Before long, George was talking about going to Africa to take up the fight against communism once more. He flew to Angola in 1975 and attempted to join FNLA but was turned down. The other anti-communist movement, UNITA, also turned him down, perhaps because they suspected him of being a CIA informant.
In late 1975 David Bufkin was recruiting mercenaries to join FNLA to help fight the communists in Angola, while a second recruiter worked England. It was a shit show from the very beginning, FNLA representatives promising the world, good pay, good kit, and top notch soldiers. Of course none of it was true.
George Washington Bacon III: MACV-SOG Operator, CIA Para-Military Officer, Mercenary, and Eccentric Genius
Former Marine Gary Acker linked up with Bufkin when he responded to one of his newspaper ads. Bufkin also began publishing a paper called Mercenary Forces Group and this may have been how George happened across the FNLA recruiters, looking for an in after failing to join up on his first try. On February 6th, 1976, Bufkin, Acker, Gearhart, and George Bacon flew from Kennedy Airport in New York to Charles de Gaulle airport in France before getting a connecting flight to Kinsasha, Zaire.
After paying the mandatory bribe at the airport, the would-be mercs stayed for three days at the Intercontinental where George received a phone call from the American embassy ordering him to come in and fly home immediately. Was George truly off the reservation and freelancing in Angola or was he a part of a covert CIA mission?
Peter McAleese and a FNLA Officer came and briefed the newcomers on their second night at the hotel. McAleese is perhaps the only man to have been kicked out of the Special Air Service three times. If memory serves he was booted from the British SAS twice and the Rhodesian SAS once, mostly for drunken brawls at the bar. Regardless, McAleese was an experienced soldier and a strong leader by all accounts.
The former SAS man cut to the chase, FNLA was losing the war against the communist FAPLA. He also told them about the mad man Costas “Callan” Georgio who was on the run from both the enemy and now FNLA as well. McAleese issued shoot on sight orders in regards to Callan.
Callan was a legitimate psychopath who had joined FNLA and soon taken to executing his own men in a misguided bid to terrorize his troops into obeying his orders. The last straw was the Massacre at Maquela in which Callan and his inner circle lined up and gunned down British FNLA recruits who had signed up for non-combat roles. The youngest was 16 years old, a few had military experience, most did not. One was a street sweeper by trade.
Of course their recruiter in England had filled their heads with lies about how they would be truck drivers and have other support positions. In Angola, Callan expected them to take up arms against the Cubans. This led to the recruits revolting against him and inevitably to the massacre itself. It was a straight up murder and now Callan was a hunted man. He continued to fight FAPLA and was later captured by the communist forces.
While at the hotel Acker learned that Bufkin hoped that he would be killed in combat because he was afraid that former Marine might talk to the FBI when they got back the US. Searching his hotel room, they found that Bufkin had a go-bag packed with an Uzi, three spare mags and Walther P-38.
As the mercenaries began to talk amongst themselves, the gravity of Bufkin’s deception suddenly became apparent. He owed all of them money and had been telling lies about the situation in Angola from the beginning. He had told them that FNLA had 250 mercenaries including a commando element. What they had was a handful of professionals trying to herd cats in the form of poorly trained civilians and a losing war.
Something had to be done.
Acker, Gearhart, and George Bacon strong armed Bufkin back to his hotel room and confronted him. While Acker wanted to smoke his ass right then and there, cooler heads prevailed and the trial of David Bufkin was held by the mercs on the spot. It was decided that rather than return to the US as he planned, Bufkin would be press ganged into service as a front line trooper like the rest of them.
Peter McAleese found out about the verdict later on and upheld it.
Getting some basic kit issued, Acker commandeered Bufkin’s Uzi but later gave it to George when he picked up an MG-42 in Angola. Loading into a Panhard Scout car and a Land Rover, the merry band of mercs started heading out for Angola. The brand new Scout car soon broke down so they cross loaded everyone into the Land Rover. At the border checkpoint George used his language skills to negotiated their passing in French with the guards.
George and Acker conducted some recce patrols, scouting out egress routs back to Zaire and and doing a basic area reconnaissance. They also trained 10-20 man groups of Angolan FNLA troops in marksmanship and weapons handling.
On the 14th of February the mercenaries got word that the Cubans were on the move. “Unsourced” aerial photography showed the Cuban convoys advancing during the night. Acker went out with a British mercenary named Dave (not Dave Tompkins who had already left Angola after being wounded by one of his own landmines) to establish a blocking position while George loaded up several men and explosives into a Land Rover. His mission was to blow up two concrete bridges to further delay the enemy advance.
The plan was for Acker and Dave to rain fire on the enemy convoy as a harassing action to slow them down. By first light, George would have the bridge prepped for demolition and once Acker’s element broke contact with the enemy at dawn, they would race the Land Rover across the bridge. At that point George would blow the bridge sky high, once again delaying the Cuban advance.
“Its important to remember that these were symbolic actions,” Acker wrote for Soldier of Fortune magazine. “We were surrounded and outnumbered thousands to one. Within days Tomboco fell, Damba fell, Maquela do Zombo fell. Stalin’s Organs [Katusha Rockets] and MG42’s weren’t the only things we shared with the Germans on the Eastern Front: We were dead meat. Cubans were closing in, and they were exerting every effort to catch us in Sao Salvador.”
Acker laid in his blocking position and waited all night alongside the road but the enemy never showed themselves. Meanwhile, back at George’s position at the bridge, one of the black Angolans had accidentally shot himself. After giving the black mercenary medical treatment, George set to work on rigging the bridge with TNT. He dug deep into the earth around the concrete pylons to make sure that the bridge was brought down properly.
When dawn came, Acker and Dave returned and formed back up with George’s element. The bridge was ready to blow, but the former SOG commando wanted radio confirmation from higher that they were to initiate the demolition plan. Thus far, they had seen no sign of the Cubans. Failing to establish comms with Sao Salvador, “Canada” Newby told them to go and link up with a second patrol in Cuimba.
George climbed over the ammunition and explosives inside their Land Rover so that Acker could orient himself facing out the back with his German-made MG-42 machine gun. Three mercenaries sat in the front including the driver, Fernando and “Canada” Newby. Two more strap hangers stood on the running boards, hanging on tightly as they initiate their movement to Cuimba.
“I don’t like this, George,” Acker said as they drove.
George Bacon shook his head.
A veteran Special Forces commando and CIA para-military, George must have had a bad feeling, a premonition of what was to come. Continuing down the road, they slowed down as they spotted a young Angolan carrying a AK and wearing a chest rig full of magazines. Fernando asked him who he was and the kid replied that he was with FNLA. Taking the statement at face value, the driver continued down the road without a care in the world. Acker, and surely George, were furious. They had just passed an enemy scout.
Seconds later they turned around a bend in the road and literally ran into the Cuban convoy.
Slamming on the brakes, the Land Rover skidded to a halt.
An enemy riflemen standing next to a BRDM armored personnel carrier opened fire first, a single shot blasting through the windshield. After a pregnant pause, the flood gates opened and the FNLA vehicle was raked with enemy fire.
“Aluminum paneling ripped and popped before my eyes and glass flew through the air like leaves in a tornado,” Acker wrote of the one sided firefight.
Acker was hit multiple times in the fusillade of rifle fire. George reacted immediately, throwing open the back door and pushing Acker out. The other mercenaries jumped out from the side doors and were gunned down by the Cuban and FAPLA troops.
Attempting to crawl to cover, Acker found himself surrounded by the enemy. Becoming entangled on something, he looked back to see what was holding him up.
Bailing out of the vehicle together, Acker’s shoelaces had gotten wrapped around George. The former SOG operator leaned back against the Land Rover, his eyes motionless. He had probably been hit in the initial barrage of gunfire, then hit a few more times once they got out of the truck. His shin bone was sticking through the upper portion of his boot.
George Washington Bacon was killed on Valentines Day, February 14th 1976.
Surrounded and outgunned, the seriously injured Gary Acker played possum, a ruse that worked as the enemy came to loot his watch and other belongings. They laid George’s body down next to him. Before long someone saw Acker breathing and finally took him prisoner.
“Canada” Newby was screaming at the FAPLA troops, begging them to kill him. He’d been ravaged, shot through both legs and was in serious pain.
It was only as they were trucked away that Acker saw the entire convoy. In addition to the BRDM there were two T-54 tanks, a bulldozer, and dozens of trucks. The enemy convoy stretched out into forever, and they had run right into it.
“Canada” was provided medical treatment but did not survive the surgery.
George’s body was unloaded at Damba where the mercenaries’ remains were filmed by a television crew and broadcast on Angolan TV for propaganda purposes.
George Bacon’s friends learned of his death upon reading the newspapers several days later. The reporters had misspelled his name, but they knew damn well who it was.
A friend and fellow SOG veteran received an anonymous phone call that day.
His passport would be frozen for the next year.
There would be no recovery operation.
Days later, FNLA collapsed under the weight of the Cuban and FAPLA advance. Peter McAleese conducted an aerial recce in a Cessna airplane, spotting 2,000 enemy soldiers and 75 vehicles closing on Sao Salvador. Back on the ground, he initiated Operation Breakout, the contingency plan to retreat back to Zaire. Their war was over.
As for the captured foreign mercenaries being held by FAPLA, they were to face a kangaroo court for their crimes, both real and perceived.
Gary Acker spent seven and a half years in an Angolan prison before he was finally released. He was lucky to escape with his life. On July 10th 1976, Andrew McKenzie, Daniel Gearhart, John Barker, and the mad man, Costas “Callan” Georgio were executed by firing squad.
What became of George Bacon’s remains are unknown.
Questions and uncertainly continue to surround the circumstances under which George came to Angola and if he wasn’t in fact acting under the auspices of the Central Intelligence Agency. Although he received a call from the American embassy in Zaire to return home, it is certainly possible that he was working in a compartmentalized program and the left hand didn’t talk to the right hand, simply because they didn’t have a need to know.
Back in Washington DC, George’s Morris Minor automobile sat unattended in a parking lot by itself. The local police had gotten word to leave it alone. It sat there for years, a close friend driving by to see it every so often, recalling many fond memories about George.
A Chief of Station who was nearby at the time of FNLA’s demise denied that George was working for the Agency when he was killed. However, with the amount of smoke and mirrors that deliberately obscures the actions of any intelligence agency, it is hard to know for sure.
George was committed to fighting communism, whenever, wherever it showed itself. It is easy to think that if America hadn’t been fighting the communists in South East Asia that George would have gone over there and started a war himself. He certainly didn’t need prompting from the CIA to go to Angola and take the fight to the Cubans.
He was a secret soldier fighting a shadow war. From Vietnam, to Cambodia, to Laos, and finally Angola, George Washington Bacon was a man who lived his life exactly the way that he chose.
From what records we do have about George from his time with the CIA is this, he went operational with the CIA’s Para-Military service in 1971.
There is no record of when his service ended.
Source Citations for parts 1-4:
Shadow War: The CIA’s Secret War in Laos by Kenneth Conboy
Dirty Combat by David Tomkins
Covert Ops: The CIA’s Secret War in Laos by James E. Parker
Secret Commandos by John Plaster
SOG by John Plaster
Soldier of Fortune magazine, February and March of 1986
On the Ground by John Stryker Meyer
Anonymous 1, private correspondence
Anonymous 2, private correspondence
John Stryker Meyer, telephone and e-mail conversation