Sunday, May 8, 2011

Welcome home, Donnie Shue

After being missing for 42 years, an Army soldier who went missing on a mission in Laos during the war in Vietnam was buried last weekend in North Carolina.

The remains of Sergeant First Class Donald Monroe Shue, a Special Forces trooper who had been on a secret patrol mission in Laos, were found on a farmer's property in that country a few months ago. Shue's sister Betty Jones told The Associated Press that she didn't initially believe Army officials who said her brother had been found.

But she was convinced when they showed her a Zippo lighter, inscribed with his name, that was found in Laos. Her brother, 29 years old at the time, hadn't been seen since November 1969. I was six months old when Donnie Shue went missing.

MACV-SOG, or 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 Group channeled 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. These teams performed deep penetration missions of strategic reconnaissance and interdiction which were called, depending on the time frame, "Shining Brass" or "Prairie Fire" missions.

On 03 Nov 1969, team leader Staff Sergeant William T. Brown, radioman Sergeant Gunther Wald, rifleman SP4 Donald Shue and six Montagnard tribal soldiers formed a patrol, Recon Team Maryland, operating 30 miles west of the South Vietnamese/Lao border in the isolated and rugged jungle-covered mountains near Ban Chakevy Tai, Savannakhet Province, Laos.

As the patrol moved through the area, it was ambushed by a numerically superior communist force. During the initial burst of automatic weapons fire, SSG Brown was shot through the body just below the rib cage. The communists lobbed in grenades, fragments of which struck SP4 Shue. At the same time, as SGT. Wald was making radio contact for help, he was also struck by grenade fragments. Two of the six Montagnard team members were also wounded in the initial attack. All three Americans were last seen lying wounded on the ground by one of the four surviving team members, who were forced to leave the others behind and withdraw under fire. At the time they departed the area, the Montagnards did not know the extent or severity of the wounds sustained by the Americans. Further, as the Montagnards were escaping the ambush site, they heard the communists shout: "Capture the Americans!" They successfully evaded capture and reported the results of the ambush once they made their way back to base.

Due to bad weather, a search and rescue team could not be inserted into the area until 11 November. They searched the entire area, but could only find some web gear which was identified as belonging to the patrol members. More importantly, no personal equipment, weapons or graves were found in or around the battle site. Likewise, there was no trace of the men themselves. At the time the formal search effort was terminated, William Brown, Donald Shue and Gunther Wald were all listed Missing In Action.

Initially Shue was declared Missing In Action(MIA), and later declared Killed in Action(KIA) on January 15, 1979, and posthumously promoted to Sergeant First Class. His remains were actually found and returned to the U.S. control in 2009 and finally identified for burial by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command's Central Identification Lab in Hawaii.

Donnie Shue was finally laid to rest in his home state of North Carolina on a beautiful sunny spring Saturday, surrounded by hundreds of well-wishers, family members, and fellow veterans. You were missing, but never forgotten. Welcome home, brother.


Coffeypot said...

Amen and Welcome Home, Donnie.

Brooke said...

God rest his soul!