PAYNE, NORMAN Name Norman Payne Rank/Branch: E5/US Army Special Forces Unit: FOB 1, Command and Control North, 5th Special Forces Group Date of Birth: 14 July 1939 (Greenville AL) Home City of Record: Cleveland OH Date of Loss: 19 December 1968 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 162130N 1065030E (XD978095) Status (in 1973): Missing in Action Category: 2 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground Refno: 1343 Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 30 June 1990 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: SYNOPSIS: MACV-SOG (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observation Group). MACV-SOG was a joint service high command 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 which were called, depending on the time frame, "Shining Brass" or "Prairie Fire" missions. SGT Norman Payne joined the army in July, 1957. In Vietnam, he was assigned to FOB 1, Command and Control North, MACV-SOG. On December 18, 1968, Payne was serving as the patrol leader of a reconnaissance patrol on a mission in Savannakhet Laos. The team was operating about six miles inside Laos, just west of South Vietnam's A Shau Valley. Early in the evening of the 18th, the team split into two elements and the elements were preparing to set up a night defensive position when they were attacked by fifteen enemy soldiers. SGT Payne was last seen by the team leader, SP4 Donald C. Sheppard, moving away from his element's position in an attempt to join the other team element. The other team members evaded capture that night and were picked up the next day. The team leader reported that a search team was sent in on the 19th and found evidence that SGT Payne was alive [the evidence was not specified by the Army in public records, but in now-classified records, it is stated that a garbled emergency radio transmission, the last word of which sounded like "bison" - Payne's codename - was received by Sheppard during extraction]. The search team had followed the route down an embankment and along a creek bed which was traveled by the second element of the company and later by Payne. The search team made contact with the enemy on December 20th and was forced to withdraw without ever finding SGT Payne. For every insertion like Payne's that was detected and stopped, dozens of other commando teams safely slipped past NVA, Khmer Rouge and Pathet Lao lines to strike a wide range of targets and collect vital information. The number of MACV-SOG missions conducted with Special Forces reconnaissance teams into Laos and Cambodia was 452 in 1969. It was the most sustained American campaign of raiding, sabotage and intelligence gathering waged on foreign soil in U.S. military history. MACV-SOG's teams earned a global reputation as one of the most combat-effective, deep-penetration forces ever raised. The missions Norman Payne and others were assigned were exceedingly dangerous and of strategic importance. The men who were put into such situations knew the chances of their recovery if captured was slim to none. They quite naturally assumed that their freedom would come by the end of the war. For 591 Americans, freedom did come at the end of the war. For another 2500, however, freedom has never come. For nearly the 600 lost in Laos, the war never ended. Although the Pathet Lao stated they held "tens of tens" of American prisoners, the U.S. did not negotiate for them, and not one American held in Laos was released. Since the war ended, over 10,000 reports relating to missing Americans in Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S., convincing many authorities that hundreds remain alive in captivity. Norman Payne could be among them. If so, what must he think of us?