Navy translator helps search for missing troops in Vietnam

WATM: As the sun rises over the jungle canopy, the workers are already on the move. They take in the crisp scent of the morning air as they head up the rocky mountain path, slipping between the trees of a wet, dew-covered forest in Vietnam.

At the top of the green mountain ridge, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Quoc Bao Lam is waiting to greet them with a smile and a handshake before getting started on the day’s work.

On a normal day, Lam is a master-at-arms with the military police at Naval Station Everett, Washington, but today he’s part of a unique assignment. He is acting as the lead linguist for a recovery team deployed by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency on its fourth mission to Vietnam.

Remote site

Lam works at an excavation site found on a remote mountain peak in one of the Vietnamese jungle’s most austere locations. The site is only accessible by helicopter, and the nearest village is about 5 and a half miles away, down a long steep rocky trail on the brink of being overgrown by the jungle. Being at a site so removed, a linguist is a necessity for a successful recovery mission.

“Nothing in this mission could be accomplished without the skill sets and abilities of an experienced linguist on the team,” said Marine Corps Capt. Mark Strickert, DPAA senior recovery team leader. “Linguists translate intent, interpret body language, serve as cultural advisors, facilitate negotiations and build camaraderie with the local community and government officials we work with so closely every day. Linguists are the underlining glue in the tireless steps we take to fulfill our nation’s promise to bring our fallen home.”

The mission of DPAA is to provide the fullest possible accounting for missing service members to their families and the nation from past conflicts.  more here


9 Comments on Navy translator helps search for missing troops in Vietnam

  1. Still praying my teammate, Marine Cpl. Jimmy Worth, will be brought home from Vietnam.

    Battle of Firebase Alpha 2
    April 1, 1972

    The 1st ANGLICO people were experts in coordinating air, artillery, and naval gunfire support for ground forces, working as airborne or ground Forward Observers. Corporal James F. Worth was a member of an ANGLICO gunfire liaison team at Firebase Alpha 2 in Gio Linh District, Quang Tri Province, one of several in the “Alpha” group of tiny firebases arranged in a loose arc just south of the DMZ.

    The North Vietnamese Spring 1972 invasion began with a two-pronged attack – the reinforced 304th Division moving eastward from Laos and the 308th Division attacking southward across the Demilitarized Zone. When the NVA 308th Division crossed the DMZ, attacking southward on coastal plains between the sea and Highway 1, they encountered the Alpha firebases and concentrated most of their force against the three firebases between Highway 1 and the coast. Firebase Alpha 2 was the most important of the three because it was the farthest north and one of two bases in the area containing artillery. On the morning of April 1, the base was overrun.

    The ANGLICO team was overrun along with the rest of the firebase. Its commanding officer, 1st Lt David C. Bruggeman, USMC, was fatally wounded in the fighting (and was awarded a posthumous Silver Star for his bravery). A second team member, Corporal Worth, was separated from his comrades during the confusion of battle and could not be found when a Huey from F Troop, 8th Cavalry managed to pick up the other team members. On April 2nd, Corporal Worth came up on his radio to advise that he was on his way overland to Dong Ha. He never arrived. Corporal Worth was carried as Missing in Action until the Secretary of the Navy approved a Presumptive Finding of Death on 17 Jan 1977.

    Post-war investigations by the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting found witnesses who found the body of a dead Caucasian within the Alpha-2 base area; they said he was dressed in combat gear, was in a Jeep, and had a radio on his back. The body was buried, but the exact spot is uncertain. JTF-FA documents now available from the Library of Congress, the most recent a 2007 message, indicate the search for Cpl Worth’s remains continue.
    Semper Fi, Jimmy.

  2. Hollywood should make a Movie about His Dad’s Life….Instead of

    the shit they come up with now. (Paging Mr. Eastwood)

    Great Story, and what a Fine Young Man.

  3. Both Presidents named George fought this for 12 years! Johnny helped, as did “Snarlin Arlen” and Flake!

    A big reason I vote for Ross in ’92! I saw dozens of good men die there and had Dogie friends who have never come home! Johny of course did come home HALE + HARTY the —-!


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