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Home > UNS > 141009-01



USASOC honors Son Tay Raid veterans

by Cheryle Rivas with contribution by Maj. Allison Aguilar
USASOC Public Affairs

KANSAS CITY, Kan.  (USASOC News Service, Oct. 9, 2014) - Nearly 44 years ago, 50 U.S. Special Forces Soldiers took part in a military operation in Vietnam that would forever be known as the Son Tay Raid. Each volunteered to take part in a secret mission, each handpicked by Col. Arthur “Bull” Simons to be a part of Special Forces history. 

Members of the team reunited Oct. 5, 2014, in Kansas City as part of the NASCAR tribute to the Son Tay veterans before the Hollywood Casino 400.

Nov. 20, 1970, was a night that will be forever imprinted in the minds of the elite Special Forces Soldiers selected for the Son Tay Raid.  More than 500 Soldiers showed up for Simons’ initial call out for volunteers. The meeting took place at the Special Forces building on Smoke Bomb Hill, Fort Bragg, N.C. The group was briefed that they had a secret mission, and there was a 50-50 chance they would not come back. Interviews followed and a select few made the final cuts to be a part of the mission:  to rescue battered American Prisoners Of War in North Vietnam.

The mission was a well-orchestrated plan that blended air, sea and land capabilities. After several months of training, rehearsing and planning for the raid, it was time to take action. As the group loaded cargo and prepped for the final movement, their minds were focused on the mission.

“We knew we were going in after guys who had been there for six or seven years,” said Terry Buckler, one of the veterans who took part in the raid.

While the objective of the raid was to rescue POWs at the Son Tay prison, when U.S. forces landed and infiltrated the camp they found that the POWs had been moved. Buckler described the emotion that came over the group, “disappointment, what happened – where did we go wrong? "

Buckler said that while the team was disappointed that the raid failed to rescue the prisoners, he later found out the raid was successful in helping the POWs as the North Vietnamese consolidated their prisoners, which lead to better morale and health care.

"A few years after, when we met the POWs at one of our reunions, we realized good things happened after our raid” said Buckler.

The POWs told the veterans how much that attempted raid meant to them.

“We really scared the Vietnamese – they consolidated all of their prisoners, moral improved, and those who were sick got healthy,” said Son Tay veteran John Gargus, adding, “tactically, we were successful.” Some of the POWs knew right away that Son Tay was being attacked, they were close enough to hear the helicopters flying overhead. At that time, the Son Tay Raid was the biggest nighttime battle over North Vietnam.

The weekend leading up to the reunion and race was laced with honors to the veterans with speeches, videos and a special combat equipment jump demonstration by the USASOC command parachute team, the Black Daggers.

“It was an honor and a privilege to honor the Son Tay veterans,” said Master Sgt. John Perusek, Black Daggers parachute team demonstrator. 

Soldiers from 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) interacted with the Vietnam veterans with weapons and communications displays. Even after 44 years, the veterans were sharp on tactics and weaponry. The veterans were given a brief on weapons by the team, which included the latest technology and weaponry for today’s Special Forces teams.

The reunion allowed the veterans to reconnect with each other, talk, share stories and bond and to finally get recognition of the mission. “This is so much better than what we had when we came home from Vietnam,” said one of the Raiders.

The reunion events were coordinated with members of the Combined Arms Center Special Operations Cell at the Command and General Staff College. The events would include a learning platform for students at the College, the veterans and Soldiers from U. S. Army Special Operations Command, and wrap up with a special tribute at the Hollywood Casino 400 race event at the Kansas Speedway. The overall intent was to honor the Vietnam Veterans and thank them for their service.