STUBBS, WILLIAM WENTWORTH
|Name: William Wentworth Stubbs
Rank/Branch: E5/US Army Special Forces
Unit: CCC, MACV-SOG, 5th Special Forces Group
Date of Birth: 06 August 1949 (Oak Harbor WA)
Home City of Record: Newport WA
Date of Loss: 20 October 1969
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 180524N 1050000E (YB705987)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Source: Compiled 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 in 2002 with information
from Robert Mohs. 2020
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
SYNOPSIS: SSgt. William W. Stubbs was a rifleman and a team member of a Long
Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) assigned to 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"
On October 20, 1969, Stubbs' team was inserted into Laos just east of the
Thai city of Nakhon Phanom. During the patrol, Stubbs' team stopped for a
break, and as they were starting up again, with Stubbs in the point element,
they were attacked by an enemy force. In the initial sustained fire, Stubbs
was seen to be hit several times in the head from close range by enemy
automatic weapons fire. Three hand grenades were then thrown into his
position. Because of enemy fire, other team members were unable to move up
the steep slope to reach him and were forced to withdraw 5 minutes later,
leaving Stubbs behind.
The following day, a recovery team was inserted at the point of contact and
searched thoroughly, but no trace of Stubbs or any grave site could be
found. Stubbs was listed Missing In Action.
For every insertion like Stubbs' that was detected and stopped, dozens of
other commando teams safely slipped past NVA 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 Stubbs 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 nearly 2500, however,
freedom has never come.
Stubbs is one of nearly 600 Americans missing in Laos. Although the Pathet
Lao stated publicly that they held "tens of tens" of Americans, the U.S.
refused to negotiate for them with a "government" which they did not
recognize. Consequently, no American held in Laos was ever released.
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. Stubbs, if he survived, could be
one of them.
From: MACVSOGCCCRECON@prodigy.net (Robert P Mohs)
I went to your website www.macvsog.org ,and while perusing, read what you
had on SSG Bill Stubbs, MIA 1969. The information is incorrect.
Below is the narrative I wrote, initially about five years ago, and refined
within the last few months while assisting Task Force Omega, an MIA/POW
organization (they still don't have it right on their website). I figured
that I should get this to print as I am now the sole survivor of this tragic
event (on our side, of course). Dick Gross passed away early last year and
Leon Whit died this Winter.
Leon was a Yard who came to the states after the war, and I talked to him
about eight years ago in Seattle at an SFA Chapter meeting. It was then
that he told me the other Yards on the team were no longer living--combat,
indoctrination, health, and old age being reasons for their demise.
Use what you need out of it, as I also wrote about the project to help
explain the incident as a stand-alone document.
Bob SOA 1182GL / SFA D4949L
Missing In Action--A Tribute to a Fallen American Hero
William Wentworth Wilbur "Bill" Stubbs
Branch of Service: U.S. Army Special Forces
Born: 6 August 1946 in Oak Harbor, Washington
Home of Record: Newport, Washington.
During the Vietnam War, Sergeant Stubbs served with the Special Operations
Augmentation-Command and Control Central (SOA-CCC), 5th Special Forces Group
(Airborne), which supported covert operations conducted by the Military
Assistance Command-Vietnam, Studies and Observation Group (MAC-V SOG), most
often referred to, although incorrectly, as Special Operations Group. CCC
was stationed at a forward operations base designated FOB # 2, a Special
Forces compound about a mile south of the bridge heading into Kontum City in
the Republic of Vietnam (RVN, a.k.a. South Vietnam). The compound was split
into two sections because it straddled the main highway leading to Plieku.
The FOB's Tactical Operations Center (TOC), the Reconnaissance Company and
motor pool were located in the eastern section and the Hatchet Companies,
mess hall and main club were in the western section.
Bill was assigned to the Reconnaissance Company as an Assistant Team Leader
(One-One) on Reconnaissance Team (RT) "California." The other United States
Army Special Forces (USSF) soldiers on the RT at the time of the fateful
mission were Sergeant First Class Richard "Dick" Gross, the Team Leader
(One-Zero), and Staff Sergeant Robert "Bob" Mohs, Radio Operator (One-Two).
In addition to the USSF members, ten Vietnamese Montagnards, known
affectionately as "Yards" to American soldiers, most of whom were of the
Sedang Tribe, comprised the remaining element of RT California. These
Montagnard warriors were volunteers who belonged to a Special Commando Unit
(SCU, pronounced Sioux) that supported SOG operations and, just as the USSF
members, had a hierarchy from Team Leader down the lowliest Scout. The SCU
team also included an interpreter, who was the second in the chain of
In mid-October of 1969, RT California was given the mission to conduct an
eight-day, intelligence-gathering mission into eastern-central Laos to
locate and report on enemy movements in a target area designated "S-7." The
operational area (AO) in which S-7 was situated in was a region laced with
multiple primary and secondary east-west arteries of the Ho Chi Minh Trail
that crossed over into South Vietnam south of the major US base at Kham Duc.
After pre-mission preparations and the RT's brief back to the FOB Commander,
Lieutenant Colonel Frederick T. "Fred" Abt, and his S-2 and S-3 officers,
the team for this mission-consisting of the three USSF personnel and six
selected SCU members-moved from the FOB on the 18th by a US Army C-7
"Caribou" aircraft and was flown to the Special Forces A-Team border camp at
Dak Pek, where it spent the night. After the weather cleared the next
morning, California launched aboard a South Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF)
CH-34 helicopter from the special operations air support unit, known by
their call sign "Kingbees," and was flown into the AO and inserted onto
their landing zone (LZ) in the target area. As was routinely done for most
missions of this type, the Kingbee aircraft was escorted by several US Army
AH-1 "Cobra" Gunships, which stood by on station to assist in the event of
the LZ being hot or if the RT made contact once on the ground shortly
thereafter. This entire flight operation was controlled by an onsite
Forward Air Controller (FAC), call sign "Covey," with a crew of one USAF
pilot and one USSF controller, known as a "Covey Rider," flying in a light
aircraft such as an L-19/O-1 "Birddog," O-2 "Skymaster," or OV-10 "Bronco."
On the second day (October the 20th) at approximately 1130 hours, the team
stopped for a short break in a thickly wooded area on a steep mountainside
in the vicinity of the Ho Chi Minh Trail to rest and establish the team's
scheduled radio check with the Covey.
However, unbeknownst to the RT at the time the Covey was conducting "ball
games" much farther south, a term used to mean that the Covey was inserting
or extracting other recon teams into or from their respective target areas,
thus contact was never made. During the rest break SGT Stubbs was located
up-slope in the team's defensive position while Bob Mohs, who was in the
center of the formation, periodically attempted to establish contact with
the FAC and Dick Gross was further down-slope with the point element. The
RTs normally had three scheduled radio contacts during the course of a day.
The first in the morning around sunrise, which would let the FOB know the
team had made it safely through the night and was on its way to continue
with their assigned mission.
Next came the noon contact, which was used to report the team's present
location and any significant findings. Lastly was the evening contact,
shortly before nightfall, when the team again reported findings and where
the position of the RON (rest over night) logger would be.
It was, as RT California remained stationary during this break, when a North
Vietnamese Army (NVA) unit, an enemy force estimated to be of platoon size,
moved into position and ambushed it. In the initial phase of the ensuing
firefight, Bill Stubbs was struck several times in the head and upper body
at close range by enemy automatic weapons fire and was last seen slumped
lifelessly over this rucksack and presumably dead, killed in action (KIA).
His death was followed shortly thereafter by five of the SCU Montagnards
being wounded (WIA) to varying degrees of severity by enemy gunfire (three
became incapacitated enough that they had to be assisted or carried as they
could not move on their own), and Dick was injured with a twisted knee when
he fell backwards while trying to take cover from the massive amount of
incoming automatic weapons fire. As the barrage fire continued, enemy
troops threw hand grenades, three of which landed in SGT Stubbs' general
location, thereby inflicting more fatal wounds upon him. Because of the
intense and accurate enemy gunfire, team members were unable to move up the
steep slope to reach Bill and retrieve his body. Although the RT was badly
shot up, it was still able to produce enough firepower to keep the enemy at
bay and from totally over-running their position. After about five minutes
of hellish intensity, the surviving members of RT California were forced to
withdraw while still under heavy enemy fire, thus leaving Stubbs and much of
their equipment behind. The team retreated in the opposite direction from
where Stubbs was because he had been at the point of the ambush, as well as
it being easier and faster to evade downhill while transporting the wounded.
The site of the ambush was in rugged jungle-covered mountains approximately
19 miles west-southwest of Kham Duc, South Vietnam; and four miles southwest
of the Laotian-South Vietnamese border just northeast of Nakhon Phanom, in
Attopeu Province, Laos at geographical coordinates 180524N-1050000E (grid
coordinates YB705987). See map below. Of the enemy, its KIAs and WIAs were
Evasion and Escape:
The battered RT, with Dick on the point and Bob in the tail-gunner's
positions, eluded pursuit over the next five hours, having to break contact
several times with suppressive automatic weapons fire and maneuver by the
able survivors during the first hour of running gun battles from the dogged
NVA pursuit that would close to within a few yards distance at times. All
the while those members who were more able transported the most severely
wounded through the harsh terrain. After reaching the riverbed, the team
moved uphill to find a clearing on high ground that was suitable enough to
serve as a pick up zone (PZ) for a helicopter to extract them, in addition
to a site that the remaining fighters could establish as a defensive
position to thwart the enemy in the event of another attack and tend to the
wounded. The most severely injured were carried up the hillside in a
leapfrog manner (first one a ways up and then return for another to bring
up) for the entire climb, as not everyone was able to carry the wounded as
they did when going downhill, which was far more easier and quicker. Once
secure the RT was then able to make radio contact with friendly forces by
use our emergency radios (URC 90) switched to the guard frequency. Our
first sighting of a friendly and of what we believed as contact was with an
unidentified fast mover (USAF jet aircraft) that was in the area, which
over-flew our position at a low altitude.
Air support of two USAF A-1 "Sky Raider" aircraft were dispatched to
suppress the ambush site, as well as any enemy that might be moving to our
present location, while a U.S. Army UH-1 "Iroquois" slick helicopter, more
commonly known as a "Huey," swooped in to extract the RT from the selected
PZ. The team was returned directly to our FOB Launch Site located on the
airstrip at Dak To, RVN where the Huey had to be refueled because of the
flight length and load. From there we were immediately transported by the
same chopper to the FOB at Kontum. All of the wounded Yards were sent to a
hospital that was established to specifically attend to the SCU Montagnards,
as well as their families.
The following day a Special Forces Bright-Light Team, which remains on-call
at the Dak To launch site and has the mission of conducting search and
rescue (SAR), along with SFC Gross was inserted back into the target area.
However, no trace of Bill Stubbs or any of the equipment left behind by the
RT at the ambush site was to be found; the NVA had swept the area after the
skirmish and recovered everything of value. Likewise, SAR personnel found
no sign of a freshly dug grave anywhere in or around the immediate area of
the ambush. By the day's end, the formal search for Stubbs was concluded and
the Bright Light Team and Dick were extracted and returned to Dak To.
In January 1970, a board of inquiry formally listed, then Staff Sergeant,
William Wentworth Stubbs as missing in action (MIA) as a result of the
action on the 20th October 1969 in Laos. Stubbs was also recognized for his
selfless act courage by engaging the enemy in a manner so furiously that it
held the enemy force in check, thus giving the RT enough time to regroup and
save itself even though it cost him the ultimate price-his life-while saving
the lives of those of his team mates. And for his heroic actions on that
unforgettable, fateful day, an event that will dwell indelibly in the minds
of those that lived through the horrendous experience and had to suffer his
loss, SSG Bill Stubbs was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, Purple
Heart, and the RVN Gallantry Cross with Silver Star medals for his deeds and
sacrifice. As a note, Bill had previously received an Army Accommodation
Medal for Valor for actions in August of 1969. William has also been
memorialized, in a national sense of memory, by being listed on the Vietnam
Veterans Memorial's black granite wall adjacent to the Washington-Lincoln
Mall in Washington, DC and the Vietnam War Memorial on the State Capital
Building grounds in Olympia, Washington. On both of these memorials, you
will notice the "+" sign to the left of his name, indicating that he is
MIA-Gone, but not forgotten_ De Oppresso Liber
Subject: MIA William Stubbs
Date: Tue, 25 Jun 2002 11:01:16 EDT
I was a friend of Bill's in Vietnam, and was gratified your report of
his death was as accurate as it was. When I came home in 1970, Ron Gravett
and I looked up his father, who had moved to Florida, and told him that
Bill was indeed dead, and not a prisoner of war. It was one of the hardest
things I've ever done, telling a father that there was no hope, but the
Army had listed him MIA.
One correction in your listing, if you care to make it. Bill and I
ran missions out of Kontum, known as Forward Observation Base (FOB) 2, also
known as CCC, Command and Control Central. In 1968 it was a subordinate
under CCN, Command and Control North, over a hundred miles away at DaNang,
but in early 1969 it was elevated to a freestanding compound. As a result,
Bill served not with CCN, but with CCC. Just a small historical note, but
things grow. Napoleon once said, "What is history, but fiction agreed upon