As time marches forward, SOFREP continues to reflect on Spec Ops history, including insights into once-secret operations. One such secret operation was conducted for eight years during the Vietnam War, hidden from the press, the public, and the politicians. The 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.

Today, we focus on two missions evolving around Green Beret SFC Ricardo Gonzalez Davis, who was killed in action on a secret SOG mission in Laos in March 1969. This is the story of Davis and his men—Recon Team Copperhead—who first appeared in the book “On The Ground: The Secret War In Vietnam,” co-authored by SOG Green Berets John Stryker Meyer and John E. Peters. Davis and RT Copperhead were based at CCN (Command and Control North) SOG base in Da Nang, S. Vietnam.

Ricardo’s revenge

Because he looked so young, most people thought Ricardo Gonzalez Davis was a PFC. Wearing fatigues with no visible rank or insignia didn’t help matters. When people saw Davis with his buddy, Jim Lamotte, they often assumed Lamotte was the one-zero (code name for team leader) of RT Copperhead because he was so serious and intense. But it was Davis who was the team leader, and not only a very well-respected recon man, but one who had served a tour of duty with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam before volunteering to join SF and SOG.


During the previous months, RT Copperhead had run four consecutive missions in which nothing much had happened. Bill Werther had filled in as one-zero when Davis was on an in-country R&R and went to one-zero school. Davis teased Lamotte unmercifully about their “dry holes.” But while the lack of action was jokingly and equally shared amongst the three, the serial uneventfulness was starting to get to them.

One afternoon, a REMF (rear-echelon mother f@#$%^&) came into the recon bar while Lamotte, Werther, and Davis were discussing their string of dry holes. The REMF walked up to Davis and started berating him. “You’re the one who ain’t been nowhere, and ain’t done nothing.” It was loud enough that everyone in the bar could hear. Momentarily stunned by the REMF’s accusation, Davis stood silent.

Not Lamotte. A Detroit-born street fighter and an expert in the Okinawa martial arts style called Isshinryu, Lamotte stepped in front of Davis, and told the REMF, “You’ve got it all wrong. It’s me who ain’t been nowhere and ain’t done nothing. You owe him an apology.”

When it was clear an apology wouldn’t be forthcoming, Lamotte pushed the big mouth outside and once again quietly requested he apologize.