Posts

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.

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.