LtCol Robert Wallace
Name: Robert Wallace Brownlee, Jr.
Rank/Branch: O5/US Army
Unit: Advisor Team 22, MACV
Date of Birth: 27 July 1921
Home City of Record: Chicago IL
Date of Loss: 25 April 1972
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 143858N 1074730E (ZB011211)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel in Incident: George W. Carter; Wayde L. Ellen;
Hunsicker; Johnny M. Jones; Kenneth J. Yonan; Franklin Zollicoffer (all
missing); Charles M. Lea; Rickey V. Vogel (helicopter crew, rescued); Julius
G. Warmath; John P. Keller; Walter H. Ward (helicopter passengers, rescued);
Charles W. Gordon, Cao Ky Chi (evaded capture near Dak To.)
On the evening of April
23, 1972, Capt. Kenneth J. Yonan
accompanied his ARVN counterpart to a water tower located on the
northwestern edge of the Tanh Canh base camp compound near Dak To, Kontum
Province, South Vietnam. Yonan was an advisor assigned to Advisory Team 22,
MACV, and was assisting the ARVN 42nd Regiment based there.At about 0530
hours on April 24, Capt. Yonan was still in the water tower
when Viet Cong attacked the camp perimeter. Although tanks fired at and hit
the water tower, two other advisors spoke to Capt. Yonan after the firing
and Yonan reported that he was not hit and planned to join the other
advisors when it was safe to do so. Radio contact was maintained with Yonan
until 0730 hours. The other U.S. advisors began escape and evasion
operations from the beleaguered compound.Team 22 Advisors Maj. George W.
Carter, Maj. Julius G. Warmath, and Capt.
John P. Keller, were extracted by helicopter. The aircraft was a UH1H from
the 52nd Aviation Battalion, 17th Aviation Group, (serial #69-15715) and was
flown by Lt. James E. Hunsicker. WO Wade L. Ellen was the co-pilot of the
chopper, and SP4 Charles M. Lea, and SP5 Ricky V. Vogel were crewmen. Other
persons extracted included 1Lt. Johnny M. Jones, from the 52nd Aviation
Battalion; SP4 Franklin Zollicoffer, from the U.S. Army Installation at
Pleiku, and Sgt. Walter H. Ward, unit not specified.The helicopter departed
to the northwest from Dak To, but was apparently hit
by enemy fire, as it crashed and burned on a small island in the Dak Poko
River about 500 meters from the end of the dock to the runway. Because of
the rolling terrain, personnel at the airfield did not see the aircraft
impact. A pilot flying over the wreckage reported that the helicopter was
burning, but they could see no survivors. It was later discovered that five
people did survive the crash - Warmath, Keller, Vogel, Ward and Lea.
According to their statements, Hunsicker, Ellen, Zollicoffer, Jones and
Carter were all dead.Two other Team 22, MACV Advisors, LtCol. Robert W.
Brownlee and Capt.
Charles W. Gordon, and their ARVN interpreter, Sgt. Cao Ky Chi, were in a
bunker near the airstrip approximately 4 kilometers to the west of the base
camp when they were forced to withdraw under heavy enemy attack. They
proceeded south of the compound across the Dak Poko River, but LtCol.
Brownlee became separated from the others as they were advancing up a hill.
Sgt. Chi and Capt. Gordon called out to him, but received no response. From
the top of the hill, Sgt. Chi heard the enemy call out to someone in
Vietnamese to halt and raise their hands. Sgt. Chi believed the Viet Cong
were speaking to LtCol. Brownlee. Gordon and Chi evaded capture and
eventually made their way to safety.A Vietnamese who was captured and
subsequently released reported that he had
talked to another prisoner who had witnessed LtCol.Brownlee's death. He was
told that LtCol. Brownlee had killed himself with his own pistol when
communist soldiers told him to raise his hands in an attempt to capture him.
Additional hearsay reports of his suicide were reported by another ARVN
source.Yonan never caught up with the others. For three days, helicopter
were made of the area with no success. Ground search, because of the hostile
threat in the area, was not practical.In April 1988, the Vietnamese
"discovered" the remains of Capt. Kenneth J.
Yonan and returned them to the U.S. in a spirit of stepped-up cooperation on
the POW/MIA issue. For nearly 20 years, this 1969 West Point graduate was a
prisoner of war - alive or dead. His family now knows with certainty that he
is dead, but may never learn how - or when - he died.In addition to the
reports regarding Brownlee's death, a South Vietnamese
soldier reported that he observed the capture of one "big" American from the
camp. Another report described the capture of a U.S. Captain stationed at
the camp.Offical data bases do
not tell the whole story of this mission.While Rickey Von Vogel is only
noted as "rescued", in reality, Sp5 Vogel was
missing from April 24, 1972 until his return to military control May 6,
1972. During that time, despite severe wounds that included bullet wounds
and broken bones, he managed to escape and evade capture for almost 2 weeks
until his rescue.Rickey Vogel was awarded the Purple Heart and 3 Air Medals
in addition to
various Vietnam awards and decorations for his service. After his medical
evacuation and recovery, he continued to serve his country until his
discharge in 1974.
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