Other Personnel in Incident: John E. Bodenschatz Jr.; Robert C. Borton Jr.; Robert L. Babula (all missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 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. Copyright 1991 Homecoming II Project.
SYNOPSIS: PFC Robert L. Babula, PFC Robert C. Borton Jr., PFC John E. Bodenschatz Jr., and PFC Dennis R. Carter were members of 1st Platoon, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines. On 28 August 1966, the four were assigned as a fire team ambush with instructions to establish an ambush site approximately 500 meters to the south of their platoon patrol base. This specific location is in Hoa Hai village within grid square BT 0667.
The fire team departed at 3:00 a.m. on August 28, and were given instructions for use of the pyrotechnics they were carrying as signaling devices. They were further instructed to relocate in the same general area or return to their platoon patrol base in the event their ambush site was compromised, and finally to return no later than 9:00 a.m. that morning.
When the fire team failed to return as scheduled, an immediate search of the area was conducted by Company K with negative results. During the period of August 29-31, the Battalion made a dovetailed search of the entire area covering all possible routes of egress in the event the team members had been captured.
Indigenous personnel in the area were questioned, but no evidence was uncovered which gave any clues. Villagers were questioned and a search of the area continued. On September 4, Company K discovered part of an American wrist watch and PFC Bodenschatz' two identification tags in the vicinity of BT 061673. The search was intensified in that area, including the use of heavy engineer equipment in an effort to locate graves, but no further trace was found.
On September 13, the Battalion cordoned off grid squares BT 0567, 0667, 0566, 0666 and all inhabitants were assembled, screened, and interrogated by an ARVN interrogation team from Hoa Vang District Headquarters. Three Viet Cong suspects were retained for further questioning, however, no additional information was obtained concerning the four Marines.
The Battalion commander's final determination was that the four Marines were probably captured.
In 1975, information was declassified that indicated that since the fire team's disappearance, Marine headquarters had received two reports sighting three to four Americans being displayed in villages south of the area in which the fire team disappeared.
A Christmas card received by Company K/3/1 1st Marine Division, sent by Babula's mother and sister, stated that they had recently received news that Babula was a prisoner of war. None of the four, however, returned in the general prisoner release in 1973.
Since the war ended, the Defense Department has received over 10,000 reports relating to the men still unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, yet concludes that no actionable evidence has been received that would indicate Americans are still alive in Southeast Asia. A recent Senate investigation indicates that most of these reports were dismissed without just cause, and that there is every indication that Americans remained in captivity far after the war ended, and may be alive today.
The fate of the four Marines on the fire team on 28 August 1966 remains uncertain. What is clear, however, is that it's time we learned the truth about our missing and brought them home.