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 1998.
Other Personnel in Incident: Company A: James A.Daly (released POW - 1973);
Willie A. Watkins (released POW 1969); Richard Rehe (missing); Company D:
Francis E. Cannon (POW - remains returned 1985); Richard F. Williams (POW -
remains returned 1985); David N. Harker (released POW - 1973); James H.
Strickland (released POW - 1969); Thomas A. Booker (killed); "Coglin" (an
unknown person whom Cannon said died);
REMARKS: 680109 DIC ACCORDING TO DALY
SYNOPSIS: On January 8, 1968, PFC Richard Rehe, PFC Derri Sykes, PFC James
A. Daly and Cpl. Willie A. Watkins, members of A Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st
Infantry, 196th Light Infantry Brigade (Americal) were ordered to move down
to Happy Valley in Quang Tin Province, South Vietnam. "Charlie" and "Delta"
Companies had been sustaining heavy losses in previous days.
PFC David N. Harker, James H. Strickland, 1Sgt. Richard F. Williams, Sgt.
Thomas A. Booker, PFC Francis E. Cannon and "Coglin" were part of Delta
Company. During the fight, a mortar shell exploded near Cannon, the
radioman, killing Sgt. Booker and "Coglin". Harker, a rifleman, was stabbed in the
side with a bayonette. Strickland, a rifleman, was not seriously wounded. Cannon
had a large hole in his upper back and a smaller hole near his neck. The
Company's first sergeant, "Top" Williams, was shot through the right hand and injured
an arm. Harker, Strickland, Williams and Cannon were captured that day.
The next day, under heavy attack, Daly, Rhe, Watkins and Sykes were injured and captured. Sykes, a rifleman, was hit 3 times as he and Watkins had jumped
for cover just when a grenade hit. Watkins was captured immediately, but thought
that Sykes was left behind, as the enemy rushed him (Watkins) from the area.
During his departure from the area, Watkins saw Daly, whom he thought dead,
lying in a rice paddy. Daly then moved and drew attention to himself and was
captured. Watkins later saw Sykes, bandaged and calling for water. Watkins
and Daly carried him along the trail after their capture, but were ordered to
leave him under a shed at a house on the trail on the first day. They never saw
Derri Sykes again.
Watkins said that Richard Rehe, a grenadier, had also been taken prisoner
that day, but died in captivity from wounds sustained in the battle. Daly stated
that both Rehe and Sykes had been captured but had died the same day.
Cannon, Williams, Harker, Strickland, Watkins and Daly eventually were held
together in prison camps in Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam. For Americans
as well as Viet Cong, life in these camps was extremely difficult. The living
conditions were primitive, food scarce at times, and disease and dysentary
common, adequate medical treatment uncommon. It was not uncommon for POWs
held in the south to die of starvation or disease. It is also resonable to expect
that in such circumstances, one cannot predict behavior or its abberation.
While superhuman efforts were made to maintain the esprit de corps and
military order and honor, it was sometimes impossible not to revert to a basic, more
primitive nature for self preservation.
Top Williams, a veteran of World War II, and a big grey haired man, was
described as being a real professional. His injured hand became gangrenous,
but he survived this injury. He was receiving treatment and still probing for
bone splinters in his injured arm when he contracted dysentery and ultimately
died, September 27, 1968. Death from malnutrition and dysentery is extremely
unpleasant, and the victim suffers not only from the discomfort of
dysentery, but also from severe edema, and many times from halucinations. Williams'
remains were returned in 1985, after 17 years.
Frank Cannon, a handsome 6" tall man of 24 with deep set eyes, suffered from
the wounds he received by the exploding mortar shell. These wounds became
gangrenous, and although the wounds gradually improved by summer 1968,
Cannon grew continually weaker. By August, Cannon weighed only 90 pounds and
slipped into a coma. In early September 1968, Frank Cannon died. 17 years later, the
Vietnamese returned his remains to his country.
Willie Watkins, described as just over 6" tall, good-looking, lanky, very
dark skin, penetrating eyes, wiry and hard as a rock remained one of the
strongest prisoners and at times was a leader among his fellow POWs. According to some
of them, he "always had a Bible and a machete". He was never sick.
James H. Strickland, a rather short, blue-eyed, boyish looking man was known
to be a hard worker and to be as strong as a bull. He was also pointed out by
the Vietnamese as an example of a "progressive" prisoner, as was Willie Watkins.
The two were released from Cambodia on November 5, 1969.
James A. Daly, a conscientious objector, never felt he should have been in
combat. He had been waiting for notice to leave Vietnam, following a lengthy
process of appeal on the basis of his beliefs. Daly, a big man, "coffee and
cream color" was only slightly wounded when he was captured. His sense of
self preservation ensured that he lost a minimum of weight. He joined the "Peace
Committee" comprised of a number of other military men who opposed the war,
and official charges were brought against him upon his 1973 release by fellow
POW Col. Theodore Guy. In the wake of the POW release, charges were officially
David Harker also felt some anti-war sentiments, but it was said that he
slowly turned "reactionary" against the Vietnamese after he was moved to North
Vietnam after three years in the jungle.
Perhaps it is important to note that no returned POW would deny
"collaborating" with the enemy at some point in time. Technically, if a POW was ordered to work or to perform any function whatever, the execution of this function would be
considered collaboration. Sometimes the abberation in conduct was a group
decision, made for the welfare of the unit. At other times, the desision to
cooperate was made for purely self-serving reasons - such as starvation,
reluctance to be tortured, loss of will to resist. It cannot be possible for
any person to judge this behavior not having experienced the horror that
Richard Rehe and Derri Sykes alone remain unaccounted for from the battle in Quang Tin Province. Although it seems certain that they are both dead, the
Vietnamese deny any knowledge of them.
For many others who are missing, simple and certain death did not occur. Some just vanished, others were known captives and never were returned. Still others were alive and well and in radio contact with would-be rescuers describing the approach of the enemy.
Tragically, thousands of reports have been received indicating that some
hundreds of Americans are still alive and in captivity in Southeast Asia. We cannot forget them, we cannot write them off. They must be brought home.
All Biographical and loss information on Vietnam Era POW/MIA's
provided by Operation Just Cause have been supplied by Chuck and Mary Schantag of POW/NET. Please check with POW/NET regularly for updates.
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