HARKER, DAVID NORTHRUP
Name: David Northrup Harker
Rank/Branch: E3/US Army
Unit: Company D, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry 196th Light Infantry Brigade
(Americal) Chu Lai, South Vietnam
Date of Birth: 08 December 1945
Home City of Record: Lynchburg VA
Loss Date: 08 January 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 153551N 1081006E (AT964263)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
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.
Other Personnel in Incident: Company A: James A.Daly (released POW - 1973);
Richard R. Rehe; Willie A. Watkins (released POW 1969); Derri Sykes
(missing); Company D: Francis E. Cannon (POW - remains returned 1985);
Richard F. Williams (POW - remains returned 1985); James H. Strickland
(released POW - 1969); Thomas A. Booker (killed); "Coglin" (an unknown
person whom Cannon said died)
REMARKS: RELEASED 730305 BY PRG
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.
SYNOPSIS: On January 8, 1968, PFC Richard Rehe, PFC Derri Sykes, PFC James
A. Daly and Cpl. Willie A. Watkins, members of A Company, 3rd Battalion,
21st Infantry, 196th Light Infantry Brigade (Americal) were ordered to move
down to Happy Valley in Quang Tin Province, South Vietnam. "Charlie" and
"Delta" Companies had been sustaining heavy losses in previous days.
PFC David N. Harker, James H. Strickland, 1Sgt. Richard F. Williams, Sgt.
Thomas A. Booker, PFC Francis E. Cannon and "Coglin" were part of Delta
Company. During the fight, a mortar shell exploded near Cannon, the
radioman, killing Sgt. Booker and "Coglin". Harker, a rifleman, was stabbed
in the side with a bayonette. Strickland, a rifleman, was not seriously
wounded. Cannon had a large hole in his upper back and a smaller hole near
his neck. The Company's first sergeant, "Top" Williams, was shot through the
right hand and injured an arm. Harker, Strickland, Williams and Cannon were
captured that day.
The next day, under heavy attack, Daly, Rhe, Watkins and Sykes were injured
and captured. Sykes, a rifleman, was hit 3 times as he and Watkins had
jumped for cover just when a grenade hit. Watkins was captured immediately,
but thought that Sykes was left behind, as the enemy rushed him (Watkins)
from the area. During his departure from the area, Watkins saw Daly, whom he
thought dead, lying in a rice paddy. Daly then moved and drew attention to
himself and was captured. Watkins later saw Sykes, bandaged and calling for
water. Watkins and Daly carried him along the trail after their capture, but
were ordered to leave him under a shed at a house on the trail on the first
day. They never saw Derri Sykes again.
Watkins said that Richard Rehe, a grenadier, had also been taken prisoner
that day, but died in captivity from wounds sustained in the battle. Daly
stated that both Rehe and Sykes had been captured but had died the same day.
Cannon, Williams, Harker, Strickland, Watkins and Daly eventually were held
together in prison camps in Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam. For Americans
as well as Viet Cong, life in these camps was extremely difficult. The
living conditions were primitive, food scarce at times, and disease and
dysentary common, adequate medical treatment uncommon. It was not uncommon
for POWs held in the south to die of starvation or disease. It is also
resonable to expect that in such circumstances, one cannot predict behavior
or its abberation. While superhuman efforts were made to maintain the esprit
de corps and military order and honor, it was sometimes impossible not to
revert to a basic, more primitive nature for self preservation.
Top Williams, a veteran of World War II, and a big grey haired man, was
described as being a real professional. His injured hand became gangrenous,
but he survived this injury. He was receiving treatment and still probing
for bone splinters in his injured arm when he contracted dysentery and
ultimately died, September 27, 1968. Death from malnutrition and dysentery
is extremely unpleasant, and the victim suffers not only from the discomfort
of dysentery, but also from severe edema, and many times from halucinations.
Williams' remains were returned in 1985, after 17 years.
Frank Cannon, a handsome 6" tall man of 24 with deep set eyes, suffered from
the wounds he received by the exploding mortar shell. These wounds became
gangrenous, and although the wounds gradually improved by summer 1968,
Cannon grew continually weaker. By August, Cannon weighed only 90 pounds and
slipped into a coma. In early September 1968, Frank Cannon died. 17 years
later, the Vietnamese returned his remains to his country.
Willie Watkins, described as just over 6" tall, good-looking, lanky, very
dark skin, penetrating eyes, wiry and hard as a rock remained one of the
strongest prisoners and at times was a leader among his fellow POWs.
According to some of them, he "always had a Bible and a machete". He was
James H. Strickland, a rather short, blue-eyed, boyish looking man was known
to be a hard worker and to be as strong as a bull. He was also pointed out
by the Vietnamese as an example of a "progressive" prisoner, as was Willie
Watkins. The two were released from Cambodia on November 5, 1969.
James A. Daly, a conscientious objector, never felt he should have been in
combat. He had been waiting for notice to leave Vietnam, following a lengthy
process of appeal on the basis of his beliefs. Daly, a big man, "coffee and
cream color" was only slightly wounded when he was captured. His sense of
self preservation ensured that he lost a minimum of weight. He joined the
"Peace Committee" comprised of a number of other military men who opposed
the war, and official charges were brought against him upon his 1973 release
by fellow POW Col. Theodore Guy. In the wake of the POW release, charges
were officially dismissed.
David Harker also felt some anti-war sentiments, but it was said that he
slowly turned "reactionary" against the Vietnamese after he was moved to
North Vietnam after three years in the jungle.
Perhaps it is important to note that no returned POW would deny
"collaborating" with the enemy at some point in time. Technically, if a POW
was ordered to work or to perform any function whatever, the execution of
this function would be considered collaboration. Sometimes the abberation in
conduct was a group decision, made for the welfare of the unit. At other
times, the desision to cooperate was made for purely self-serving reasons -
such as starvation, reluctance to be tortured, loss of will to resist. It
cannot be possible for any person to judge this behavior not having
experienced the horror that caused it.
Richard Rehe and Derri Sykes alone remain unaccounted for from the battle in
Quang Tin Province. Although it seems certain that they are both dead, the
Vietnamese deny any knowledge of them.
For many others who are missing, simple and certain death did not occur.
Some just vanished, others were known captives and never were returned.
Still others were alive and well and in radio contact with would-be rescuers
describing the approach of the enemy.
Tragically, thousands of reports have been received indicating that some
hundreds of Americans are still alive and in captivity in Southeast Asia. We
cannot forget them, we cannot write them off. They must be brought home.
SOURCE: WE CAME HOME copyright 1977
Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret),
Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St.,
Toluca Lake, CA 91602 Text is reproduced as found in the original
publication (including date and spelling errors).
DAVID N. HARKER Staff Sergeant
United States Army
Captured: January 8, 1968
Released: March 5, 1973
David Northrup Harker was born in Lynchburg, Virginia on December 8, 1945.
He received his elementary and high school education in the public schools
of Campbell County, graduating from high school in 1964 and from Bluefield
Junior College in 1966. He then entered Virginia Polytechnic Institute. His
studies were interrupted when he was drafted into the Army in June 1967. He
received his training at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, and at Ft. Polk,
Louisiana. In November 1967 he was sent to Vietnam.
Sgt. Harker was wounded in December 1967 by shrapnel from an exploding
booby-trap. On January 16, 1968 his family received word that he was missing
in action on January 8. On March 12, 1968 his family was informed that he
was a prisoner of war. This information came through two prisoners who had
been released from the camp holding Sgt. Harker. In November 1969 three
other prisoners from the same camp were released and they talked with David
Harker's family about him. Sgt. Harker was a prisoner of the Viet Cong and
was held for three years in South Vietnam. During the five years he was a
prisoner his family received no mail from him and he received none from
A Personal Message from Sgt. Harker: Happiness is returning to the United
States where everybody's heart is full of gold the size of the Empire State
Building. It was like returning from the Twilight Zone where everything is
in a state of inertia. It was a world full of hate and humiliation, because
the enemy strips you of all human dignity and forces you to live under
conditions that are only fit for an animal. You are malnourished, weak and
constantly fighting disease. You bury another comrade and walk away
wondering who will be next, or how many more will die before it will finally
end. But in spite of the starvation and death, you look to each other and to
God for your strength, and you hope you will pull together as brothers in
the most trying time you've ever experienced, and your prayers are for those
back home who you love so dearly.
After five years of hoping, praying and keeping your faith in God and
country, the long hard journey finally ended. What a joy it was to have our
faith renewed by the thousands of cheering and flag waving people that met
us at Clark AFB, Philippines, Honolulu, and Andrews AFB, Maryland. The
smiling faces and outstretched arms let us know that our efforts through the
years were appreciated and that everybody's heart in the States was really
full of gold.
America - you gave us a heroes welcome home and really made us proud that we
served this great country of ours with dignity and honor. We love you, and
we are happy that we can once again take our place beside you in society to
help build and maintain our country's greatness. We thank you, too, Mr.
President, for we realize what a struggle it was for you. You got us out
with great honor even; though you had to deal with a stubborn and warlike
people as the North Vietnamese, and you were also bombarded with criticism
from the press and anti-war activists. However, we express our deepest
appreciation to those gallant men who gave their lives in service of their
country, and to those who were incapacitated while in service. The KIAs and
the MIAs and the disabled veterans will always hold a special place in our
hearts and prayers.
David Harker resides in Virginia.