Aaron Bank

Aaron Bank: The Father Of Special Forces

For those who are not aware of important units within the United States military, Aaron Bank is a soldier who had the talent and the respect from the higher ranks of the military to create a force that is like no other. Born on November 23, 1902, in New York City, New York. Aaron Bank was noted to have been born into a family of Russian immigrants. Bank also learned many languages like German and French as well, which would come in handy much later during War World II. Before joining the US Armed Services, he traveled throughout Europe in the 1930s. He worked as a lifeguard and a physical fitness instructor before enlisting. Aaron Bank joined the U.S. Army in 1942 and ended up being selected for Officer Candidate School.

In 1943, he decided to volunteer for the Office of Strategic Services after the U.S. Army had requested those with linguist abilities to apply. Gaining important military experience during WWII, Aaron Bank was chosen to be involved in the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), which was a predecessor to the CIA. Aaron Bank had specific training as part of this agency in areas like unconventional warfare strategies, intelligence gathering, sabotage, parachute jumping. Bank had to get up to speed about what this agency was involved in. Aaron Bank became an important staffer of “Wild Bill” Donovan’s creation. The Office of Strategic Services was hatched during World War II to do unconventional warfare tactics and had many successes during World War II. The CIA did adopt some of these strategies from the Office of Strategic Services.

Special Forces created by Col. Aaron Bank who was an OSS Jedburgh. The “Jeds” and OSS Operational Groups (OG) were the predecessors to U.S. Special Forces. Gen. Donovan said the OGs performed “some of the bravest acts of the war.”

The Office of Strategic Services was an agency within the U.S. federal government that existed from 1942 to 1945. This agency was very unconventional in its tactics and strategies. This agency that Aaron Bank worked with included personnel who worked to procure information about those countries that were considered the enemy as well as sabotage their war efforts in specific ways. There were many different approaches during World War II.

This agency was known for having 12 thousand staff members on hand. The Office of Strategic Services also collected critical intelligence on specific parts of the globe that the U.S. military forces operated in. Aaron Bank was fluent in French and German and had traveled through Europe in the 1930s. Bank’s talents and knowledge were very important for the Office of Strategic Services at the time he was admitted into this agency.

“Wild Bill” Donovan’s agency used agents and spies inside a Fascist and Nazi-controlled Europe. The agency that Bank’s served early in his military career handled disinformation and counterpropaganda work. These agents also created highly technical reports for bureaucrats to adjust war plans and policy and lend support to guerrillas and other fighters that were putting up resistance to the U.S. and America’s Allied forces.

Bank’s Medal and Accolades

Aaron Bank also earned accolades and medals for his important services during WW II and the Korean War. Some of his list of medals include the Army of Occupation Medal, Distinguished Service Medal, the Soldier’s Medal, National Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Campaign Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Asiatic-Pacific, World War II Victory Medal and the Korean Service Medal. Bank also received the Medal in Commemoration of Victory in the Resistance Against Aggression.

Bank had also been picked to be part of Operation Iron Cross, which was a bold mission that involved Bank having a group of German prisoners of war in his control. Bank and members of this special team were instructed to parachute into Austria. The Alps of Austria were the target for U.S. Allied planners to be a final place for Hitler and other Nazi leaders to be located in the early part of 1945.

Lasting Legacy

Colonel Bank may have been in harrowing military operations in WWII, but he passed away without any fear of death by the hand of America’s enemy on April 1, 2004, in Dana Point, California. Colonel Bank lived to the age of 101. And much like the long span of Aaron Bank’s life, it is appropriate that the Colonel will be forever be remembered as being the contributor to the US Army.

The Rise Of Special Forces

Colonel Bank was allowed by the U.S. Army to be in charge of 2 thousand plus spaces for his men in this important military unit. This first unit that Col. Bank was directly involved in was named the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) located at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Bank was also known for writing up a memorandum providing the idea that soldiers that were part of this special unit to be permitted to don a beret for distinction. The Colonel provided a list of three potential colors for the berets: wine red, green or purple. However, the Army had turned down Colonel Bank’s idea.

Four years after Aaron Bank had retired from the military, President John F. Kennedy authorized this Army group to wear these berets that Banks had initially proposed. Col. Bank was noted as saying about Green being the official color of the Army Beret that Kennedy picked it because he was an Irishman.

Over 7 thousand soldiers make up this group in the U.S. military. The Army National Guard makes up two of these groups. And there are also five additional groups that are classified under Spec. Forces. Those soldiers who wear the green beret are a viable fighting force that is in military operations today.

Aaron Bank’s Written Works

After retiring from the US Army Forces in 1958, Aaron Bank went on to author two books. Bank’s first book, which was published in 1986 called From OSS to Green Berets, served as his memoir and a documented history of the Special Forces. Colonel Bank also co-wrote the Knight’s Cross, which was published in 1995. Knight’s Cross is a fictionalized account of his aborted mission that involved capturing Adolf Hitler and many senior German officials.

Bank was still active with those in the Green Beret/Spec. Forces community after retiring from the US Army. He would make special visits to speak about his military experiences and also write about them.

Charles A. Beckwith

Chargin’ Charlie

When it comes to notable military men, Charlie A. Beckwith (Charlie) is someone who fought with full pride and bravery in war. “Chargin’ Charlie” was born on January 22, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. Beckwith was an athlete in high school and college and had the opportunity to play for the Green Bay Packers pro-football team in 1952, but turned down the opportunity.

Beckwith was noted to have been an all-state player in football while in high school. After he graduated from high school, he was accepted into the University of Georgia (UGA). While attending college, he lettered in football and was also part of their ROTC program.

Beckwith was asked by the Green Bay Packers to sign with them during the 1950–51 NFL draft while at UGA. Instead, he decided to forego a career as a football star and join the U.S Army instead. He received his commission as a Second Lieutenant in the ranks of the Army.

Beckwith’s Military Career

Charles Beckwith began his military career volunteering for the U.S. Army and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 1952. After the Korean War, Beckwith was a Platoon Leader of Charlie Company, 17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division in South Korea. In1955, Beckwith was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. He was the commander of the combat support company that was part of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

During the early ’60s, he was sent as an exchange officer with the elite 22 Special Air Service (SAS). Where he commanded 3 Troop A Squadron. Where he fought communist forces as part of the Malayan Emergency. Beckwith learned guerilla-style operations and tactics that were used in the Malayan Emergency. During the time that he fought with the U.S. Army in Malaysia, Beckwith developed a case of leptospirosis. Doctors did not expected him to survive. However, Beckwith recovered from leptospirosis and went on to do more impressive things for the U.S. Army.

After his return from England, he presented a detailed report outlining how the U.S. Army had weaknesses without a SAS style unit. His reports and outline feel on deaf ears as Special Forces leadership brushed him aside.

Wanted: Volunteers for Project Delta

In 1958, Beckwith joined the Special Forces and by 1960, Captain Beckwith was deployed for Special Operations in the Kingdom of Laos. In 1965, Beckwith volunteered and returned to Vietnam where he commanded a Special Forces unit code named Project Delta (Operational Detachment B-52)  He used his SAS experiences to seek and selectmen for his long-range reconnaissance operations in South Vietnam.

“Wanted: Volunteers for Project Delta. Will guarantee you a medal. A body bag. Or both.”

With this call to arms, Charlie Beckwith revolutionized American armed combat.

Beckwith was critically wounded in 1966 with a shot to his abdomen from a .50-caliber round. He had been taped up after being hit and was left for dead. But, Beckwith had the strength and will to stay alive through the hell of war. Indeed, the fate of death never came to him in Vietnam or during any other military operation or military training or exercise during his legendary career. Beckwith fully recover from his wounds and went on to revamp the U.S. Army Ranger School.

Lt. Col. Beckwith also served as the commander of the Control Team “B” as part of a unique Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC). This place was situated in Nakhon Phanom, Thailand. The Commander at the time was Robert C. Kingston.

JCRC’s mission involved the support of the Armed Services to clear up the situation of members of the U.S. armed forces who were MIA in French Indochina. The JCRC had a primary role that involved carrying out field searches, doing excavations, recoveries, and other activities concerning repatriation. Beckwith was promoted to the position of Colonel and was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in 1975 and held the role of Commandant of the Special Warfare School.

Establishment of The Unit

“The Unit,” or 1st SFOD-D (1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta) was a game plan Beckwith had penciled on paper and stuck to his mind ever since he was an exchange officer with the SAS. With the ever growing threats of international terrorism, Beckwith felt it was time to resubmit his ideas of a counter-terror unit to the Pentagon. After many years of back and forths with military brass and Pentagon officials, Beckwith was finally given the go-ahead to form his elite unit the 1st SFOD-D in 1977. This unit was hyper-focused on hostage recovery operations and anti-terror activities.

The Unit’s first mission was Operation Eagle Claw. The operation was ordered by President Jimmy Carter and involved assets from the Navy and Marine Corps. The mission entailed rescuing 53 Americans who had been held hostage in the American Embassy in Iran in 1980. The mission was aborted due to weather conditions. A sandstorm brewed and caused mechanical issues for some of the helicopters.

The operation called for eight helicopters but only five arrived at the operational area. During planning the mission would be aborted if less than six helicopters remained. To many military advisors or planners, only four were necessary but the abort was called and accepted by President Jimmy Carter. As the forces prepared to leave, one of the helicopters crashed into a transport plane and caught fire. Resulting in the death of eight service members.

After the events of Operation Eagle Claw, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation was established with a promise to care for the 17 children of those eight service members. Which has grown to help educate over 1,200 children.

In the aftermath of Operation Eagle Claw, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) was formed to provide transport to The Unit and other Tier one assets, as well as the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), was directly based on recommendations to strengthen the United States Special Operations capabilities from Beckwith during the investigations into Operation Eagle Claw.

The Legacy of Colonel Beckwith

US Army Col. Charles Beckwith, 1980 effort to liberate 53 American hostages held at US Embassy in Tehran, Iran, at home. (Photo by Will Mcintyre)

“Chargin’ Charlie” Beckwith retired from a dedicated life as a Colonel in 1982. Indeed, the war zone was not a place that was responsible for taking his life, from a barrage of enemy fire or some other element of war. Colonel Beckwith passing away due to natural causes in Austin, Texas in 1994. A true innovator in the arena of Special Operations. Colonel Beckwith had lived a life that was admired by many soldiers, military historians and many others who had been an indirect or direct part of it. This much is certain: “Chargin’ Charlie” will forever be remembered in U.S. military history as a leader, thinker, and innovator concerning the area of special operation forces.

Charles A. Beckwith wrote a book about his premiere Unit titled Delta Force.

Richard J. Meadows the quiet professional

While there are many interesting stories and heroes on both sides of the war, especially modern war, Richard J. Meadows (Dick Meadows) is a real military hero. Dick Meadows lived up the expectations of a real American hero who saw action in the Vietnam War and was part of the Korean War as well. Meadows was someone who earned his medals and accolades over many decades as a brave soldier.

During his stellar military service, Meadows was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Dick Meadows was awarded two Silver Stars, a Bronze Star with “V for Valor,” the Air Medal, Legion of Merit, Combat Infantry Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, the Ranger Badge, Glider Badge, and the Scuba. Some also argue that Meadows would have been awarded the Medal of Honor had his Special Forces missions had not been classified. Maybe it is time to declassify some of these actions to honor his legacy.

Meadows also participated in the exchange program with the British Special Air Service and completed his SAS training. Which he later used to strengthen the US Army Special Forces selection and training infostructures.

The Military Beginnings For Meadows

Dick Meadows had a knack for sneaking behind enemy lines and creating cover stories to accomplish harrowing missions, but he also joined the military by using a fake age to get in at the age of 15 in 1947. Indeed, Meadows’s first role in the military was as a 15-year-old-paratrooper. Dick Meadows impressed many military leaders during his life to reach higher rankings.

By making an important name for himself through his distinguished service, Meadows was promoted to a much higher rank in the U.S. Army. In fact, “he was that war’s youngest master sergeant, at age 20” according to a historical piece about Dick Meadows published on Ultimatesniper.com. For the times, being the youngest master sergeant as the Korean war was at full bore only brought more responsibility that the future Major of the U.S. Army could handle.

For only attaining a ninth-grade education, Dick Meadows was an articulate and brilliant soldier and teacher. Many of his techniques as a Green Beret regarding covert operations were copied and used on other missions. One of these missions that they used Meadows’s methods involved an Israeli rescue mission the Israeli rescue mission in 1976 at Entebbe, along with the megaphone instructions that was available for captives to hear. Dick Meadows had used a megaphone in a mission to release POWs during Nam. However, when this raid at Son Tay prison camp (Operation Ivy Coast) revealed that there were no prisoners there — based on the wrong intelligence — the mission did not result in taking any substantial U.S. causalities. It did show a lot of important things, however. One of these things concerned the North Vietnamese’s reduction in its mistreatment of U.S. POWs.

Operation Ivory Coast, November 21, 1970, The Raid on Son Tay Prison

Dick Meadows and MACVSOG

As part of the MACVSOG (Military Assistance Command – Vietnam – Studies and Operations Group), Dick Meadows was involved in many of the highly classified missions. These missions were so secret that many Army Special Forces and Navy Seals who were on missions that would have garnered them a Medal of Honor were downplayed and downgraded to other medal awards as to not give away what soldiers like Meadows were part of.

MACVSOG was founded on January 24, 1964. While the commander in charge of MACV, General Westmoreland, had no direct authority to perform operations outside the designated area of South Vietnam. However, there was tight control placed on these SOG missions regarding the scope of these classified missions as well as the scale of the organization’s special operations. During these special operations in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, Dick Meadows was able to complete a lot of missions. He ultimately while saving the lives of his fellow soldiers, took key enemy hostages as well as filming the enemy soldiers to help combat Viet Cong propaganda that was being told to the American people. As a result, Meadows was able to keep himself safe without taking any significant injuries of any kind during his time under heavy enemy fire in combat situations.

Meadows was such an interesting story and an example of true American valor throughout his life. Meadows even made the cover of Newsweek magazine in 1982.

Operation Eagle Claw

Dick Meadows was also part of many special operations that did not involve Vietnam, like Operation Eagle Claw, which was an Iranian Hostage-related mission that was orchestrated by his friend Charles Beckwith and his new commando unit, Delta Force. In 1980, Dick Meadows acted in the role of a paid consultant to the U.S. government to help with Delta Forces’ secretive cause. He posed as an Irish automobile businessman as part of a cover during the recon mission to infiltrate the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran by gathering important intel for the teams to use. The mission ran into unforeseen issues based on an accident that happened in the Iranian desert and the mission was aborted. Meadows was responsible for being an essential part of this mission, although a few casualties mounted, Meadows managed to slip out of the country with ease. Meadows was noted to have escaped Iran through a commercial flight while being able to keep his cover fully intact during Operation Eagle Claw.

The Statue

Because of his ultimate bravery, valor and military leadership over the decades, Major Dick Meadows was given his statue by the U.S. government. This statue represented the top patriot who served his country and exuded an ultimate show of force under enemy fire. Meadows was a bonafide example of what it takes to be a quality Green Beret. On June 6, 1997, a statue of Dick Meadows and the military parade field that was near the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Command facility were dedicated to this brave soldier who had committed 31 years of service to his country.

The Legacy of Dick Meadows

When discussing his contribution to the Special Forces community, Dick Meadows was given many accolades and kudos regarding his service in this military milieu. Dick Meadows joined the Special Forces, which was part of the U.S. Army in 1953. He was very active as a member of the Army Rangers until he retired from the military in 1977 as a Major.

Although Meadows was diagnosed with leukemia a short few weeks before his death, Dick Meadows held his medical condition at bay for six weeks before passing away from Leukemia on July 29, 1995, in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. While Meadows was used to giving his life for his country in many operations and wars, he will forever be remembered as a great example of a true American soldier that all other soldiers should revere and look up to. Dick Meadow’s life and legacy is one that the up-and-coming Green Berets should study and emulate on the future battlefields and U.S. operations.

SOG team running

Studies and Observation Group

When discussing the Vietnam War or Second Indochina War, there are many elements of the conflict one could cover. From napalm, punji sticks, and landmines to the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Tet Offensive and the Montagnards, the Vietnam War was a very long, and casualty-ridden war. While one side ultimately may have won, both the U.S. and Communist-backed North Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian peoples felt the brunt of this conflict.

And according to Historynet.com, the Vietnam War is the generally used moniker for the Second Indochina War. The Vietnam war was noted to have lasted from 1954 to 1975. And in 1975, Saigon did fall, which signaled the end of the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and a win for the North Vietnamese.

However, there were many impressive campaigns and many unsung heroes that were part of MACVSOG or (Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observation Group). This group name was later shortened to Studies and Observation Group. Jerry “MAD DOG” Shriver, Robert “Bob” Howard, Dick Meadows, Walter Shumate, Billy Waugh, Larry Thorne, Fred Zabitosky, Jon Cavaiani, Roy Benavidez, and Norm Doney are just some of the names of these brave men who served these highly classified groups and missions from 24 January 1964 – May 1972.

The downsides to these super-secret missions were that the casualties were noted to have surpassed 100 percent. According to HistoryNet.com, that is the “highest sustained American loss rate since the Civil War.” The most important statistic is that in 1968, every man that was part of those MACV-SOG missions was wounded — with half of those were killed. Even though this particular reconnaissance group took high losses, they were known for having the highest ratio of kills (158-to-1). This kill number is the most successful in U.S. military history.

HistoryNet.com noted that the Green Berets, which are U.S. Army Special Forces were responsible for carrying out a large number of the most harrowing and challenging special operations of the Vietnam War. And depending on the time that these SOG millions occurred, they would be given unique names like “Prairie Fire” or “Shining Brass.” The Ho Chi Minh Trail, which was part of Laos and the Sihanouk Trail (named for Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia) were places that the U.S. recon teams in these SOG teams would concentrate their gathering information, sabbatage missions and more. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Air Force Combat Controllers and the Navy SEALs would be vetted through the Special Operations Augmentation (SOA) as part of SOG — this included the Army Green Berets. These missions utilized all land and sea forces to get things done. The SOA gave special “cover” while these secret orders were taking place.

The term, “over the fence,” was used for those Special Operations Groups and other military forces entering Laos and Cambodia, when the U.S. was not supposed to “officially” be doing recon and other operations in those areas. It was a slang term, which was used predominantly during the Vietnam War.

The small teams that were part of these Spec Ops Groups had a lot of time “over the fence.” SOGs are a legendary group for tales of bravery, patriotism and the hells of being in Nam. SOG was hatched on January 16, 1964, as noted on the website, Macvsog.cc.

This Special Operations Group was active for eight years with their over the fence operations in areas of southern Laos, Cambodia and especially along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. These Spec Operations groups included a 12-man SPIKE Reconnaissance Teams as well as HATCHET Forces to assist as backups. These Special Forces HATCHET platoons were a crucial part of engaging North Vietnamese Communist Forces on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

U.S. forces used many B-52s to bomb critical areas of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. These trails had been assigned to Spec Operations units in March of 1965, under the direction of COMUSMACV. These special recon missions included precise drops by U.S. helicopters (in and out) of designated zones as well as B-52 bombings. These B-52s were brought in to help stifle any activities of the North Vietnamese, Viet Cong, Pathet Lao, and the Khmer Rouge along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

There was also the Psychological Operations Group, which was mainly focused on the North Vietnamese war efforts against U.S. and allied forces during Nam. There has been (PSYOPS) during many American wars, especially in modern times, but the U.S. used special tactics and techniques to try and get the edge in the Vietnam War. Even as these Spec operations were all top-secret at the time, the U.S. was also involved in areas of South Vietnam that were being dominated by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). While their method was one of the unconventional warfare operations, these Spec Operations numbered in the 600s or more over a short period.

And as noted on the website, Psywarrior.com, the “Psychological Studies Branch” were directly responsible for creating “black propaganda” or OP-33.

Psywarrior.com stated that the OP-33, which was “patterned after the old OSS Morale Operations Division, OP-33 operated behind such heavy security that few Americans in Asia knew of its existence, which was essential as any trace of SOG’s involvement would destroy a deception’s effectiveness.”

Psywarrior.com also noted about the OP-33 that it was not a small operation. This black operation had a budget of 3.7 million dollars in 1967 and approximately 150 staff members. Half of the staff were known to be civilian Vietnamese. The other half of this group were U.S. military. There was also at least a dozen CIA officers supporting the OP-33.

Some of these messages the U.S. propagated included the idea that the NVA hated and feared the Chinese, which was trying to aggravate tensions among these two groups.

Some of the other propaganda efforts by the U.S. including sending false messages about many Chinese troops, which were located in North Vietnam romancing the women of NVA soldiers who were stationed far away as well as reports that the Communist Chinese were providing the NVA with poor ammunition. The U.S. was able to use some of these kernels of truth to boost the credibility of the stories and propaganda being fed to the NVA.

Robert Lewis Howard

SOG’S finest warrior

Col. Robert (Bob) Howard

When it comes to the example of a superiorly brave man who fought during the Vietnam War, Green Beret, Robert Lewis Howard is one of best known. Howard is truly extraordinary in his continual show of valor as a soldier who served during a 54-month timeframe in the U.S. Army. Born in Opelika, Alabama on July 11, 1939, Howard was decorated with many medals, specifically, the CMH Congressional Medal of Honor, Robert Lewis Howard was recognized for his work in the combat zone — most notable, MACVSOG (Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observation Group). The CMH Congressional Medal of Honor is presented directly by the President of the United States in the name of the United States Congress. There are three distinct versions of the Medal of Honor: One for the Army, Navy and Air Force. The first Medal of Honor recipient went to a U.S. Army recipient in March of 1863. This example of valor by a soldier in the U.S. Army took place during the U.S. Civil War.

Howard was also nominated three times for the Medal of Honor, which is the United State’s highest military decoration for those serving in the armed forces. Robert Lewis Howard was recognized for his gallantry and brave actions that went above and beyond that critical call of duty while performing military operations to defeat the United States’s enemy during the Vietnam War. In 1992, Robert Howard retired from the Army’s Special Forces with the rank of Colonel. Col. Howard served in the Armed Services from 1956 to 1992.

The men who fought with Robert “Bob” Howard on SF missions as part of MACVSOG were in full agreement that he was a man who did indeed deserve the Medal of Honor. And in 1971, he was honored with a CMH from then-President, Richard Nixon.

Over Howard’s stellar military career, he earned the Silver Star, four Bronze Stars, four Legion of Merit awards, three Air Medals, three Meritorious Service Medals, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Cross as well as seven Joint Services Commendation Medals. Robert Howard was noted on record to having been wounded approximately 14 times even though he only received eight Purple Hearts. In addition to this extraordinary list of medals, Howard was also presented with awards by specific armed forces groups from other nations. Howard was also noted as being the most decorated soldier of the modern era according to RLHTribute.com.

Because of his impressive military service like being wounded in missions more than any one person can count on two hands, Howard received a direct appointment in 1969 by being promoted from the rank of Master Sergeant to First Lieutenant. And this military rank change was based on his bravery, gallantry and specific actions that were made a note of by his superiors and his fellow soldiers during one of his highly classified missions. Howard had been hit with many pieces of shrapnel and a hand that was severely damaged but was able to save soldiers and complete important parts of the operation before his fellow soldiers and Howard were able to get transported out of the area of special operation by helicopter.

Howard’s service during the Vietnam war — more specifically — those classified operations in Laos and Cambodia, included assignments with the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, 1/327th Airborne Infantry, 5th SF Group as well as MACVSOG. According to RLHTrivure.com, Howard spent a large percentage of his five military tours in the MACVSOG (Special Operations Group). This group was responsible for hundreds of classified cross-border operations in North Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

Concerning his educational background, in May 1973 Robert “Bob” Howard graduated from Ranger School. Howard also served with the 2nd Ranger Battalion at Fort Lewis, Washington as Company Commander. From 1977-1978 he served as Mountain Ranger Training instructor.

As part of his military career, which began in Alabama in 1952, Howard served as the officer-in-charge at Camp Mackall in N.C. of Special Forces training. Howard also had a role in command at the Mountain Ranger Training Camp, which was situated in Dahlonega, Georgia. Howard graduated from the National War College as well as part of the 1987-1988 class. He was also noted to have earned two Master’s degrees while in the Army from 1952 to 1992.

While he was able to retire from military service as a Colonel in the U.S. Army, he also worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Howard also visited active-duty troops in Iraq during his lifetime.

At the age of 70, Robert Lewis Howard passed away in a hospice situation from pancreatic cancer in Waco, Texas, in December of 2009. Howard had been visited by many fellow soldiers and other notable individuals during his fight with pancreatic cancer. Army Colonel, Robert Howard also received posthumous awards like the Bull Simons Award in 2014 for his lifetime achievements concerning Special Operations in the field of battle.

And according to Shadowspear.com, this Bull Simons Award is USSOCOM’s top honor. This award was first given in 1990. Since 1990, awarding this award has become an annual tradition. Shadowspear also noted about this award that it recognizes those recipients who personify the values, genuine spirit and skills of a Special Operations warrior. Colonel Arthur “Bull” Simons is named for this award. Simons was noted as the epitome of these special attributes that can be compared to Col. Howard’s storied career.

And in the case of Robert “Bob” Howard, his heroic actions in the most harrowing of war situations where his life was always at risk to save his fellow soldiers and other soldiers who fought with the U.S. to defeat the enemy, will never be forgotten.

Colonel Howard may have had some of his recognitions downgraded to keep him out of the larger spotlight during those times when the U.S. was performing super-secret covert operations in the countries of Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam. However, his final legacy is one of true respect and admiration from those that truly understand what support our American freedoms truly stand for. And the lives of those who fought for the U.S. should never be forgotten.

When all was said and done, Colonel Howard received an appropriate burial at Arlington National Cemetery with the full honor that he deserved in February 2010. For a man who was initially trained to occupy the role of a supply sergeant, Howard became an essential part of the U.S. Army’s recon and hatchet force teams. Robert Howard is a soldier whose bravery and the shedding of his blood in defense of American and the world’s democratic freedoms should never be cast aside in shame on vain.

The Phoenix Program

The Phoenix Program

The CIA, assassinations and terror of the Phoenix.

The Phoenix Program was a brutal counterinsurgency program run by William Colby, later head of the C.I.A., aimed at weeding out Viet Cong and their sympathizers. According to some sources, more than 25,000 suspected Viet Cong were killed, many of them assassinated, as part of the operation. The Phoenix Program program designed, coordinated, and executed by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), United States special operations forces, special forces operatives from the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam and the Republic of Vietnam’s (South Vietnam) security apparatus during the Vietnam War. The program was in operation between 1965 and 1972, and similar efforts existed both before and after that period. By 1972, Phoenix operatives had “neutralized” 81,740 suspected NLF operatives, informants, and supporters, of whom 26,369 were killed.

The Program was designed to identify and “neutralize” (via infiltration, capture, terrorism, torture, and assassination) the infrastructure of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (NLF or Viet Cong). The CIA described it as “a set of programs that sought to attack and destroy the political infrastructure of the Viet Cong”. The major two components of the program were Provincial Reconnaissance Units (PRUs) and regional interrogation centers. PRUs would kill and capture suspected VC. They would also capture VC and civilians who were thought to have information on VC activities. Many of these people were then taken to the interrogation centers where some were tortured in an attempt to gain intelligence on VC activities in the area. The information extracted at the centers was then given to military commanders, who would use it to task the PRU with further capture and assassination missions.

In a paper for the CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence, Colonel Andrew R. Finlayson of the U.S. Marine Corps wrote: “The Phoenix program is arguably the most misunderstood and controversial program undertaken by the governments of the United States and South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It was, quite simply, a set of programs that sought to attack and destroy the political infrastructure of the Lao Dong Party (hereafter referred to as the Viet Cong infrastructure or VCI) in South Vietnam. Phoenix was misunderstood because it was classified, and the information obtained by the press and others were often anecdotal, unsubstantiated, or false. The program was controversial because the antiwar movement and critical scholars in the United States and elsewhere portrayed it as an unlawful and immoral assassination program targeting civilians. [Source: Colonel Andrew R. Finlayson, USMC (Ret.), A Retrospective on Counterinsurgency Operations, The Tay Ninh Provincial Reconnaissance Unit and Its Role in the Phoenix Program, 1969-70, CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence ^^]

Jerry M. Shriver (MAD DOG)

Jerry M. Shriver (MAD DOG)

The man, the myths and the legend.

By all accounts, Jerry M. Shriver — also known not-so-affectionately by the Vietcong as “Mad Dog” — was a man who had quite a bounty on his head during the Vietnam War. Shriver’s reputation as a fierce fighting, Green Beret amongst military men and many others during his three tours in Vietnam garnered him quite a lot of attention. And as noted by Taskforceomegainc.org, Shriver was responsible for killing more than 100 of the enemy; in addition, the knowledge that he procured was also responsible for thousands more Vietcong deaths.

Because of his notoriety for being such an asset to U.S. Forces, the well known North Vietnamese propaganda broadcaster called Radio Hanoi had given him the nickname, “Mad Dog.” Shriver was so vilified by the North Vietnamese, that they offered a public reward of $10,000.00 for “Mad Dog’s” capture or death.

Regarding this Green Beret’s background, Jerry Michael Shriver was born on September 24, 1941, in De Funiak Springs, Florida. He also had accrued a large number of medals because of his valor and bravery. “Mad Dog” Shriver earned five different categories of medals. This list includes two Silver Stars, three Army Commendation Medals for Valor, one Soldier’s medal, one 1 Air Medal, seven Bronze Stars for Valor, and one Purple Heart.

Indeed, “Mad Dog” Shriver was known as a platoon leader at Command and Control South, MACVSOG (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observation Group), according to the information noted on Ladyeclectric.faithweb.com. Moreover, MACVSOG was known as a task force that was involved in many classified operations throughout Cambodia and elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

The 5th Special Forces that “Mad Dog” Shriver was involved with moving personnel into MACVSOG or Special Operations Augmentation (SOA). And as Ladyeclectric.faithweb.com states about these missions, SOA provided a “cover” while under classified orders to the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies, and Observation Group. These teams of Green Berets and other assets were on missions that went names like, “Prairie Fire” and “Shining Brass.” Shriver and many of his special recon groups performed deep missions involving strategic reconnaissance, which were given different names depending on the time period during the war.

It was also mentioned by Ladyeclectric.faithweb.com that with even though “Mad Dog” Shriver’s last mission had run into difficulty and was thwarted, there were many of other “special SOG teams” that had success getting past the enemy lines to hit many different targets and collect important intelligence.

These missions that were conducted by Special Forces reconnaissance teams behind the lines of Cambodia and Laos in 1969 came to a total count of 452. These special recon teams that “Mad Dog” Shriver was once part had earned a worldwide reputation as being the most productive, deep-infiltration campaigns ever hatched in the history of war. And when it comes to firsts for U.S. military history topics, these campaigns of sabotage, raids, and information-gathering that Mad Dog Shriver and other men had waged on foreign soil were the some of the most effective, ever.

The missions that Mad Dog Shriver and others had been assigned to carry out were also very dangerous, but very important to the American cause during Vietnam. The specially trained men who were put into harrowing situations knew that the chances of safe recovery if captured by the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) were very low.

Indeed, there had been only a few who have been able to talk about their daliance with enemy capture and escape — Nick Rowe, who was captured in 1963 — down in the Delta (IV Corps), and was able to successfully escape New Year’s Eve in 1968, and Navy Lieutenant, Dieter Dengler. The A1 aircraft that Denglerv was in went down in the time frame of 1965 or 1966 according to blog posts on Onesixthwarriors.com.

Lt. Dengler and many other Americans attempted an escape from the grips of their enemy, but everyone else in the group were either recaptured, killed, or disappeared into Lao’s jungle during these SOG (Studies and Observations Group) missions. While a slew of American soldiers’ freedoms in captivity would come by the end of the Vietnam War — 591 to be exact — 2,500 have never come back, according to Ladyeclectric.faithweb.com

Since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, the U.S. government has received nearly 10 thousand reports concerning missing Americans in Southeast Asia. These important reports have convinced many authorities that hundreds of American soldiers are still alive but in captivity. Some of Jerry Shriver’s friends claim they heard broadcasts from the NVA’s propaganda broadcasts, termed, “Hanoi Hannah” that Shriver had indeed been captured by the NVA. They wonder if he is among the hundreds said to still be alive today.

And many describe this legend of the Green Berets as having looked a bit like Rambo. In fact, one of the 1st. Sgts. who was familiar with Shriver had thought so.

Sgt. Shriver was noted as had been a tall, blond haired and thin man. And that Shriver’s face had a chiseled look, with blue eyes that were piercing. One of his fellow soldiers even noted that there was no soul in his eyes. And that there was no emotion in Shriver’s eyes.

But, the Mad Dog did have a dog of his own as a favorite pet. His favorite pooch was called Klaus. And he had acquired the dog while he had been in Taiwan at one point.

From all accounts, there was no soldier at CCS (Command and Control South) who was like Mad Dog Shriver. Jim Fleming, who piloted many Hueys for SOG missions and was a Medal of Honor Recipient, noted that Shriver was a “warrior-loner,” and “anti-social.” Fleming went on to say that Shriver was possessed when it concerned his activities; always learning; always constantly training. Fleming also noted that Shriver hardly spoke and would roam around camp for multiple days.

Sgt. Shriver was known for speaking fluent Vietnamese and Russian, and by all accounts had been known for dropping in behind enemy lines, dressed up as a Russian officer. Shriver was known to have boldly walked into an NVA encampment, both scolding and berating many North Vietnamese soldiers. During this ensuing confusion he would cause, SGT Shriver would note the enemy’s numbers, defenses, and other information, then get out, quickly. This, according to website posts about SGT Shriver on OneSixWarriors.com.

On April 24, 1969, on a SOG mission called “Hatchet Force,” SGT Shriver went MIA; three of the other men with him took severe gunfire, as the enemy was well dug in when they were dropped into NVA territory. However, some suspect that he was wounded by multiple shots; others believe he is still alive as a captive, today.

Of those 18 soldiers who were inserted into that original mission — along with the six that later would be inserted in support of the “Hatchet Force” only those key members of the recon team would be recovered, uninjured.

And of those original 18 members of the “Hatchet Force,” 10 had been wounded, but safely evacuated out of the war zone. Greg Harrigan’s remains, who had been with Shriver at the time of this mission, were recovered. Ernest Jamison had been reported as Killed in Action (KIA), Body Not Recovered. As for “Mad Dog,” Jerry M. Shriver, he, along with his five fellow Montagnards, were reported as MIA.