Ben David Snowden
08 November 2001
Ben David Snowden served in Southeast Asia on three different occasions as a member of the 5th Special Forces Group. Ben was known as a man who went after what he wanted and one who stayed with it until it was obtained. He believed in the Vietnam cause and believed his serving on foreign soil would help divert the Communistic regime from infiltrating into the United States. He was instrumental in helping the South Vietnamese learn how to build schools, churches and bridges and to defend themselves. He established great relationships with the Montagnards (mountain people) and the people of Vietnam.
Those of us, who knew Ben, loved him and his keen sense of humor and adventurous spirit. He is deeply missed.A memorial from his sister,
Carra Snowden Elkins
17 November 2001
To the Dad I never met.
You're in my thoughts on Veterans' Day, and almost every day in between.
Your children miss you, but are proud of the sacrifice you made.
We love you,
Sharla, Lisa, and Volker
Sharla Snowden Green
4201 N. Fairmount Rd. Signal Mountain, TN 37377
25 March 2002
Until recently, basically all our family knew of Ben's military career was the info given previously. We did not find out until recently (35 years later) the extent of his military prowess. Thanks to the marvels of the internet and the fact that so much of this information is now declassified we have discovered that Ben was a member of a highly skilled group of ace fighting units consisting of Army Green Berets, Air Force Air Commandos and Navy Seals. Information regarding Ben's last mission is in a book on pp. 103-107 written by three-tour SOG veteran Major John L. Plaster entitled "SOG, The Secret Wars of America's Commandos in Vietnam".
The Studies and Observations Group was "the most secret elite U.S. military unit to serve in the Vietnam War - so secret its very existence was denied by the government." According to John Plaster's book the group answered only to the Pentagon and the White House and his book gives an account of "SOG's stunning operations behind enemy lines - penetrating heavily defended North Vietnamese military facilities, holding off mass enemy attacks, launching daring missions to rescue downed U.S. pilots. From sabotage to espionage to hand-to-hand combat, these are some of the most extraordinary true stories of honor and heroism in the history of the U.S. military."
The SOG's operations in Laos, Cambodia and North Vietnam are spellbinding and although it was painful to hear in excruciating detail of some of these missions, we are thankful to men such as Major Plaster and the other brave men of SOG for sharing their stories with us.
At the time of his death, Ben was assigned to Detachment B-50, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne). He was a member of MACV/SOG, Project Omega, Forward Operating Base Two, Operation Daniel Boone on 15 June 1967.
The note below and photo of "Snowden Hall" was from Major John Plaster and sent to the Commander of the MSG Ben D Snowden VFW Post 8587 in Georgetown, TX, They are displayed along with other photos of Ben in the main room of the post.
April 25, 2004
From: Carra Elkins To: MSG Lowell Stevens, Fort Bragg, NC, Subject: Ben Snowden
My brother Ben Snowden was killed in Viet Nam in 1967 and I was told you have information regarding his last mission. He was on his third tour of duty when he was killed and any information you can give our family would be helpful. With all that has been going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has made me appreciate even more the work that all of you did in Viet Nam.
Your friend R.Bleacher gave me your e-mail address and I would appreciate hearing from you. So much was never talked about and it is always an honor to hear directly from someone who was there.
Thank you for any information you can give us.
MSG Stevens Response of 26 April 2004:
Ms Elkins, yes I was there when your brother Ben died on June 15 1967, certainly one of the saddest days of my life. My team had been inserted into Laos with the mission of moving across the panhandle of Cambodia on a reconnaissance mission. We had just started the classified missions into Cambodia; the missions were code named "Daniel Boone". In those days we had to go in completely sterilized with no US equipment or clothing, this included weapons (we carried Soviet or Chinese manufactured AK-47 assault rifles) after all we were not there! We could not be inserted or extracted in Cambodia. We were supported by Vietnamese flight crews flying the old H-34 "Choctaw" helicopters. The Vietnamese crews could speak little on no English so we took turn flying "Chase", with a radio, on the choppers so the team on the ground could communicate with the chopper crew. Ben was flying "Chase" for my team that day.
The landing zone (LZ) for our insertion was an old Montagnard highland rice field located on a steep slope, which had dead trees and stumps which precluded the chopper from setting down on it. When the chopper arrived at the LZ it hovered about 8-10 feet above the ground and moved forward and laterally to position the team between the stumps. I was the "10" (Team Leader) on the team and was sitting in the door (the H-34 had only one door on the right side) of the chopper concentrating my vision on the ground looking for the best place to jump down. Had I looked up the hill I would not have jumped from the chopper! (I'll explain this later) But I didn't look up the slope and jumped from the chopper. We had a simple rule that if one man jumped the rest of the team was compelled to follow. We hit the ground and tumbled down the slope and the chopper left the Drop Zone (with Ben aboard) and went into a holding orbit waiting for us to signal the insertion successful, and we were not compromised.
Within seconds of our hitting the ground the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) soldiers commenced firing signal shots all around us, we were completely surrounded. I called the "Covey Rider" and informed him of our situation. The covey rider was one of our own NCOs flying in a 01-Bird Dog (a single engine, two passenger fixed-wing aircraft that was used for radio relay, and to fire marking rockets to mark the location for fighter bombers to drop their bombs). He directed the Helicopter Gunships to fire High Explosive Rockets and, fire their machine guns around our position. In those days we only had the "Charlie Model" Gunships. These were UH-1C (Huie) Gunships and were not the much better "Cobra" Gunships we would have later in the war. Both of the Gunships expended their full complement of ordnance around us. Then I was informed the H-34 was returning to pick us up from the LZ.
My team was the second team inserted on "Daniel Boone" and was a six man team having one other American (Staff Sergeant Nuqui) and four Chinese "Nungs". As the helicopter commenced hovering over the LZ, getting as low as it could, we ran towards it. Again, it could only get down to about eight feet off the ground. I grabbed one of the Nungs and boosted him up toward the door of the chopper, while Ben reached down in an attempt to grab him and pull him into it. I will never forget what happened next! A machinegun opened up from my left rear and fired a long burst that snapped and cracked all around my head. Ben disappeared back into the chopper and simultaneously I dropped the Nung and hit the ground. I could hear the bullets impacting on the chopper as it started lifting off the LZ.
I won't bore you with the rest of the details about the remainder of the afternoon (the longest afternoon of my life). Needless to say they bombed around us and the Gunships, having re-fueled and re-armed, expended their ordinance around us again and they attempted to extract us once again. This time we actually got aboard the chopper but were shot down before the chopper could fly away. Now we compounded our problems by having the team plus the helicopter crew on the ground (the crew chief on the chopper had been shot).It was almost dark when they finally extracted us from the LZ. The reason this attempt was successful is because an A-1E "Sky Raider" dropped napalm and finally silenced the machinegun that had tormented us all afternoon. Had I looked up the slope when we came to the LZ I most certainly would have seen the machinegun in the entrance to a cave and not have jumped from the chopper!
It is impossible to convey to anyone the euphoric feeling I had when it dawned on me that we were going to survive the day. I have never used any type of drugs in my entire life, but I know what being "High" is all about. I maintained this unexplainable feeling until we arrived back at Dak To, the launch site. When I got off the extraction chopper I distinctly remember water squishing out of the holes in my boots when I walked. We had not been near any water-it was sweat coming out of my boots and my whole body was soaking wet.
In an instant I went from the top of Mt. Everest to the lowest part of Death Valley. My buddies informed me that Ben was dead! I remember sitting down on the runway and crying while they attempted to console me. All I could think about was what a terrible loss this was, and simultaneously I felt guilty about being so happy about my team's surviving the day, when all along Ben lay dead back at Dak To. For reasons I still can't explain I insisted on counting the bullet holes in the chopper he was on. By this time it was dark and the chopper was so badly shot-up that it had made a crash landing on the runway and ran off into a ditch. But, I insisted, so we counted the holes. There were 68 holes in the chopper and they informed me that Ben was hit multiple times on the front of his body.
In a close knit unit like ours Ben's death impacted on us in a manner difficult, if not impossible, to describe. He was a most likable person with a great personality. I don't recall anyone ever having anything bad to say about Ben! He had a lot of military experience and we all looked up to him. Our whole unit was stunned by his death, since he wasn't just a fellow Special Forces Soldier he was our friend, and buddy. A lot of people write about camaraderie but the Special Forces in Vietnam wrote the book on this subject.
Having survived over 6 years in Vietnam I once questioned why I survived when men, better than me, didn't. I don't have an answer to this question. Once a month we have a meeting of the Special Forces Association here in Fayetteville, and we always bow our heads for a few seconds to remember our comrades who are no longer with us. Invariable my thoughts go back to that day and Ben's death. He sacrificed his life in an attempt to help his fellow soldiers. There is no higher calling!
Ben Snowden was a damn good Soldier!
I hope this in some way helps you to understand how your brother died. Rest assured that Ben is not forgotten and as long as my mind is still functioning he will remain in my thoughts.
MSG Lowell Wesley Stevens, Sr. passed away January 26, 2011. His awards and decorations for his 47 years of Federal Service include: the Silver Star Medal (three awards), Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal (six awards, one with "V" device), Purple Heart Medal (two awards), Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal (three awards, one with "V" device), Army Commendation Medal (three awards, one with "V" Device), Good Conduct Medal (six awards), Vietnam Service Medal (with 16 campaigns - out of a total of 17 awarded for the entire Vietnam War), Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, Master HALO Badge and Presidential Unit Citation (for service with MACV- SOG).
- - The Virtual Wall, June 12, 2017
03 May 2006
My name is Cadet Bierschenk.
I grew up in Georgetown, Texas and I attend UT Austin.
I am very thankful for our heroes of the past
and I wanted to add a memorial to MSG Snowden because
he is from my hometown and he accomplished everything I
wish to accomplish in my army career.
Although I never met MSG Snowden,
I will always remember the sacrifice he made for our country.
Cadet Eric Bierschenk
11 Nov 2006
I just wanted to say a few words about my daddy.
Although I never met him, I know that he loved me.
I was 5 1/2 months old and my sister was 2 years old when my daddy was killed.
He loved and died doing what he did best,
fighting for our country.
Although he is greatly missed,
I am very proud to be his daughter.
Love and missed deeply,
your baby Lisa (Little Bit)
Lisa Lynn Conner (Snowden)
1185 Mtn Creek Road Apt 1205, Chattanooga, Tn. 37405
The 5th Special Forces Group's Detachment B-50 was known as "Project Omega" and specialized in long-range recon and intelligence-gathering missions in and across South Vietnam's border regions.
A photo of MSG Ben Snowden, back row, right, during service in Vietnam,
posted at the VFW Post named after him in Georgetown, Texas.
Although accounts vary, it appears that Sergeant Snowden was flying as a passenger aboard a RVNAF CH-34 "King Bee" helicopter in support of the extraction of a recon team which had been engaged by North Vietnamese troops. The helicopter was heavily hit by ground fire and was forced to withdraw.
SGT Snowden is the only known fatality aboard the aircraft. One report on the macvsog.org site states that the King Bee pilot returned to the patrol's location in another helicopter and extracted the six-man team.
From the American Statesman, Friday, Dec. 28, 2012 the headline read: Georgetown veteran slain in Vietnam to receive medal after 45 years. Read about the efforts to get Ben's Silver Star for the presentation in March 2013.
In 2002 the family requested information and replacement medals; those are shown below. Ben served three tours in Vietnam and the Bronze Star was from one of the first two tours. Ben's brother John did not know which tour that MSG Snowden was on when he received the Bronze Star.
The Silver Star was awarded 40 something years after he was killed in action through the efforts of the VFW post in Georgetown who contacted many of the men that he served with and got documentation and a recommendation from them. That mission on June 15, 1967 was a classified mission and awards were not given at the time.
John Snowden, older brother of Ben Snowden, and Roger Widdows, right,
holds a shadow box of with Ben's picture and service medals from
Vietnam outside of the VFW Post named in his honor in Georgetown.
A photo of MSG Ben Snowden, from the VFW Post.
Major General Phipps and Staff present Silver Star to Betty Snowden.
MSG Snowden's wife Betty with daughters Sharla and Lisa and son Volker at awards ceremonies.
Collage of Information at ceremony.
MSG Snowden was married with three children (Sharla, Lisa, and Volker) when he died. His wife, Betty, never remarried.
At the time of his death, MSG Ben David Snowden was survived by wife Betty (1938-2017), his two daughters Sharla Snowden Green, Lisa Snowden Conner, and son Volker Holt. Betty passed away on May 5, 2017 in Tennessee where she was living with her daughters.
In addition MSG Ben Snowden was survived by his mother, Ruby Lee Smith Snowden (1903-1987), sisters Carra Snowden Elkins (1943- ), Norma J. Snowden Sutton (1933- ), brothers John George Snowden, Jr. (1935- ), and Billy R. Snowden (1939-2016).
Ben was predeceased by his father, John George Snowden (1887-1956). He is buried near his parents in Georgetown Odd Fellows Cemetery, Georgetown, Texas.
Thursday, June 15th 2017, was 50 years since Ben was Killed in Action. Betty Snowden's ashes were brought this week from Tennessee by his daughters. On Saturday, June 17th, services were held at grave site and she was put to rest with MSG Snowden, reunited with her beloved husband Ben.
Retired 5th Special Forces First Sergeant Serf Telles pays his respects.
Ben was also recognized and inducted into the Georgetown High School Hall of Honor in Georgetown, Texas in 2014. It is an honor for select alumni and Ben was selected for his outstanding military service.
BrotherJohn Snowden sent photos from the induction ceremony and of the photo that hangs on the wall in the Hall of Honor.
Left to right in Induction Ceremony are Norma Snowden Sutton, Carra Snowden
Elkins, John Snowden., and Georgetown High School Principal Cade Smith.
Photo that hangs in the Hall of Honor with name plate
- - The Virtual Wall, June 18, 2017
|Contact Us||© Copyright 1997-2017 www.VirtualWall.org, Ltd ®(TM)||Last update 06/18/2017|