ROBERTSON, JOHN HARTLEY
|Name: John Hartley Robertson
Rank/Branch: E7/US Army Special Forces
Unit: C & C North, MACV-SOG, 5th SFG
Date of Birth: 25 October 1936
Home City of Record: Birmingham AL
Date of Loss: 20 May 1968
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 160023N 1072353E (YC566710)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 July 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.
SYNOPSIS: MACV-SOG (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and
Observation Group) was a unconventional warfare task force engaged in highly
classified operations throughout Southeast Asia. The 5th Special Forces
channeled personnel into MACV-SOG 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.
SFC John H. Robertson was assigned to Command & Control North, MACV-SOG. On
May 20, 1968, he was a passenger and the only American onboard a Vietnamese
CH34 helicopter on a medevac mission four miles inside Laos south of the A
Shau Valley. (Note: some records indicate this was a resupply mission to a
Special Forces recon force which was in heavy enemy contact.) As the
aircraft was landing, it was hit by enemy fire, smashed into the trees, and
burst into flames, breaking up as it hit the ground.
Several helicopters made low passes over the crash site, but no sign of
survivors was observed. Enemy activity in the area prevented Vietnamese
ground units from reaching the wreckage. Still, the possibility existed that
SFC Robertson was not killed in the crash of the aircraft, because he was
listed Missing in Action rather than Killed.
For every team like Robertson's that was detected and stopped, dozens of
other commando teams safely slipped past enemy lines to strike a wide range
of targets and collect vital information. MACV-SOG teams conducted the most
sustained American campaign of raiding and intelligence gathering waged on
foreign soil in U.S. military history in Vietnam, and MACV-SOG's teams
earned a global reputation as one of the most effective, deep-penetration
forces ever raised.
MACV-SOG missions were exceedingly dangerous and of strategic importance.
The men who were put into such situations knew the chance 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
Since the war ended, nearly 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. Robertson could be among them. If
so, what must he think of us?