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
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
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)
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
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
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).
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
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.
                           Debbie Sheppard