President Donald J. Trump will award Vietnam-era Green Beret medic Gary Mike Rose the Medal of Honor on Oct. 23 at the White House for valor stemming from a historic, top-secret mission in Laos during the secret war dubbed Operation Tailwind, the White House announced today.
47 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 apropos today is the fact that the sole Green Beret medic on that mission, then-Sgt. Gary Mike Rose will receive the Medal of Honor after maintaining a code of silence about that mission for more than 20 years.
Retired Green Beret Lt. Col. Gene McCarley was the commanding officer of Operation Tailwind during the four-day mission and said, “The only thing I can say it’s been 47 years in coming and never has an award been more deserved than this one. Mike Rose kept our wounded alive, including three critically wounded indigenous soldiers, while ignoring his own personal wounds to his foot, arm, hand and back….in fact, today he still can’t move his hand completely open due to wounds from that mission.”
Green Beret medic Lonny Holmes served with Rose in a Special Forces assignment in Thailand after they completed their tours of duty in S. Vietnam and later was Rose’s best man at his wedding. “Besides being an absolutely fearless, talented Green Beret medic, Mike is exceedingly humble. After his wedding we were at his mother’s house (in California) I saw an Army folder on a nearby table. I asked him what it was. He told me it was ‘something from the Army.’ I opened it up and it was his citation for the Distinguished Service Cross, our nation’s second highest medal for valor, which he received for his service in Operation Tailwind. That blew my mind. To him, it was no big deal. He simply did what any Green Beret medic would do under enemy fire.”
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 HML-367 (callsign: Scarface), 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 control the flow of 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 House 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.
Rose enlisted in the Army after attending San Fernando State College. He attended Officer Candidate School in 1973 and earned a bachelor’s degree in general education and military science from Cameron University in 1977. He retired from the Army in 1987.
After retiring, Captain Rose earned a master’s degree in communication from the University of Oklahoma and later worked as a technical consultant in the defense and automobile industries, developing user and maintenance manuals and training programs and materials.
Captain Rose lives in Huntsville, Alabama, with his wife Margaret, and is involved in a number of charitable organizations, including fund-raising campaigns to help members of his church congregation. He is a lifetime member of the Special Operations Association, the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, the Knights of Columbus, the Military Officers Association of America, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the Special Forces Association, and the Vietnam Veterans Association. He and Margaret have two daughters, Sarah and Claire, and one son, Michael.