LUSTER, ROBERT LEE Remains Returned 27 January 1969, ID'd 23 February 1976 (Family does not accept ID) Name: Robert Lee Luster Rank/Branch: E3/US Army Unit: Date of Birth: 30 December 1949 Home City of Record: Tiffin OH Date of Loss: 23 January 1969 Country of Loss: South Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 141911N 1074330E (YA940681) Status (in 1973): Missing in Action Category: 3 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: UH1H Refno: 1365 Other Personnel in Incident: William R. Henderson, Frank D. Moorman (both missing); Robert F. Scherdin (missing - see text) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1991 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 1998. REMARKS: REMS REC 690127, IDD 760222 SYNOPSIS: MACV-SOG (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observation Group) was a joint-service unconventional warfare task force engaged in highly classified operations throughout Southeast Asia. The 5th Special Forces channeled personnel into MACV-SOG (although it was not a Special Forces group) through Special Operations Augmentation (SOA), which provided their "cover" while under secret orders to MACV-SOG. The teams performed deep penetration missions of strategic reconnaissance and interdiction into Laos and Cambodia which were called, depending on the time frame, "Shining Brass" or "Prairie Fire" missions. On December 19, 1968, PFC Robert F. Scherdin was the assistant team leader of a MACV-SOG reconnaissance patrol in Rotanokiri Province, Cambodia, near the border of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The team leader, suspecting enemy activity, had taken four members of the team to check out the area. The rear element, with Scherdin in charge, came under heavy automatic weapon fire as they were moving up to the leader's position. Montagnard soldier Nguang in this element, saw Scherdin fall on his right side and tried to help him stand up, but Scherdin only groaned and would not get up. Nguang was then wounded himself and realized that he had been left by the other three Vietnamese of the rear element, whereupon he left Scherdin and joined the rest of the unit. The team leader and his element were extracted a short time later, then the rear element was extracted, except for Scherdin. The team leader had been informed that Scherdin had been wounded and because of the tactical situation, had to be left behind. Scherdin was not seen again. On December 30, a platoon was inserted into the area to search for Scherdin, but had to be extracted because of heavy enemy activity. In January, 1969, the rear element of the original team was also reinserted and remained four days. They died in a helicopter crash shortly after their extraction. They had not been questioned by the investigation board, and it is not known if they located information concerning Scherdin. There are only three Americans missing who are associated with the loss of a helicopter in January 1969. Lost January 23, 1969, in the general vicinity of the Scherdin loss, they are SGT. William R. Henderson, SP4 Frank D. Moorman and PFC Robert L. Luster. These three were lost in the Tri-border area in South Vietnam. Their remains were recovered on January 27, 1969 and positive identifications confirmed February 23, 1976. According to Luster's wife, the remains were subsequently buried in a mass grave. She does not accept the identification of her husband. Further, Mrs. Luster states that one of the team "walked off the plane in 1973" (was a released POW). According to all available public records, only Luster, Moorman and Henderson were classified missing from this incident, and no released POW went missing that day. It is believed that these three may have comprised the flight crew of the helicopter extracting the Special Forces search party. [As the remainder of the rear element was probably completely indigenous, U.S. records would not contain reference to them. The individual released may have been an indigenous.] Nearly 2500 Americans were lost in Southeast Asia during our miltary involvement there. Since the war in Southeast Asia ended in 1973, thousands of reports relating to Americans prisoner, missing or unaccounted for have been received by the U.S. Government. The official policy is that no conclusive proof has been obtained that is current enough to act upon. Detractors of this policy say conclusive proof is in hand, but that the willingness or ability to rescue these prisoners does not exist. Robert F. Scherdin, if one of those hundreds said to be still alive and in captivity, must be wondering if and when his country will return for him. In America, we say that life is precious, but isn't the life of even one American worth the effort of recovery? When the next war comes, and it is our sons lost, will we then care enough to do everything we can to bring our prisoners home?