WHITE, CHARLES EDWARD
Name: Charles Edward White
Rank/Branch: E7/US Army, 5th Special Forces Group
Unit: MACV-SOG, Command & Control North
Date of Birth: 18 May 1933 (Union Town AL)
Home City of Record: Bessemer AL
Date of Loss: 29 January 1968
Country of Loss: Cambodia
Loss Coordinates: 143200N 1071800E (YB489072)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
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.
REMARKS: POSS DEAD - IMPALED
SYNOPSIS: MACV-SOG (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and
Observation Group) was a joint-service 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 into Laos and Cambodia which were called, depending on the time
frame, "Shining Brass" or "Prairie Fire" missions.
SFC Charles E. White was a team leader of a MACV-SOG reconnaissance team
that was inserted into a target area in Ratanokiri Province, Cambodia near
the border of Laos and Cambodia. The team consisted of White and two
indigenous personnel, Nang and Khong. The team came under enemy fire and
White called for an emergency extraction.
During the extraction, the team had to use McGuire rigs hung from the
helicopter because the dense jungle canopy prevented the helicopter from
landing. The device was lowered through the trees and raised up again with
the men suspended from it.
According to the helicopter crew, the three personnel on their ropes seemed
secure on liftoff. SFC White indicated that he was having difficulty holding
onto the rope, then fell. At the time, the helicopter was at an altitude of
between 75 and 200 feet above the ground.
Due to the time of day and the enemy situation, a recovery team was not
inserted until the next day. No evidence that White had been in the area was
found except for the path his body made through the trees and bamboo when
the incident occurred. Neither blood trails nor equipment were found. The
area appeared to have been searched by the enemy. No fresh grave sites could
be located, and it was considered doubtful that the enemy would carry a body
any distance before burying it or otherwise disposing of it.
It was noted by the recovery team that the bamboo was thick enough to have
cushioned PFC White's path in descent, and that he could have survived the
fall. In light of all available information, SFC White was placed in Missing
in Action status, with the belief that the enemy could probably account for
him, living or dead.
Curiously, the Defense Intelligence Agency added the data note, "POSS DEAD -
IMPALED" to data concerning Charles E. White. Neither Army after-action
reports nor other public information mention this gruesome possibility. Both
clearly state that no trace of White was found. If there is any credence to
this remark, perhaps it comes from classified information related to this
The missions MACV-SOG teams were assigned 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,
including White, freedom has never come.
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. Charles E. White could be among
them. If so, what must he think of us?