Passing of POW Larry Stark
02 May 1935 - 04 August 2021
It is with great sadness that we announce our dear friend and former POW Larry Stark passed away late last week. Our thoughts, prayers and intentions are with his wife Pilar and his family and friends.
After fighting off attacks for two days, Stark was eventually captured, 1 Feb 1968 during the Tet Offensive. He was released five years later in March 1973.
Larry was one of only two Department of Defense civilian employees who were captured and he spent five years as a prisoner. More than 40 years after he was captured Larry was able to return to the Washington Navy Yard to accept his POW and Purple Heart medals.
For nearly 50 years, Larry was faithful and dedicated in his search for American POW MIAs. May you rest knowing all the answers you searched decades for. #NeverForget our #POWMIA!
National Alliance of Families for the Return of American Missing Servicemen
The National Alliance of Families for the Return of American Missing Servicemen was honored to have Larry speak at our annual meetings over the decades. Several of those videos are reposted here so you too can hear the words of a true American Hero.
Larry speaking at the 2017 National Alliance of Families for the Return of American Missing Servicemen Annual Meeting
Larry speaking at the 2019 National Alliance of Families for the Return of American Missing Servicemen Annual Meeting
From the POW Network (https://www.pownetwork.org/) the following is the information they listed for our friend, Larry Stark:
Name: Lawrence J. Stark
Date of Birth: 02 May 1935
Home City of Record: Chicago IL
Date of Loss: 01 February 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 162734N 1073551E
Status (in 1973): Returnee
Other Personnel in Incident: Gostas, Theodore USA (released); Henderson, Alexander CIV (released); Meyer, Lewis CIV (released); Olsen, Robert CIV (Released); Page, Russell CIV (Released); Rander, Donald USA (Released); Rushton, Thomas CIV (Released); Spalding, Richard CIV (Released); Daves, Gary CIV (Released); Willis, Charles CIV (Released).
Source: Compiled by P.O.W. NETWORK 14 February 1997 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources and information provided by Ret. Major Gostas and Lawrence Stark. 2021
REMARKS: 730305 Released by PRG
SYNOPSIS: Stark was working in the northern part of South Vietnam during TET '68 when Hue came under seige. Ret. Major Ted Gostas (135th MIBN PROV) recalls being trapped without his radio in the city, and being unable to warn hundreds of 5th Marines as they walked into an ambush and their death. Government records indicate Stark and 11 others were captured soon afterward. Ten of those were civilians working with the Vietnamese. Stark was held captive for 5 1/2 years prior to his release on March 05, 1973.
SOURCE: WE CAME HOME (copyright 1977)
Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor
P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602
Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and spelling errors).
UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO
LAWRENCE J. STARK
Civilian working for the Department of the Navy
Captured: January 31, 1968
Released: March 5, 1973
I was born in Chicago on May 2, 1935. I attended St. Christiana's Grammar School and St. Rita's High School. From 1953-57 I attended St. Joseph College, Rensselaer, Indiana receiving a degree in Business Administration. I was drafted into the Army in February 1958 and after spending two years in Germany was honorably discharged. In April 1966, I went to Vietnam with a construction firm as a labor coordinator. This work terminated in 13 months. My next tour in Vietnam was as a Navy civilian in Da Nang. After three months, I went to Hue which is in the northern part of South Vietnam, heading an industrial relations office which had the responsibility of hiring Vietnamese to work for various military organizations. It was while working in this capacity that Hue came under siege and I was captured.
After spending two months in the hills outside of Hue and another month enroute to the North, we arrived at a camp in North Vietnam. I was to be imprisoned there and at other prisons in the North for the next five years. To add to one's loneliness and feeling of helplessness, I was forced to spend five months in solitary. Also, at no time during these five years was I able to receive or send any communication.
A typical day would run something like this: We would rise at 6:30 a.m. and after washing would have breakfast which usually consisted of bread and a teaspoon of sugar with hot water. From about 7 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. we would do various things such as read (if material was available which was not very often) or work on little projects such as learning a foreign language. Lunch generally consisted of a bowl of soup with a spinach-like vegetable and bread or rice. There was a little pork fat in the soup. After lunch we would take a siesta from noon to 2:30 p.m. and then we would work on our mental stimulation projects. Dinner would be the same as the lunch and during the rest of the day we would just pass the time in conversation with our roommates. Our conversations would be centered around our families, friends, interesting experiences as well as hobbies, interests and discussions of the fairer sex. At 9 p.m. we would retire for the night. I was seldom asked to work and had very little recreation.
We did receive some news while we were in prison, but most of it was full of propaganda, and there was very little said about the good things that were happening in the United States, such as the moon flights. There was, however, a great deal said about the bad things that were occurring in the States.
Upon returning to the United States I could not help but be aware of the changes that had occurred in the area of dress, hair styling, the liturgy of the Mass, and car styling to mention a few of the most obvious. But I have been most pleasantly surprised by the public concern in political issues. In thinking back I cannot recall such awareness before my capture. It is my fervent hope that this concern is not temporary, but will be long lasting. I firmly believe that good government requires an alert and demanding public It is quite natural that our interest is on the POW-MIA issue, but let us not in our generosity forget to pray for the veterans and especially the disabled veterans of the Viet Nam conflict.
Larry was finally awarded the POW medal in 2010, and you can read the online article below:
Civilian contractor awarded Purple Heart and POW medals
Story by Darren Harrison
Naval District Washington
More than 40 years after he was captured by Vietnamese forces and became a prisoner of war, Lawrence J. Stark returned to the Washington Navy Yard, Jan. 11, to accept his POW and Purple Heart medals.
Stark was one of only two Department of Defense civilian employees who were captured, and he spent five years as a prisoner.
"Mr. Stark's half-decade as a prisoner-of-war during Vietnam show that the civilian contactor role is a critical element in the defense of our nation," said Assistant Secretary of the Navy Juan Garcia. "Every link in the chain is important. His sacrifice on behalf of our country speaks to both his patriotism, and the power of the human spirit. It's an honor to be here today."
After fighting off attacks for two days, Stark was eventually captured, Feb. 1, 1968 during the Tet Offensive. He was released five years later in March 1973. Members of Stark's family, in attendance for the ceremony, said that the family did not know Stark's fate until just before his release and his father died without knowing that his son was a POW.
"He was taken captive and really the family did not know for sure if he was alive, if he had survived the capture until shortly before his release in 1973," said brother-in-law Richard Flammini. "Unfortunately, his father died during his captivity but the family never gave up hope that he would come back and fortunately he did and we are here today and really excited for the opportunity to reward him for his service and his perseverance."
Stark was working for the Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. when he was invited to go to Vietnam and work for a consortium of contractors under contract to DoD.
Stark accepted the invitation and went to Vietnam in April 1966 and spent a year with RMK-BRJ before returning to the United States. After a couple of months, Stark returned to Vietnam and was hired as a U.S. Navy civil service employee.
Stark was assigned to work in the city of Hue in December 1967 and was taken prisoner two months later. At the time of the capture, the five military personnel next door and the four men in his house, combined forces and resisted capture. At the end of two days of fighting, with practically no ammunition left with which to defend themselves, two men had been killed and everyone else was wounded.
"How does a civilian become eligible for a Purple Heart? People ask me that all of the time," Stark said. "I tell them that President Kennedy authorized the Purple Heart for civilians in 1962 if certain conditions are met, one of which is you had to be in combat. And we were in Hue, and we were in combat. We defended the Navy building and in the process lost a couple of guys and most of the guys were wounded. They put a mortar right on the roof and four or five of us happened to be right there. One guy who was wounded died and the others all received wounds."
Presenting the medals to Stark at the ceremony inside the U.S. Navy Museum was Naval District Washington Commandant Rear Adm. Patrick J. Lorge who paid tribute to Stark's heroism.
"As service men and women we are trained to react during a time of conflict or crisis," Lorge said. "However to accomplish what Lawrence J. Stark did as a civilian is nothing short of remarkable and deserves the highest possible recognition. I'm proud to be in his presence and humbled to share this stage with him and honored to present him with both the Purple Heart and Prisoner of War medals."
After his release Stark worked in the human resources office on the Washington Navy Yard for former director of Human Resources Dr. Vincent Vaccaro.
"I am indeed honored and humbled that Larry has asked me to speak this afternoon. First let me offer congratulations for a long overdue recognition. I am extremely pleased today,' Vaccaro said. "One of our colleagues is finally being recognized for his courage and achievements. I remember several years ago I was a witness in a federal trial tied to a discrimination complaint and while I was on the stand the opposing counsel asked me why I treated Larry Stark differently than I treated some of the other employees. Without hesitation I answered that Larry Stark is a national hero and he had already suffered enough. There were no further questions."
"Larry is a national hero and now he is receiving the recognition he so justly deserves."
In addition to receiving the two medals, two members of the Rolling Thunder, Vietnam veterans Artie Muller and Michael Cobb, presented Stark with a Rolling Thunder leather jacket and declared him an honorary member.
"It's about time Larry was honored for his commitment to the freedom of our country while he was in Vietnam. He was never recognized with the POW medal and he deserved it and has waited many, many years for that and also for the Purple Heart," Muller said.