To the founders of SOFREP, thank you.
After viewing Act of Valor, I took my wife to SOFREP’s link to the Navy SEAL Foundation that honors the KIA SEALS since 9/11, literally putting a face on the sailors who paid the ultimate price for our Country.
In recent weeks, I’ve reviewed each icon and link SOFREP provides, including charities that support each branch of service represented through this website and the SOF community.
In viewing it, I wanted to offer some historic insights for SOFREP as a former Green Beret who served two tours of duty in Nam with MACV-SOG – the Military Assistance Command Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group, which ran top-secret missions into Laos, North Vietnam and Cambodia from 1964 – 1972.
SOG remained classified top secret long after the war. A Presidential Unit Citation to SOG was awarded in April 2001 at Ft. Bragg, N.C. SOG casualties exceeded 100 percent, as several operators were wounded multiple times during SOG’s eight-year period of operating in Southeast Asia.
During the Vietnam War, 20,000 Green Berets served in country. Of those, approximately 2,000 were assigned to SOG projects, of which 400 to 500 men ran reconnaissance missions across the fence into enemy held sanctuaries. The Green Beret-lead recon teams consisted of one to three Green Berets and three to nine indigenous troops. Navy SEALs and gunboats ran missions under the aegis of MACV-SOG, including missions along coastal areas of N. Vietnam. Air Force, Army, Marine and Navy air assets supported SOG missions.
Some of the tactics used today were developed by SOG personnel, including helicopter insertions, rappelling into targets, ladder extractions from small LZs, and rope extractions from the jungle. During its 35-year history, Soldier of Fortune magazine has printed stories about SOG and present operations in Afghanistan. SOG missions varied from point and area reconnaissance to POW snatches, wire taps, destroy enemy fuel lines and local American POW sites.
In the weeks ahead I’d be honored to present some SOG history and respond to questions that SOFREP editors and readers might have about that period of time in our SOF history.
The History Channel aired a presentation entitled Jungle Ambush, stemming from an Oct. 5, 1968 SOG recon team and air assets battling an NVA division for an entire day. One Green Beret and two Vietnamese team members were killed in that action. Three decades later, the North Vietnamese Army commander of the NVA unit that attacked the SOG team, code named Spike Team Alabama, later told one of the Green Berets from that encounter that there were 10,000 NVA soldiers fighting against that team and the air assets defending the team.
Here are a few exerts from Chap. 6 “You Shot Me Three Times” in Across The Fence: The Secret War In Vietnam – Expanded Edition, which was the basis for Jungle Ambush.
“The quiet of the early morning jungle was shattered when the NVA troops opened fire with their AK-47s and SKS rifles. The AK rounds ripped into the point man’s chest and face. The fatal impact of those rounds lifted the canteen covers around his waist, appearing to keep his body suspended in air. What had been a human body milliseconds earlier was being chewed into an amorphous form that hit the ground with a sickening thud. Arterial blood spurted high into the air.
Three rounds slammed into the One-Zero’s head, blowing off the right side of his face, killing him instantly. Nothing in the months of pulling garbage detail could prepare ST Alabama for the grisly horror unfolding at that moment…”
“Black and the remaining ST Alabama team members returned fire. The Green Beret stood there, firing on single shot, picking off NVA soldiers on top of the rise. He reloaded his CAR-15 and went down the line, shooting them one after another. Sometimes they spun and he shot them a second or third time. As the NVA continued to fire on the team, Black and Cowboy formed the team into a circle and directed a barrage of M-79 grenade rounds and CAR-15 fire into the surrounding jungle. Then startling, eerie silence….”
“The fearless NVA mounted a charge toward ST Alabama with AK-47s on full automatic. Black detonated the claymore mine. It blew a huge hole in the NVA ranks. Before the smoke cleared, ST Alabama ran through the human carnage, firing CAR-15s on full automatic and throwing M-26 frag grenades while dragging their three, wounded team members. Miraculously, ST Alabama made it through the NVA wave of attackers and moved back toward the LZ, leaving their dead behind…”
“Waves of NVA troops carrying SKSs with fixed bayonets advanced on ST Alabama. When they were 15 feet away ST Alabama opened fire. The semi-automatic SKSs were no match for the fully automatic firepower of the spike team. After the first burst of full automatic fire, the team went to single shot. It was another turkey shoot. Without a word, a look or a plan, acting solely on instinct, all of them, except the One-One, scurried forward and dragged back dead NVA, placing the bodies in a circle around them and stacking them high. The deadly skirmishing continued for several hours before Covey told Black that more gunships and five Jolly Green Giants,…”
“At the last moment, with the NVA a few body lengths away from the perimeter, two Huey gunships from the Americal Division, 176th Aviation Company, the Minute Men Muskets of 36-C, arrived. The UH-1B pilots were code-named “The Judge” and “The Executioner.” They roared into the battle, first with a minigun blast, followed seconds later with several 2.75mm rockets placed in the NVA ranks. Alabama was saved, if only for a little while. The NVA backed off for a few moments, briefly licking their collective wounds, although they were far from whipped. New assault lines of NVA troops formed. Before the NVA opened fire on ST Alabama, however, the Executioner confronted the NVA head on. With both door gunners blazing away with their hand-held M-60 machine guns, he hovered inches off of the ground, between the team and the front of the NVA, and skipped several 2.75mm rockets off the ground into the NVA. Before the bleeding, startled NVA could respond, the pilot lifted the old UH 1B model gunship over the tree line and ducked down into the canyon, regaining enough air speed to return for another pass at the ST Alabama perimeter.
Before ST Alabama could celebrate, the NVA charged again. Three more dead NVA were added to the cadaver wall…”
As many SOF troops know, not all of the time spent on the ground is involved in firefights or open combat with enemy forces. Here’s a brief exert from Chap. 10 of Across The Fence. It was pitch black night and the NVA were searching for our recon team with lights and dogs.
“One of the NVA in the creek started crawling up the embankment toward me. I was still facing the creek. The NVA soldier was good; he only moved when the wind stirred the trees…my heart sounded like a kettledrum during Beethoven’s Ninth. No matter, the NVA soldier kept moving up the embankment. I was very impressed with his stealth. I could barely hear him. Then it happened. During one windy moment, I heard movement very close to me. It was only a slight sound, but a sound nonetheless. Before the wind stopped, the NVA soldier touched the sole of my size 10 R Army-issue jungle boot. I heard a slight gasp of surprise from him. At that moment, I had a death grip on my CAR-15. I had it on single shot. A CAR-15 on full automatic sounds much different from the bark of an AK-47 on full automatic. If I had to shoot, it would be single shots. For a millisecond I wondered if my left foot was far enough to the left so that when I fired, I wouldn’t shoot myself. Time stood still. My pucker factor was minus zero.
After a few of the longest seconds in my life, the wind stirred, but there was no movement. He remained still…”
John Stryker Meyer
One-Zero ST/RT Idaho
68 – 70