Forty-seven years ago, on September 14, 1970, 16 Green Berets and 120 fearless indigenous troops completed what amounts to a suicide mission deep into Laos in one of the most successful covert operations conducted during the eight-year secret war under the aegis of the Military Assistance Command Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group, or simply SOG.

What makes that clandestine operation apropro today is the fact that the sole Green Beret medic on that mission, then-Sgt. Gary Mike Rose is slated to receive the Medal of Honor from President Donald Trump at the White House later this year. There’s been no formal announcement of the date of the award presentation.

In 2015, SOFREP was the first to print a major series on Operation Tailwind and the valor of the men on the ground deep in Laos and the aviators who provided critical close air support to them during the four day mission including Marine Corps CH-53D heavy-lift helicopters, Marine Corps Cobra gunships from Scarface, from HML-367, Air Force A1-H Skyraiders, Army gunships, Air Force F-4 Phantom jets, Air Force C-130 Spectre gunships and Forward Air Controllers. The mission was simple: Take the pressure off of a CIA Operation in the Bolovens Plateau where the agency’s 5,000 troops were battling thousands of communist N. Vietnamese Army troops moving south to invade Cambodia, after Prince Sihanouk’s regime was overthrown by Lon Nol and Sisowath Sirik Matak. The NVA leaders wanted control of the Bolovens Plateau to improve bringing supplies and manpower into Cambodia to attack South Vietnamese and U.S. targets in S. Vietnam.

Normally, Laotian SOG operations were limited to 20 kilometers west of Vietnam’s borders. Operation Tailwind was booked to go approximately 25 kilometers further west beyond that limitation. To go that deep into Laos required formal approval from the Laotian ambassador and from the U.S. commander of all forces in Vietnam, General Creighton Abrams. In short order, after the CIA’s request for emergency help was issued, the approvals were received from the White and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, giving the mission a green light.

Not only did the SOG warriors take the pressure off of the CIA’s operation, the Green Berets netted one of the major intelligence coups of the secret war when they overran two NVA command posts and weapons caches and seized many enemy documents that showed how the NVA’s command structure worked in Laos, operation orders, maps and other significant reports listing enemy agents and high ranking officers.

Note: This is part of a series. Read parts one, two, three, and four here.

For three and a half days, the Green Berets and their Montagnard counterparts of the MACV-SOG (SOG) B Company hatchet force had successfully accomplished their mission: Take pressure off of the CIA’s Operation Gauntlet in southern Laos on the Bolovens Plateau west of their operation while grabbing hundreds of NVA (North Vietnamese Army) reports, maps, code books, currency and other critical pieces of intelligence from an enemy base camp. However, halfway through day four of this top-secret foray, Operation Tailwind switched gears from a tactical mission into one of survival.

By midday on September 14, 1970, B Company had received weather reports of a major storm front moving in. Also, observations by forward air controllers (code-named Covey) and Marine Corps Cobra pilots from HML-367—call sign Scarface—reported hordes of NVA and communist Pathet Lao troops moving east to confront and eliminate the men of B Company. Those factors changed the operational orders from disrupting the enemy to survival and getting all of the valuable seized NVA intelligence reports back to base and SOG headquarters in Saigon for review by intelligence specialists.