There are still men missing in action from the war in Vietnam and for the family of Green Beret MSG Robert Anspach, there is no closure, no grave to visit on Memorial Day, only questions as to when will their husband and father ever come home.
Army Sgt. Robert Anspach will forever be 33.
Fifty-one years after he was killed in action on a reconnaissance mission near the height of the Vietnam War, Anspach’s status remains classified as killed in action and body not recovered.
“They’ve never brought him home,” said Cindy Anspach Baucom, his youngest daughter. “People say you need to let this go. We say, ‘No,’ there’s no direction to push but to bring him home.
“It was hard. Everybody else had a dad,” she said. “It was very hard.”
Anspach, a Green Beret who served with Fort Bragg’s 4th Mobile Strike Force Command, 5th Special Forces Group, is honored on the Vietnam Memorial Wall. His name is etched into the polished black granite in Washington, D.C.
Baucom was 8 years old when she last saw her father alive, while peering through a chain-link gate of the Fayetteville airport. Glenda Anspach, his wife, had just turned 30.
Robert Allen Anspach had been home on reenlistment leave, and he was boarding a commercial flight for a return to Vietnam. As he was getting on, Glenda Anspach said, Sgt. Barry Sadler of “The Ballad of the Green Berets” fame was disembarking.
Robert Anspach’s five family members — Glenda and their young children, Greg, Sandy, Cindy and Michael — waved goodbye.
Mrs. Anspach later learned that her husband had told a friend that he felt if he went back to Vietnam again, he would never come back.
Anspach is one of 1,598 Americans still missing and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia from the Vietnam War era, according to the National League of POW/MIA Families.
Mrs. Anspach and the family have never gotten closure from his death. The family is not satisfied with the amount of information the Army has provided them over the years.
Oddly, Anspach had been missing in action once before.
This was during the Korean conflict, about a year into his military career.
Glenda Anspach, whose mind remains sharp on dates and details, told how he and a buddy were caught behind enemy lines. It would take them six days before they could work their way back. She said the commanding officer was typing up a missing-in-action letter to send to Robert Anspach’s mother when they showed up in camp.
During one of his three tours of duty in Korea, he was wounded on Heartbreak Ridge. That was the disastrous 1951 battle for the United States and its United Nations allies, in terms of casualties.
On Sept. 11, 1967, Anspach — who had started on this first tour of duty in Vietnam the previous January — was aboard the lead boat in a six-airboat operation that departed camp at 8:30 a.m. The mission was to sweep north to within a mile of the Cambodian border, the POW Network said, then west to the Mekong River.
As the first four airboats left the stream and entered the Vietnamese portion of the river about 5 miles northwest of the camp, Viet Cong bunkers on both sides of the channel caught them in a lethal crossfire, the network account said.
“Concentrated machine gunfire riddled all six airboats in the first burst,” the POW Network states, “killing SFC Anspach immediately.”
But the family says the reports that they’ve read all differ greatly and after all of these years now, they just want Anspach’s body returned. Anspach’s widow never remarried and stayed in the Fayetteville area to remain close by the POW/MIA effort to recover missing Americans.
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Photo courtesy Wikipedia