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

Saturday, November 21st, 2020

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.

Happy Birthday Marines!

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020

The story goes that by 1918, the US Marines were fully employed putting foot to Central Power ass, but when the Germans saw how hard the Devil Dogs partied on their birthday, they promptly surrendered the next morning. That’s right, the service that was founded in a Tavern is why we celebrate Armistice Day on 11 November.

Thanks for keeping the world safe Marines!

SCUBAPRO Sunday – Veterans Suicide / Remembrance Day  

Sunday, November 8th, 2020

“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”
— President George Washington

So, I had a post all set and ready to go. I was about to share it with Eric so he could post. I wrote about Remembrance Day; (I have it at the end of this). I like to write about history as it pertains to the military, mainly the Navy. But something is going on that should not be ignored. It is only really talked about but when it happens to someone you know. But I think because of the stigma attached to it, no one will continue to talk about it. Many veterans out there are suffering from a lot of different things, physical and mental. Depending on what report you read, up to 22 veterans commit suicide every day. Some reports say higher and some lower, but they are not that far apart.  Regardless of the daily number, Veterans have the highest suicide rate among any other group.  It is not just the vets from the War on Terror, either. This number represents all the wars and conflicts from which we still have survivors. And it’s not only a U.S. problem, as many of our allies are dealing with the same issues. If you know someone or you might be having problems, PLEASE talk to someone, anyone.  The Veterans Crisis Line is 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.

I have lost some very close friends to suicide, and I never want it to happen to anyone ever again. Please look out for the signs and symptoms; sometimes they are easy to see, while other times you have no clue and it will happen to someone close to you. But if you are thinking of hurting yourself, please talk to someone. If you believe the world is better with you not in it, it is not. The people you leave behind will always have to deal with what happened and still have to think they could have done more. I know I do, but I also know I did all I could have done to help. But there will always be that .01% that thinks I could have done more to help my brother. People, especially military people, are good at hiding things and it’s not always easy to see. Please keep an eye on your brother and sister. I look at the military as a family.

Remembrance Day, also known as Armistice Day or Poppy Day, was started by the U.S. and the U.K. to remember the fallen and honor the end of World War One, which occurred at 11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Traditions used to observe Remembrance Day include wearing poppies, and a two-minute silence at 11 am on the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  It wasn’t long after WWI ended that the day the armistice was signed was adopted as a suitable time and date for countries involved in the war to mark their soldiers’ sacrifice, with official remembrance services taking place in the U.K. and USA in 1919. After World War II, both countries started to use that day to pay respect to the fallen from all wars. Despite the shared history, Remembrance Day has evolved in different ways.  Depending on where you are in the world, it can be known as Armistice Day, Veterans’ Day, Remembrance Day, Poppy Day and may not even be celebrated on November 11th. In 1938 it was made a legal holiday in the U.S., and, in 1945, it was changed to honor all military veterans. Please take a moment on November 11th to remember those who serve and have served in the name of our country and who continue to bravely give their time for the freedoms we hold so dear.

SCUBAPRO Sunday – Kokoda Track Campaign WW2

Sunday, November 1st, 2020

The 3rd of November is Kokoda day or Kokoda Track day in Australia. The Kokoda Track Campaign was mainly fought between the Australians, and the Japanese, with the Americans helping at first with supplies and then with troops. The Australian troops had to save Port Moresby from being captured by the Japanese because Papua New Guinea would have been a great staging point for Australia’s invasion.

The Australian forces fought exceptionally well in the harsh and unforgiving jungle of the Kokoda Track. More than 600 Allies were killed, and about 75% of the allied troops got sick, with diseases like malaria, dengue fever, and dysentery. The campaign consisted of a series of battles fought between July and November 1942 in what was then Australian Papua New Guinea. The Australian Army halted the furthermost southward advance by Japanese forces in Papua New Guinea and then pushed the enemy back across the mountains. Kokoda was one the most significant battles fought by Australians in the Second World War, first because it was fought so close to home, second because it was kind of Australia’s birth as a prominent player on the world stage. The Kokoda campaign saved Australia from possible invasion from the Japanese. Port Moresby held a tactical position, and preventing the Japanese from reaching it was vital. The battle was fought over five months, and the odds were stacked heavily in favor of the Japanese. They outnumbered the Aussies 5-1, had much better equipment, and a lot more of it, and at the time, they were considered by many the best jungle fighters in the world. The astounding feats performed by the diggers soldiers to hold off the Japanese and turn them back lead to the growth of Australia as a nation.

The Kokoda Track started as many small trails used as mail routes and to supply settlements around Kokoda. The military modified it. It became the main route that linked Ower’s Corner, 40 kilometers north-east of Port Moresby, and the small village of Wairopi, on the northern side of the Owen Stanley mountain range. But it was a lot more than 40 kilometers within walking distance because you had to take the jungle into account. The soldiers were challenged by steep, treacherous inclines, deep valleys, dense jungle, a debilitating climate, and drenching rain that frequently turned the ground into that jungle mud that sticks to everything just by looking at it.  

The Australians fought against all odds and without the help of Great Britain. It was fought mainly by Militia (reserve) troops or “chocolate soldiers” as the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) called them because they were poorly trained, and it was said, “they would melt in the heat of battle.” At the start of the war, Australia sent its best troops, the AIF, to the middle east to help the brits. So, Australia stood up a Militia Battalions to serve in Australia, to help protect the homeland.

The 39th was only to be used on mainland Australia, but the government used a loophole saying that Papua New Guinea was a territory. Hence, they sent the 39th Militia there to help protect the island. This was one of the hardest fought battles in WW2 by anyone. I have attached a couple of links so you can read about this. As many military units are getting back into the jungle, this is full of instrumental lessons learned and is an excellent piece of history that should not be forgotten by any side. So, this week stop for a minute or raise a beer to the diggers and all the people that have made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom everywhere and have gone before us.

Long Live the Brotherhood.

MP Batons from American Tomahawk

Monday, October 26th, 2020

New American Tomahawk MP Batons, from American Tomahawk, made to the original World War Two-era War Department drawings and specifications.


Overall Length: 22 in
Diameter: 1 3/8 in
Handle Length: 5.5 in
Weight: 12 ounces
Material: Hard Maple

Coming this week from

Operation Urgent Fury

Sunday, October 25th, 2020

On the morning of October 25th, 1983, America awoke to reports that US forced had invaded the small Caribbean nation of Grenada, in order to liberate American medical students from danger posed by political instability. Joined by Regional Security System troops from a variety of Caribbean partner nations, they swiftly overwhelmed the Grenadian and Cuban troops. While Operation Urgent Fury was in name, a joint force operation, and included the use of Special Operations Forces, it highlighted many interoperability challenges, such as use of joint operational overlays and communications issues.


Several stove pipe problems suffered by the pre-Goldwater-Nichols military were identified during this operation. Additionally, Urgent Fury was conducted with many systems dating from the Vietnam war.

Just six years later, during the invasion of Panama, saw the first employment of several new weapons developed during the Reagan buildup such as the F-117 stealth fighter and the Marine Corps LAV-25. Grenada was a great learning experience for the US military as it highlighted issues with joint service operations, particularly in the communications arena as well as interoperability between Special Operations and General Purpose forces. For example, SOF also took a much more prominent role in operation Blue Spoon during the Panama invasion. We’ve come even further in the past three decades.

Finally, as with any conflict, lives were lost. Let us not forget the 19 Americans killed in action and the 116 who were wounded. Unfortunately, there were also 24 Grenadian civilians killed in the conflict.

USASOC To Establish Special Warfare Heritage Center

Sunday, October 18th, 2020

United States Army Special Operations School has announced the establishment of a Special Warfare heritage center in Colonel Aaron Bank Hall, Fort Bragg, N.C. According to the announcement, the heritage center will be a world class facility designed to educate future generations of Special Forces, Civil Affairs, and Psychological Operations Soldiers on their rich history and legacy.

The heritage center will house the artifact collection formerly housed at the U.S. Army JFK Special Warfare Center and School Museum. The U.S. Army JFK Special Warfare Center and School will be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the heritage center.

The long-term goal of the heritage center will be to make the collection more easily accessible to the entire ARSOF community. We look forward to sharing our illustrious history with veterans and the public in the future.

SCUBAPRO Sunday – Operation Flipper

Sunday, October 18th, 2020

Operation Flipper was a raid by the Combined Operations to kill Field Marshall Erwin Rommel at his headquarters in Sidi Rafa, Libya, that would take place between10-19 November 1941. The attack would use man from Combined Operations, Special Boat Services (SBS), No. 11 Commando, Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), and also the man from the Special Operations Executive (SOE) G(R). This raid was to be a smaller part of a more significant campaign to relieve Tobruk and push the Axis from North Africa.  

The operation had four main objectives, first and foremost was to kill Rommel at his headquarters, destroy the nearby Italian headquarters and its communications network, sabotage the Italian Intelligence Office in Appolonia and its communications network between Faidia and Lamdula, and lastly, conduct general sabotage actions elsewhere in the Axis forces rear area. 

Leading the mission was Colonel Robert Laycock. His second in command was Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Keyes. On November 10, 1941, Laycock’s six officers and 53 men boarded the submarines Torbay and Talisman and left Alexandria harbor for Beda Littoria, Cyrenaica. Waiting for them on the beach was Captain Jock Haselden and an Arab soldier from the SOE’s G(R). They would guide the folbots (early versions of Klepper type canoes) to the beach and help them ashore. Once ashore, they would meet up with the rest of Haselden man, including two more Brits, a free Belgian, and another Arab soldier who stayed further inland; all had been dropped off by the LRDG earlier that day. Haselden’s team had local knowledge of the area; one of the Arabs would lead the assault team to the target while the rest of Haselden’s team would sabotaging the communications. Keyes got himself and all his men ashore. But as Layton and his men prepared to disembark, a storm struck. Heavy seas drove Talisman aground, and only Layton and seven men reached the beach.

With his force cut in half, Keyes modified the plan. It would be a two-part assault; Keyes would attack Rommel’s HQ, and Lt. Roy Cooke would lead the Italian headquarters’ attack. Layton and a small force would defend the force’s escape route. On the evening of November 15, Keyes, Cooke, and their men headed inland. Despite the weather, the groups managed to reach their respective launch positions on the evening of November 17. At midnight, they attacked. Keyes, leading a three-person assault team, burst into the villa identified as Rommel’s headquarters. They surprised a German officer who was killed as he struggled with Keyes. The attackers then rushed down the hall, and Keyes opened a room where ten Germans were arming themselves. One of the Germans shot Keyes, killing him. What the team didn’t know was that Rommel had left the compound a week earlier for Rome. After Keyes’s death, things started to get worse.  

Campbell was shot in the leg by one of his men. He passed command to Sergeant Jack Terry and remained behind. Terry gathered the raiding team and retreated with 17 men to rejoin Laycock at the beach. Cooke’s men encountered a platoon or so of Italian police paratroopers. The Italians had been searching for the British raiders close to the village Mansura north of Cyrene. With the Italian and Germans looking for the raiding party, Laycock knew it would be impossible to re-embark on the submarines as they waited for the weather to improve. They were discovered and exchanged fire with local Italian and German troops. Low on ammo and aware that they could not stand off a larger force, Laycock ordered the men to scatter. Laycock and Terry made it to safety after 37 days in the desert. Bombardier John Brittlebank, one of the SBS teams who had guided the commandos in the folbots, escaped and survived alone in the desert for forty days until Allied troops picked him up. The rest of the raiding force was captured, some of them were wounded.  

The raid was considered a failure by the British high command, but to the Germans, especially to Rommel, it showed what the Combined Operations could do. It would also help Winston Churchill decide to put the Commando’s and other groups under the SOE after the British military decide they didn’t need them anymore. Rommel was quoted as saying, “It was a brilliant operation and with great audacity.” Rommel ordered that Keyes and all the rest of the Commandos be buried with full military honors, sending his personal chaplain, priest Rudolf Dalmrath, to officiate. He had cypress crosses and wreaths made for the British and German dead. Rommel also instructed that photographs be taken of the ceremony and Keyes’ grave and sent them to his parents, a chivalrous act that increased British respect for him. British Special Operations would continue to wreak havoc thru out the Africa Theater of Operation, significantly contributing to the Allies victory.