Name: Gunther Herbert Wald
Rank/Branch: E5/US Army Special Forces
Unit: SOA, Command & Control North (MACV-SOG), 5th Special Forces
Date of Birth: 07 January 1944 (Frankfurt, Germany)
Home City of Record: Bergen NJ (or Palasaides Park NJ)
Date of Loss: 03 November 1969
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 154800N 1064700E (XD643574)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel in Incident:
William Brown; Donald M. Shue (both missing); six Montagnards (two missing, four escaped).
Gunther Wald was born in Frankfurt, Germany on January 7, 1944. When he entered the Army in June 1967, he had four years service in the U.S. Marine Corps. When he went to Vietnam, he was attached to MACV-SOG, Command and Control North. MACV-SOG (Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observation Group)was a joint service high command unconventional warfare task force engaged in highly classified operations throughout Southeast Asia. The 5th Special Forces channelled personnel into MACV-SOG (though 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" missions.
It was on such a mission that SSgt. Brown, SSgt. Gunther Wald, SP4 Donald Shue and two of the six Montagnards went missing. The Americans and Montagnards were members of a patrol operating in Laos. The patrol team was attacked by a numerically superior force 30 miles inside Laos near Ban Chakevy Tai in Saravane Province. Four of the Montangards escaped and returned to camp to report the ambush and capture of their comrades.
When last seen, Brown had been wounded by a gunshot just below the rib cage. He was lying on the ground as the attackers shouted, "Capture the Americans". SSgt. Wald and SP4 Shue were also seen to receive numerous schrapnel wounds from a fragmentation grenade. The other team members were forced to withdraw leaving the others behind.
Due to bad weather, a recovery team could not reenter the area until November 11. They searched the entire area, but could only find some web gear which was identified as belonging to three of the indigenous team members and SP4 Shue. There was no trace of any graves, or of the three missing Americans. They were classified as Missing In Action.
The U.S. did not negotiate for the release of any of the nearly 600 Americans lost in Laos. No American serviceman held in Laos has been released. Tragically, the U.S. has received over 6000 reports indicating that many Americans are still held prisoner today. Many men were seriously wounded and survived captivity. No one saw Brown, Shue or Wald die. They could be among the hundreds many authorities believe to be alive today. If so, what must they be thinking of us?