That Empty Feeling: The Real Story of One 72-Hour Rescue Mission Into Laosby Terry P. Arentowicz
That Empty Feeling is the true story of a desperate rescue attempt launched into the Truong Son Mountain range in Laos, Southeast Asia. The year was 1967 and the mission to search for, return and recover an American led reconnaissance patrol (9 men) that had been secretly ordered to monitor any activity North Vietnam was conducting on or near the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The patrol had been compromised soon after their helicopter insertion into neutral Laos.
The primary agency charged with the search and rescue mission (S.A.R.) was a little known cousin of the CIA and was in fact financed by that group. SOG, or studies and observation group, was a Special Forces Green Beret led and trained project. The Special Forces bolstered their patrols with trained mercenaries, in this case soldiers with Cambodian roots.
During the course of the rescue mission the Special Forces were joined by U.S. Air Force assets, Vietnamese air assets (V.N.A.F.), U.S. Army helicopters and U.S.M.C. attack helicopters. This combined force was unique and made for a complex and complicated mission. Both American air and ground units were opposed by a well-trained and numerically superior North Vietnamese Army dedicated to eliminating all opposition on or near the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
The two adversaries locked horns and neither could disengage. At one point the American rescue team needed to be rescued. Acts of heroism resulted in many awards being bestowed including the Congressional Medal of Honor, Purple Hearts, Air Force Crosses, Silver Stars and more.
The American public was never made privy to the circumstances of U.S. deaths and injuries. Families of the American casualties in Laos and Cambodia were either lied to or misled.
Much information regarding American activity in Laos and Cambodia was purposely destroyed prior to the conclusion of the war. SOG participants and those that supported SOG agreed to be interviewed by the author and provided many hours of anecdotes from their memories. These interviews provided the basis for That Empty Feeling. Green Beret officers, army sergeants, highly educated U.S.A.F. pilots and others shared their personal views and opinions concerning their participation in the mission. In addition, many indicated they had struggled with the effects the mission had on their psyche and the inability they had to come to grips with both their heroism and their failure to completely "win the day."(Surprisingly several recalled humorous events and conversations that occurred under the most stressful situations.)
Remains of those not recovered despite several opportunities by combatants and recent forensic attempts remain somewhere in Laos on the battlefield and unlikely to ever be returned. The book had no clear cut winner or loser, just the reflections of those that saw this as the source of emptiness.
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