Name: Joe Parks
Rank/Branch: E7/US Army
Unit: Headquarters, MACV
Date of Birth: 13 June 1927 (Bay City TX)
Home City of Record: Cedar Lane TX (or Matagordia TX)
Date of Loss: 22 December 1964
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 095256N 1060120E (XR122931)
Status (in 1973): Killed in Captivity
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.
REMARKS: 661231 DIC - BNR - ON PRG LIST
SYNOPSIS: SFC Joe Parks was assigned to Headquarters, MACV and served as an
advisor to an ARVN unit that operated in Vinh Binh Province, South Vietnam.
On December 22, 1964, Parks and the ARVN unit were ambushed about 20 miles
north of the city of Khanh Hung.
After the ambush, the unit regrouped and it was determined that Parks was
missing. Several members of the unit stated that they had seen Parks being
taken prisoner by the Viet Cong.
For Joe Parks and other Americans captured in South Vietnam, daily life
could be expected to be brutally difficult. Primarily, these men suffered
from disease induced by an unfamiliar and inadequate diet - dysentery,
edema, skin fungus and eczema. The inadequate diet coupled with inadequate
medical care led to the deaths of many. Besides dietary problems, these POWs
had other problems as well. They were moved regularly to avoid being in
areas that would be detected by U.S. troops, and occasionally found
themselves in the midst of U.S. bombing strikes. Supply lines to the camps
were frequently cut off, and when they were, POWs and guards alike suffered.
Unless they were able to remain in one location long enough to grow
vegetable crops and tend small animals, their diet was limited to rice and
what they could gather from the jungle.
In addition to the primitive lifestyle imposed on these men, their Viet Cong
guards could be particularly brutal in their treatment. For any minor
infraction, including conversation with other POWs, the Americans were
psychologically and physically tortured. American POWs brought back stories
of having been buried to the neck; held for days in a cage with no
protection from insects and the environment; having had water and food
withheld; being shackled and beaten. The effects of starvation and torture
frequently resulted in hallucinations and extreme disorientation.
This was Joe Parks' life for the next two years as a prisoner of the Viet
Cong. A number of returning POWs spoke of being held with Joe Parks. James
N. "Nick" Rowe wrote in his book, "Five Years to Freedom" that he had been
held with Parks and that Parks had become very sick and, Rowe believed he
may have died. Rowe said Parks was in very bad shape. Dan Pitzer, another
returned POW, reported that Parks died of starvation.
In 1985, a private citizen obtained a lengthy document through a Freedom of
Information request that described a temporary holding facility near the
city of Hue, South Vietnam where 43 Americans and 326 Vietnamese prisoners
had been held on their way north to Hanoi. The source of the document, a
Vietnamese rallier, identified the Americans he had seen from photos
maintained by the U.S. Government. One group, he identified positively, the
One photo on the source's "tentative" list was of Joe Parks. This is
surprising in that these Americans were held in the camp AFTER the 1968 Tet
offensive--two years after Parks was supposed to have died. Although this
report is lengthy and detailed, including maps and biographical sketches of
Vietnamese camp personnel, and the contents were verified by at least one
American POW who had been held in the facility and released in 1973, the
U.S. reported that it was inaccurate and unreliable. The families of the men
whose photos were selected were not given the report until after 1985.
When 591 American POWs were released in Operation Homecoming in 1973, Parks
was not among them. The Vietnamese reported that he had died in captivity on
New Year's Eve, 1966, over two years after he had been captured. The
Vietnamese have never attempted to return the remains of Joe Parks, even
though they probably know where he is buried.
Since the war ended over 10,000 reports such as the one describing the POW
facility at Hue have been received by the U.S. Many officials, having
reviewed this largely-classified information have reluctantly concluded that
hundreds of them are still alive in captivity today. While Joe Parks is, by
most reports, dead, how many of his comrades are still alive? How long will
they wait for their country to come for them?