During May and June of 1970, the 11th Armored Cavalry (with the exception of the detached 3rd Squadron) was under the operational control of the 1st Cavalry Division and participated in the 1stís sweep across the Cambodian frontier. The 1st had enjoyed strategic success in the missions despite the 30 kilometer advance limit imposed on American military personnel. The success of the 1970 Cambodian incursion was measured in part by the capture of individual weapons sufficient to equip 55 full strength VC infantry battalions, sufficient crew-served weapons to equip 82 to 90 VC battalions, and enough small arms ammunition to provide a basic load for 52,000 soldiers. There were over 10,000 known enemy casualties.
On June 10, 1970, PFC Walter M. Pierce was assigned to a unit that was inside Cambodia well over the 30 kilometer limit. They were set up in a night defensive position in Mondol Kiri Province, Cambodia, about 20 miles west-southwest of the city of
Chbar. At the borderís closest point, this location was over 50 kilometers inside denied territory.
That afternoon, while returning to the position with 2 other men, Pierce had to cross a stream which was spanned by two bridges. The stream was deep and extremely swift. PFC Pierce jumped into the stream with his boots and trousers on with the intent of swimming the stream. He began to encounter difficulty and started to drift downstream. The other two men attempted t rescue him, but were unable to reach him. After going under 3 times, he disappeared, and an intense search that afternoon and the following morning by the unit failed to locate him.
Pierceís is one of the unfortunate accidental deaths that occur wherever people are. The fact that he died an accidental death in the midst of war, and in the midst of a dangerous mission is tragically ironic. He is listed among the missing with honor, because his body was never found to be returned to the country he served.
Others who are missing do not have such clear cut cases. Some were known captives; some were photographed as they were led by their guards. Some were in radio contact with search teams, while others simply disappeared.
Since the war ended, over 250,000 interviews have been conducted with those who claim to know about Americans still alive in Southeast Asia, and several million documents have been studied. U.S. Government experts cannot seem to agree whether Americans are there alive or not. Distractors say it would be far too politically difficult to bring the men they believe to be alive home, and the U.S. is content to negotiate for remains.
Over 1000 eye-witness reports of living American prisoners were received by 1989. Most of them are still classified. If, as the U.S. seems to believe, the men are all dead, why the secrecy after so many years? If the men are alive, why are they not home?