Name: Ronald Eugene Smith
Rank/Branch: E7/US Army Special Forces
Unit: Command & Control Central, MACV-SOG, 5th Special Forces Group
Date of Birth: 29 March 1940 (Kingman IN)
Home City of Record: Covington IN
Date of Loss: 28 November 1970
Country of Loss: Laos (some lists say Cambodia)
Loss Coordinates: 143705N 1072737E (YB650174)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1990 from one or
the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources,
with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the
SYNOPSIS: Ronald Smith was assigned to Special Operations
Special Forces Group. The 5th Special Forces channeled personnel into
MACV-SOG (although it was not a Special Forces group) through Special
Operations Augmentation (SOA), which provided their "cover" while under
secret orders to MACV-SOG (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies
Observation Group). MACV-SOG was a joint service high command
warfare task force engaged in highly classified operations throughout
Southeast Asia. The teams performed deep penetration missions of
reconnaissance and interdiction in Laos and Cambodia which were called,
depending on the time frame and location, "Shining Brass" or "Prairie
Ronald E. Smith was born in Kingman Indiana on March 29, 1940. He
U.S. Navy as a young man, completed his commitment and then joined the
He advanced in the Army to Sergeant First Class, and received Special
training. He served in Germany until 1968, then was shipped to Vietnam,
where he was assigned to Command and Control Central, MACV-SOG.
On November 28, 1970, Smith was a rifleman and a member of a joint
Vietnamese and American long range reconnaissance team (LRRP) named
Kentucky/Louisiana on a mission in Attopeu Province Laos, near the
tri-border area of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. At 1605 hours, the team
under enemy attack from a reinforced enemy company. The team became
separated and several members were wounded. In the initial attack,
hit by enemy fire, and was wounded and sought cover.
The team leader immediately went to him to bring him to cover. When he
turned Smith over, he saw that Smith had been hit in the forehead,
side by automatic weapons fire. While he was attempting to recover
B40 rocket propelled grenade (RPG) hit the area, killing a Vietnamese
of the team who had also come to assist Smith. Enemy fire again struck
Smith, and concussion from the rocket fire knocked the team leader
The remaining team members, who were Vietnamese, broke contact with the
enemy, carrying the team leader with them. The team leader later stated
it was his opinion that Smith was dead. However, the Army told Smith's
family that "based on past experience, we have learned that one cannot
always accurately determine an individual's condition under the stress
battle." Therefore, the Department of the Army was reluctant to declare
Smith dead. He was was declared Missing in Action, and according to
Gen. Kenneth G. Wickham on December 9, 1970, "the search is
no conclusive evidence was obtained that Smith was dead.
No search could be made because of continuing hostile troop movement in
area. The area of loss was then classified, and Smith's family was
only that he had been "operating deep inside enemy dominated
On January 15, 1971, Col. Michael D. Healy wrote Smith's family that he
offered "prayers for [Smith's] return.
On April 28, 1971, the Army again wrote to Smith's family and stated
had been decided he could not have survived the incident. He was
Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered. The action was based on the
information" that the team leader "definitely determined that [Smith]
of his wounds."
On August 14, 1973, Maj. General Bowers wrote Smith's family and told
that the area of Smith's loss could now be released, and that he had
lost in Laos. He enclosed an amended Report of Casualty (DD1300)
Smith is one of nearly 2500 Americans still missing, and among nearly
lost in Laos. Although the Pathet Lao stated on several occasions that
held "tens of tens" of American prisoners, not one American was ever
released that was held in Laos. Laos was not part of the peace
ending American involvement in Southeast Asia, and the U.S. has never
negotiated for these prisoners since that time.
Because the area was held by the enemy, there is every chance the enemy
knows Smith's fate. Alive or dead, Smith remains a prisoner of war.
For every insertion like Smith's that was detected and stopped, dozens
other commando teams safely slipped past NVA lines to strike a wide
targets and collect vital information. The number of MACV-SOG missions
conducted with Special Forces reconnaissance teams into Laos and
was 452 in 1969. It was the most sustained American campaign of
sabotage and intelligence gathering waged on foreign soil in U.S.
history. MACV-SOG's teams earned a global reputation as one of the most
combat effective deep penetration forces ever raised.
The missions Smith and others were assigned were exceedingly dangerous
of strategic importance. The men who were put into such situations knew
chances of their recovery if captured was slim to none. They quite
assumed that their freedom would come by the end of the war. For 591
Americans, freedom did come at the end of the war. For another 2500,
however, freedom has never come.
Since the war ended, nearly 10,000 reports relating to missing
Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S., convincing many
that hundreds remain alive in captivity. What must they think of us?