HARGROVE, JOSEPH NELSON
|Name: Joseph Nelson Hargrove
Rank/Branch: E3/US Marine Corps
Unit: F BLT/2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, 3rd Marine Division
Date of Birth: 15 May 1951
Home City of Record: Mt. Olive NC
Date of Loss: 15 May 1975
Country of Loss: Cambodia/Over Water
Loss Coordinates: 101800N 1030830E (TS960400)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
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: Daniel A. Benedett; Lynn Blessing; Walter Boyd;
Gregory S. Copenhaver; Andres Garcia; Bernard Gause Jr., James J. Jacques;
Ronald J. Manning; James R. Maxwell; Richard W. Rivenburgh; Antonio R.
Sandoval; Kelton R. Turner; Richard Van de Geer (all missing on CH53A);
Danny G. Marshall (missing on Koah Tang Island); Elwood E. Rumbaugh (missing
from a CH53A)
REMARKS: 750515 MAYAGUEZ INCIDENT LOSS
SYNOPSIS: When U.S. troops were pulled out of Southeast Asia in early 1975,
Vietnamese communist troops began capturing one city after another, with
Hue, Da Nang and Ban Me Thuot in March, Xuan Loc in April, and finally on
April 30, Saigon. In Cambodia, communist Khmer Rouge had captured the
capital city of Phnom Penh on April 17. The last Americans were evacuated
from Saigon during "Option IV", with U.S. Ambassador Martin departing on
April 29. The war, according to President Ford, "was finished."
2Lt. Richard Van de Geer, assigned to the 21st Special Ops Squadron at NKP,
had participated in the evacuation of Saigon, where helicopter pilots were
required to fly from the decks of the 7th Fleet carriers stationed some 500
miles offshore, fly over armed enemy-held territory, collect American and
allied personnel and return to the carriers via the same hazardous route,
heavily loaded with passengers. Van de Geer wrote to a friend, "We pulled
out close to 2,000 people. We couldn't pull out any more because it was
beyond human endurance to go any more..."
At 11:21 a.m. on May 12, the U.S. merchant ship MAYAGUEZ was seized by the
Khmer Rouge in the Gulf of Siam about 60 miles from the Cambodian coastline
and eight miles from Poulo Wai island. The ship, owned by Sea-Land
Corporation, was en route to Sattahip, Thailand from Hong Kong, carrying a
non-arms cargo for military bases in Thailand.
Capt. Charles T. Miller, a veteran of more than 40 years at sea, was on the
bridge. He had steered the ship within the boundaries of international
waters, but the Cambodians had recently claimed territorial waters 90 miles
from the coast of Cambodia. The thirty-nine seamen aboard were taken
President Ford ordered the aircraft carrier USS CORAL SEA, the guided
missile destroyer USS HENRY B. WILSON and the USS HOLT to the area of
seizure. By night, a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft located the MAYAGUEZ at
anchor off Poulo WaI island. Plans were made to rescue the crew. A
battalion landing team of 1,100 Marines was ordered flown from bases in
Okinawa and the Philippines to assemblE at Utapao, Thailand in preparation
for the assault.
The first casualties of the effort to free the MAYAGUEZ are recorded on May
13 when a helicopter carrying Air Force security team personnel crashed en
route to Utapao, killing all 23 aboard.
Early in the morning of May 13, the Mayaguez was ordered to head for Koh
Tang island. Its crew was loaded aboard a Thai fishing boat and taken first
to Koh Tang, then to the mainland city of Kompong Song, then to Rong San Lem
island. U.S. intelligence had observed a cove with considerable activity on
the island of Koh Tang, a small five-mile long island about 35 miles off the
coast of Cambodia southwest of the city of Sihanoukville (Kampong Saom), and
believed that some of the crew might be held there. They also knew of the
Thai fishing boat, and had observed what appeared to be caucasians aboard
it, but it could not be determined if some or all of the crew was aboard.
The USS HOLT was ordered to seize and secure the MAYAGUEZ, still anchored
off Koh Tang. Marines were to land on the island and rescue any of the crew.
Navy jets from the USS CORAL SEA were to make four strikes on military
installments on the Cambodian mainland.
On May 15, the first wave of 179 Marines headed for the island aboard eight
Air Force "Jolly Green Giant" helicopters. Three Air Force helicopters
unloaded Marines from the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines onto the landing pad of
the USS HOLT and then headed back to Utapao to pick up the second wave of
Marines. Planes dropped tear gas on the MAYAGUEZ, and the USS HOLT pulled up
along side the vessel and the Marines stormed aboard. The MAYAGUEZ was
Simultaneously, the Marines of the 2/9 were making their landings on two
other areas of the island. The eastern landing zone was on the cove side
where the Cambodian compound was located. The western landing zone was a
narrow spit of beach about 500 feet behind the compound on the other side of
the island. The Marines hoped to surround the compound.
As the first troops began to unload on both beaches, the Cambodians opened
fire. On the western beach, one helicopter was hit and flew off crippled, to
ditch in the ocean about 1 mile away. The pilot had just disembarked his
passengers, and he was rescued at sea.
Meanwhile, the eastern landing zone had become a disaster. The first two
helicopters landing were met by enemy fire. Ground commander, (now) Col.
Randall W. Austin had been told to expect between 20 and 40 Khmer Rouge
soldiers on the island. Instead, between 150 and 200 were encountered.
First, Lt. John Shramm's helicopter tore apart and crashed into the surf
after the rotor system was hit. All aboard made a dash for the tree line on
One CH53A helicopter was flown by U.S. Air Force Major Howard Corson and
2Lt. Richard Van de Geer and carrying 23 U.S. Marines and 2 U.S. Navy
corpsmen, all from the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines. As the helicopter
approached the island, it was caught in a cross fire and hit by a rocket.
The severely damaged helicopter crashed into the sea just off the coast of
the island and exploded. To avoid enemy fire, survivors were forced to swim
out to sea for rescue. Twelve aboard, including Maj. Corson, were rescued.
Those missing from the helicopter were 2Lt. Richard Van de Geer, PFC Daniel
A. Benedett, PFC Lynn Blessing, PFC Walter Boyd, Lcpl. Gregory S.
Copenhaver, Lcpl. Andres Garcia, PFC James J. Jacques, PFC James R. Maxwell,
PFC Richard W. Rivenburgh, PFC Antonio R. Sandoval, PFC Kelton R. Turner,
all U.S. Marines. Also missing were HM1 Bernard Gause, Jr. and HM Ronald J.
Manning, the two corpsmen.
Other helicopters were more successful in landing their passengers. One
CH53A, however was not. SSgt. Elwood E. Rumbaugh's aircraft was near the
coastline when it was shot down. Rumbaugh is the only missing man from the
aircraft. The passengers were safely extracted. (It is not known whether the
passengers went down with the aircraft or whether they were rescued from the
By midmorning, when the Cambodians on the mainland began receiving reports
of the assault, they ordered the crew of the MAYAGUEZ on a Thai boat, and
then left. The MAYAGUEZ crew was recovered by the USS WILSON before the
second wave of Marines was deployed, but the second wave was ordered to
Late in the afternoon, the assault force had consolidated its position on
the western landing zone and the eastern landing zone was evacuated at 6:00
p.m. By the end of the 14-hour operation, most of the Marines were extracted
from the island safely, with 50 wounded. Lcpl. Ashton Loney had been killed
by enemy fire, but his body could not be recovered.
Protecting the perimeter during the final evacuation was the machine gun
squad of PFC Gary L. Hall, Lcpl. Joseph N. Hargrove and Pvt. Danny G.
Marshall. They had run out of ammunition and were ordered to evacuate on the
last helicopter. It was their last contact. Maj. McNemar and Maj. James H.
Davis made a final sweep of the beach before boarding the helicopter and
were unable to locate them. They were declared Missing in Action.
The eighteen men missing from the MAYAGUEZ incident are listed among the
missing from the Vietnam war. Although authorities believe that there are
perhaps hundreds of American prisoners still alive in Southeast Asia from
the war, most are pessimistic about the fates of those captured by the Khmer
In 1988, the communist government of Kampuchea (Cambodia) announced that it
wished to return the remains of several dozen Americans to the United
States. (In fact, the number was higher than the official number of
Americans missing in Cambodia.) Because the U.S. does not officially
recognize the Cambodian government, it has refused to respond directly to
the Cambodians regarding the remains. Cambodia, wishing a direct
acknowledgment from the U.S. Government, still holds the remains.
National Alliance of Families
Inadvertently Left Behind - Within the next several months, the Defense
Department will announce the remains identification of servicemen lost on
May 15th 1975, at the Kho Tang Island, Cambodia. Eighteen airman, sailors
and marines were lost during an attempt to free the U.S. merchant vessel
Mayaguez. A detailed article by Lisa Hoffman of Scirpps Howard News Service
, published in the Washington Times, on February 23rd 2000 details incident
and the evidence that three men were inadvertently left behind... alive.
"...absent is a final accounting of the fate of three Marines who
inadvertently were left behind on the island when the rest evacuated. They
are believed to have been captured and executed days later."
"The tragic story of the Kho Tang battle began with the seizure of the
Mayaguez off the southern coast of Cambodia, 12 days after the fall of
South Vietnam's capital, Saigon. President Ford ordered U.S. forces to
rescue the 39 crew members."
"By the time the Marines launched their assault, the Cambodians had released
the Mayaguez sailors on the Cambodian mainland. An intelligence failure
left the Marines unaware that their services no longer were needed."
"More than 230 Marines stormed ashore on Kho Tang, expecting an easy job of
overcoming a small enemy encampment numbering no more than 20. Instead,
they were met by a well-armed force of 150. A furious battle lasted three
hours. Among the losses was the CH-53A helicopter, on which 13 GIs died. In
all, 18 U.S. troops were killed.
"The Marines drew back and waited 15 hours to be evacuated from the island,
in what became one of the most dramatic rescues of the war. A three-man
machine gun team, which included Covington, Ky., native Gary Hall, was
dispatched to protect the troops' flank during the withdrawal. But in the
fog of battle, the team was mistakenly overlooked. It wasn't until the next
day that their absence was realized. By then, it was too late to go back."
"Although their fate is not entirely certain, it is believed the trio
survived for several days before being captured and killed. One reportedly
was shot to death after being caught stealing food from the Khmer Rouge camp
. The other two apparently were bludgeoned to death."
"It wasn't until 1992 that military investigators with the Pentagon's Joint
Task Force-Full Accounting operation, which is in charge of accounting for
U.S. MIAs, were able to explore either the island or the helicopter wreckage
"By 1995, the team - which faced obstacles ranging from unexploded ordnance,
poisonous snakes, fierce storms and tropical diseases - had come up with an
elaborate method of essentially salvaging the CH-53A chopper so it could be
searched for remains. They built a dam around the helicopter and pumped out
the water and sand.
"Despite a quarter century of squalls, tides and scavengers, the
investigators managed to recover 161 human bone fragments and a few
personal effects - all that was left of the GIs, according to Tom Holland,
scientific director for the Army's identification lab.
"Later, scientists determined that the bones came from 13 different men. It
took another three years to "harvest" enough DNA from the bones and then
match it with DNA samples taken from maternal relatives to definitively
identify nine of them."
"That left four men unidentified. The remains of three of them were too
small to obtain a DNA sample."
Three Marines were left behind on Koh Tang. They are Joseph Hargrove, Gary
Hall and Danny Marshall. In the almost 25 years, since that battle, we
wonder if anyone has ever explained to the Hargrove, Hall and Marshall
families how these men were "inadvertently left behind." Or, why it was "to
late" to go back for them. Imagine what these men thought as they waited
for rescue and their thoughts when they finally realized no one was coming
One Families Thoughts - The following was sent to us, by Sandy Hargrove.
She is the sister-in-law of Joseph Hargrove, "inadvertently left behind" on
Kho Tang Island.
"Joseph Hargrove was lost on May 15th 1975 his 24th birthday. I know the
whole Hargrove family just knows that Joseph was sacrificed. We were never
told the truth."
"Joseph's older brother Lane was killed on April 21,1968. When Lane was
going over he was asked if he wanted to go to Canada by one of his older
brothers who had already done his time in the Army. Lane said no he wanted
to go to Nam."
"In those days we honestly believed that the government cared about us as
people. They wouldn't send someone to a foreign country and have him risk
his life for no reason... or would they. What we know now and what we knew
then. With all that we have gone through I think we would have all gone to
Canada with him."
"So Lane was blown up stepping on a land mine and his little brother Joseph
just got left behind. So will someone tell me how this country is a better
place because it is missing Joseph and Lane Hargrove. Joseph is a human
being not a number. How dare anyone to think they can just forget about
them. If it wasn't for Ralph writing that article in Popular Science over a
year ago I would still get the standard reply I usually get when I mention
the Mayaguez. "The What?"
"Well Joseph never came home because of that What. How easily people forget
. But now there is a movement out there to hold the government accountable.
I love my country don't get me wrong but the people who run it haven't done
a very good job as far as Viet Nam. If anything I hope the guys deaths will
prevent this from happening again."
"There are other little Hargroves growing up now Thank you God. Maybe they
all will have a chance to grow up and have families not just some of them.
The families that Lane or Joseph never had, leave a big empty spot at the
family reunions." Sandy Hargrove
National Alliance of Families
For The Return of America's Missing Servicemen
World War II - Korea - Cold War - Vietnam
Dolores Alfond - 425-881-1499
Lynn O'Shea --- 718-846-4350
Web Site ------- http://www.nationalalliance.org
E-mail ---------- email@example.com
Bits 'N' Pieces May 20, 2000
MIA Marines Identified From Mayaguez Incident - From the Office of the
Assistant Secretary of Defense - News Release May 18, 2000 - "Six
Marines missing in action from the Vietnam War have been accounted for
and their remains are being returned to their families for burial in the
United States ."
"They are identified as Lance Cpl. Gregory S. Copenhaver, Port Deposit,
Md.; Lance Cpl. Andres Garcia, Carlsbad, N.M.; Pfc. Walter Boyd,
Norfolk, Va.; and Pfc. Kelton R. Turner, Los Angeles, Calif. The names
of two Marines are being withheld at the request of their families."
"...Between 1991-99, U.S. and Cambodian investigators conducted seven
joint investigations, led by the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting.
Additionally, on three occasions Cambodian authorities unilaterally
turned over remains believed to be those of American servicemen. In
October and November 1995, U.S. and Cambodian specialists conducted an
underwater recovery of the helicopter crash site where they located
numerous remains, personal effects and aircraft debris associated with
the loss. The USS Brunswick, a Navy salvage vessel, enabled the
specialists to conduct their excavation off shore. In addition to the
support provided by the Cambodian government, the Socialist Republic of
Vietnam also interviewed two Vietnamese informants in Ho Chi Minh City
who turned over remains that were later positively identified...."
"...Analysis of the remains and other evidence was made by the U.S. Army
Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii, which also conducted all the
remains recovery operations. The CILHI made extensive use of
mitochondrial DNA as one of the forensic identification tools to
establish the identity of these men...."
Mayaguez Documentary - We hope you all saw the excellent documentary on
the Mayaguez incident aired by the Discovery Channel. Titled "Seized at
Sea" this documentary provided detailed information on the actual battle
as well as the behind the scenes political decision making that led to
the ill-fated rescue.
An interview with one of the Cambodian soldiers provided information on
three Marines left behind alive. According to the Cambodia the three
emerged from the jungle three days after the battle, seeking food and
The fate of the three, Joseph Hargrove, Danny Marshall and Gary Hall
Another Question - viewers of "Seized at Sea" were left with is -- Just what
does the "I" in "CIA" stand for. Based on the information provided by the
CIA for this operation the "I" sure didn't stand for "Intelligence."
Mayaguez Correction - In the last edition of "Bits" we referred to the
Mayaguez as USS Mayaguez. The correct designation is S.S. Mayaguez. The
difference, USS denotes a United States Naval Ship. The S.S. denotes a
commercial freighter. The Mayaguez was a civilian ship. Thanks to Dewey
Martin, U.S. Merchant Marines (Ret) for bringing this to our attention.
CBS News Online
CBS News Online
A Military Mission Gone Wrong
A New Look At The Mayaguez Incident
ARLINGTON, Virginia, January 24, 2001
(CBS) In a two-part series, CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports on
new information that casts doubt on the declared success of a 25-year-old
At the motel where she works, the graveyard shift can be lonely. But Gail
Hargrove has had 25 years of practice being alone.....
By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on April 12, 2007 01:51 PM
Fighting to get Joseph back home
Few members of the Hargrove family talk about it -- not because they want to
forget, but because going back to the day they learned that their son,
Joseph, was gone, remembering how it took 20 years to find out what had
happened and knowing they still haven't brought him home, is simply too
Goldsboro News Argus - Goldsboro,NC,USA
Officials say no to plea to travel to gravesite
Early last week, Cary Turner got the news he had been waiting for, but it
wasn't what he wanted to hear.
A month after learning that the U.S. Army was planning a trip to the
Cambodian island his cousin, Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Hargrove, was left
behind on in 1975, Turner found out that his request to accompany the
recovery team had been denied.....
By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on July 16, 2007 01:45 PM
Fresh off his trip to Cambodia, Cary Turner said last week that while he was glad to be home, he was disappointed to not be coming back with any news about his cousin Joseph Hargrove, who was one of three Marines left behind on Koh Tang Island in 1975.....
Published in News on February 11, 2008 01:46 PM
Mayaguez MIA family still awaits final word
Jacksonville Daily News
I wear a Prisoner of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) bracelet engraved with Lance Cpl. Hargrove's name. I have worn it everyday, all day, for 10 years. ...
I know I am giving you a bit of reading and watching, but Joseph Hargrove deserves to come home...or is he already on American soil?
It is time to turn up the heat on JPAC. I personally had a conversation with Mr. Holland three weeks ago and he assured me that Joseph
Hargrove is not at JPAC in Hawaii, but 5 eye witnesses say that JPAC dug up his remains in 2008. So, where is he???? Please feel
free to forward to anyone you feel can help.
cary turner firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Dec 23, 2016 9:30 PM
Subject: Lost Fire Team
My name is Cary Turner and I am cousin to Joseph Hargrove who was one of the three marines left
on Koh Tang during the "Mayaguez Incident." For over 41 years there has been a cover up involving
the Lost Fire Team.
After a ten year battle investigating this incident trying to get answers for the many questions that
my family has had and never getting any co-operation from our own government I had to resort to
seeking those answers from foreign sources.
Over the course of those years I was blessed enough to develop a "network" of good hearted people
willing to help in this endeavor.
We eventually gathered the story piece by piece until we finally obtained the truth of what really
happened to those three brave marines.
The truth is, the three marines were ordered to provide cover fire for the other marines being extracted
from the island. After carrying out those orders they pulled back into the landing zone and there waited
for pick up as promised.
Henry Kissinger denied the request for any rescue aircraft nor Navy Seal Team to extract those three
marines from the island. They were abandoned by orders from the White House.
Finally, after 41 years I am extremely happy to announce that soon to be published by Newsweek in
their January 20th issue will be the story of what really happened to those marines on the night of
May 15, 1975. Everything in the article is documented and can be proven.
We have spent 10 years doing the ground work to expose this cover up. Now I am asking all Vietnam
Veteran's and any other veteran's to join us in the fight to bring those three marines home as well as
recognizing their courage and dedication in holding true to the marine tradition (Semper Fi).
After the article is published I am asking for all veteran's to contact their Congressmen and US Senators
demanding an investigation.
We have witnesses that the DPAA has Joseph's remains and we also have reason to believe they have the
remains of Gary Hall and Danny Marshall as well. They refuse to send them home for the sole purpose of
protecting Henry Kissinger. In a matter of speaking Joseph is being held as a political prisoner until
Want you please join us in our fight and give these three brave men their due. Which is, an honorable
burial and a higher accommodation.
Please forward this to all your VVA Chapters and all veteran's groups as well as your friends.
|Subject:||***Newsweek - The Truth About the Lost Marines of the Vietnam War's Last Battle - Just released***|
|Date:||Tue, 24 Jan 2017 11:14:50 -0500|
|From:||Mary Ann Reitano <email@example.com>|
|To:||Mary Ann Reitano <firstname.lastname@example.org>|
These Marine need to come Hone Now, with your Help!!!
Patrick J. Hughes U.S.M.C. ChuLai 67-68
Rolling Thunder® Inc. National Photographer
God Bless America
Bring Joseph Hargrove Home - MIA Vietnam
2018 - - Another May is here again. This May 15 will mark the
43rd anniversary of Koh Tang and no answers.
Who would have ever thought the government would go without answers to the families of these three brave men? ...