RT Oregon — November 13
On November 13, CCN was rocked with the bad news of RT Oregon having five of six men killed by NVA in Laos. “I’ll never forget that day as long as I live,” said Dan Thompson, an experienced SOG recon man who ran missions with RT Rhode Island and was flying as the Covey Rider for the insertion of RT Oregon. “It was one of those typical days in SOG, in the Prairie Fire AO,” Thompson said. “We were supposed to insert the team earlier in the day, but the insertion kept getting pushed back due to weather issues over the target area and getting asset coordination in place….we did a double insert. On the first LZ, the choppers went in on a dummy insertion, placing one of those “Nightingale” devices on the ground, which exploded in a sequential order making it sound like a firefight, with the chopper leaving the LZ, hoping to make it appear to the enemy the team left the LZ. We inserted RT Oregon on the second LZ, a long finger of mountain, high up about 15 miles inside Saravane Province in Laos. To be honest, I was a little nervous about the LZ because the vegetation was not jungle canopy, it was thin. But, the team went in, gave us a Team OK. We kept all assets nearby the target until we all got low on fuel and had to return to South Vietnam to refuel.
“Much to my absolute horror, no more than five minutes after the choppers and Covey headed east, we received the first radio beeper and call declaring a Prairie Fire Emergency, around 1600 hours. I was sick to my stomach,” Thompson said.
According to the top secret After Action Report, the six-man RT Oregon team was hit by NVA at approximately 1600 hours, attacking first from the west, with AK-47s blazing. Then NVA soldiers attacked from the northwest and southwest. During those initial fusillades of withering enemy gunfire, RT Oregon indigenous team member Vai was gunned down. During those adrenalin-pumping milliseconds, team members Nha and Thanh were killed when a claymore mine in one of their rucksacks exploded, killing them instantly.
Nguyen Van Bon, the only RT Oregon team member to survive the attack, later told debriefers, that as Ray returned fire he was felled by enemy gunfire while Suber was trying to make radio contact with any aircraft in the area. Efforts on his URC-10 ultra-high frequency emergency radio failed to make contact, Bon said. He observed Ray fall to the ground, groan and “become silent.” He shook the young staff sergeant, but Ray was unresponsive, his chest was covered with blood. Bon said he turned to Suber’s position when he noticed four enemy soldiers advancing toward the young sergeant. Suber picked up his weapon, pointed it toward the enemy only to experience weapon failure. He was instantly struck by enemy fire. Bon fired upon those enemy soldiers and called Suber’s name several times. Bon later told S-2 staff and polygraph experts that the brave Green Beret from Missouri neither moved nor answered his calls.
Bon then escaped from the deadly battle site by running down hill and into the darkened jungle to escape enemy soldiers. During the subsequent time, he heard sporadic shots fired and shouting to the north and west throughout the following day, according to the findings by the MIA Board of Proceedings conducted November 29, chaired by CCN Executive Officer Bill Angel, Capt. Robert Blatherwick Jr., and Capt. Michael D. O’Byrne. Also, during that time, Air Force personnel picked up at least five beepers alerts from an URC-10, which they assumed was a ploy by the NVA to draw in another team