Patti R. Albaugh
Bill McMurry recently spoke to SaddleBrooke Sunrise Rotary about his experience as a POW in North Vietnam. He was captured on February 7, 1968 after helping defend the Lang Vei Special Forces surveillance camp in the northwestern corner of South Vietnam, about one and a half miles from the Laotian border. Lang Vei, an abandoned French outpost, was used by the U.S. Army Special Forces to observe and interdict activity along the Ho Chi Minh trail.
McMurry, then an E4 in the U.S. Army Special Forces, was one of 24 Americans at Lang Vei assisting South Vietnamese (ARVN) and Laotian forces. Lang Vei was especially vulnerable since nearby Khe Sanh had already been encircled by the NVA (North Vietnamese Army). The count as the attack began the evening of February 6: 24 Americans and 400 ARVNs against eleven Soviet tanks and 800 NVA. By morning McMurry and two other Americans had been captured, three Americans killed, three Americans declared MIA and numerous NVA killed.
McMurry hesitated to describe his time as a POW other than to say that he was in a fog of euphoria when he was released in 1973. He had come through the experience alive and with integrity. McMurry recounted a moment of reckoning, however, when he landed at Clark Air Force Base. Full of pride and ego, he was approached by an older woman who kissed him and said, “I understand what you’ve been through.” She was a survivor of Auschwitz. “It was an instant attitude adjustment,” McMurry said.
More information about the battle of Lang Vei can be found at http://www.langvei.com. News videos about the battle, interviews with surviving soldiers and maps of the outpost are posted on the site.
SaddleBrooke Sunrise Rotary meets 8:00 a.m. Thursday mornings at the MountainView Country Club. Join us for informative programs and opportunities to serve your community. For more information, contact President Tim Johnston at 520-219-1290.