The M.I.A's On Tiger Mountain
A Norman Lloyd Film
In April, 1968, then-Lieutenant Mike Sprayberry of Delta Company, 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, United States Army led a small group of volunteers on a harrowing nighttime rescue in Vietnam’s A Shau Valley. Their mission: to save a platoon of infantrymen encircled, ambushed, and pinned down by superior North Vietnamese forces on the flank of Tiger Mountain. The rescue was successful--all of the survivors of the ambush were extracted--but the bodies of three fallen soldiers could not be recovered. A few days later, when an observation helicopter attempted to locate the three KIAs, it too was lost to heavy enemy fire, and the bodies of the three helicopter crewmen likewise could not be recovered. To this day, the bodies of all six men remain in the A Shau Valley.
In October, 1969, Mike Sprayberry received the nation’s highest military award, the Congressional Medal of Honor, for his heroic efforts that dark night in the A Shau. But over the four subsequent decades since the rescue, he has remained determined to find the six lost men and bring them home, returning twice to Vietnam in search of evidence compelling enough to convince the U.S. Army’s Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command to initiate a formal recovery effort. The family members of the six men killed in action and their comrades in the 5th Battalion 7th and the 1st of the 9th Cavalry Regiment together share the loss and immense frustration, but also the undying hope, that one day these fallen soldiers may finally come home.
In his newest production, award winning filmmaker Norman Lloyd takes you into the heart of darkness, into a long gash in the jungle called the A Shau Valley. Lloyd builds his film around Mike Sprayberry, a soft-spoken lieutenant from Alabama who led a volunteer night time patrol to rescue elements of his company cut off and surrounded by North Vietnamese troops. For his courageous leadership under fire, Sprayberry was awarded the Medal of Honor. He was just 21 years and one day old the night of that 1968 action.
Many who have undergone the physical and emotional trauma of heavy combat are not prone to talk willingly about their experiences. Those are extremely personal minutes, hours and even days in their lives. But if they do unburden themselves, they are only comfortable talking with others who have undergone similar experiences and can relate to the intensity of the moment.
That Sprayberry and several others in his unit spoke so openly, so emotionally about that night is a tribute to Lloyd's journalistic skills. But on a deeper level, these combat veterans recognized a kindred spirit as soon as they began talking with Lloyd, who covered battle after battle in Vietnam and Cambodia as a CBS News cameraman. He was one of them.
To make the film, Lloyd accompanied Sprayberry and several others back to the A Shau Valley. There, Lloyd followed them step by step as they searched for the sites of six soldiers who were killed and had to be left behind during the traumatic rescue mission. With no theatrics, no pretense, these men describe that night of fighting in such harrowing detail that you may forget to keep breathing. They are telling their stories to Norman Lloyd; we are privileged to listen in.
T. Jeff Williams
Former AP and CBS News correspondent, Vietnam