MOON, WALTER HUGH
Name: Walter Hugh "Wally" Moon
Rank/Branch: O4/US Army Special Forces
Unit: Company B, FFT-59, 1st Special Forces
Date of Birth: 31 March 1923
Home City of Record: Rudy AR
Date of Loss: 22 April 1961
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 185521N 1022827E (TG240150)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
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: Orville Ballenger (released 1962); Gerald
Biber; John Bischoff (both missing)
REMARKS: KIA N ESCAPE UG 0944 - J
SYNOPSIS: The early 1960's marked a period of civil war and military coups
in the country of Laos which resulted in major objectives being taken by
Kong Le-Pathet Lao communist forces. Kong Le had himself been a graduate of
the CIA-sponsored Philippine scout and ranger school and had announced that
he was fighting the corrupt royal government headed by Prince Souvanna
Phouma. Kong Le found support from the Soviets, who assisted him in
defeating Gen. Phoumi Nosavan's countercoup forces at the capitol city of
Vientiane in December 1960. Pathet Lao troops were airlifted by the Soviets
to take the Plaine des Jarres region in March 1961.
Although Gen. Nosavan and Groupement 12 of the new Forces Armees de Laos
continued to give chase to Kong Le and his troops, they were not successful
in regaining the Plain of Jars. In early March two Pathet Lao battalions
drove Groupement 12 back toward Vang Vieng. Capt. Walter Moon's four-man
Field Training Team FTT-59, MAAG, of the 7th Special Forces Group was
attached to the 6th Bataillon d'infanterie (Lao) at Ban Pha Home, about
thirty miles north of Vang Vieng. On April 22, 1961, the battalion was
subjected to a heavy and accurate artillery barrage and was rapidly flanked
at Phou Tesao.
Shortly after the battalion commander announced that they were cut off, the
perimeter collapsed and the Pathet Lao quickly overran the battalion
positions. The team's commander, Capt. Walter Moon, was captured in the
SFC John M. Bischoff (the medic), Sgt. Gerald M. Biber (the radio operator),
and some Laotian soldiers jumped aboard an armored car, heading south on
Route 13, in a breakout effort. According to Lao survivors, they crouched
behind the turret, but the car came under heavy grenade attack. Sgt.
Bischoff fired a machine gun from the vehicle until he was shot through the
neck and killed. Sgt. Biber had already been wounded and was apparently
killed by stick grenades thrown against the armored car. The vehicle was
halted and its crew captured.
Sgt. Orville R. Ballinger, demolitions sergeant, escaped through the jungle
and linked up with some Lao soldiers. They found a boat and were going
downriver when they were surprised and captured by the Pathet Lao seven days
later. Sgt. Ballenger were eventually released in August 1962.
Capt. Moon tried to escape twice during his confinement, and on the last
attempt was wounded in the chest and head. According to Ballinger, Moon's
head injury caused him to be come mentally unbalanced, and after several
months of persecution, he was executed in his prison quarters at Lat Theoung
by a Meo guard and a Pathet Lao officer on July 22, 1961. The Pathet Lao
have consistently denied knowledge of Moon, Biber or Bischoff.
In 1984, James "Bo" Gritz, a highly decorated former Special Forces colonel,
brought documents and a photograph pertaining to Moon from Laos and gave
them to the U.S. Government. Moon's wife positively identified the
photograph and Moon's signature. The Government stated that the photograph
was made May 6, 1961, two weeks after Moon's capture. (Moon was normally
clean-shaven but had, according to USG, grown a full beard in 2 weeks!)
Though the documents were taken from a large collection of 250-300 similar
documents held by the Lao People's Army in Laos, the U.S. refused to demand
the information from the Lao. The Defense Intelligence Agency, according to
Congressman Stephen Solarz, has full knowledge of this collection.
Whether Biber and Bischoff survived the ambush on April 22, 1961 is unknown.
They and Moon are among nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos and did
not return. The treaty which ended American involvement in the war in
Southeast Asia did not pertain to the prisoners held by the Lao, and not a
single prisoner was released from Laos in 1973. The Lao publicly stated they
held prisoners, but the U.S. has never negotiated for their release.
Were it not for thousands of reports relating to Americans still held
captive in Southeast Asia, we could simply close the door on men like Biber,
Bischoff and Moon. But as long as there is even one man alive, the nation he
went to serve must do all it can to bring him home.
Mark Smith 07/06/94
NOTE: this report IS NOT reproduced in its entirety.
Mark Smith's thoughts on:
6. Walter Moon....persistent intelligence on Walter Moon surfaces from
time to time......although Bo Gritz was accused of fabricating
intelligence on Moon, in all fairness, his intelligence was consistent
with all other information. Though other prisoners related Moon's death,
none actually witnessed it........reported alive as late as 1990....
SOVIETS INVITE U.S. VETS TO MOSCOW FOR POW TALKS
SPECIAL TO U.S. VETERAN - By Tim Carver
The principal topic of discussion was unaccounted for prisoners of war and
missing in action--American and Soviet--during two weeks of talks in Moscow
between a delegation of U.S. veterans and high-ranking Soviet officials.
A delegation of ten members of the National Vietnam Veterans' Coalition, a
Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group, headed by its chairman, Thomas Burch,
was in Moscow and in the Ureals from July 10 to 24 at the invitation of
Afghan vet activist in Sverdolvsk and at Soviet expense.
In discussions with various Soviet leaders there was a mutual concern
expressed for U.S. prisoners of war, ranging from those still unaccounted for
from World War II through the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and for Soviet
prisoners of war who are missing in Afghanistan.
GIVEN LIST OF 73
Representatives of the U.S. delegation testified before the Supreme Soviet
Committee on Internationalist Combatants. The Soviets were presented a list
of 73 American missing in Indochina, including four cases relating to
American military personnel captured in Laos.
Those four cases included David L. Hrdlicka, missing since May 18, 1965;
Charles Shelton, missing since April 29, 1965; Walter Moon, missing since
April 22, 1961, and Robert Standerwick, missing since Feb. 3, 1971.
The Bamboo Cage -- The Full Story of the American Servicemen still held
hostage in South-East Asia. By Nigel Cawthorn
........ Gritz also claims that Admiral Tuttle informed him of the Fort
Apache Mission and that he, Tuttle, had personally briefed President-elect
Ronald Reagan and several members of his staff in the west room of the White
House in January, 1981, on 'a minimum of 100 PoWs in Vietnam'. Gritz has
produced as evidence a photograph and signature of an American captive of
the Pathet Lao who identifies himself as US Army Major Walter H. Moon from
Arkansas who went missing in Laos in April, 1961. His wife, Ruth Moon, has
verified that the man in a photograph and the signature belong to her
husband. The DIA say that Moon was killed in an escape attempt in July,
22 April 1961:
The Royal Laotian Army 6th Battalion was attacked by Communist Pathet Lao
CPT Walter Moon, Company B, FFT-59, 1st Special Forces, was the commander of the advisory
unit and tried to organize the retreat, but was unsuccessful. While attempting to stop an armored
car, he was thrown off and later captured. Tortured and left without any medical attention for his
massive wounds for four months, he was killed after he attempted to escape his prison a second
time. CPT Moon was posthumously promoted to Major and awarded a Bronze Star for bravery
by President Kennedy. He is the first casualty in Laos in what would become the Vietnam War.
Moon Hall, Ft. Bragg, NC is named in his honor.