When I first heard the name George Washington Bacon mentioned there was very little information about him available until I started to make some inquiries. Eventually, some interesting people began to get in touch with me. George Washington Bacon was the real deal and it’s high time that people learn about who he really was. Spending most of his life in the shadows, I found references to George by name or by his callsign in over a half dozen books but without the help of several sources who wish to remain anonymous this background about George and his life would not have been possible. Presented in four parts, I hope that this article does justice to George, both the man and the Soldier. -Jack
George Washington Bacon III: MACV-SOG Operator, CIA Para-Military Officer, Mercenary, and Eccentric Genius
George Washington Bacon shook his head.
Crammed into the back of a door-less gray Land Rover, the mercenaries accelerated, sliding across the muddy road as it twisted through the Angolan jungle. As a veteran of MACV-SOG recon missions into Cambodia and having worked as a CIA Para-Military Officer in Laos, George would have known that something was wrong. Fellow mercenary Gary Acker had voiced his uncertainty as they raced to link up with another FNLA patrol. George clutched a 9mm Uzi submachine gun while Acker manned a German MG42 machine gun. The Portuguese driver was about to lose control of the vehicle until Douglas “Canada” Newby ordered him to slow the hell down.
“Canada bought most of us another minute of life,” wrote Gary Acker.
In 1976 the Cuban and Soviet sponsored FAPLA was engaged in a vicious war of attrition against the CIA sponsored FNLA. It was a proxy war fought by the world’s two superpowers in which little quarter was shown by either side. The CIA was never actually in it to win it, rather they were simply trying to deny the Soviets an easy victory. If the Russians wanted Angola, they were going to bleed for it.
George would have understood the precarious situation they were in. FAPLA was once again on the offensive and he had just finished prepping a bridge with TNT explosives for demolition in order to delay the enemy advance.
FNLA recruiting drives in England and the United States had signed up a number of adventurers to fight in Angola. Some were qualified for the work having had military experience in the US Marines, British Paras, or SAS. George Washington Bacon was in a category all his own writes British safe-cracker and mercenary David Tompkins, “Another recruit was George Bacon, a political science major and holder of the CIA’s second-highest award, the Intelligence Star. He was considerably overqualified for the work; he should have been a CIA station chief in Kinshasa, not a grunt in Angola.”
But there was more to George Bacon. Much more.
Rounding a bend in the road, with the vehicle barely under control, the Land Rover ran right into the back end of a stake bed truck, the Land Rover’s hood actually going under the bed of the truck before they came to a halt. Acker spotted a Soviet BRDM armored vehicle, suddenly realizing that they had just crashed into the rear end of a Cuban FAPLA convoy.
In seconds, the Land Rover was being turned into a sieve by enemy gunfire.
“They moved quietly through the darkness. They had planned for months and chosen this day, Aug. 23, 1968, and time carefully. Everything was as their informants had said it would be and now all that was left was execution. Various elements broke off to their assigned positions. Machine guns in place and satchel charges at the ready, they waited for the signal,” writes SOG veteran and RT Idaho One-Zero, John “Tilt” Meyer.
Thus began the assault on Command and Control North (CCN) in Da Nang. NVA sappers waded through chest deep water in the South China Sea, coming ashore to attack the base where American commandos routinely launched deadly cross-border operations into Laos and North Vietnam.
FOB4 was overrun that night as explosions and machine gun fire tore through the base. The Special Forces soldiers and their indigenous counterparts fought back the enemy, but paid a terrible price. Much of the FOB lay in ruins and there were too many bodies to count. Seventeen Green Berets were among the dead, the greatest single loss of life in Special Forces history.
However, there was some good news, particularly for George Bacon.
“One bright spot was finding Special Forces medic and linguist, George W. Bacon III still alive. Like many others in FOB4, Bacon had flown from FOB1 to stand before a Promotion Board. On this morning, however, he was lying prone in the sand with a serious shoulder wound he received while coming to the aid of others,” writes John Meyer in his SOG memoir, On the Ground.
One of George’s Army buddies from the Special Forces Medic course called the field hospital to check in on George once he heard about the FOB4 attack. George’s eccentric behavior had both put him in danger and perhaps also saved his life, it’s hard to say which is which. Falling asleep on the beach from which the NVA attack was to come from hours later, he missed the truck heading out to the pleasures of Da Nang.
This resulted in him being at ground zero of the NVA’s assault on FOB4.
Many months of physical rehabilitation using sandbags for resistance training followed, George carrying a nasty scar on his back for the rest of his life. “Tilt” Meyer remembers George fondly, “He had huge shoulders from which all his clothes hung, almost in an exaggerated scarecrow figure. His eyes were deep, inquiring, piercing. In camp, he often wore some of the ugliest, yet functional floppy hats that kept the sun off of his neck and out of his eyes. Last, but not least, the warrior spirit burned deeply in his soul and he relished living the life of danger in the deadly, top secret world of MACV-SOG, running missions across the fence into Laos, Cambodia and North Vietnam.
“As a Green Beret medic, he was second to none. If any free time surfaced, George would go to the dispensary to work with fellow SF medics to learn as much as he could about indigenous diseases and medical oddities that surfaced only in Southeast Asia. More than once I remember seeing the large-shouldered medic bending down to comfort the small South Vietnamese women who sought medical assistance. And, of course, because he learned how to speak the language, the gentle giant healed their physical wounds and soothed their nervousness.”
In time, George forged a unique relationship with the local people, especially the Bru tribe of the Montagnards that he would be running combat missions with. His compassion for the Bru and his cunning ability as a linguist would serve him well in the combat that was to come.
Continue Reading: Secret missions in Cambodia and training for CIA Para-Military service