MSgt. Samuel Almendariz

MSgt. Samuel Almendariz

10 July 1967.

SYNOPSIS: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 which were called, depending on the time frame, “Shining Brass” or “Prairie Fire” missions.

As the reconnaissance team moved through their area of operation, it came under heavy enemy attack. From 1100 hours until 1600 hours the team was engaged in a running gun battle with enemy forces. Of the 11 men, only Harry Brown was able to successfully escape and evade the communist force that was in hot pursuit. After rescue, he reported that both MSgt. Almendariz and MSgt. Sullivan had been mortally wounded during the 5 hour battle. He also was able to provide basic data of where the bodies of the team leader and assistant team leader were located.

On 16 July, a platoon-size search and recovery (SAR) force was inserted into the area of contact, but was unable to locate the bodies of either man. Likewise, they found no signs of freshly dug graves. At the time the SAR operation was terminated, Samuel Almendariz and Robert Sullivan were declared Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

For every insertion like this one that was detected and stopped, dozens of others safely slipped past NVA lines to strike a wide range of targets and collect vital information. The number of MACV-SOG missions conducted with Special Forces reconnaissance teams into Laos and Cambodia was 452 in 1969. It was the most sustained American campaign of raiding, sabotage and intelligence-gathering waged on foreign soil in US military history. MACV-SOG?s teams earned a global reputation as one of the most combat effective deep-penetration forces ever raised.

On 10 July 1967 a surveillance team composed of three American Special Forces soldiers and eight South Vietnamese Nungs was inserted just inside Laos in the extreme southeast portion of Savannakhet Province. The team was tasked with surveillance of a branch of the Ho Chi Minh Trail which followed Route 922 into the A Shau Valley. Although the team avoided contact through the 11th, at mid-morning on the 12th they were attacked by a platoon-size enemy force. Two of the Nungs were killed in the first exchange of fire, and two of the three Americans wounded shortly thereafter in the second exchange. After a five-hour running fight, six of the eleven men, all wounded, were extracted – one American and five Nungs. During his debrief the surviving American (Harry D. Brown) stated that he was present when the other two Americans – SFC Robert J Sullivan and SFC Samuel Almendariz – were killed by enemy fire.

Search forces went back into the area of contact over the next few days but failed to locate the bodies of the missing men. Almendariz and Sullivan were listed as killed in action, body not recovered.
Other Comments:

12 Jul 67 Samuel Almendariz, SFC E-7, McAllen, TX and Robert Joseph Sullivan, SFC E-7, East Almstead, NH, USASF Spike Team Members, FOB 1, Phu Bai, Ops 35 Recon mission of Savanakhet Province, Laos KIA-Remains Not Recovered. The team came under an attack that lasted for four hours with a superior force. The only surviving American reported that both SFC Almendariz and SFC Sullivan had been mortally wounded. The team was ambushed, not by men firing weapons, but NVA who leaped out of nowhere. One NVA wrestled Sullivan’s weapon from him, then shot him dead, spun around and shot SFC Harry Brown through the shoulder, as another NVA shot Almendariz dead. Brown and half the team broke away and ran and was able to get a radio message off. During the rescue of Brown and the remainder of the team, a single Kingbee flown by Cowboy with MSG Charles Minnick without fire support and a shot up aircraft (The bird had been shot up on the first attempt, returned to Khe Sanh for refueling.

A search conducted on 16 July of the area. No remains were located). Cowboy was shot through the neck, but somehow, he flew the Kingbee with one hand and slowed the bleeding with the other while Minnick dragged the wounded aboard. A search team was inserted on Jul 16, but was unsuccessful in locating either Americans. NOTE: The legendary “Bill Waugh” felt Cowboy’s valor should have won him the Medal of Honor. [See pg 105-106 SOG A Photo History of the Secret Wars by John Plaster]