period of service
Name: Mark Allyn Smith
Rank/Branch: O3/US Army Unit: Advisor, Advisory Team 70, MACV
Date of Birth: Home City of Record: Lima OH (family in CA)
Date of Loss: 07 April 1972 Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 114338N 1063502E (XU731081)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Category: Acft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Other Personnel In Incident: Howard B. Lull, Richard S. Schott (both missing); Albert E. Carlson; Kenneth Wallingford; (POWs held in Cambodia and released in 1973)
REMARKS: RELEASED BY PRG 730212 Source: Compiled by HOMECOMING II and the P.O.W. NETWORK from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews.
SYNOPSIS: On April 5, 1972, the 5th North Vietnamese Division suddenly smashed against the Loc Ninh district capitol before dawn, attacking as no enemy had yet attacked in that war. The Communist troops had Russian T-54 and PT-76 tanks, artillery and a conventional battle plan.
American forces in the area battled for two days before being overrun. On April 7, 1972, Maj. Albert E. Carlson; MSgt. Howard B. Lull; LtCol. Richard Schott; Capt. Mark A. Smith; and SFC Kenneth Wallingford were five advisors on Advisory Team 70, MACV, at Loc Ninh when the city was completely overrun. Radio contact was maintained until approximately 0800 hours, when the tactical operations center began burning. Later in the day, one of the advisors radioed that they were going into hiding, taking their radios with them.
After the incident, South Vietnamese Army personnel reported intercepting an enemy radio broadcast which stated that three United States advisors had been captured. Subsequent information received through intelligence sources reported that five Americans were taken prisoner. This report indicated that four of the prisoners had been taken to a temporary PW camp and one to an enemy hospital.
The Vietnamese captured Smith, Wallingford and Carlson whom they held in Cambodia for the remaining 10 months. On June 28, 1972, the U.S. Casualty division changed their status from missing to captured. The three were released at Loc Ninh in the general POW release in 1973.
Although most details of this incident are still classified, Capt. Smith indicated in his debriefing that he, Lull and Schott had been together in a bunker shortly before he was captured. Lull left the bunker to evade capture, while the severely wounded Schott knew he would not survive, and lifted his own weapon to his head and shot himself to give the others a chance to escape.
Lull, if captured, was not taken to the same prison camps as were Smith, Carlson and Wallingford. Some reports say that he was killed by the North Vietnamese, but the U.S. continued his status as Missing In Action pending verification of death. Schott was carried as Missing until Capt. Smith's debrief, at which time his status was changed to Killed in Action.
Since his return, Mark Smith has had a growing concern about Americans left behind in Southeast Asia. Smith remained in the Army Special Forces, and ultimately was promoted to the rank of major. In 1985, Smith and SFC Melvin McIntyre brought suit against the U.S. Government for failing to comply with U.S. law in securing the freedom of American POWs in Southeast Asia. The two had been on a special assignment in Thailand, and had gathered substantial evidence that American POWs were still being held. Further, Smith and McIntyre claimed that this information, passed on to higher authority, had been "deep-sixed" and there had been no attempt or intent to act upon it.
Mark Smith, like many close to the POW/MIA issue, feels that his government has let the men down who proudly served their country. A patriot still, Smith has spent the years since filing the lawsuit in Thailand, in further attempts to secure the freedom of men who were left behind.
Mark Smith retired from the United States Army as a Major. When not overseas with his humanitarian aid missions and live POW advocacy, he lives in Florida.