Few know of the secret operation conducted for eight years during the Vietnam War, hidden from the press, the public, and the politicians. This secret war was conducted under the aegis of the Military Assistance Command Vietnam—Studies and Observations Group, MACV-SOG, or simply SOG. The Green Berets, their indigenous troops, the Navy SEALS, and aviators from the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps who died fighting in it were sworn to secrecy about SOG and its operations.

On August 23, 1968, an NVA/VC sapper attack was launched on a SOG compound in Da Nang, FOB (forward operating base) 4. Seventeen Green Berets were killed during that attack—the single largest toll of Green Berets killed in Special Forces history.

The communist forces planned the attack for more than a year. When they attacked FOB 4, they did so shortly after midnight, at a time when the compound’s base population swelled with more than 100 Green Berets appearing before a promotion board. Additionally, the monthly SOG staff meeting of all six FOB commanders and S-2/S-3 personnel was held the day before. Last, but not least, the SOG Command and Control staff stationed near the Da Nang Air Base had been moved into FOB 4, and operated out of the headquarters office.

By August 1968, SOG’s secret war had been going on for four years. Unknown to SOG brass was just how deeply the communist forces in Vietnam had infiltrated SOG and its bases, including FOB 4, which was located south of Da Nang, nestled between Highway 1 on the west, the South China Sea on the east, and Marble Mountain (which was a series of five mountains of various sizes) to the south. A POW prison, a Special Forces C-Team camp, and other military branches were located to the north.

This is a photo of CCN taken from the western perimeter facing east toward the South China Sea sometime after 1970. In 1968, this compound was FOB 4. On the left is the Headquarters section and on the right is the TOC as seen after 1970.
FOB 4 after 1970.

Also unknown to SOG brass at the time, three separate ‘flash’ or ‘ZULU’ warning messages, sent by the CIA, were received by TTY (secure Teletype) at the FOB 4 communications center in the days preceding the attack.

All three printed teletype messages contained only two words, according to two of the three Green Beret commo men who received and read those messages—Bill Barclay of Florida and Gene Pugh of Texas:


All three messages, according to Barclay, Pugh, and other Green Beret survivors of that night in hell, were completely ignored by two key officers.