The Special Operations community has lost a legend. Billy Waugh, “Godfather of the Green Berets,” died on April 4th at the age of 93.

Waugh, shown here in his mid-80s, doing something badass.

His passing was confirmed by 1st Special Forces Command, who provided no additional details. Waugh served in Korea and Vietnam and was hunting bin Laden in the mountains of Afghanistan at the age of 71. At the tender age of 15, he tried to join the Marine Corps but was turned away. The teen had met two local men wounded in World War Two and was so inspired by them that he decided to hitchhike from his home in Texas to Los Angeles, where he was told he could enlist. The gritty youth made it as far as Las Cruces, New Mexico, where he was arrested and sent home to his mother.

He tried to join the service again at the age of 18, this time being accepted into the Army.

In 1954, after a year of service in Korea, he earned his Green Beret. He retired as a sergeant major in 1972. But Billy Waugh wasn’t exactly retired in the traditional sense; he joined the CIA in 1977 after briefly holding another federal job working for the US Postal Service sorting mail. It is not surprising to learn that this bored him terribly.

As reported in the New York Times, Cofer Black, a former CIA counterterrorism chief, said of Waugh:

“He was just one of those guys who wanted to be on the edge of the empire, as far as he could get, living large and defending his country.”

He entered his service in Southeast Asia in 1961 in Laos as part of a US advisory mission codenamed White Star. Waugh later became a member of the Studies and Observations Group, better known by its acronym, SOG. In his 2019 book, “Surprise, Kill, Vanish: The Secret History of CIA Paramilitary Armies, Operators, and Assassins,” the seasoned Green Beret wrote, “There was no rest at SOG, only war recon, rescue, sleep.” He may have very well added the word “repeat” to that.

Sergeant Waugh was thought dead in June of 1965 after being shot in the knee, foot, ankle, and forehead in a rice paddy in Binh Dinh Province. North Vietnamese forces stripped the bloodied American naked. Waugh wrote about the experience in his 2005 autobiography, Hunting the Jackal: