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© Copyright Michael Dan Kellum 2010
PFC / 1st Lieutenant USMCR 1967-71
Missing-In-Action 2ndLt. David Skibbe/Capt. LaVoy Don McVey
2ndLt. David Skibbe (Photos courtesy of William C. Skibbe
Capt. LaVoy Don McVey (Photo courtesy of Mildred McVey Holmes)
Sgt. LaVoy Don McVey on his 100th parachute jump as an enlisted Marine. (Photo courtesy of Mildred McVey Holmes)
Original photo of David Skibbe and Georgine Tortorella,  David's  fiancée  in 1969.  (Photo courtesy of Georgine Tortorella Hembrough)
In Book II,  American Heroes: Grunts, Pilots & "Docs"  Chapters 4-7, I document how two Marine  officers,  2ndLt. David Skibbe,  23 of Des Plaines,  Illinois,  and  Capt. LaVoy Don "Mac" McVey, 32 of Lamar, Colorado, turned up missing-in-action in Vietnam. I  took  a  personal  interest  in  their  stories  due  to  my  having made friends with David Skibbe at  2nd Battalion,  26th Marine Regiment upon arriving in-country the latter part of January 1970.  As 2/26  began to stand down to return stateside, Marines with more time left  in-country  were  sent  to  other  grunt  units  remaining into 1971. David followed our former battalion commander, Lt.Col. "Will Bill" Drumright, to 1st Recon Battalion. On March 2, 1970 David accompanied Team Thin Man, seven men altogether, on his first  Recon patrol in the Que Son Mountains. They ran into enemy troops on a ridgeline and  the patrol leader, Sgt. Larry Gifford, was seriously injured in the first burst of fire. As  David was pulling him off the exposed trail, he, too, was hit in the ankle almost severing  his foot. A firefight ensued with growing numbers of enemy troops joining the fight. Air  support drove the enemy troops off long enough to start medevac operations, followed by  the extraction of the remainder of the team.   Gifford was the worse injured man and was brought aboard the HMM-263 Peachbush  Sea Knight by a 150-foot cable hoist as he sat strapped to a jungle penetrator. The cable  was lowered a second time to lift David up as darkness began to envelop the  mountainous terrain. And that's when David fell off the end of the earth. His cable  snapped and he was sent plummeting to the ground unseen by his Recon team. Team  Thin Man was lifted out by flexible 120-foot aluminum ladder leaving David alone on the  ridgeline as darkness closed in. A miscommunication between the extract helicopter and  the radioman on the ground was one of the reasons given for abandoning David  unintentionally.    Being  that  Marines  don't  leave  Marines  behind,  a  recovery mission was immediately  launched after the Recon team returned to its base. David's company commander,  Capt.  McVey,  took  it  upon  himself  to  be  the  first  to  go down  on  yet  another  cable  hoist  cable... and  like  David,  his  cable  line  snapped sending him to his death from 600 feet.   The  mission  was  aborted after that by Lt.Col. Drumright  as he felt he didn't have a way  to get his Recon Marines on the ground past the tall canopy.  I heard bits and pieces in Vietnam as to how David was lost on his first Recon mission.  One rumor floated around that no effort was made to recover him. That turned out not to  be true but at the time it ate away at me that David might have survived his fall and  wondered why Marines had left him behind. There was, indeed, a mission sent out to  recover both men and there was some speculation that David might have survived his 50  foot or less fall. For 30 some odd years David Skibbe was at the back of my mind as one  of many stories, mysteries, if you will, I wanted answers to in order to put David to rest in  my mind.   The process of research involves lots of scouring of reports in archives, finding the right  people and pure blind luck. It's not what you know on occasion but who you know. An  editor at Vietnam magazine helped by passing an email along to Joe Galloway, former  United Press International war correspondent in Vietnam, asking about an unrelated  story I was working on. To help with that story he sent me to Richard Pyle, an Associated  Press bureau chief at one time and war correspondent for many years in Vietnam. In the  course of our exchange of emails he indicated he had recently finished a book co-  authored with Horst Faas, Lost Over Laos, about some friends of his in the combat  news/photography business--Larry Burrows, Henri Huet, Kent Potter and Keisaburo  Shimamoto--who had gone MIA in Vietnam. David's story immediately popped into my  head and I asked Pyle for some direction.  Having been there--done that, Pyle set me on the right track to research David's and  Capt. McVey's MIA status and gain more insight to their stories. What I found surprised  me and I'm not easily surprised. I will leave the outcome of the story for you to read in  Book II, American Heroes: Grunts, Pilots & "Docs." David was posthumously awarded the  Navy Cross for trying to save Gifford in the March 2 firefight and Capt. McVey was  posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his bravery in going after David alone in the  dark.   As  the  Defense  Prisoner  of  War/Missing  Personnel  Office, DPMO, notes  below as of  August 10, 2010,  David  Skibbe  and  LaVoy  Don  McVey  are  two  of  212  Marines still  unaccounted  for  in  the  Vietnam  War.  My  prayer  is  that  someday  both  men  will  be  returned home for a proper burial.