State News

Bragg-based Green Berets killed in Vietnam laid to rest

Posted October 5, 2011 4:01 a.m. EDT
Updated October 5, 2011 7:20 p.m. EDT

— Three Green Berets based at Fort Bragg who were ambushed and killed in Vietnam more than 40 years ago were remembered at Arlington National Cemetery Wednesday.

Staff Sgts. Douglas Dahill and Charles Prevedel and Sgt. 1st Class Charles Newton were last known to be alive on April 17, 1969, when Dahill made a radio call.

Chief Warrant Officer Rick Galer, who was a chopper pilot at the time, was on the other side of that call. He fought back tears Wednesday as he remembered how he tried to rescue them.

"We were still about five minutes out when we got the last radio call," Galer said. "The last call was just shouting."

Department of Defense officials said the men and three Vietnamese soldiers were on a reconnaissance patrol when they were ambushed by the North Vietnamese Army.

Thunderstorms prevented rescue attempts and subsequent searches turned up no signs of the men.

"(It's) kind of hard to imagine, but there was fog on the ground, clouds and rain all at the same time. The weather was just a disaster for us," Galer said.

Out of ammunition and nearly out of fuel, Galer said he was forced to head back to base.

"That day was just burned into my mind because we lost a team, and we hadn't lost a team in over a year," he said.

Between 1990 and 1993, the ambush site was excavated. Since then, government scientists have used circumstantial evidence and forensic tools, including dental comparisons and DNA, to identify the remains.

All three Green Berets were promoted posthumously — Prevedel and Dahill to sergeants first class and Newton to master sergeant.

Together, as a firing party delivered a three rifle volleys and a bugle played "Taps," two caskets carrying the remains were lowered into the ground.

Galer said he never thought he would see the day his comrades were given a proper burial.

"I was glad when I got the news they were coming home because I've been needing closure from this myself," he said.