The 39th annual Special Operations Association Reunion was held earlier this week in Las Vegas. Among those in attendance were (as shown in the photo above), from left: World War II OSS officer Col. (R) Sully H. De Fontaine; Ann Mills-Griffiths, chairman of the Board of Directors for the National League of POW/MIA Families; and World War II OSS officer MG (R) John K. Singlaub. The OSS officers are two of the last six surviving OSS men.
De Fontaine joined the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in 1943, parachuted behind enemy lines into France to participate in the liberation of France from Nazi occupation forces. He went on to serve as a Green Beret who specialized in Soviet intelligence, escape and evasion tactics, and counter-guerilla warfare. He ran special operations in the Congo and Algeria, and fought under the aegis of the Military Assistance Command Vietnam–Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) during the eight-year secret war in Vietnam.
Singlaub served more than 40 years in the Army. Joining the OSS, he worked with “Wild Bill” Donovan, the first OSS director. He served in unconventional warfare, espionage, covert missions, and saw frontline action in World War II, the Chinese Revolution, the Korean War. He served two years as chief of SOG, the director of all SOG operations in Vietnam, and later in Central America. After fighting German forces in occupied France during WWII, he transferred to Indochina, where OSS officers fought Japanese occupation forces. During the Korean War, he served in special operations behind enemy lines. He generated national attention after an encounter with President Jimmy Carter where he publicly opposed the withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea. Later, he supported the Contras in Nicaragua who were fighting communists in the jungles of Central America.
This distinguished trio of patriots were photographed shortly after Mills-Griffiths spoke to the SOA membership about the history of U.S. efforts to find, identify, and return the remains of the 1,626 remaining U.S. service members still listed as “Missing In Action” in Southeast Asia, including Green Berets and support aviation units who fought and died in Laos, Cambodia, and N. Vietnam during the eight-year secret war. Mills-Griffiths also told SOA members that she applauds the recent effort that brought together three federal agencies under one newly-formed federal agency, the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency (DPAA), headed by recently retired LTG Michael Linnington.
SOA President Rick Estes told the SOA membership of the organization’s commitment through its POW/MIA Committee to work with DPAA officials in support of its mission while announcing new initiatives for an increased presence at future DPAA information updates and, where possible, to provide information on locations of remains in Southeast Asia to DPAA officials. In unique cases, SOA members have traveled with DPAA field teams in an effort to locate and return the remains of service members to the U.S.
The Special Operations Association was formed 39 years ago by Green Berets who fought in the SOG secret war during the Vietnam War. Today’s SOA includes among its members SOF forces from Navy SEALs, Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance and MARSOC Raider Regiment, Air Force pararescuemen, and the many Army, Marine, and Air Force aviation units who flew in support of SOG missions.