SAEGAERT, DONALD RUSSELL
Name: Donald Russell Saegaert
Rank/Branch: W1/US Army
Unit: 118th Aviation Company, 145th Aviation Battalion, 1st Aviation Brigade
Date of Birth: 03 May 1940 (Hartford CT)
Home City of Record: Berlin CT
Date of Loss: 10 June 1965
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 113521N 1065309E (YT056817)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel In Incident: Joseph J. Compa; Robert L. Curlee; Craig L.
Hagen; Walter L. Hall; Bruce G.Johnson; Fred M. Owens (all missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1991 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: J010 ON GND SED ALL DED - J
SYNOPSIS: On May 25, 1965, Special Forces Detachment A-342 was airlanded at
Dong Xoai, a district capital of Phuoc Long Province, through which the Viet
Cong supply lifeline from Cambodia into War Zone D tracked. The Special
Forces Detachment, together with Navy Seabees, built a camp and among other
duties, assumed the MACV subsector role for Don Luan district.
Intermittent Viet Cong mortar rounds lobbed into the new camp, and were
considered only the usual harassment, but sightings of large VC formations
nearing the town increased.
At 2310 hours on the night of June 9, CIDG teams around the camp's perimeter
were silenced by the 762nd and 763rd VC Regiments. There was no opportunity
to warn the camp, and only a few survived. At 2330, the camp was heavily
mortared, and came under a heavy ground assault. The camp was overrun, and
most of the CIDG and LLDB withdrew.
At the camp, 2Lt. Charles Q. Williams, seriously wounded, was directing the
defense of the compound with singular valor and would later be awarded the
Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions at Dong Xoai.
Before South Vietnamese relief forces could arrive, a team of advisors was
sent in from Than Son Nhut, where MACV was headquartered. The team was
aboard a UH1B helicopter from the 188th Aviation Company flown by Lt. Walter
L. Hall. The crew consisted of Sgt. Craig L. Hagen, gunner; SSgt. Joseph J.
Compa, crew chief; and WO Donald Saegaert, co-pilot. The advisors from MACV
Special Detachment 5891 were SSgt. Robert L. Curlee, the medic; and Capt.
Bruce G. Johnson and SFC Fred M. Owens, advisors.
When the helicopter was disembarking troops on a plantation landing zone, it
came under heavy mortar and small arms fire. The helicopter took off and
started a climbing turn. Upon clearing some buildings left of the landing
zone, the helicopter went into uncontrolled flight and in crashing, skidded
into some parked vehicles and burst into flames.
A circling pilot immediately established radio contact with Johnson, who
stated that he was standing by the downed helicopter, and that the crew and
other two advisors with him were dead. He reported that the situation was
very bad - not to send anyone else in. Johnson stated that he was under
heavy fire, and two mortar shells were subsequently seen to land in his
A subsequent search of the crash site was conducted when the area was
resecured (on June 15), but no American remains were found, nor was Johnson
seen. Villagers in the area reported that an American had been captured on
that day, but no verifiable information has surfaced since that time.
Villagers also stated that the Viet Cong had carried away the bodies of 7
Americans and had buried them.
A captured Viet Cong film entitled "Dong Xoai in Flames" pictured the bodies
of five or six Americans as well as several crashed helicopters. One of
these helicopters bore the serial number 38557. The name tag "Owens" and the
last two letters of another name tag, "ll" (possibly Hall's) are shown in
the film, lending some more credence to the report that the Viet Cong took
possession of the aircraft and that all aboard were killed.
There is no real reason to suspect that any of the seven men aboard the UH1B
shot down at Dong Xoai are, indeed, alive. But there is no question that the
communists know the fate of these men. All of these men can be easily
accounted for. It appears that Johnson, at least, may have been captured.
Mounting evidence indicates that Americans are still being held prisoner in
Southeast Asia today. As long as even one American remains alive, held
unjustly, we owe him our best effort to bring him home.
South Vietnam Walter L. Hall
Bruce G. Johnson
Fred M. Owen
Robert L. Curlee
Donald R. Saegaert
Joseph J. Compa, Jr.
Craig L. Hagen
On June 19, 1965, those involved in this loss incident were on
board a UH-1B helicopter on a combat operation into a landing zone
six kilometers from the town of Dong Xoai, Phuoc Long Province.
Their helicopter was hit by ground fire and crashed. Captain
Johnson, an advisor to the South Vietnamese Army's 5th Infantry
Division, reported to another helicopter in the area that the
aircraft's crew and all others on board were dead and his position
was receiving incoming enemy mortar fire. There was no further
transmission from Captain Johnson after the end of the mortar fire.
A later search of the area failed to produce any sign of the seven
In late 1965, a Viet Cong produced film was captured which appeared
to depict a portion of the battle at Dong Xoai. The film appeared
to show the dead bodies of Sergeant First Class Owen and First
Lieutenant Hall. Information was later received from another
source that the seven U.S. were killed in this incident, four found
in the helicopter and three others at the airstrip. Intelligence
reports of unidentified U.S. POWs sightings several months before
this incident occurred were received later and were placed in the
file of these servicemen. One report associated with the capture
of an American at the battle of Binh Gia was placed in Captain
Johnson's file, but may have correlated to the capture of another
Captain several months earlier.
Captain Johnson was initially reported missing. Returning U.S.
POWs were unable to provide information about his precise fate or
the fate of the others. Captain Johnson was declared dead/body not
recovered in February 1978.