PITZER, DANIEL L.
Name: Daniel L. Pitzer
Rank/Branch: E8/US Army 5th Special Forces
Unit: Detachment A-23
Date of Birth:
Home City of Record: NC
Loss Date: 29 October 1963
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 092626N 1050917E (WR170435)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Other Personnel in Incident: James N. Rowe (escaped 1968); Humberto R.
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 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
REMARKS: 671111 RELEASED IN CAMBODIA
SYNOPSIS: The U.S. Army Special Forces, Vietnam (Provisional) was formed at
Saigon in 1962 to advise and assist the South Vietnamese government in the
organization, training, equipping and employment of the Civilian Irregular
Defense Group (CIDG) forces. Total personnel strength in 1963 was 674, all
but 98 of whom were TDY from 1st Special Forces Group on Okinawa and 5th and
7th Special Forces Groups at Ft. Bragg. USSF Provisonal was given complete
charge of the CIDG program, formerly handled by the CIA, on July 1, 1963.
The USSF Provisional/CIDG network consisted of fortified, strategically
located camps, each one with an airstrip. The area development programs soon
evolved into combat operations, and by the end of October 1963, the network
also had responsibility for border surveillance. Two of the Provisional/CIDG
camps were at Hiep Hoa (Detachment A-21) and Tan Phu (Detachment A-23),
Republic of Vietnam. Their isolated locations, in the midst of known heavy
enemy presence, made the camps vulnerable to attack.
On October 29, 1963, Capt. "Rocky" Versace, 1Lt. "Nick" Rowe, and Sgt.
Daniel Pitzer were accompanying a CIDG company on an operation along a
canal. The team left the camp at Tan Phu for the village of Le Coeur to
roust a small enemy unit that was establishing a command post there. When
they reached the village, they found the enemy gone, and pursued them,
falling into an ambush at about 1000 hours. The fighting continued until
1800 hours, when reinforcements were sent in to relieve the company. During
the fight, Versace, Pitzer and Rowe were all captured. The three captives
were photographed together in a staged setting in the U Minh forest in their
early days of captivity.
Rocky Versace had been torn between the Army and the priesthood. When he won
an appointment to West Point, he decided God wanted him to be a soldier. He
was to enter Maryknoll (an order of Missionaries), as a candidate for the
priesthood, when he left Vietnam. It was evident from the beginning that
Versace, who spoke fluent French and Vietnamese, was going to be a problem
for the Viet Cong. Although Versace was known to love the Vietnamese people,
he could not accept the Viet Cong philosophy of revolution, and spent long
hours assailing their viewpoints. His captors eventually isolated him to
attempt to break him.
Rowe and Pitzer saw Rocky at interludes during their first months of
captivity, and saw that he had not broken. Indeed, although he became very
thin, he still attempted to escape. By January 1965, Versace's steel-grey
hair had turned completely white. He was an inspiration to them both. Rowe
..The Alien force, applied with hate, could not break him,
failed to bend him; Though solitary imprisonment gave him no
friends, he drew upon his inner self to create a force so
strong that those who sought to destroy his will, met an army
his to command..
On Sunday, September 26, 1965, "Liberation Radio" announced the execution of
Rocky Versace and Kenneth Roraback in retaliation for the deaths of 3
terrorists in Da Nang. A later news article stated that the executions were
faked, but the Army did not reopen an investigation. In the late 1970's
information regarding this "execution" became classified, and is no longer
part of public record.
Sgt. Pitzer was released from Cambodia November 11, 1967.
1Lt. Nick Rowe was scheduled to be executed in late December 1968. His
captors had had enough of him - his refusal to accept the communist ideology
and his continued escape attempts. While away from the camp in the U Minh
forest, Rowe took advantage of a sudden flight of American helicopters,
struck down his guards, and ran into a clearing where the helicopters
noticed him and rescued him, still clad in black prisoner pajamas. He had
been promoted to Major during his five years of captivity.
Rowe remained in the Army, and shared his survival techniques in Special
Forces classes. In 1987, Lt.Col. Rowe was assigned to the Philippines, where
he assisted in training anti-communists. On April 21, 1989, a machine gun
sniper attacked Rowe in his car, killing him instantly.
Of the seven U.S. Army Special Forces personnel captured at Hiep Hoa and Tan
Phu, the fates of only Versace and Roraback remain unknown. The execution
was never fully documented; it is not known with certainty that these two
men died. Although the Vietnamese claim credit for their deaths, they did
not return their remains. From the accounts of those who knew them, if these
men were not executed, they are still fighting for their country.
Daniel Pitzer retired from the United States Army as a CSM.
The book "Pacific Stars and Stripes, VIETNAM Front Pages" published in 1986
Five Star Edition
Vol. 19, No. 304
Friday, Nov. 1, 1963
# Aides Seized in Vietnam Battle
Saigon (AP) Communist guerrilas smashed a Republic of Vietnam task force
after disrupting its radio communication Tuesday, and probably captured all
three U.S. Army advisers with the 120-man Saigon outfit.....
The Army identified the three as Capt. Hubert R. Versace, Baltimore; 1st Lt.
James M. Rowe, McAllen Tx; and Sgt. Daniel L. Pitzer, Spring Lake, N.C.....
Five Star Edition
Vol 21, No. 270
Tuesday, Sept. 28, 1965
Report 2 Advisers Executed
Saigon (UPI) -- The viet Cong executed two captive servicemen Sunday
morning, the clandestine Liberation Radio said late Sunday night.
The communist radio identified the two Americans as Capt. Albert Rusk Joseph
and Sgt. Kenneth Morabeth (as received phonetically).....
February 18, 1969
THE ANIMAL CALLED POW
My Four Years in a Vietcong Prison
by M. Sgt Daniel Lee Pitzer, as told to Warren Rogers
In Vietnam in 1963, LOOKS James Karales caught Dan Pitzer... slogging back
from patrol. The next day, Pitzer was captured. For four years, like
Solzhenitsyn's Ivan Denisovich, he marveled each day to be still alive. His
Daniel Pitzer passed away 09 May 1995.
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