Many readers responded to the opinion piece “The time is right to honor the Vietnam War’s most secret warriors” by retired Army Col. Paris D. Davis, a Medal of Honor recipient, calling for a Congressional Gold Medal to be awarded to the U.S Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, Studies and Observations Group, or MACV-SOG. Here’s a selection of your comments.
As a Huey pilot who flew in support of those teams in I Corps, across the borders of Laos and North Vietnam, I fully endorse any recognition that can be sent their way. Those MACV-SOG CCN (Command and Control North) guys did amazing things, as did the teams in CCS (Command and Control South) and CCC (Command and Control Central).
We delivered them into harm’s way and we pulled them out, often under extreme conditions. The insertions were sometimes followed by almost immediate extraction because our Intel had not warned ... of the enemy locations (or the enemy had been warned by internal spies).
The motto of Army aviation is Above the Best. Those guys are The Best. We would do anything and everything to help the teams. They should never be forgotten.
Retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Ken Fritz, Sacramento, California
Bravo to Col. Davis for speaking out and for his support of those who served in MACV-SOG. My husband is one of those soldiers, a two-tour Air Commando who was TDY to CCN Da Nang, and who now has a Parkinson’s diagnosis by VA neurology, but has been denied his claim due to missing records in his Official Military Personnel Files, or OMPF. I have appealed his claim to the VA Board of Appeals, where it has remained in remand and stagnated since June.
No one we have encountered in the VA system knows anything about this highly classified, covert unit, including the judge who heard my husband’s testimony. I have asked for assistance from two Congressmen, a Senator, and President Joe Biden’s office. They all needed to be educated too, yet again, no records.
I have sought clarification from the AF FOIA office, Defense Accounting, USSOCOM, and the AF Board of Corrections. No one can explain how a DD-214 with a VSM and OS Bars isn’t proof he was in Vietnam. I can’t get records that are possibly still classified, including Walter Reed treatment records, where he was taken after sustaining injuries from a grenade during his last mission. I even reached out to John Stryker Meyer, who encouraged me to keep pursuing it.
Col. Davis is correct when he says, “There’s also work to be done for living SOG members. . .”
Honor all those who served in this special forces operation, and release records for those who are still living so they can be recognized for their honorable service and get the benefits they earned by serving our country. As Col. Davis concluded in his article: “We cannot leave them (SOG) behind in our nation’s history.”
I will continue my fight to honor my husband’s sacrifice and service.
Karen Mihalic, wife of Vietnam veteran, Beaver, PA (who shared her husband’s DD-214 with Military Times)
I served on the Studies and Observations Group, or SOG, staff from June 1967 thru May 1969. Here are two updates to Col. Davis’ opinion piece.
SOG’s Chain of Command was directly to and from the Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities, or SACSA. SACSA reported to the Undersecretary of Defense for International Security Affairs and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Both were aware of SOG’s activities. So was the National Security Council.
Also read in on our operations: the overall U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, aka MACV, as well as Pacific Command, and their service components in the area. Regional State Department embassies, consulates and their associated U.S. governmental entities may also have been addressees on message traffic, based upon their need to know.
SOG’s tactical area of responsibility, or TAOR, was the former Indochina (then North and South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia), Gulf of Tonkin and South China Sea.
SOG’s mission encompassed three main tasks: to monitor and disrupt traffic on the Ho Chi Minh Trail that ran from North Vietnam thru Laos and Cambodia to South Vietnam to conduct operations supporting the North Vietnamese government in exile, code named The Sacred Sword of the Patriots League; and to track U.S. military personnel who were missing in action or captured, with intent to return them to U.S. control.
SOG resources included assigned special forces personnel and helicopters from the services, several purchased Norwegian high speed patrol boats, a squadron of MC-130 aircraft, and an RC-121 equipped with a FM broadcasting station to play Radio Free Hanoi programs.
Before the MC-130s, unmarked and foreign-crewed C-123s dropped propaganda and single station FM receivers throughout the old Indochina.
Upon their arrival, the MC-130 dropped the materials and FM receivers much closer to Hanoi. In a briefing prior to being a DO, or director of operations, I learned that the Norwegian highspeed patrol boats were instrumental in the Gulf of Tonkin incident.
SOG had two weekly mandatory messages that had to be sent to the Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency aka the SACSA. One told of our plans for the next week and the second reported on last week’s activities. However, there was almost continuous contact with SACSA and other Southeast Asia command centers concerning our and enemy activities. In State Department circles, SOG was also known by the code phrase “ghost of White Star.”
I was SOG’s DO 29/30 January 1968 and the VC/NVA Tet Offensive was no surprise. Here is my recollection.
Army Maj. Gen. John K. Singlaub, then a colonel, was the Commander of the Studies and Observations Group and he had extraordinary insight into our enemy, the North Vietnamese, and the Viet Cong. As an example, as his DO the evening prior the enemy’s January 1968 Tet Offensive, he gave me the following instructions: “You will perform the normal functions as SOG duty officer. Army Maj. Army Smith will be responsible for the defense of the SOG headquarters compound. If headquarters is breached destroy everything to maintain our integrity.”
Next, he wanted to attach two previous messages, to go along with the one he’d dictate — in which he’d accurately predicted when the North Vietnamese attack would begin. The first was dated July 1967, and stated that the enemy will launch a general offensive during Tet 1968. The second, dated November 1967, stated a general offensive will start the first week of Tet 1968.
He then dictated the main message: “The Tet offensive will begin at 1:30 tomorrow morning.”
After dispatching the alert message, the command post returned to normal activities. At about 1:25 the next morning Col. Johnson, SOG director of operations, called in requesting if we had any reports of increased enemy activity and I replied, no. Col. Johnson then said, “It looks like the ‘Old Man’ missed it.”
At that very moment, our embassy was hit, and fire fights began all over the Saigon area.
At about 2:00a.m., Col. Singlaub appeared and wanted to know where his staff was. As they had not assembled, in very direct terms he said, “I came in on the VC infiltration route, so call them and tell them to get in here, and in the meantime, I’m going to see Gen. Westmoreland,” aka Gen. William C. Westmoreland, then the head of the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam.
Upon Col. Singlaub’s return from Gen. Westmoreland’s headquarters, his SOG staff was assembled. He opened the meeting by saying in general what he told Gen. Westmoreland: “The objective of this offensive for the North Vietnamese is for the South Vietnamese and U.S. Military to eliminate the Viet-Cong so the NVA can take command over this war. The enemy’s base camps are empty and undefended, so we need to occupy them and destroy their support infrastructure to deny the North Vietnamese their use.
“We need a worldwide request for all available military forces be sent here to secure a line from the South China Sea along the demarcation line extended across Laos to the Mekong River to block North Vietnam from resupplying their forces in South Vietnam while concurrently south of our defensive line destroying all logistics stores along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos and Cambodia.
“Upon holding that line, declare we’ve accomplished our mission and withdraw our forces from South Vietnam.”
If Col. Singlaub’s Post ‘68 Tet concept for disengagement from South Vietnam had been accepted, the U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia would have ended during the fall of 1968.
Retired Air Force Col. David McNabb, Tampa, Florida
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