On 28 August 1966, Cpl. Dennis R. Carter, squad
leader; then PFC Robert L. Babula, PFC John E. Bodenschatz, Jr. and PFC Robert
C. "Curt" Borton, riflemen; were assigned to 1st Platoon, Company K,
3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division. The four Marines comprised a
fire team assigned to establish an ambush site in Hoa Hai village, Hoa Vang
District, Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam. The village was located
approximately 500 meters south of the platoon's patrol base.
The sector in which 1st platoon was operating was densely
populated and hotly contested approximately 2 miles west of the coastline, 3
miles southwest of Marble Mountain and 4 miles south-southeast of the southern
end of the DaNang Airfield runways. It was covered in rice fields, small marshy
areas, patches of scattered trees and villages of various sizes. It was also
laced with several primary and secondary roads running generally north to south
and foot/cart paths running between villages in all directions.
Highway QL1, the primary road running nearly the full
length of both North and South Vietnam, was located roughly 2 miles to the west
of the ambush site. The Song Vinh Dien River generally paralleled QL1 and to the
east of the road. Route 518 connected several of the larger villages in the
region and was located roughly ½ mile east of the fire team's ambush site.
At 0300 hours, the four members of the fire team departed
the platoon's base camp. In addition to their own weapons, they were armed with
pyrotechnics that were to be used as signaling devises. Their orders were to
relocate in the same general area or return to platoon's patrol base in the
event their ambush site was compromised, and to return to base no later than
0900 hours that morning.
When the fire team failed to return by 0900 hours, an
immediate search operation was conducted of the area in and around Hoa Hai
village by Company K. From 29 through 31 August, 3rd Battalion conducted a
dovetailed search of the entire sector including all possible routes of egress
in the event the team members had been captured. Local residents were
questioned, but no information was forthcoming about the fate of the missing
Company K continued to ground search and on 4 September
part of an American wristwatch and PFC Bodenschatz's two dogtags were discovered
in the vicinity of BT061673. The search of the area was intensified in and
around that location. Heavy engineer equipment was also employed in an effort to
locate graves, but no further trace of the four Marines was found.
On 13 September, the 3rd Battalion cordoned off grid
squares BT0567, 0667, 0566 and 0666. All inhabitants were assembled, screened
and interrogated by an ARVN interrogation team from Hoa Vang District
Headquarters. During this process, three Viet Cong suspects were retained for
further questioning. While the ARVN team was successful in identifying VC
personnel, they were unable to learn anything about the fate or whereabouts of
Curt Borton, Robert Babula, John Bodenschatz or Dennis Carter.
With no other leads to follow, the Marine Corps
reluctantly suspended the formal search effort. A Board of Inquiry was convened
to review all known facts of the case. At its conclusion, the Battalion
Commander wrote in his final determination that the four Marines were
"probably captured." In spite of this, Robert Babula, Curt Borton,
John Bodenschatz and Dennis Carter were declared Missing in Action.
During December 1966, PFC Babula's mother and sister sent
a Christmas card to the members of Company K informing them that they had
recently received new information that Robert was a Prisoner of War. However,
they did not elaborate on who provided that information to them.
In 1975, information was declassified and given to all
four families that indicated that since the fire team's disappearance, Marine
Corps Headquarters had received two sighting reports documenting "three to
four Americans being displayed in villages south of the area in which the fire
In April 1991 the US government released a list of
Prisoners of War and Missing in Action who were known to be alive in enemy hands
and for whom there is no evidence that he or she died in captivity. This list,
commonly referred to today as the USG's "Last Known Alive" list,
included Robert Babula, Curt Borton, John Bodenschatz and Dennis Carter.
If PFC Babula, PFC Borton, PFC Bodenschatz and Cpl.
Carter died in their loss incident, each man has the right to have his remains
returned to his family, friends and country. However, if they survived, there is
a very real probability they were captured by communist forces known to be
operating in this region and their fate, like that of other Americans who remain
unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different. Either way there is
no doubt the Vietnamese know what happened and could return them or their
remains any time they had the desire to do so.
In a strange twist, information regarding one of the four
Marines lost on 28 August 1966 came to light in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
On at least four separate occasions Curt Borton's sister believes she has seen
him in the United States. Three of these sightings occurred in the Northern
Virginia/Washington, DC area. The forth sighting took place in Northern
California after she moved to that state.
The information about these sightings was aired in a
program by Unsolved Mysteries regarding the possibility that American Prisoners
of War have been returned to the United States after Operation Homecoming in a
US government sponsored "secret returnee" program. If this is the
case, then Robert Borton; and possibly Robert Babula, John Bodenschatz and
Dennis Carter as well; has been forced to exchange one form or captivity in
Southeast Asia for another form here in this country.
Seemingly in response to the live sightings of Curt
Borton in the US, on 8 February 1993, the Vietnamese returned only partial
remains they stated belonged to PFC Borton. Further, the Vietnamese made no
reference to, and returned no remains for, any of the other men missing in this
incident. The reported remains were transported to the US Army's Central
Identification Laboratory, Hawaii (CIL-HI) for examination. On 21 April 1995,
CIL-HI personnel announced the positive identification of these remains as
belonging to Curt Borton.
The Borton family listened to and read the US
government's case that they ignore the sightings of their son and brother, that
they accept the remains as his in spite of the fact that there was no conclusive
proof they were in fact his, and that they bury them full military honors. The
Borton family declined to do so.
Since the end of the Vietnam War, over 21,000 reports of
American Prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by
our government. Many of these reports document LIVE American Prisoners of War
remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.
Military men in Vietnam were called upon to fight in many
dangerous circumstances, and 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.
Honored on the Vietnam Veterans
Panel 10E - - Line 52
The VietNam Veterans' Memorial Wall Page
Here to view a queried report of messages
and files concerning Robert L. Babula from the POW/MIA
Database at the Library of Congress's Federal
Research Division. (Links
will open in New Browser Window).
You can run queries on Babula, Robert to view the messages.
Did you serve with this HERO? Is
he Family, an old friend, or a High School Sweetheart? Is there something special you
would like to share about Robert -- If so, I would like to hear
about it and post it on this page!!
Please send me an e-mail
Sent: Wednesday, June 18, 2003 8:42 PM
Subject: robert babula
hello my name is David Babula, Bob Babula is my fathers brother i would like any more info you have that you would like to share with me and my
family.thank you so much for the info already posted.please email me at:
email@example.com....and again thank you very much...........Sincerely, David Babula