person and request that they do a few specific things. So, I went back into the room to get the legislative liaison for her and found, not another meeting with another family, but three of the "suits", the Major and the analyst huddled in a small circle speaking in low voices, so much for meeting with another family.
They may think they have us against the ropes but that is far from the truth now. Their performance has done the complete opposite of its intent, now, more than ever I am convinced that their sandbar story is nothing but a cover for something that they just don't want known. There are answers out there somewhere and we will find them. We took a day to lick our wounds so to speak and now have a nice long list of things to do, check on and search for. They thought they had a fight on their hands before ... that was a walk in the park!
I am sure there are many of you who would like to see a photograph of the dogtag and I promise you that over the next few days I will do just that. I just need a few days to decompress and get rolling again. We have always said that we will follow all the leads that come our way until we have none left to follow. We are far from that point.
We want to thank you all for your never ending support, encouragement and steadfast belief in bringing Greg home. Many of you on this list have served as catalysts for some great ideas, avenues of investigation and most importantly, a constant reminder that we are not in this alone. That simple fact is what makes us want to fight ... and for that we thank you!
As usual, I have written an e-mail that is far too long, I hope you can forgive me. I will close this e-mail using a phrase that I rarely do, simply because I feel that it is only to be used by those in the brotherhood, but today, it has meaning beyond that of the everyday ....
"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act" ~ George Orwell
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