Willie Ernest Stark
Rank/Branch: E7/US Army Special Forces
Unit: Detachment B-52 DELTA, 5th Special Forces Group
Date of Birth: 07 October 1932 (Martinsburg NV)
Home City of Record: Omaha NE
Date of Loss: 02 December 1966
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 165048N 1063158E (XD634633)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
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: Russell P. Bott; Daniel Sulander; Irby Dyer (missing from UH1D exfiltration aircraft)
SYNOPSIS: In late November 1966, Russell Bott and Willie Stark were inserted about 1 1/2 miles into Laos west of the DMZ along with a number of Vietnamese Special Forces (LLDB) “strikers”. The team, a long-range reconnaissance patrol (LRRP), was soon discovered by a superior North Vietnamese force, members of the 325B NVA Division. A two day running battle ensued.
Near the end, Bott radioed that he was down to one grenade and one magazine of ammunition. He also stated that several of the Vietnamese members of his team were dead or wounded. Willie Stark was wounded in the chest and leg, but was alive. Bott requested exfiltration at that time. He refused to leave his wounded teammate to seek safety, and in his last radio message, Bott indicated that he was going to destroy his radio, that he felt capture was imminent.
Two gunships working the area were hit by enemy fire. Also, the exfiltration helicopter from 281st Assault Helicopter Company was hit, and crashed and burned, killing the crew of four and Irby Dyer, a medic from Det. B-52 Delta who had gone in to help treat the wounded. The wreckage of the plane and all five remains were found in searches conducted December 10-13. The remains, which had been horribly mutilated by the enemy, were left at the site. When a team returned to recover the remains, U.S. bombing and strafing activities had destroyed them further. The identifiable remains of three of the crew were recovered, but those of Daniel Sulander and Irby Dyer were not.
Searches for Bott and Stark were unsuccessful. Vietnamese team members who evaded capture reported that they had heard North Vietnamese soldiers say, “Here you are! We’ve been looking for you! Tie his hands, we’ll take him this way.”
Sgt. First Class Norman Doney, who was Operations Sergeant at that time at B-52 headquarters at Khe Sanh, overheard the Intelligence Sergeant on the “52 Desk” reviewing intelligence about Bott. Doney states that it was reported that Bott was seen with his arms tied behind his back going through a village, and that he was alive 3 days after he became missing.