Name: Willie Clyde Kuykendall
Rank/Branch: E3/US Army
Unit: Troop F, 7th Cavalry, 196th Brigade, 23rd Infantry Division (Americal)
Date of Birth: 04 August 1949
Home City of Record: Batesville MS
Date of Loss: 18 August 1971
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 155028N 1080821E (AT936533)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Tank
Other Personnel in Incident: Melvin L. Weaks (missing)
Refno: 1769

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.


SYNOPSIS: At 1400 hours on August 18, 1971, PFC Willie Kuykendall and PFC
Melvin Weaks, both gunners, were members of 2nd Platoon, F Troop, 17th
Cavalry, on a recovery operation of a track vehicle which had stalled while
crossing the Thu Bon River in Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam.

During the operation, PFC Kuykendall, assisted by SSgt. Bays, attempted to
swim a cable across the river to reach the vehicle. Bays was able to reach
the vehicle, but due to the swift river current, PFC Kuykendall was carried
past it. After having trouble staying up, he disappeared below the surface
of the water, and was not seen again.

When it became clear that PFC Kuykendall was in trouble, PFC Weaks entered
the water and attempted to swim towards him, but he also disappeared beneath
the surface in the same area, and was also not seen again. An extensive air
and ground search was conducted without success.

Kuykendall and Weaks are among the unfortunate accidental deaths that occur
wherever people are. The fact that they died an accidental death in the
midst of war is tragically ironic. They are listed among the missing with
honor, because their bodies were never found to be returned to the country
they served.

Others who are missing do not have such clear cut cases. Some were known
captives; some were photographed as they were led away by their guards. Some
were in radio contact with search teams, while others simply disappeared.

Over 1000 eye-witness reports of living American prisoners were received by
1989. Most of them are still classified. If, as the U.S. seems to believe,
the men are all dead, why the secrecy after so many years? If the men are
alive, why are they not home?





Return to Service Member Profiles

On August 18, 1971, two members of the 17th Cavalry Regiment took part in a recovery operation for a tracked vehicle that had stalled while crossing the Thu Bon River in Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam. While attempting to swim a cable from a recovery track to the stalled vehicle, one of the men was caught up in the swift river current and was swept away past the vehicle, eventually disappearing below the water surface. The other individual attempted to save him, but he also disappeared into the river. Neither man was seen following the incident. An extensive air and ground search was conducted but was unsuccessful in locating either man. 

Private First Class Willie Clyde Kuykendall entered the U.S. Army from Mississippi and was a gunner with the 2nd Platoon, Troop F, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 196th Brigade, 23rd Infantry Division. He was one of the men lost while attempting to swim to this stalled vehicle, and remains unaccounted for. Today, Private First Class Kuykendall is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Based on all information available, DPAA assessed the individual's case to be in the analytical category of Non-recoverable.

If you are a family member of this serviceman, DPAA can provide you with additional information and analysis of your case. Please contact your casualty office representative.

Service member profile discrepancy? Please help us ensure the accuracy of each profile by submitting documentation about a service member profile.