THOMPSON, DENNIS LEROY
Name: Dennis Leroy Thompson
Rank/Branch: E6/US Army Special Forces
Unit: Company C, Detachment A-101, 5th Special Forces Group [see below]
Date of Birth: 16 October 1942
Home City of Record: Portland OR
Loss Date: 07 February 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 163602N 1064058E (XD795360)
Status (In 1973): Released POW
Personnel In Incident: Dennis L. Thompson; William G. McMurry; Harvey G.
Brande; (all released 1973). Kenneth Hanna; Daniel R. Phillips; James W.
Holt; James Moreland; Charles Lindewald; (all missing); Eugene Ashley Jr.
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 30 June 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 05/2009 with information from Dennis Thompson. 2020
REMARKS: RELEASED 730316 BY PRG
SYNOPSIS: The Lang Vei Special Forces camp in the northwestern corner of
South Vietnam along Route 9, a mile and a half from the Laotian border, was
established in late December 1966 as a result of the Special Forces
Detachment A101 having been moved out of its former Khe Sanh location. It
seemed ill-fated from the beginning.
In March 1967, one of the worst tragedies to befall the Special Forces CIDG
program during the war occurred. U.S. Air Force released napalm ordnance on
the nearby village which spewed exploding fire over the camp, landing zone,
minefield and village. 135 CIDG and native civilians were killed, and 213
were horribly wounded, burned or disfigured.
Only two months later, on May 4, a Viet Cong night attack on the camp wiped
out the Special Forces command group, all in one bunker, and killed the
detachment commander and his executive officer, as well as seriously
wounding the team sergeant. This attack was a prelude to the larger siege of
Khe Sanh, and was a grim reminder of the dangerous neighborhood Special
Forces had moved into.
By January 1968, several North Vietnamese Army divisions had encircled the
Marine combat base at Khe Sanh, placing the more westerly Lang Vei Special
Forces frontier surveillance camp in imminent danger. The camp was occupied
by Detachment A101 commanded by Capt. Frank C. Willoughby. Willoughby was
rebuilding and reinforcing the camp at the time, while soldiers and
dependants from the Kha tribal 33rd Laotian Volunteer Battalion streamed
into the camp after being overrun by NVA tanks across the border.
On the evening of January 24, the camp was pounded by mortars in conjunction
with a heavy shelling of the Marine Khe Sanh base, which prevented any
effective artillery support for Lang Vei. 1Lt. Paul R. Longgrear had only
recently arrived with his Hre tribal 12th Mobile Strike Force Company to
help shore up defensive firepower.
The influx of the Laotians caused some problems. For example, the Lao
battalion commander refused to take orders from the American captain,
forcing the Company C commander, LtCol. Daniel F. Schungel, to come to Lang
Vei on his first Special Forces assignment on February 6 to provide an
officer of equal rank to the Lao commander.
Camp strength on February 6 totalled 24 Special Forces, 14 LLDB, 161 mobile
strike force, 282 CIDG (Bru and Vietnamese), 6 interpreters and 520 Laotian
soldiers, plus a number of civilians.
Shortly after midnight on February 7, 1968, a combined NVA infantry-tank
assault drove into Lang Vei. Two PT-76 tanks threatened the outer perimeter
of the camp as infantry rushed behind them. SFC James W. Holt destroyed both
tanks with shots from his 106mm recoilless rifle. More tanks came around the
burning hulks of the first two tanks and began to roll over the 104th CIDG
Company's defensive positions. SSgt. Peter Tiroch, the assistant
intelligence sergeant, ran over to Holt's position and helped load the
weapon. Holt quickly lined up a third tank in his sights and destroyed it
with a direct hit. After a second shot at the tank, Holt and Tiroch left the
weapons pit just before it was demolished by return cannon fire. Tiroch
watched Holt run over to the ammunition bunker to look for some hand-held
Light Anti-tank Weapons (LAWs). It was the last time Holt was ever seen.
LtCol. Schungel, 1Lt. Longgrear, SSgt. Arthur Brooks, Sgt. Nikolas Fragos,
SP4 William G. McMurry, Jr., and LLDB Lt. Quy desperately tried to stop the
tanks with LAWs and grenades. They even climbed on the plated engine decks,
trying to pry open hatches to blast out the crews. NVA infantrymen followed
the vehicles closely, dusting their sides with automatic rifle fire. One
tank was stopped by five direct hits, and the crew killed as they tried to
abandon the vehicle. 1Lt. Miles R. Wilkins, the detachment executive
officer, left the mortar pit with several LAWs and fought a running
engagement with one tank beside the team house without much success.
Along the outer perimeters, the mobile strike force outpost was receiving
fire. Both Kenneth Hanna, a heavy weapons specialist, and Charles W.
Lindewald, 12th Mobile Strike Force platoon leader, were wounded. Hanna,
wounded in the scalp, left shoulder and arm tried to administer first aid to
Lindewald. The two were last seen just before their position was overrun.
Harvey Brande spoke with them by radio and Hanna indicated that Lindewald
was then dead, and that he himself was badly wounded. Daniel R. Phillips, a
demolitions specialist, was wounded in the face and was last seen trying to
evade North Vietnamese armor by going through the northern perimeter wire.
NVA sappers armed with satchel charges, tear gas grenades and flamethrowers
fought through the 101st, 102nd and 103rd CIDG perimeter trenches and
captured both ends of the compound by 2:30 a.m. Spearheaded by tanks, they
stormed the inner compound. LtCol. Schungel and his tank-killer personnel
moved back to the command bunker for more LAWs. They were pinned behind a
row of dirt and rock filled drums by a tank that had just destroyed one of
the mortar pits. A LAW was fired against the tank with no effect. The cannon
swung around and blasted the barrels in front of the bunker entrance. The
explosion temporarily blinded McMurry and mangled his hands, pitched a heavy
drum on top of Lt. Wilkins and knocked Schungel flat. Lt. Quy managed to
escape to another section of the camp, but the approach of yet another tank
prevented Schungel and Wilkins from following. At some point during this
period, McMurry, a radioman, disappeared.
The tank, which was shooting at the camp observation post, was destroyed
with a LAW. Schungel helped Wilkins over to the team house, where he left
both doors ajar and watched for approaching NVA soldiers. Wilkins was
incapacitated and weaponless, and Schungel had only two grenades and two
magazines of ammunition left. He used one magazine to kill a closely huddled
five-man sapper squad coming toward the building. He fed his last magazine
into his rifle as the team house was rocked with explosions and bullets. The
two limped over to the dispensary, which was occupied by NVA soldiers, and
hid underneath it, behind a wall of sandbags.
At some point, Brande, Thompson and at least one Vietnamese interpreter were
captured by the North Vietnamese. Thompson was uninjured, but Brande had
taken shrapnel in his leg. Brande and Thompson were held separately for a
week, then rejoined in Laos. Joined with them was McMurry, who had also been
captured from the camp. The three were moved up the Ho Chi Minh trail to
North Vietnam and held until 1973. The U.S. did not immediately realize they
had been captured, and carried them in Missing in Action status thoughout
the rest of the war, although Brande's photo was positively identified by a
defector in April 1969 as being a Prisoner of War. A Vietnamese interpreter
captured from the camp told Brande later that he had seen both Lindewald and
Hanna, and that they both were dead.
Several personnel, including Capt. Willoughby, SP4 James L. Moreland, the
medic for the mobile strike force, and Lt. Quan, the LLDB camp commander,
were trapped in the underground level of the command bunker. Lt. Longgrear
had also retreated to the command bunker. Satchel charges, thermite grenades
and gas grenades were shoved down the bunker air vents, and breathing was
very difficult. Some soldiers had gas masks, but others had only
handkerchiefs or gauze from their first aid packets.
The NVA announced they were going to blow up the bunker, and the LLDB
personnel walked up the stairs to surrender, and were summarily executed. At
dawn, two large charges were put down the vent shaft and detonated,
partially demolishing the north wall and creating a large hole through which
grenades were pitched. The bunker defenders used upturned furniture and
debris to shield themselves. Willoughby was badly wounded by grenade
fragments and passed out at 8:30 a.m. Moreland had been wounded and became
delirious after receiving a head injury in the final bunker explosion.
Incredibly, the battle was still going on in other parts of the camp.
Aircraft had been strafing the ravines and roads since 1:00 a.m. Throughout
the battle, the Laotians refused to participate, saying they would attack at
first light. Sfc. Eugene Ashley, Jr., the intelligence sergeant, led two
assistant medical specialists, Sgt. Richard H. Allen and SP4 Joel Johnson as
they mustered 60 of the Laotian soldiers and counterattacked into Lang Vei.
The Laotians bolted when a NVA machine gun crew opened fire on them, forcing
the three Americans to withdraw.
Team Sfc. William T. Craig and SSgt. Tiroch had chased tanks throughout the
night with everything from M-79 grenade launchers to a .50 caliber machine
gun. After it had become apparent that the camp had been overrun, they
escaped outside the wire and took temporary refuge in a creek bed. After
daylight, they saw Ashley's counterattack force and joined him. The Special
Forces sergeants persuaded more defenders fleeing down Route 9 to assist
them and tried second, third and fourth assaults. Between each assault,
Ashley directed airstrikes on the NVA defensive line, while the other
Special Forces soldiers gathered tribal warriors for yet another attempt. On
the fifth counterattack, Ashley was mortally wounded only thirty yards from
the command bunker.
Capt. Willoughby had regained consciousness in the bunker about 10:00 a.m.
and established radio contact with the counterattacking Americans. The
continual American airstrikes had forced the North Vietnamese to begin
withdrawing from the camp. Col. Schungel and Lt. Wilkins emerged from under
the dispensary after it was vacated by the North Vietnamese and hobbled out
of the camp.
The personnel in the bunker also left in response to orders to immediately
evacuate the camp. They carried Sgt. John D. Early, who had been badly
wounded by shrapnel while manning the tower, but were forced to leave SP4
Moreland inside the bunker. 1Lt. Thomas D. Todd, an engineer officer in
charge of upgrading Lang Vei's airstrip, held out in the medical bunker
throughout the battle. That afternoon, he was the last American to pass
through the ruined command bunker. He saw Moreland, who appeared to be dead,
covered with debris.
Maj. George Quamo gathered a few dozen Special Forces commando volunteers
from the MACV-SOG base at Khe Sanh (FOB #3) and led a heroic reinforcing
mission into Lang Vei. His arrival enabled the Lang Vei defenders to
evacuate the area, many by Marine helicopters in the late afternoon.
SGT Richard H. Allen - Survivor
SFC Eugene Ashley, Jr. - Awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for Lang Vei
Harvey Gordon Brande - Captured - released POW in 1973
SSGT Arthur Brooks - Survivor
SFC William T. Craig - Survivor
SGT John D. Early - Survivor
SGT Nikolas Fragos - Survivor
Kenneth Hanna - Missing In Action
James William Holt - Missing In Action
SP4 Joel Johnson - Survivor
Charles Wesley Lindewald, Jr. - Missing In Action
1LT Paul R. Longgrear - Survivor
SP4 William G. McMurry - Captured - released POW in 1973
James Leslie Moreland - Missing In Action
Daniel Raymond Phillips - Missing In Action
MAJ George Quamo - Killed in Action April 14, 1968
LT Quy - Survivor
LTC Daniel F. Schungel - appointed deputy commander of 5th Special Forces
Dennis L. Thompson - Captured - released POW in 1973
SSGT Peter Tiroch - Survivor
1LT Thomas D. Todd - Survivor
1LT Miles R. Wilkins - Survivor
CAPT Frank C. Willoughby - Survivor
Dennis Thompson resides in Washington State.
SERGEANT MAJOR DENNIS L. THOMPSON
Sergeant Major Dennis L. Thompson is inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame
for his unfailing devotion to duty, and valorous actions against an armed
enemy of the United States. On March 27, 1966, the Sergeant Thompson was
advising a Vietnamese platoon when it was ambushed and pinned down by a
numerically superior enemy force. He dismounted a truck-mounted machine gun
and placed effective fire on the enemy positions. Inspired by his actions,
the platoon placed a heavy volume of fire on the enemy and withdrew safely
with their wounded from the enemy controlled area. On February 6, 1968, SSG
Thompson was assigned to the Lang Vei Special Forces Camp when it came
under a massive enemy armor and infantry attack. He closed to point blank
range and destroyed one of the tanks with light antitank weapons. The next
day SSG Thompson was calling helicopters to evacuate surviving camp
defenders when a large enemy force confronted him. Realizing the impending
danger to the helicopters, he waved them off and attempted to call air
strikes on his position. After a hand-to-hand encounter with the enemy, SSG
Thompson was rendered unconscious and taken prisoner. Later in an enemy
prison camp, he and a fellow noncommissioned officer from Camp Lang Vei
planned and executed an escape. His companion was unable to move quickly
due to open wounds in his legs. After walking for days they were in sight
of Camp Lang Vei when they were spotted by enemy troops. Staff Sergeant
Thompson's companion told him to escape into the jungle alone. Knowing
that he would have to assist his comrade in keeping up with the enemy or
they would kill him, Staff Sergeant refused to leave his wounded comrade.
This resulted in SSG Thompson becoming a prisoner of war for five more
years. Staff Sergeant Thompson continuously resisted his captor's efforts
to force him to break the Code of Conduct by writing anti-American
statements. He encouraged other American prisoners to resist also, and as
a result spent almost 3 years in solitary confinement while his captors
attempted to beat and starve him into submission. After returning to the
United States, SGM Thompson completed Ranger School and served as a First
Sergeant in the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Although it had not
been written at the time, SGM Thompson surely lived every word of the
Ranger Creed while confronting the enemy.
RANGERS LEAD THE WAY!!
From: DENNIS L THOMPSON
Subject: RE: www.pownetwork.org/bios/t/t007.htm
Date: Fri, 1 May 2009 19:58:24 +0000
In a nutshell there were several different types of special action units
within the Special Forces of the 1960's i.e. SOG, Delta Project and Mobile
Strike Force or Mike Force. There were two separate and distinct SF
detachments at Lang Vei before and during the battle on 6 & 7 February 1968,
the resident detachment A-101 Co C, 5th SFG and 12th Co, A-113 Mobile Strike
Force 5th SFG.
If you are interested in learning what the Mike Force was or did you can
Google "The Mike Force Association" website. Basically we were an
airborne/airmobile Kamakasi force of indigenous troops commanded by American
and Australian Special Forces that was sent in before during or after the
shit hit the fan.
Of the 7 USSF and 161 Rhade tribesmen that made up A-113 MSF only 2 of the
Americans made it out alive. The rest were killed, captured or remain
missing. The Mike Force POW/MIA's at Lang Vei were SFC Harvey G Brande, SFC
Charles W Lindewald, SSG Dennis L Thompson and Sp4 James W Moreland. Of
these only Moreland is listed as being part of A-113. Could you please make
the necessary corrections for us?
SFC Harvey G Brande
12th Co, A-113 Mobile Strike Force 5th SFG
SFC Charles W Lindewald
12th Co, A-113 Mobile Strike Force 5th SFG
SSG Dennis L Thompson
12th Co, A-113 Mobile Strike Force 5th SFG
Sp4 James W Moreland
12th Co, A-113 Mobile Strike Force 5th SFG