|PREWITT, WILLIAM ROLAND
Name: William Roland Prewitt
Branch/Rank: United States Marine Corps/E3
Unit: SU 4 HQ BN 3 MAR DIV
Date of Birth: 28 September 1946
Home City of Record: FLORIEN LA
Date of Loss: 01 August 1967
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 161209 North 1075737 East
Status (in 1973): Killed In Action/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel in Incident:
Gene was a good friend of Roland's and took the picture in Phu Bai while they were both with 3rd Bn 26th Marines. This was before Roland became part of SU4 HQ Bn 3rd Marine Division. SU4 was made up of Combined Action Companies (CAC) Alpha and Hotel. Roland was in Hotel-6 when he was KIA.
Courtesy of Gene Weresow.
Source: Compiled by P.O.W. NETWORK from one or more of the following: raw
data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA
families, published sources, interviews and CACCF = Combined Action
Combat Casualty File. 2020
CACCF/GUNSHOT OR SMALL ARMS FIRE/THUA THIEN
No further information available at this time.
|Feb 21, 2014
By Donna E. Elliott, SGT, USAR (Ret)
LANCE CORPORAL WILLIAM ROLAND PREWITT
At 11:45AM on the first day of August 1967, soldiers of Combined Action Patrol (CAP) Hotel-6, SubUnit 4, HQ Bn, 3rd Marines observed a parachute drop from drone plane at grid coordinates ZC 163987. Two helicopters picked up the drone and H6 sent out a patrol the retrieve the parachute.
Brown-haired, brown-eyed Lance Corporal William Roland Prewitt from Florien, Louisiana, had been a Marine for one year six-months and twenty-three days. According to his Company Commander, LTC Robert J. Keller, Roland had a "friendly, cheerful attitude" and was "an outstanding Marine who could always be counted on to do his job well."
Prewitt’s patrol convoyed the 15 miles from Phu Bai down dusty "Liberty Road" into the lush green jungle three miles east of Phu Loc to "booby trap alley." It was here, where the flat coastal lowlands butted against mountains almost covered by 90-foot trees draped with a continuous living canopy, and an even thicker undergrowth of spiny bushes, briars, vines, and unfamiliar wildlife, that the patrol made contact with two squad-size Viet Cong/North Vietnamese Army units.
The Marines exchanged fire with the enemy, received many incoming grenades, and broke contact at dark. At 6:30 PM, Cpl Fredrick A. Tenuto, LCpl Michael G. Gaskill, and LCpl Prewitt passed word to the radio watch they would catch a ride up the road and cut off the rest of the patrol.
Prior to the main patrol returning to HQ at 7:45PM, the CO noticed fire on the ridgeline at ZC 163987, less than a mile from the parachute drop. He notified CAC Hotel that it sounded like M26 grenades and automatic weapon fire, but was told there were no friendlies in that area.
At 11:30PM, Tenuto and Gaskill reported they had survived a firefight after they separated from the main patrol, but Prewitt was KIA. Tenuto once captured an enemy by sneaking into a hut while the soldier was brushing his teeth. He and Gaskill examined Prewitt and determined that he had been mortally wounded by five bullets, four of which were in the chest. Due to heavy enemy fire, they had been forced to withdraw, leaving his body behind.
Members of the unit returned the following morning and thoroughly searched "with negative results, although great quantities of blood and particles of flesh were found in the vicinity."
At 8:15PM on August 9, the CAP-H6 platoon commander received information that Prewitt was wounded and being paraded through the hamlets south of Phu Bai at ZD 940008. H Company searched the area with negative results.
Back home, Prewitt was carried on the Marine roster as Killed-In-Action, "never reported as missing," even though his remains had disappeared. Roland’s mother, Geraldine, begged the Marines for the addresses of some of his friends to talk to about her son. His sister, Marlene Phillips, wrote President Nixon in May 1971 and asked that "he check the Marine’s records to see if there is something the family has not been told…"
Twenty-four years after Lance Corporal William Roland Prewitt of Florien, Louisiana, went missing on August 1, 1967, Colonel Tran Luu Chu reported to a Joint US/SRV team in February 1991, an incident which occurred sometime during June or July 1967 near Thuy Duong Hamlet between members of the 3rd Co, 2nd Bn, 4th PAVN Reg and a patrol of Marines when Chu was the Commander of the PAVN 4th Regiment and Political Officer of the Regional Forces which operated in and around the Phu Loc District area.
Colonel Chu told investigators that shortly after a drone aircraft crashed, approximately two U.S. companies in 13 to 14 vehicles arrived in Phu Loc from the south, and the two forces became engaged in a firefight. During the fight, one American was hit and fell to the ground. Shortly thereafter, U.S. aircraft attacked the surrounding area and forced the Vietnamese to retreat. At approximately 6:00 PM, members of the PAVN 3rd Company returned to the spot where the American had fallen and took him into custody.
He said the American was carried to the Surgical Team of the 4th Regiment, where he died later the same night, at approximately 8PM, from his wounds. Personnel wrapped the man’s body in plastic sheeting and buried him in rocky soil about 300 feet from their estimated position at ZC 187930.
"The prisoner was described as being a Caucasian, approximately six feet tall with an extremely youthful appearance and dressed in a camouflaged utility uniform. The American was seriously wounded having suffered multiple gunshot wounds. Chu believed the captured man was normally assigned as a tailor because a pair of scissors were found in his pocket."
Twenty-year-old, 5’7", 190 pound Roland Prewitt with the healthy glow of a "ruddy complexion" is said to have served as a barber to his Marine buddy’s.
In August 1992, a joint team interviewed Hoang Van Vi, a medic with the 4th Regiment’s Aid Station in Phu Loc District, who claimed to have treated a U.S. serviceman during the rainy season of 1966. He described the American as a tall, heavy set Caucasian wearing a military uniform who appeared to be in his early twenties. Vi said the soldier had lost a considerable amount of blood prior to being treated, and since plasma was seldom available under wartime conditions, he died of a serious gunshot wound to the abdomen. His uniform had been removed for treatment, so preparation for burial merely
consisted of wrapping the body in cloth. A group of both local militia and PAVN Regular Forces took the body about 300 feet from the Aid Station into the jungle, and he was buried near a stream, approximately two feet deep, where six Vietnamese soldiers were also buried.
In January 1997, Vi and the Vietnamese advance team narrowed the area of burial down to ZC 161976. Local residents informed them that the remains buried there were exhumed by the government on an unrecalled date, and most likely moved to the Loc Thuy Martyr’s cemetery and placed in unknown soldiers’ graves. After the exhumation, local residents cultivated the field two or three times. There was no village, district, or province level record of this exhumation; the Vietnamese government did not restrict uncontrolled recovery of remains until 1995. None of the four witnesses the team interviewed who had been involved in the recovery of remains in the area of the aid station for reinterment in the Loc Thuy cemetery believed they had reburied a body large enough to be an American.
During December 2010, the Vietnamese Office for Seeking Missing Persons (VNOSMP) interviewed Le Huy Phach, a former commander of 1st Co, 4th Reg, Tri-Thien Military Region. Phach witnessed an incident during the war, in July or August of 1967, involving the shooting death of a tall, heavy-built Caucasian U.S. infantryman wearing dirt-colored clothing. Battalion soldiers buried the American at Mo Dieu Hill at ZC 156991, but when Phach returned to the burial area two weeks later, he saw the grave was disturbed. A Vietnamese recovery team excavated the alleged burial site in June 2012, but recovered no evidentiary materials and the site was closed.
Case analysts conclude that disposition of the Americans remains is one of the following: 1.) The remains were missed and are still buried at the aid station; 2.) The remains were identified as American at the time of exhumation, but have been misplaced; 3.) The remains were moved to the Loc Thuy cemetery; or 4.) The remains were exhumed and reburied by Vietnamese civilians who believed they were the remains of a relative.
Although LCpl Prewitt's remains have not been repatriated, there is a marker for him at Plot 7, Row 3, of the Pisgah Baptist Church Cemetery in Sabine Parish. His father, Henry Lee Prewitt, is buried in Plot 8. His family still hopes Roland will someday be recovered and brought back home to Louisiana.