By mid-November 1970, there were 450 known American POWs in Vietnam, and more than double that amount reported as missing in action. Reports were surfacing of brutal conditions, torture, and starvation of American POWs. Operation Ivory Coast was a daring rescue mission conducted by U.S. Army Green Berets, flown in by Air Force Commandos, to rescue the POWs at a small prisoner of war camp at Son Tay, 23 miles west of Hanoi. The raid was commanded by Colonel Arthur “Bull” Simons and 56 specially selected Green Berets who had trained for the mission.

The mission was deemed a failure. Unknown to the raiders, rains had flooded the Son Tay prison just prior to the raid, forcing the Vietnamese guards to move the POWs to another location. The prisoners who had been moved just a few miles down the road, watched the raid unfold.

However, the raid was viewed as a success by many in the U.S. military, as the Special Forces troops killed over 50 guards and took the compound while suffering two very minor casualties. And the Air Force was able to fly them in and out through one of the most heavily defended air spaces on earth at that time.