At 1 p.m. Wednesday, one of 30 burials scheduled at the Arlington National Cemetery will be Green Beret Sgt. Alan Lee Boyer who disappeared during the deadly eight-year secret war fought during the Vietnam War – a war hidden from Congress, the public and families. He, along with two fellow Green Berets disappeared on March 28, 1968 in Laos following an encounter with communist forces from North Vietnam – facts his family didn’t learn until decades after the war.
They were members of a Special Forces Recon Team, code-named Spike Team Asp, which launched from Thailand into Laos on a “Circus Act” mission – a mission to insert Air Force sensors to monitor traffic along a trail enemy soldiers used to move supplies, troops and military equipment South, including anti-aircraft weapons. The eight-year secret war was fought from 1964 – 1972 under the aegis of the Military Assistance Group Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group, or simply SOG. In 1968, the secret war had become increasingly deadly. By the time ST Asp was flown into the target in Laos, more than 25 Green Berets, dozens of indigenous soldiers and airmen had been killed in action in the first three months of 1968 in Laos alone. Because it was a secret war, in most cases, the soldiers’ bodies could not be retrieved due to intense enemy activity on the ground, thus they were listed as MIA. And, the families of those soldiers entered an informational void where they were simply told their loved ones were missing in action in Southeast Asia and were never told about the deadly secret war where they fought valiantly against incredible odds.
Retired Green Beret MSG Patrick Watkins, who served three tours of duty running SOG recon missions, spoke to the three members of ST Asp on March 27, 1968 one day before the team was inserted into the deadly Laos target. ST Asp team leader was George R. “Ron” Brown, he said. The Assistant Team Leader was Charles G. Huston and Alan L. Boyer was the radio operator for that mission. Watkins had run an in-country mission with Boyer earlier in March 1968. “When we were on the ground he started telling me about all of the trees in the area,” he said. “He told me he was a forestry student. Some day he wanted to go back to Montana to be a smoke jumper, to fight forest fires. He had attended the University of Montana, but said he wanted to serve in the Army first. He, along with his teammates, were outstanding, fearless Green Berets.”