Name: David Lockett Rank/Branch: Spec./US Army Unit: 233rd Transportation Company Age: 23 Home City of Record: Date of Loss: 30 January 1991 Country of Loss: Iraq Loss Coordinates: Status: Missing in Action Status 2002 - Released 03/04/91 Category: Released POW Acft/Vehicle/Ground: Jeep
Other Personnel in Incident: Melissa Rathbun-Nealy (released)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 09 March 1991 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Update POW NETWORK 2002.
REMARKS: OPERATION DESERT SHIELD
SYNOPSIS: On 30 January 1991, Spec. David Lockett and Spec. Melissa Rathbun-Nealy, both from the 233rd Transportation Company, became missing near the border of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Rathbun-Nealy was the driver and Lockett a passenger in one of two heavy equipment transfer vehicles (tank carrier or HET) delivering equipment to troops on that day. Rathbun-Nealy and Lockett were transporting a repaired truck. The two vehicles took a wrong turn and ended up in the middle of fighting as Iraqi tanks, armored patrol vehicles and troops moved into the city of Khafji, Saudi Arabia. The vehicles came under fire and one of them managed to speed out, but when the occupants of the first vehicle looked back, they saw that the second, driven by Rathbun-Nealy, had gotten stuck in the sand in attempting to turn around. Marines from the 1st Marine Division deployed just two miles south of the city organized a rescue party after the truck that escaped requested help.
As the Marine vehicles crept into the outskirts of the city, two Cobra helicopters flew shotgun overhead. When they arrived at the spot where the vehicle crashed, they found the truck abandoned with the passengers' duffel bags and gas masks inside the vehicle. The material they had been transporting was gone. The doors of the vehicle were open and the weapons gone. The wheels were still spinning. No sign of the occupants was found; there were no bloodstains seen. The vehicle was observed for the next three days, wheels still spinning.
First Pentagon reports indicated that the crashed truck was occupied by Rathbun-Nealy and Lockett. Later, Pentagon sources revealed that the two missing from the crashed jeep had been rescued, but declined to name them. Rathbun-Nealy and Lockett, the Pentagon said, were lost some distance away from this loss location.
In early February, a captured Iraqi reported that he had been part of a prisoner escort unit that took Lockett and Rathbun-Nealy to Basra, a military command center and key port city just north of Kuwait. The site, according to the source, was a primary target for allied bombers. The source indicated that Rathbun-Nealy had an arm injury, but the source of the injury is not known. The Pentagon, however, initially listed the pair as missing from their post. Nearly two weeks following the incident, the Pentagon changed the category to Missing in Action. Despite numerous reports that the two had been captured, the Pentagon has not yet changed their status to Prisoner of War. Some observers feel this is an apparent effort by the Pentagon to downplay the existence of American prisoners of war.
By February 12, U.S. military officials were admitting to receiving "conflicting information" on the missing pair. One official said "We are reasonably confident that they are prisoners of war. Where they are, precisely what shape they're in, we don't know."
Critics speculate on the "information gap" relating to this case. The loss of a servicewoman in a combat zone would be unusual, if not embarrassing, to the U.S. The two escaped soldiers would be attractive media targets had they been associated with the loss incident of the first known black man and the only female in the U.S. military to be missing since World War II.
Radio Baghdad later reported that Iraqi troops had captured many American soldiers, both men and women. The broadcast said female POWs would be given special treatment under Islamic law. This does little to assuage the fears of Rathbun-Nealy's parents and other observers.
In late January, video interviews of Allied POWs were broadcast on Iraqi television, and later broadcast in the United States. Several Allied POWs made appearances and gave "peace" statements. All appeared to be speaking under extreme duress and appeared to have been beaten. On January 20, the Iraqis stated that POWs would be used as "human shields" to protect their important military sites from attack by Allied forces.
On March 3, 1991, both David Lockett and Melissa Rathbun-Nealy were released in a group of six American POWs. They reported that, although they had been held in solitary confinement much of the period, they had been well-treated.
Lockett and Nealy added details to their capture. Upon capture, the Iraqis intended to leave Lockett, who was injured, behind. Nealy refused to leave without him, and he was taken prisoner also. The blood in the front of the truck convinced others in the transportation unit that Lockett had died. They held little hope for his survival. Meanwhile, the Pentagon was reporting to the families that there was no sign of violence at the truck. The two were held at Basra until their release.