Fred Allen Gassman
Rank/Branch: E5/US Army Special Forces
Unit: MACV-SOG, C & C North, 5th Special Forces Group
Date of Birth: 05 September 1947 (Egland Field FL)
Home City of Record: Ft. Walton Beach FL
Date of Loss: 05 October 1970
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 161126N 1070527E (YC227912)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel In Incident: David A. Davidson (missing)
Source: Compiled from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK in 2020.
SYNOPSIS: In Vietnam, Sgt. Fred A. Gassman was assigned to Command and Control North, MACV-SOG (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observation Group). MACV-SOG 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 (although it was not a Special Forces group) through Special Operations Augmentation (SOA), which provided their “cover” while under secret orders to MACV-SOG. The teams performed deep penetration missions of strategic reconnaissance and interdiction which were called, depending on the time frame, “Shining Brass” or “Prairie Fire” missions.
On October 5, 1970, SSgt. David Davidson and Sgt. Gassman were members of a joint American and Vietnamese reconnaissance patrol operating about 12 miles inside Laos. The patrol had established their night position west of Ta Bat when they were attacked by a hostile force. According to the two surviving indigenous patrol members, Davidson was hit once in the head during a long burst of enemy fire while the team was attempting to evacuate the area, and fell down a ridge, after which he lay motionless with appeared to be a fatal head wound.
At about 1300 hours, Gassman radioed the overhead aircraft that they were being hit from three sides, and that they were low on ammunition and requested an emergency extraction and air strikes. As he attempted to retrieve the homing device, he stated on the radio, “I’ve been hit, and in the worst way”, followed by several groans before the radio went dead. The surviving indigenous patrol members said that they last saw Gassman lying motionless with a large hole in his back.
One unsuccessful search and recovery attempt was made shortly after the incident, but further attempts were curtailed due to the difficult tactical situation in the area. Davidson and Gassman remain missing. All other team members were successfully extracted.
There is every reason to believe that the enemy forces surrounding the night encampment know what happened to Davidson and Gassman, yet no information has been secured regarding their fates.