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Son Tay Raiders Commemorate 50th Anniversary of Operation, Release New Book, Film Documentary

Today is the 50th anniversary of Operation Ivory Coast, the famous joint service raid deep into North Vietnam to rescue American POWs held by the communists in a camp near Son Tay.

Principally, the assaulters were members of Army Special Forces recruited for a secret mission from units in Fort Bragg and the Aircrews who were responsible for getting them there were Air Force.

The Raiders flew to the target from an Intermediate Staging Base in Thailand on HH-3s and were refueled by HC-130s. An MC-130 served as pathfinder, leading the mission. There was also armed overwatch via AC-130 gunship and A-1E Skyraider. A myriad of other aircraft provided support from afar for the assault element, including command and control, intelligence overwatch and suppression of enemy air defense.

The Navy also played a vital, although unwitting role by flying MIG Combat Air Patrols and conducting deception operations to keep the North’s air defense system busy. Thanks to their efforts, the North Vietnamese didn’t get one aircraft off the ground that night. Ironically, none of the Navy crews knew what they were doing until was all over.

But to get the ball rolling, the task force was assembled at Eglin Air Force in Florida where it trained for the mission in isolation and secrecy. So careful were planners that rehearsals were conducted only when Soviet satellites weren’t overhead so as not to alert the communist bloc of an impending operation. They even went so far as to disassemble the target camp in between rehearsals. Planners also had access to ‘Barbara’, the code name for a scale model of the compound.

Elements and aircraft were assigned code names. All of this secrecy led to the infamous commemorative patch created by the Air Force crews featuring a mushroom with the letters KITD FOHS for Kept In The Dark, Fed Only Horse Shit.

The actual raid was called Operation Kingpin and was initiated when an HH-3, call sign Banana-1, purposefully killed the engine and autorotated into the POW camp, Raiders running out of the stricken aircraft once it came to rest. In all, the ground force consisted of three teams: an assault group, a support group, and a command and security group.

Although the task force succeeded in breaching the compound, it turned out to be a dry hole, the POWs having been moved days earlier. The ground force having spent 28 minutes in the ground.

Despite this tactical loss, the operations proved a strategic victory. The North Vietnamese moved American POWs together and improved their conditions which greatly raised morale.

As you can see, Operation Ivory Coast was a major operation, serving as the template for multiple deep enemy ration raids for decades.

Unfortunately, United Special Special Operations Command had to cancel their event due to COVID-19 restrictions so the Silent Warrior Foundation stepped in and out a great weekend together. It is an amazing event and Silent Warrior Foundation even worked with a Hollywood prop house to recreate the clothing and equipment each man wore on the raid.

Seen above are Neal Westbrook, Colonel USAF, Ret. Son Tay Raider (Lime 2), Terry Buckler, Sergeant, USA Son Tay Raider (Red Wine), Vladimir “Jake” Jakovenko, Sergeant Major, USA Ret. Son Tay Raider (Green Leaf) John Gargus, Colonel, USAF, Ret. Son Tay Raider (Cherry 2) Tyrone Adderly, Sergeant Major, USA Ret. Son Tay Raider (Red Wine)

There’s not enough room on SSD to tell the whole tale and numerous books have been written about the operation like “The Son Tay Raid” by air planner and pilot Col. John Gargus.

However, a new book has just been released, “Who Will Go” by Terry Buckler. It is the first time the tale has been told by a Raider with actual boots on the ground. He was assisted in his effort by CI-author Cliff Westbrook. Author Terry Buckler was there as the RTO for the Redwine element. Even better, he was the “baby” of the group and had not served in combat in SE Asia prior to the assault.

For those of you interested, you can get a copy of “Who Will Go” signed by the Raiders on hand for the event by visiting

During the event, a documentary is also being produced. “Operation Kingpin” can use your support to finish their work.

29 Responses to “Son Tay Raiders Commemorate 50th Anniversary of Operation, Release New Book, Film Documentary”

  1. Ed says:

    Thank you for going before us, doing a job, fighting for your Brothers on your flanks and the ones that didn’t make it home. We appreciate your sacrifice and what we have learned from all of you! We stand up and salute you, our brave Vietnam Brothers!

  2. Bill says:

    Galen Kittelsen told his story regarding Ivory Coast, as well as his part in POW raids in New Guinea and Cabanatuan. The book is Raider by Charles Sasser.

    • Pappy Kittleson features prominently in Who Will Go. Terry thinks the world of Pappy.
      I have the Raider book. What a hero. Did you hear Pappy tell the story in person?

  3. WagenCAV says:

    Need more comments on this. Too many of us comment on the dumb shit that sets us off. We need more people to chime in and give their thanks on moments like these. Thanks guys.

  4. OMLTSOF says:

    Great to see this being celebrated. Thanks for this article.

  5. Miclo18d says:

    Had the distinct pleasure to eat dinner with SGM Tyrone Adderly at one of the SFA dinners. Never forget!

    • Charity says:

      Hi! SGM Tyrone Adderly says hey great to hear your voice and thanks for your kind words.

      • Miclo18d says:

        Complete honor and respect! It was 2005 at Carlisle Barracks, PA. My team was the MOD Demo and honor guard for the SFA convention that year. It was such an honor for him to change his seating arrangement and eat dinner with the nugs. Like a good SGM would! I hope he is doing well! God Bless you SGM Adderly!

  6. Stickman says:

    That is what real men look like, not a pack of 20 year olds in skinny jeans lighting fires because their rich parents never spanked them.

  7. SGT Rock says:

    It’s b/c of men like these and their exploits that made me want to join the US Army since my childhood years. Thank you for lighting the way for younger generations of Soldiers.

  8. JK says:

    Thank you my brothers in arms, best job I ever had.

  9. Marcus says:

    The American ethos is continually refreshed because of men like this. Your sacrifice never ages or falls out of vogue. It’s the glue that holds us all together. It’s the essence of the American spirit, and spans for generations as quintessential examples of bravery, commitment and a never quit attitude all can see. Some say America’s best days may be behind her. I say as long as men like this continue to exist our best days will continually be in front of us. Thank you for leading the way.

  10. Papa6 says:

    That picture with the five original raiders . . . some BAMF right there!

  11. Jon, OPT says:

    I had the honor of working with SGM Adderly during a UW exercise about eight years ago. He is a great mentor, and very humble about his accomplishments. It’s good to see him on here.

    For those who don’t know: he’s a Ranger Hall of Fame inductee, DSC Awardee (Operation Ivory Coast) and a distinguished member of the Special Forces Regiment.

    • From the Son Tay Raiders, you are welcome. I was at the bar listening to his stories until midnight this past Saturday with other Raiders at our event in Scottsdale! -Cliff Westbrook

  12. Red Blackerby says:

    Capt.Meadows(?) will never be forgotten!! Great man and great soldier!!

    • Attack7 says:

      Served with his son, Mark at JRTC Ops Group TF2. Then, LTC Meadows gave our Task Force an LPD of the entire planning, selection, training and execution of the operation with the actual terrain model which his family has in their possession.

      We then kicked off a Memorial Son Tay Raid O/C Competition that lasted all day. Each team of 4-6 O/Cs were named after each of the Call Signs used in the raid, I was on Green Leaf 2.

      Thank you for your dedication, commitment to excellence and the ‘intestinal fortitude required’ for such a daring operation! Gathering up at York Theater on Bragg not knowing what you were volunteering for, wow, to say the least.

  13. Chris says:

    You are all Heroes of the Highest Order! Without you, without men like you, whom have carried out such amazing feats for this Republic; I would not have the luxury to write this.
    I remember reading about this raid in books when I was growing up, and was one of the principle reasons I joined the Grunts.
    Thank You So Much for Everything!