I had never heard of Donald G Carr and had no idea at how profoundly he would affect my life. This blog has been a year and a half in the making and perhaps one of the most difficult. Even now I take long pauses before writing trying to collect my thoughts as to how to relay my information and experience to you on how I found American MIA Donald G Carr…….I guess I will just blog as usual about life and travel in Vietnam……..
As many of you know, I guide guests on adventure tours in Vietnam. I had a nice English couple stay with me who wanted to do a motorcycle adventure in the Central highlands. and I built a tour that started in Nha Trang and finished in Hoi An. We would overnight in Lak Lake, Buon Ma Thuot, Kon Tum, and Kham Duc. Everything was going as normal and we were having a pleasant trip. On our fourth day we passed Duc To and turned northward to Kham Duc. At one of the many stops that we make to see sights, I and my partner encountered a man dressed in combat fatigues (fashionable with many minority locals) that drove a large Chinese Lifan motorcycle. While I explained some historical information to our guests, Tien (my partner) went to chat with the fellow. I was motioned to come over and it all began.
“Look what he has his wallet” my partner said. I was shown a photo he carried in his wallet of a dog tag and a piece of bone that was his good luck charm. He told me that the bone came from an Americans remains that his friends found while on a hunting trip. At the time I thought it was maybe just a tall tale but told him that if it was true, there may be some kind of reward to return a missing soldier to the United States. Perhaps I should not have said this but I thought there probably was such a program and it is what these people need to hear in order to get more information. We exchanged phone numbers and continued our tour. At a coffee stop I searched the fellows name in Google and came up with the following article by Christopher R Cox http://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2012/12/bungle-in-the-jungle-the-case-of-donald-g-carr-christopher-r-cox-vietnam-war-laos-green-beret-pow What a surprise!
I now believed that the claim might be true and to my delight, the young man called me back and asked if he could arrange a meeting between me and the local huntsmen that found the American. I agreed and we decided to meet for coffee in Kham Duc at the hotel we were staying. The Young man arrived with 3 very small, dark and nervous local tribesmen however, I am familiar with their ways and after a short time they calmed and began to tell their story. It all started with their nervousness about the whole situation. They are afraid of foreigners and have never talked to one before but more so, were afraid of the Government and what might happen to them if ever found out. In order to get full disclosure from them I had to promise that their interest was priority one and that I would do well by them. I made that promise and told them that they were protected even from me as my only connection to them is a pay as you go SIM card. If they ever had someone they did not trust or know try to contact them, they simply destroy the SIM making them hard to find. My Vietnamese is not that good and it was a lot of back and forth questions with the help of my partner but here is how the conversation played out in my words.
These people are very primitive and have poor living conditions by our standards. About three years ago, four men were hunting in the jungle when they came across an old crash site on a
mountain in Vietnam very close to the Laos border (Dak Glei area). What they found was a partially burned aircraft. After detailed questioning they described the aircraft as like a young frog with a tail and two legs. Huh? OK…. I got it…. The aircraft had a fuselage between two tail fins. They described the fuselage as having a machine gun in the rear and two propellers in front. A body was lying about 10-20 meters away complete with uniform and personal effects. I had read earlier about a 2nd person with his named Daniel W. Thomas. I asked and they insisted only one body. They admit to being a bit childish and were playing with a machine gun mounted in the tail of the aircraft. All of them collected souvenirs of the site including bone fragments that became their good luck charms. How much the skeleton was disturbed I do not know. I also do not know if it was only one or a second trip where the rockets, ammunition, clothing, and anything else they could scavenge was taken to be sold on the black market or whoever would buy. At this point the leader of the group took me aside and showed me a couple of items he brought from home that he thought would prove his claim. We went into the toilet and I took photos of Donald G Carr dog tags, and an American flag on tattered material. He told me he had more items I could see if I went to his home but I said this was enough to prove their claim and he could show more to anyone who comes to claim body. Now came the point of money. After a lot of demands and pleads, I was able to make clear to them that I would do my best to ask on their
behalf what kind of reward if any is available. I promised them that I would not give any information until I contacted them and had their permission. The next day I got a call demanding 200,000 American dollars for their information. (Remember that these people very simple and uneducated) I became angry and told them I no longer would help them because I wanted no profit but only to help them. After an apology, they said that they trusted me and asked that I not include my partner in this process. I agreed. This also went well with my intentions as I was in the midst of dealing with residency issues and the last thing I needed was to become involved in a situation where it might influence my status. My residence paperwork was in Hanoi and other locations waiting for approval for more than a year but is now settled.
We dropped our guests in Hoi An and began the two day drive back to Nha Trang. I was driving solo and had a lot of time to consider what to do. I felt that I had a moral
duty to help return Donald G Carr home or at least notify his family of what I had learned however, I was very concerned that the legal process I was undergoing in Vietnam might be jeopardized by getting involved. I thought this best by contacting the American governmental department responsible for MIA’s or an NGO with the same purpose anonymously. I also had to keep my word to the Tribesmen so I started a search on the internet for a person to contact while also looking into Donald G Carr’s information (His Biography).I was still unsure about the aircraft as I found pictures of a Bronco which sounded like what they found but they did not have tail guns until…….. I found a photo and description saying dome special forces Broncos had tail guns…… OK.. Confirmed. I found maps and information tying him to the area where he was found. I was no longer skeptical….. Donald G Carr has been found KIA. There were other stories of national interest about this MIA, some in the links that follow:
I found a number of websites and email addresses of people involved in MIA recovery but either all were web forms which would identify my ip and other information, or address extensions that might be not allowed from Vietnam. Out of dozens of emails I found with .mil extensions, not one went through.
Using a method that would keep my identity secret (I think) I sent the following email to a few different addresses and finally one actually made it through.
I am an expat living in South East Asia and am in a situation that I wish I was not. I travel into areas that most foreigners cannot and may have discovered the location of a person that is listed MIA . It was totally by accident and I have been having a great struggle of conscience on the issue. I want to do the right thing in my mind and bring resolution to a family about the fate of a loved one, but the situation is very complicated. I cannot simply provide you with the location (even though I do no approximately). The body was found by tribal hunters in deep jungle and scavenged. They are very poor, uneducated and carry proof of their claim as superstitious charms. Of course I was skeptical but (perhaps mistakenly) told them that there might be a reward for their information and proof. In hope of remuneration, they have asked me to help them. They have since proved to me that this is real and I would like very much get all the information to you, but they are a very timid people and scared of any authority. If they become nervous, they will simply disappear. I have told them I will help if I can. I am now at a loss as to how to proceed and am very unsure about how I can help both parties. Is there any kind of remuneration or charity afforded to local people who provide resolution to MIA issues? I personally do not want any part of it but if there is, but that is the only thing they are asking. I have researched and discovered JPAC on the internet as well as the DOD that seems like the place to inform, however, I am unsure who I should talk with as I am a guest in a foreign country and fearful of what may happen to my residency status when this becomes known. I am reasonably certain that this country’s government would like to be in on the discovery for political purposes which might leave me in the dog house if I talk with the wrong people. I am truly lost as to how to proceed.
It was forwarded to Mr. Rodney Millner who was a Research Analyst for Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO). Here is a snippet of what I found from him on the internet.
“Help Locate POWs, MIAs The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office’s (DPMO) mission is to resolve cases of personnel who are still unaccounted for from past wars and to help find and recover
remains, if possible. Rod Millner, is an intelligence research analyst for DPMO, is asking veterans to contact him if they have any information on the whereabouts of missing service members from World War II. Sometimes veterans kept journals which have this information about friends who were killed in action (KIA), but they don’t think it’s useful to anyone. Veterans who have such knowledge are encouraged to contact DPMO with information that could lead to the recovery of that Soldier or Sailor’s remains. You can also call Mr. Millner at 703-699-1268 or e-mail him at Rodney.Millner@osd.mil. To learn more, visit the DPMO web page at www.dtic.mil/dpmo.”
This is a standard release that still appears in many Veterans papers but I have to wonder if anybody takes it seriously. He returned my mail asking for more information. I explained to him that I wanted and felt morally obligated to turn everything over to him but I needed to satisfy the tribes peoples question first. If I did not they would not be cooperative…………… No answer to the the reward question. Over a few more emails I tried to explain the situation and get a simple yes/no question but no answer was forthcoming. I could understand skepticism on his part but I was not getting anything out of him except information demands. Sadly, Mr. Millner was either unable or unwilling to help so I got in touch with the tribesman via the phone number I have and explained the situation. I told them that it may take time but I will try. I also asked them if I could talk to a newspaper or something because I could get no answers from the American Government. He agreed and that was the last we spoke. It has been 6 months and I am sure they have lost faith in me. I am still at a loss at how to answer their simple enquiry. My visa and residency issues are now completed and I am bit less nervous to tell the story.
Some people have advised me just to forget it and keep the secret but I cannot. Donald Gene Carr’s family, his ex wife Carol Collins and
the people who worked so hard to find out his fate need to know, and I need this off my conscience.
Since all of this has happened, I heard a whisper that the military may have found the crash site. This may or nor be true. It has been more than a year that I have been searching and sitting on this information. For that I wish to apologize to Carol Collins and Don Jr. and Matthew Carr. May you have peace of mind.
In conclusion, I am still not sure I am doing the right thing. It is my best judgment to simply tell everybody at the same time. Hopefully the authorities in all instances can put the issue to rest and the family can be comforted by the fact that their long lasting question is answered.
I have done a lot of searching on the internet for family or people who might be in contact with them. Most writers that worked on the original stories have passed away or are lost to retirement and history. I will email this link to some who might be able to notify the family. Hopefully this information will find the right people. I am left with no idea if I can still contact the tribesman……….I still wait for an answer to this question before I try to contact them again………..
Is there any kind of remuneration or charity afforded to local people who provide resolution to MIA issues?
To be continued?
It seems that unknown to me, that one of the locals must have gone against the other and did the right thing by turning over the evidence to JPAC in Hanoi. Had anybody contacted me after writing the story, I would have stopped trying to get information out…………..
After two weeks of not hearing anything, I finally received the following email
I am an investigator with the U.S. government’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting
Agency (DPAA – formerly JPAC), stationed in Hanoi. We have been in contact
with the witnesses you describe in your blog, and have located the crash
site in Dak Glei Province. The witnesses contacted us here at our offices
about a year ago. From them we have obtained Carr’s dogtag, the blood chit,
and a number of remains, which are undergoing analysis at our laboratory in
Hawaii. The crash site is scheduled for excavation as soon as we can get to
it, probably in the period after Tet, based on weather patterns.
Thank you for your work on this case.
It is over………. Donald will go home.
|Name:||Donald Gene “Butch” Carr|
|Unit:||Mobile Launch Team 3,
Task Force 1 Advisory Group
USARV TAG TF1AEN TSH
Nakhon Phanom, Thailand
|Date of Birth:||10 December 1938 (East Chicago, IN)|
|Home of Record:||East Chicago, IN|
|Date of Loss:||06 July 1971|
|Country of Loss:||Laos|
|Loss Coordinates:||144700N 1071700E (YB460352)
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Missing in Action|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||Daniel W. Thomas (missing)|
SYNOPSIS: The Bronco was among the most feared aircraft in the US air arsenal by the Viet Cong, NVA and Pathet Lao because they knew when the Bronco appeared overhead, an air strike would most certainly follow. The two-man crew had armor protection and could use machine guns and bombs to attack enemy positions, as well as rockets to mark targets for air attacks. Although the glassed-in cabin could become uncomfortably warm, it provided splendid visibility. This versatility enabled the plane to fly armed reconnaissance missions, in addition to serving as a vehicle for forward air control (FAC) missions.
On 6 July 1971, US Air Force 1st Lt. Daniel W. Thomas, pilot; and US Army Special Forces Capt. Donald G. “Butch” Carr, observer; comprised the crew of an Air Force OV10A Bronco (tail #67-14634), call sign “Nail 48.” Capt. Carr was the Deputy Commander of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam/Studies and Observation Group (MACV-SOG) element at Nakhon Phanom, Thailand. 1st Lt. Thomas and Capt. Carr were conducting an afternoon Forward Air Control (FAC)/visual reconnaissance mission over the southern Steel Tiger region of Laos, which included that portion of Laos that bordered both South Vietnam and Cambodia.
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 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 that were called, depending on the time frame, “Shining Brass” or “Prairie Fire” missions. In 1971, MACV-SOG’s Command and Control North, Central and South were re-designated as Task Force Advisory Elements 1, 2 and 3, respectively.
Nail 48 departed Nakhon Phanom Airfield, Thailand and proceeded to their area of operation, which encompassed a 10-mile radius of the panhandle of Laos and contained major arteries of the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail. When North Vietnam began to increase its military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary, as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some years before. This border road was used by the Communists to transport weapons, supplies and troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, and was frequently no more than a path cut through the jungle covered mountains. US forces used all assets available to them to stop this flow of men and supplies from moving south into the war zone.
1st Lt. Thomas and Capt. Carr were to orbit at an altitude of 9,000 to 10,000 feet in order to monitor selected enemy radio frequencies. There was no reason for them to descend below that altitude because of the type of mission and the fact the terrain made it extremely dangerous to do so. The mountains varied in height from 400 to 6,300 feet and were covered by triple-canopy jungle with many streams running through them.
20 miles from the target area, Nail 48 passed Nail 49, the FAC who was just completing his mission. After arriving back at base, the pilot of Nail 49 spent some time in the base command center monitoring all activities in Steel Tiger. His first indication that something was wrong was when Hillsboro, the airborne command and control center, contacted the Army Support Facility to see if Nail 48 had checked in with them.
At 1530 hours, the last radio transmission from 1st Lt. Thomas was received when he radioed the appropriate Army Support Facility that they were in the target area, and were experiencing unfavorable weather conditions. There was almost a solid undercast of clouds with only some open areas where the aircrew could see the jungle covered mountains below. Further, heavy rain restricted visibility under the clouds to about one-half mile. During that radio contact, there was no indication Nail 48 was experiencing any difficulty.
Team Hoang Loi, a Vietnamese led cross-border ground reconnaissance team from MACV-SOG’s base at Kontum, South Vietnam was operating in this same region. The team had been inserted into the J-9 target area and in the vicinity of the enemy’s Base Area 613. The team was safely extracted by helicopter at 1630 hours. Upon their return to Kontum, the team members reported hearing a loud explosion or impact northeast of their location at 1600 hours. This was also 30 minutes after the last radio contact with Daniel Thomas and Butch Carr. The ground team was unable to estimate the distance from them because the thick jungle distorted the sound.
By 1638 hours, Hillsboro reported they had had no contact with Nail 48 for approximately an hour. 1st Lt. Thomas and Capt. Carr were scheduled to depart the target area at 1700 hours, and at that time, they also were to check in with the Army Support Facility. Because the airborne command and control aircraft had the primary responsibility for all aircraft in its operational area, the Army Support Facility passed to Hillsboro the operational UHF, VHF and FM radio frequencies assigned to this flight. Further, a check of other bases in the area was made on the outside chance 1st Lt. Thomas diverted to one of them, but none of them had contact with the missing Bronco.
Nail 48’s last known position was on the west side of a primary road running generally northwest to southeast. The road crossed into Cambodia approximately 13 miles south of the tri-border area where Laos, South Vietnam and Cambodia meet; 14 miles north of the Lao/Cambodia border and 18 miles west of the Lao/South Vietnam border, Attopu Province, Laos. It was also 28 miles east of Attopeu, Laos; and 28 miles west-northwest of Dak Seang, South Vietnam.
At the time the Bronco was reported overdue, an extensive aerial search and rescue (SAR) operation was initiated. An electronic surveillance was conducted throughout the night. The next morning Nail 49 arrived back in the target area at first light. The crew concentrated their search to the high terrain area to the north and north-northeast of the mission sector. This area was a known 23mm and 37mm anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) weapons location that guarded a major route of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. It was also a region that afforded the enemy ample protection, food and water. In fact, enemy troops frequently fired at American aircraft with small arms and light machine guns from this sanctuary. Visual and electronic searches continued for the next five days, but found no trace of the Bronco or its crew. At the time formal SAR efforts were terminated on 11 July, Daniel Thomas and Butch Carr were listed Missing in Action.
A source reported that in early July 1971, he had seen an American POW in that area. The source learned from a guard that the POW was a pilot of an OV10 that had been downed a week prior. This information was thought to possibly correlate to either Capt. Carr or 1st Lt. Thomas by US intelligence personnel.
During 1991, a Laotian courier brought out information about a crazy American being held at a POW camp in Laos. Shortly thereafter, a photograph of that man also made their way out of Laos. Initially the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) conceded that the picture maybe genuine. Later DIA analysts determined it was actually a photograph of a German national, and therefore a hoax. However, DIA had no explanation of what an elderly German national was doing in a communist-run POW camp in Laos.
Daniel Thomas and Donald Carr are among nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos. Many of these men were known to be alive on the ground. The Laotians admitted holding “tens of tens” of American Prisoners of War, but these men were never negotiated for either by direct negotiation between our countries or through the Paris Peace Accords which ended the War in Vietnam since Laos was not a party to that agreement.
If Butch Carr and Daniel Thomas died as a result of their loss, each man has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if they survived as intelligence reports indicate, they most certainly could have been captured and their fate, like that of other Americans unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different.
Since the end of the Vietnam War well over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.
Pilots and aircrews in Vietnam and Laos were called upon to fly in many dangerous circumstances, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.