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  • Name: Derri Sykes
  • Rank/Branch: E3/US Army
  • Unit: Company A, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry, 196th Light Infantry Brigade
  • (Americal) Chu Lai, South Vietnam
  • Date of Birth: 04 July 1947 (Aberdeen MS)
  • Home City of Record: Chicago IL
  • Loss Date: 09 Jan 1968
  • Country of Loss: South Vietnam
  • Loss Coordinates: 153551N 1081006E (AT964263)
  • Status (in 1973): Prisoner of War
  • Category: 1
  • Acft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
  • Refno: 0976
  • .

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    Derri Bracelet
    Barb Line

    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);


    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.

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    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 dismissed.

    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 caused it.

    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.
    Barb Line
    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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