Lawrence A. Marino

2489 Jerry Circle; Daytona Beach, Florida 32124


June 2, 2001                  

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I am writing to you about a matter that is deeply disturbing to me. 

There is overwhelming evidence that American Prisoners of War are still alive in Southeast Asia. 

In the years following the withdrawal of United States forces from Vietnam, there have been hundreds of eye-witnesses who have said that they have personally seen them. This letter has been sent to you on behalf of one of these Un-accounted for American soldiers.

I would like to tell you about Warrant Officer Randolph Jefferson Ard.

Randolph Ard had been in Vietnam only a few weeks when an emergency call came in for him to fly the squadron commander to a platoon command post to work his way down to his Third Platoon, which was in ambush in the northwest segment of South Vietnam. On March 7, 1971 he flew his Kiowa Scout chopper from the 5th Mechanized and picked up Lt. Col. Sheldon Burnett, the squadron commander; Capt. Phil Bodenhorn, Alpha Company commander; and SP4 Mike Castro, Third Platoon RTO.

Randy mistakenly flew past the command post and west into Laos. Seeing yellow marking smoke, he took the chopper down lower. It was too late to pull up when they heard the sound of an RPD machine gun and AK-47's. They had been tricked into a North Vietnamese ambush.

The helicopter went down fast, and smashed into the brush, coming down on its side (or upside down, depending on the version of the account). Ard and Burnett were trapped in the wreckage, but alive. Ard got on the radio and began mayday calls. Bodenhorn and Castillo, who had been in the rear seat, got out of the aircraft. Bodenhorn managed to free Ard, but he had two broken legs and possibly a broken hip. Burnett was completely pinned within the wreckage and injured, but alive. Bodenhorn and Castillo positioned themselves on opposite sides of the aircraft for security and expended all the colored smoke grenades they had, marking their position for rescue.

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Bodenhorn and Castillo soon heard North Vietnamese approaching, and killed these Vietnamese. The two listened for nearly an hour as others advanced towards their position from two directions, and 155 artillery rounds impacted very near them. They couldn't understand why they were not being rescued, unless it was because the enemy was so close to them. A helicopter flew over, but took heavy fire and left. They decided to leave Ard and Burnett and escape themselves. They told Ard, who nodded wordlessly. Burnett was drifting in and out of consciousness. Both men were alive.

Bodenhorn and Castillo worked their way to 80 yards away when a UH1C came in on a single run, firing flechette rockets which seemed to explode right on the downed chopper. Later, they watched an F4 roll in for a one-bomb strike over the crash site. Ard and Burnett were surely dead.

Bodenhorn and Castillo were rescued by ARVN troops an hour later. Ard and Burnett were classified Missing In Action. The story was released to reporters at Khe Sanh three days later. The army spokesman accurately described the ambush, but told the press that Burnett had been in radio contact with the ambushed platoon, and that he and Ard had appeared dead to the two escaping officers. The names of the survivors were not released.

After 11 days of heavy resistance, the 11th ARVN Airborne Battalion fought their way into the area where the helicopter had crashed. They searched the wreckage and the surrounding area for several days, but found no sign of the two missing men or any of their belongings or anything to indicate that either man was buried in the area.

In 1989, a large part of this loss incident was still classified.

There can be no question that Randy Ard and Sheldon Burnett were abandoned
by the country they served.

Nearly 600 Americans were lost in Laos during the war in Vietnam.

Although the Pathet Lao stated on several occasions they held "tens of tens" of American prisoners, Laos was not included in the agreements ending American involvement in the war, and the U.S. has not negotiated for the freedom of these men since that day. Consequently, not one American held in Laos has ever been released.

These Americans, too, were abandoned.










Mr. President, like millions of other Americans, I am relieved and grateful for the honor and dignity which you have brought back to this country and the office of the President. 

As a Vietnam Veteran, I am encouraged also by the processes which you have initiated to restore recognition, self esteem and a sense of worth to our men and women in uniform around the world.

You have indeed set a new tone for your administration. I applaud you for your courage in making the hard decisions that had to be made, and for choosing a course of fiscal and social responsibility in spite of the cries of the legions of negative voices.

I urge you to also set a new tone for our country with respect to all un-accounted for American Soldiers. It is now time for this great nation to abandon past policies which hindered the full documentation of those classified as Missing in Action. Truth be told, some of these un-accounted for soldiers may be more correctly classified as Prisoners of War. It's time to bring them home.


Larry Marino         

cc: Operation Just Cause