The 1970s and 80s inspired a whole subculture of ‘Mercs.’ Americans had come back from the Vietnam War and a whole industry of magazines, schools and people who lied about their service came out of the woodwork. Soldier of Fortune Magazine was entering its heyday of popularity bringing attention to the conflicts in Southern Africa.

In the past, I have brought you articles and a book about the Rhodesian Bush War, and there is still more to come. Yet, there was another war south of the Rhodesian border, the South African Border War. It is an intricately complicated war that started in 1966 and ran officially into late 1989, some say ’till 1994.

Ken Gaudet served two combat tours in Vietnam, then with the Rhodesian Light Infantry and, in 1980, went to his third war with an elite unit known as the ‘Philistines.’ They were officially the Pathfinder unit for the 44th Para Battalion but were utilized in COIN operations. He has graciously spent time to give an interview on his experience.

Enjoy -Dan Tharp


Hello, Mr. Gaudet. Thank’s for taking the time to talk to the readers of SOFREP about your unique career as a soldier in three different Armies during three different wars. Can you tell us how you ended up in Rhodesia some years after your two tours of duty in the Vietnam War? 

Ken Gaudet: I was taking some time off of work at a shipyard in San Francisco and I had planned a trip to South Africa & Rhodesia for a couple of years. I was in contact with Al Venter from SOF magazine and Al told me what to bring over to Africa to trade with the farmers that would help me pay for my time in Africa. I was laid off of work for about 6 months to a year, so I figured this was the best time to get over to Africa. I got a 90 day visa to South Africa in San Francisco I had a return ticket good for 90 days.

I went over in April 1979 and was met in Johannesburg by Al Venter. I spent about a week with Al in SA and then he gave me some contacts in Rhodesia and dropped me off at the Rhodesia/SA border at Bietbridge, where I convoyed to Bulawayo for a couple of days. I then went to Salisbury and met some of Al’s friends from the Rhodesian Light Infantry.