Capt Ronald Leonard “Doc” Watson

Capt Ronald Leonard “Doc” Watson

Birth
El Paso, El Paso County, Texas, USA
Death 18 Feb 1971 (aged 26)
Laos
Burial El Paso, El Paso County, Texas, USA
Plot Section MA, Site 1
Memorial ID 99621227 · View Source
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In Memory of ...... Capt. Ronald Leonard Watson.
*** Captain Watson was a member of Command and Control North, 5th Special Forces Group. On February 18, 1971, he was being extracted from the west side of A Shau Valley, South Vietnam in a Bell Iroquois Utility Helicopter (UH-1H) attached to a three staple rig. The aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire, crashed and burned. His remains were not recovered. His name is inscribed on the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial.


You may be gone, no longer living on this earth; but you will live on - in the memories of your family and friends. There will always be a part of you living in those who knew you. You will live on because we remember you!


RONALD LEONARD WATSON - Army - CAPT - O3 Special Forces
Unit: Special Forces Augmentation, Command and Control North 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces
Age: 26
Race: Caucasian
Date of Birth Nov 11, 1944
From: EL PASO, TX
Religion: ROMAN CATHOLIC
Marital Status: Single - Parents: Father, Ronald Watson (1915 - 1973) and Mother, Katherine L Watson (1918 - 1972), both of Bonita, CA. He has NO children.





His tour began on Feb 18, 1971
Casualty was on Feb 18, 1971
In LZ, SOUTH VIETNAM
Hostile, died while missing, HELICOPTER - NON-CREW
AIR LOSS, CRASH ON LAND

Body was not recovered
Panel 05W - Line 119


Other Personnel In Incident: Gerald E. Woods; Walter E. Demsey; George P. Berg; Gary L. Johnson and Allen R. Lloyd (missing); Samuel Hernandez (rescued)


On February 18, 1971, the first reconnaissance team of six was inserted into the infamous A Shau Valley in support of Lam Son 719 to tie down NVA forces and gather intelligence for when the ARVN returned along Highway 922 coming out of Laos.

The patrol to be rescued included Sgt. Allen R. Lloyd, Capt. Ronald L. Watson and SFC Samuel Hernandez, part of Special Operations Augmentation, Command & Control North, 5th Special Forces Group.

Early in the afternoon of 18 February Capt. Ronald "Doc" Watson, team leader (also known as the ONE ZERO); Sgt. Allen "Baby Jesus" Lloyd, assistant team leader (ONE ONE); Raymond L. "Robby" Robinson, radio operator (ONE TWO); and 5 Bru Montagnard strikers comprised one of the MACV-SOG Command & Control North (CCN) teams being inserted into the extreme southwestern corner of the A Shau Valley to conduct a road interdiction mission. The team's name was "RT Intruder."

SFC Samuel "Sammie" Hernandez and SFC Charles Wesley were also assigned to the team as "strap hangers" to support the mission and evaluate the team. They would determine if the American team members of RT Intruder would receive approval for specialized HALO (High Altitude, Low Opening) training and subsequent missions using that method of insertion. Both SFC Hernandez and SFC Wesley were HALO qualified and needed team members who were trusted for these difficult missions.

The location of the road interdiction mission was on the extreme west side of the infamous A Shau Valley, a region that was probably the most NVA infested area south of Hanoi. This valley was not a place for amateurs, and a road interdiction mission was doubly hazardous. Because this road interdiction mission required the team to go in a little larger than usual, the addition of SFC Hernandez and SFC Wesley was welcome.

RT Intruder was inserted by helicopter into a small clearing along a steep ridge on the valley's west wall just inside Laos.

Threading their way through the jungle, the team disappeared into the forest. Traveling east RT Intruder soon crossed the Lao/Vietnamese border and arrived at the westernmost ridge of the A Shau Valley. This ridge was heavily canopied. Hidden from view underneath the overhanging boughs and safe from aerial observation was a fully developed road big enough for a large truck to travel along it without difficulty.

Capt. Watson, with the concurrence of SFC Hernandez, directed the team to pull back to wait and listen.

Less than 2 minutes later one of the strikers on their left flank signaled "people coming," then a 6-man NVA porter party came into view.

The team killed two NVA instantly and the others fled abandoning their loads. The team quickly gathered up the enemy's cargo and radioed the onsite Forward Air Controller (FAC), call sign "Covey," for an extraction. Shortly a flight of four Huey helicopters arrived equipped with STABO rigs to accomplish the extraction.

The captured documents, which included an NVA courier's pouch, had been stored in the team's duffel bags that would be suspended below them during the recovery operation. Each helicopter had 4 120-foot long STABO ropes anchored to the aircraft's floor.

When the last helicopter hovered overhead, Capt. Watson, Sgt. Lloyd, and SFC Hernandez snapped themselves into the STABO rigs. In addition to his own gear bag that would be suspended below him, Sammie Hernandez had a second bag belonging to SFC Wesley to bring out with him. Throughout the extraction operation progress, the Americans heard the NVA moving through the jungle and closer to their position.

CWO2 George P. Berg, aircraft commander; WO Gerald E. Woods, pilot; SPC Walter Demsey, crew-chief; and SPC Gary L. Johnson door gunner; comprised the crew of the extraction helicopter (serial #68-15255), call sign "Commancheros," that recovered the last three members of RT Intruder.

After snapping into the harnesses, Capt. Watson, Sgt. Lloyd, and SFC Hernandez signaled they were ready. As the helicopter lifted up and away, it came under enemy gunfire that was immediately answered by Walter Demsey's and Gary Johnson's door guns.

Hanging from the STABO rig below the Huey, Sammie Hernandez heard gunfire erupt from directly underneath him. He later stated he "was high enough almost to run across the treetops," and "the next thing I knew, I'd come back crashing through the trees" falling 30-40 feet into double canopy jungle below. SFC Hernandez's rope had snagged in the trees and snapped under the added weight of carrying the two gear bags.

SFC Hernandez crashed into the double canopy jungle at the same time the Huey sustained accurate ground fire from NVA anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire. Fatally crippled, the aircraft traveled forward approximately 600 feet before abruptly making a u-turn, tipped upside down, crashed into the side of the cliff and fell in flames into the dense foliage below. Dragged behind the Huey, Doc Watson and Baby Jesus Lloyd STABO ropes entangled in the trees and snapped free of the Huey at the edge of the cliff.

As the helicopter continued over the edge, the two men, Doc Watson and Baby Jesus Lloyd, were slammed into the side of the cliff killing them instantly before suspending them in mid-air out of view of the other aircraft.

As darkness approached and weather conditions deteriorated, Sammie Hernandez heard NVA troops moving through the surrounding jungle. He hid in the dense undergrowth and went undetected. By the next morning he had returned to the small clearing used the day before to insert the team. When he heard a nearby Huey, SFC Hernandez crawled into the open and signaled it with an escape and evasion panel. In an hour, Sammie Hernandez found himself back at the team's base camp at Phu Bai.

Other aircrews witnessed CWO2 Berg's helicopter crash, and reported they saw no survivors on the ground and heard no emergency beepers.

Under the circumstances, all six men were immediately reported as Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

On 19 February, another MACV-SOG team, named "RT Habu," was inserted into the crash site to search for and recover the remains of the aircrew and RT Intruder. Cliff Newman commanded RT Habu. Other team members included Charles Wesley and Charles Danzer.

In order to reach the crash site, the team members had to rappel down the sheer cliff. Once on the ground, they found WO Woods and CWO2 Berg dead in their seats and one leg of SPC Demsey, the crew chief, very near the burned out cargo compartment.

The recovery personnel believed that Walter Demsey had been thrown from the helicopter when it crashed and it rolled over on him cutting the leg off and trapping the rest of his body under the wreckage. SPC Johnson, the door gunner, had also been thrown from the Huey and was found dead in a tree 30 feet away. The air crew's remains were placed in body bags and then laid on top of the wreckage for extraction.

The weather again was closing in and daylight fading when RT Habu made the decision to leave the remains at the crash site and stay nearby over night. The team members moved northwest along the top of the ridge-line. As they passed a cliff, they spotted two ropes hanging from the trees.

They investigated the ropes and found Ronald Watson and Allen Lloyd still in their STABO rigs roughly 50 feet down the cliff with their sling ropes hanging from trees at the top of the cliff.

RT Habu members tried to secure their remains, but the men's ropes were just out of reach. The recovery team continued north to Hill 1528 where they set security and settled in for the night. The next morning RT Habu prepared to return to the crash site when it was attacked by a large NVA force.

RT Habu immediately contacted the onsite FAC informing the pilot of their predicament and requesting an immediate emergency extraction.

US Air Force pilot 1st Lt. James L. Hull, pilot; and SFC William Fernandez, MACV-SOG observer; comprised the aircrew of the O2A Skymaster. As they directed the extraction operation, the FAC was struck by enemy ground fire and crashed into rugged double canopy jungle approximately 6 miles northwest of the Huey's crash site.

The downing of this aircraft further complicated the overall mission and delayed plans for retrieving the remains. Another reconnaissance team was inserted into the Sky-master's crash site shortly after its loss. They found both crewmen dead and were able to extract the body of SFC Fernandez. However, they were unable to recover 1st Lt. Hull because his body was buried underneath the aircraft wreckage.

That night a reinforced NVA company pinned the members of RT Habu against a sheer drop and likely would have overrun them at dawn. The team, with half its men wounded, escaped by jumping off the cliff, then made their way to a designated area for their own emergency extraction.

For months the NVA left the body bags containing the remains of George Berg, Gerald Woods, Walter Demsey and Gary Johnson as well as leaving the bodies of Allen Lloyd and Ronald Watson hanging in place in the open and in plain sight hoping a MACV-SOG ground team or helicopter crew might attempt to recover their friends and countrymen.

In the end, no such attempt was made.


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Inscription


IN MEMORY OF
RONALD
LEONARD
WATSON
CALIFORNIA
CPT
5 SP FORCES GRP
VIETNAM
NOVEMBER 11 1944
FEBRUARY 18 1971
BSM – AM – ARCOM – PH


  • Created by: Eddieb
  • Added: 26 Oct 2012
  • Find a Grave Memorial 99621227
  • Allen Monasmith
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Capt Ronald Leonard “Doc” Watson (11 Nov 1944–18 Feb 1971), Find a Grave Memorial no. 99621227, citing Fort Bliss National Cemetery, El Paso, El Paso County, Texas, USA ; Maintained by Eddieb (contributor 46600350) .