KERNS, GAIL MASON
Name: Gail Mason Kerns Rank/Branch: E5/US Army Unit: Company A, 3rd Battalion, 12th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division Date of Birth: Home City of Record: Date of Loss: 27 March 1969 Country of Loss: South Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 141913N 1073733E (YA826811) Status (in 1973): Released POW Category: Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground Refno:
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 1998.
Other Personnel In Incident: Raymond G. Czerwiec (missing); Clarence A. Latimer (missing)
REMARKS: 730305 RELEASED BY PRG
SYNOPSIS: On March 27, 1969, Raymond Czerwiec and Gail Mason were riflemen with A Company, 3rd Battalion, 12th Infantry and on a reconnaissance mission in Kontum Province, South Vietnam when their platoon came under hostile weapons fire and were forced to withdraw with a number of people missing.
An attempt to re-enter the area that afternoon was unsuccessful. Another attempt was made on the 28th but it was also unsuccessful. Air strikes and artillery fire were placed into the enemy area for two days.
On March 30, Company A attacked the enemy again, and was again forced to withdraw, leaving people behind, including SP4 Clarence A. Latimer, who was a rifleman with the company and had been severely wounded during the attempt.
Two long range reconnaissance patrols (LRRP) were sent back into the area a week later to recover the bodies of the missing. Sweeps were made of the area for two days, but no remains were found. Clarence A. Latimer was declared Missing In Action.
On March 3, 1973, Gail Kerns was released by the North Vietnamese. He had been held in South Vietnam, and moved to Hanoi prior to his release. No word had ever gotten out to the U.S. that Gail had been captured. Kerns was not conscious when he was captured, and did not know the fate of Ray Czerwiec, nor did he have information regarding Clarence Latimer.
Evidence of secondary prison systems has surfaced since the latter years of the war. It is suspected, as reports mount that hundreds of Americans were withheld from release and are still alive today, that prisoners within a second system were kept completely separate from the others. This would allow a large number of POWs to be held without knowledge of other prisoners.
Nearly 10,000 reports have been received relating to Americans in Southeast Asia. Whether Czerwiec and Latimer are among those thought to be still alive is not certain. What is certain, however, is none of them deserve abandonment by the country they proudly served.
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).
GAIL M. KERNS Staff Sergeant - United States Army Captured: March 27, 1969 Released: March 5, 1973
For 46 months he was missing in action; and then on January 27, 1973 his status was changed to POW. He was captured by the Viet Cong while on a reconnaissance mission in Kontum Province. Having been shot through the temple, he suffered an injury to the left side of his brain, thus causing partial paralysis to his right side.
Sgt. Kerns was fed a salted rice gruel for a two-month period. Those in his camp requested that their own rations be cut and more given to Gail, but the North Vietnamese refused. Fellow prisoners repeatedly requested that the camp commander let Gail come to live with them so they could give him physical therapy to restore the use of his right arm. That privilege was denied, thus Sgt. Kerns lost the use of his right arm and about 50% of his left leg.
As Gail came down the ramp of the plane at Clark AFB, he walked with great difficulty, supported by a nurse. There was a discussion as to whether he should go down in a wheel chair, but he insisted on walking. When arriving at Andrews AFB, as he stepped onto American soil, he dropped to his knees and kissed the ground to symbolize his gratefulness in returning home.
The Kerns had met while students at West Virginia Tech. Gail was drafted 11 months after they were married and they lived on several Army bases in Louisiana and Georgia before he was assigned to Vietnam in August 1968. They had a brief visit in Hawaii in March of 1969 while he was on a short leave from Vietnam. That was their last contact; the end of that month Gail was captured.
After medical attention was given at Valley Forge Military Hospital, he returned home to Rebecca and a new home.
Gail and his wife Helen reside in West Virginia.
In reading the article about my stepdad, Gail Kerns, I noticed there is a mistake. He lost the use of his right leg, not his left.