Walter Hugh "Wally" Moon

Walter Hugh "Wally" Moon

Rank/Branch: O4/US Army Special Forces
Unit: Company B, FFT-59, 1st Special Forces
Date of Birth: 31 March 1923
Home City of Record: Rudy AR
Date of Loss: 22 April 1961
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 185521N 1022827E (TG240150)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 1
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Refno: 0005

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.

Other Personnel In Incident: Orville Ballenger (released 1962); Gerald Biber; John Bischoff (both missing)


SYNOPSIS: The early 1960’s marked a period of civil war and military coups in the country of Laos which resulted in major objectives being taken by Kong Le-Pathet Lao communist forces. Kong Le had himself been a graduate of the CIA-sponsored Philippine scout and ranger school and had announced that he was fighting the corrupt royal government headed by Prince Souvanna Phouma. Kong Le found support from the Soviets, who assisted him in defeating Gen. Phoumi Nosavan’s countercoup forces at the capitol city of Vientiane in December 1960. Pathet Lao troops were airlifted by the Soviets to take the Plaine des Jarres region in March 1961.

Although Gen. Nosavan and Groupement 12 of the new Forces Armees de Laos continued to give chase to Kong Le and his troops, they were not successful in regaining the Plain of Jars. In early March two Pathet Lao battalions drove Groupement 12 back toward Vang Vieng. Capt. Walter Moon’s four-man Field Training Team FTT-59, MAAG, of the 7th Special Forces Group was attached to the 6th Bataillon d’infanterie (Lao) at Ban Pha Home, about thirty miles north of Vang Vieng. On April 22, 1961, the battalion was subjected to a heavy and accurate artillery barrage and was rapidly flanked at Phou Tesao.

Shortly after the battalion commander announced that they were cut off, the perimeter collapsed and the Pathet Lao quickly overran the battalion positions. The team’s commander, Capt. Walter Moon, was captured in the initial attack.

SFC John M. Bischoff (the medic), Sgt. Gerald M. Biber (the radio operator), and some Laotian soldiers jumped aboard an armored car, heading south on Route 13,  in a breakout effort. According to Lao survivors, they crouched behind the turret, but the car came under heavy grenade attack. Sgt. Bischoff fired a machine gun from the vehicle until he was shot through the neck and killed. Sgt. Biber had already been wounded and was apparently killed by stick grenades thrown against the armored car. The vehicle was halted and its crew captured.

Sgt. Orville R. Ballinger, demolitions sergeant, escaped through the jungle and linked up with some Lao soldiers. They found a boat and were going downriver when they were surprised and captured by the Pathet Lao seven days later. Sgt. Ballenger were eventually released in August 1962.

Capt. Moon tried to escape twice during his confinement, and on the last attempt was wounded in the chest and head. According to Ballinger, Moon’s head injury caused him to be come mentally unbalanced, and after several months of persecution, he was executed in his prison quarters at Lat Theoung by a Meo guard and a Pathet Lao officer on July 22, 1961. The Pathet Lao have consistently denied knowledge of Moon, Biber or Bischoff.