SKIBBE, DAVID WILLIAM
Name: David William Skibbe
Rank/Branch: O1/US Marine Corps
Unit: L/1 Recon Battalion, 1st Marine Division
Date of Birth: 22 October 1946
Home City of Record: Des Plaines IL
Date of Loss: 02 March 1970
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 154501N 1075001E (ZC036432)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel in Incident: Lavoy D. McVey
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 September 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. NETWORK 2020.
SYNOPSIS: 2LT David W. Skibbe and CAPT Lavoy D. McVey were both members of
the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, but in different
companies. On March 2, 1970, Skibbe's recon team was operating in Quang Nam
Province, South Vietnam, about 10 miles northwest of the city of An Hoa when
they engaged in a firefight with enemy forces. During the skirmish, Skibbe
was injured by small arms fire.
The corpsman in attendance described the injury as a "penetrating wound of
the lower right leg, breaking the fibula 2" above the ankle leaving an open
fracture. Hemorrage was moderate and eased after a pressure battle dressing
was applied." Dave's broken leg was immobilized by the application of a
splint constructed from a small tree limb. Skibbe was in good mental command
and continued to lead and encourage his men. The corpsman was at the same
time treating another teammember who was more seriously injured.
Shortly after treatment was administered, an emergency medical evacuation
helicopter appeared in the recovery area, flown by a Marine major. That
officer reported that he positioned his helicopter in a 75-100 foot hover
above the team and under the direction of his crew chief, lowered the hoist
cable, to which a jungle penetrator was affixed, as there was no suitable
After initial extraction of the more seriously wounded Marine was completed,
Skibbe was fastened to the seat of the lift device by other members of the
team and was slowly hoisted into the air. Team members later stated that
they last saw Skibbe as he cleared the canopy which in some areas was 30-40
feet in height. They lost sight of him as he cleared the trees and assumed
that he had been drawn safely into the aircraft.
From the helicopter into which Skibbe was being hoisted, his company
commander, Capt. Lavoy D. McVey, the medical officer, pilots and crewmen,
watched Skibbe's ascent into the aircraft until he reached a point about 20
feet from the chopper (100 or more feet altitude). At that moment, the hoist
cable suddenly snapped and Skibbe fell to the ground, clearly visible to
those onboard the helicopter, falling into heavy foliage which obstructed
view of his actual impact with the ground.
The pilot of the recovery helicopter immediately contacted the team on the
ground by radio and they radioed "yes, he's ok." The pilot interpreted this
to mean that the team knew that Skibbe had fallen and had located him. The
pilot, therefore, swung about, lowered the extract ladder for the remainder
of the team from a distance of about 100 feet. The team immediately affixed
themselves to the ladder, again unaware that Skibbe had fallen very close
by, and were hoisted into the air for the return trip to An Hoa.
The pilot, believing that Skibbe had been strapped to the ladder, continued
with the extraction. The team, believing that Skibbe was safely onboard the
aircraft, rode on to An Hoa. It was at An Hoa that the pilot and team
mutually discovered the error.
Both helicopters that had been on the extraction returned to the area, and
an attempt was made to insert Capt. McVey to search for Skibbe. It was
during this insertion attempt that McVey also fell to his death.
Because of the enemy position and dense jungle, it was decided not to
attempt another insertion. To do so might have caused the loss of even more
men. Although it was widely believed that both men sustained fatal injuries
in their falls, no sign of the two was ever located in later searches.
Nearly 2500 Americans were lost in Southeast Asia during our miltary
involvement there. Since the war in Southeast Asia ended in 1973, thousands
of reports relating to Americans prisoner, missing or unaccounted for have
been received by the U.S. Government. The official policy is that no
conclusive proof has been obtained that is current enough to act upon.
Detractors of this policy say conclusive proof is in hand, but that the
willingness or ability to rescue these prisoners does not exist.
Skibbe and McVey, if among those hundreds said to be still alive and in
captivity, must be wondering if and when their country will return for them.
In America, we say that life is precious, but isn't the life of even one
American worth the effort of recovery? When the next war comes, and it is
our sons lost, will we then care enough to do everything we can to bring our