Fifty years ago today, a Vietnam War soldier from mid-Missouri’s Freeburg vanished in a Vietnam jungle with three of his Army comrades. The Osage County Commission has declared today as Paul A. Hasenbeck Day. He served in the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry, which was assigned to the 196th Light Infantry Brigade.
Former American Legion Commander David Bexten led a ceremony Wednesday night at the Paul A. Hasenbeck American Legion in Freeburg to announce the Commission’s resolution.
“This is a little bit special for some of us guys,” said Bexten. “We hung around Paul. We grew up together. We went to school together. So this is kind of hard on our hearts.”
State Rep. Mike Bernskoetter (R-Jefferson City) gave a heartfelt and emotional speech about Paul’s sister, Jeanie. Bernskoetter presented her with a resolution that she had no idea she was receiving. Jeanie Hasenbeck has made it her life mission to try and find out what happened to her brother.
When she was twenty years old, Jeanie Hasenbeck joined the Red Cross in hopes of finding her brother in Vietnam. Bernskotter said she was one of three civilians allowed to work in the 24th Evacuation Hospital in southern Vietnam.
“She wanted to just kind of wander around Vietnam and talk to people and show her brother’s picture to people and see if she could find her brother. With the war going on, she quickly realized that wasn’t possible. She went to work at the hospital. She showed all the people who came to the hospital her brother’s picture,” said Bernskotter.
Jeanie Hasenbeck has made numerous trips to Washington D.C. to search for answers about her brother. Pentagon officials have disputed reports from Vietnamese sources and U.S. intelligence services that Paul had been captured and moved to several different locations by troops who forced him and his companions to teach Viet Cong cadres to speak English.
The CIA told her it had no files on her brother at a time when she already had obtained several CIA documents from other sources.
Over the years, the Vietnamese government has released several contradictory account of her brother’s fate.
Last night’s ceremony also recognized the widow of Bernard Plassmeyer, Carol Eckert. She was honored for her efforts to also try and find answers on the whereabouts of her husband.
The Freeburg soldier disappeared on September 11, 1970. His plane was shot down during a night mission in the Vietnam War.
Plassmeyer’s brother and former state Representative, Norb Plassmeyer of Westphalia, has been a driving force in coordinating last night’s ceremony and a legislative effort that would urge a federal agency in charge of recovering missing U.S. soldiers to make it a priority to resolve the cases of 15 missing Vietnam War soldiers. Among those heroes unaccounted for are Paul Hasenbeck and Bernard Plassmeyer.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. Tom Hurst (R-Meta), unanimously passed this week in the Missouri House. It’s headed to the Senate for consideration.