WILSON, PETER JOE
Name: Peter Joe Wilson
Rank/Branch: E6/US Army Special Forces
Unit: Command & Control Central, MACV-SOG, 5th Special Forces Group
Date of Birth: 23 August 1938 (Ridley Park PA)
Home City of Record: Pulaski NY
Date of Loss: 19 October 1970
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 143500N 1072530E
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
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 2020.
SYNOPSIS: In Vietnam, Peter J. Wilson was 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 19, 1970, SSgt. Wilson was the team leader of a long range
reconnaissance patrol (LRRP) that made contact with a numerically superior
enemy force in the tri-border of Laos southwest of Ben Het. After the fourth
contact with the enemy, Wilson directed Sgt. John M. Baker to the front of
the patrol and told him to continue to the east if the column was split. At
that time, Wilson was covering the rear of the patrol and assisting a
wounded indigenous soldier, Djuit. The patrol abandoned the battlefield with
the enemy in hot pursuit. Later, Baker heard Wilson transmit, "May Day, May
Day" on his emergency radio and the sounds of a firefight from the direction
of the separated patrol element. This was the last word of Peter Joe Wilson.
An intense air search was made for 3 days without success. Wilson was never
found, and is listed among nearly 600 Americans missing in Laos. Although
the Pathet Lao stated on several occasions that they held "tens of tens" of
American prisoners, not one American was ever released that was held in
Laos. Laos was not part of the peace agreements ending American involvement
in Southeast Asia, and the U.S. has never negotiated for these prisoners
since that time.
For every insertion like Wilson's 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 Wilson 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 another 2500,
however, 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. Peter J. Wilson could be among
them. If so, what must he think of us?
NOTE: On September 14, 1997, a special ran on CNN/TIME/IMPACT. Peter J.
Wilson was mentioned on the show. His nickname was "Fat Albert."