SOG had three identical recon ground units along the border areas. This book tells the history of Command and Control Detachment South (CCS). The CCS volunteer warriors and its Air Partners - the Army and Air Force helicopter transport and gunship crews who lived and fought together and sometimes died together. This is the first published history of CCS as compiled by its last living commander, some forty years after they were disbanded. It tells of the struggles and intrigue involved in SOG's development as the modern-day legacy of our modern Special Operations Commands. Forbidden to tell of their experiences for over twenty years; their After Action Reports destroyed even before they were declassified - surviving veterans team together to tell how Recon men wounded averaged 100 percent; and SOG became the most highly decorated unit in Vietnam and all were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
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SECRET GREEN BERET COMMANDOS IN CAMBODIAA Memorial History of MACV-SOG's Command and Control Detachment South (CCS), And Its Air Partners, Republic of Vietnam, 1967-1972
By Fred S. Lindsey
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 LTC Fred S. Lindsey
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBackground of the Vietnam Conflict and the creation of MACV-SOG
Prior to World War II, the country of Indochina's Vietnam had been fought over and occupied for hundreds of years by numerous warlords and the countries of China and the French. Then it was Japan in WWII. The creation of the conditions and the national and international decisions that led to the Vietnam Conflict came about with the closing of World War II. The US and its Allies were faced with the huge problem of the reconstruction of Europe, as well as Japan. The US, along with the British & French, was facing the problem of our one-time ally Russia becoming a new threat to continued world peace. With the defeat of Japanese imperialism, there was an equally great need to help put those countries of SE Asia and the Pacific, who had fallen under the Japanese conquest, back into renewed governmental structures.
With this came the push for resumption of pre-war colonialism in Indochina by the French. This was quietly opposed by the US but it was overweighed by the need to keep the support of Britain and France, both previous colonial empires. The Vietnamese leader of opposition to the French control coming back was Ho Chi Minh, who pleaded with the US not to let it happen. The US evidently was more worried about the brewing threat of a Red China moving into the vacuum of power in Indochina and paid little attention to Ho Chi Minh. The French military forces were allowed to re-establish their colonial control in Indochina in September 1946.
This situation is clearly summed up by the book of Charles F. Reske, in his analysis of the declassified MAC-V-SOG Command History Annex B: 1971-72, The Last Secret of the Vietnam War, herein quoted at some length. "Almost immediately guerrilla warfare broke out between the Viet Minh (Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh Hoi – League for the Independence of Vietnam). The French claim to the loyalty and devotion of the population dissolved within a matter of weeks. Through the fall and winter of 1945-46 Ho Chi Minh made a least eight requests to the USA President and Secretary of State for aid against the French. Through OSS channels, Minh proposed that Vietnam be accorded the same statue as the Philippine islands for an undetermined period prior to full independence. While his requests were officially ignored, the United States pointedly refused to assist the French military effort in Vietnam."
"This state of affairs soon changed as the United States began to preoccupy itself with the growing Communist threat in Europe and Asia. Abstracted with Ho's apparent Communist nature and the fear that once established he would set up a Kremlin-controlled Communist state, he was allowed to drift further from American control into the waiting arms of the Chinese Red Army. US Indochina policy in the late 1940s demonstrated the same kind of timid indecision that had been displayed throughout World War II whenever US strategic interests had run up against those of our allies. We had not hesitated to act against the colonial interests of the Dutch and the Netherlands in Indonesia simply because the British fully supported the action. The Netherlands were a less significant ally in Europe than the British or French, thus when they refused to condone similar actions in Indochina, US reaction was to meekly concur."
"Ho Chi Minh, for his part, had completely misjudged the extent of US commitment to national independence movements. That is, he chose to believe the Atlantic Charter, the United Nations Charter, and a speech by President Truman in 1945 that endorsed national self-determination. He wouldn't make the same mistake twice. Ho Chi Minh and the French signed an accord on March 6, 1946 in which he apparently acceded to French re-entry into North Vietnam on the condition that the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was recognized as a free state, part of the French Union. Almost immediately he was attacked by pro-Chinese elements within the DRV for his dealings with the hated colonialists. He replied: "You fools. Don't you realize what it means if the Chinese stay? Don't you remember your history? The last time the Chinese came, they stayed a thousand years! The French are foreigners. They are weak. Colonialism is dying out. Nothing will be able to withstand world pressure for independence. They may stay for a while, but they will have to go because the white man is finished in Asia. But if the Chinese stay now, they will never leave. As for me, I prefer to smell French shit for five years than Chinese shit for the rest of my life."
"Ho's words were both colorful and prophetic. US military equipment was being used by the French against the Viet Minh by the end of 1946, with the US arranging credit for France to purchase $160 million worth of vehicles and miscellaneous industrial equipment for use in Indochina. With the collapse of the Chinese Nationalist government in 1949, the US was faced with what appeared to be virtually unchecked Communist expansion in the Far East. In response, the US brought into play those instruments that were apparently succeeding in Europe, namely collective security organizations, economic aid, and military assistance."
"Ho Chi Minh had his back to the wall. Unwilling to consider further deals with the French and wary of the Red Chinese giant within arm's reach on his northern border, Ho officially embraced Communism in 1950, declaring that his was the only legal government of the Vietnamese people. Promptly recognized by Red China and the Soviet Union, his machinations had obtained recognition and aid for the struggle against the French while defusing a potentially dangerous confrontation with the equally hated Chinese. By April of 1950 the Joint Chiefs of Staff were informing the Secretary of Defense that the situation in Southeast Asia was deteriorating rapidly, and would continue to do so without a massive infusion of US aid. The overall assessment of the French military situation held little good news."
"Viet Minh forces were in control of approximately half of South Vietnam and while the French enjoyed a superiority in equipment, the Viet Minh were rapidly catching up thanks to Chinese assistance and a seemingly bottomless pit of available manpower. The Viet Minh were highly mobile, while the French were essentially road-bound and dug in. French strategy was lacking in aggression, and instead pursued a defensive strategy that was of doubtful value. The status of the Vietnamese National Army was nearly zero, and there was only the slightest chance that the French could maintain their military position long enough to build the VNA into an effective fighting force."
"The assessment concluded with a dire prediction that the French were in danger of suffering a major military defeat by the Viet Minh in Tonkin within six to nine months, which would jeopardize the French position throughout the remainder of South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia and de-stabilize the entire region (the Domino Theory). The only possible remedy to this situation was a massive infusion of US aid. At the height of the French-Indochina conflict the US was paying for approximately 78% of the war effort. The military situation had apparently achieved a degree of stability when, on 7 May 1964, the fortress of Din Bien Phu fell." (EN 1-1)
The US was quick to back off on the Domino Theory, which had been avidly pursued since the late 1940's. It was concluded that the loss on Tonkin, and even Indochina, was no longer considered to inevitably lead to a massive loss to Communism throughout SEA. Secretary Dulles, speaking four days after the fall of Dien Bien Phu, observed that, "Southeast Asia could be secured even without perhaps Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia as "important but by no means essential" because they were poor countries with meager populations."
Despite these admissions, the US was not in a conciliatory mood, and subsequently refused to sign the Geneva Accords that divided Vietnam at the 17th parallel. Had an election been held in Vietnam in 1956 between Ho Chi Minh and Ngo Dinh Diem - as called for in the Accords, it was widely believed that Ho would have won with nearly 80% of the vote. The deadlines for consultations and elections passed without any international action to implement those provisions of the settlement. Diem's state, while attempting to pass itself off as an American-style government, remained a one party, highly centralized family business in which democracy did not exist."
Charles Reske continues, "In 1956 the My-Diem (a derogatory term used by the Viet Minh in describing Diem as a tool of the Americans) government accorded itself the power to detain individuals considered a danger to the state to re-education centers. Any act performed for any organization that had been designated Communist was punishable by death. The state of affairs in South Vietnam was described in the January 1957 edition of Foreign Affairs: "South Vietnam is today a quasi-police state characterized by arbitrary arrests and imprisonment, strict censorship of the press and the absence of an effective political opposition ... All the techniques of political and psychological warfare, as well as the pacification campaigns involving extensive military operations have been brought to bear against the underground." (EN 1-2)
In 1959, the North Vietnamese leadership selected General Vo Bam and his 559th Transportation Unit to build what would become known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail to facilitate communications and the transport of men and materials through Laos and Cambodia for infiltration into South Vietnam. Richard Shultz in his fascinating book, The Secret War Against Hanoi, explains the complicated mess that allowed Laos to be declared neutral, a fact honored by the US and others, all except North Vietnam. "Laos was a complicated, almost bizarre situation. It has gained political independence after the Geneva Conference of 1954 but quickly fell into a power struggle" ... between the communist Pathet Lao, headed by one Prince, against the Royal Lao Government headed by the Prince's half-brother. It soon became more than a family squabble. Hanoi backed the Pathet Lao Prince and the US supported the royal government. This culminated in a communist offensive to expand its powers in northeast Lao in 1959. The conflict deteriorated into a protracted internal war, marked by coups and counter coups. A right-wing element headed by an army general sized power from the neutralist in December 1961. "This split only strengthened the Pathet Lao and Hanoi's position ... Moscow soon entered the picture" ... to provide aid to the neutralist after the US had suspended that aid.
W. Averell Harriman, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs pushed for a negotiated settlement to form a government of national unity. By December 1961, the Geneva Conference approved a provisional draft for a declaration of neutrality. An agreement was hammered out for neutrality and the formation of a coalition government. "It took effect on June 23, and Laos was declared neutral on July 6. As a result, all foreign forces—US, Soviet, North Vietnamese—were to leave Laos. They all did—except for the NVA. An International Control Commission, which was in charge of the checkpoints for departing foreign troops in Laos, recorded the withdrawal of only forty members of the NVA. It was estimated there were 10,000 NVA soldier in northern Laos, not even including General Bam's 559th Transportation Unit. In effect, the Kennedy administration had conceded Laos and unencumbered use of the Ho Chi Minh Trail to Hanoi."
Meanwhile, the CIA's program of covert operations against North Vietnam was headed by Bill Colby, the chief of the Saigon Station. His program infiltrated agent teams into the North to collect intelligence and for sabotage and harassment; and later for psychological warfare. During 19611963 the CIA sent out more than thirty agent teams. By the end of 1963, "only four teams and one singleton were thought still to be operating inside North Vietnam. The rest were dead, in prison, or acting under enemy control." (EN 1-3) As a result of both these disasters by the State Department, our US Ambassador to the new Laotian government was adamant about the US honoring the neutrality agreement – a fact that would handcuff our SOG operations in both Laos and Cambodia for years. And the ineptitude of Colby's covert warfare efforts eventually caused President Kennedy to lose confidence in the CIA, turning over that job against the North Vietnamese totally to the military – to MACV and SOG. The CIA did keep their programs elsewhere in Indo-China however, often hindering SOG in Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.
Reske's historical summary continues, "When John F. Kennedy assumed office in 1961, support for the Saigon government among South Vietnam's peasants—who constituted 90% of the population of SVN—was weak and in serious decline. By 1960-61 US economic aid to South Vietnam amounted to $156.8 million annually, and the ten thousand US military advisors stationed in SVN thought they had determined the true nature of the conflict in which they found them-selves. This was an unconventional war of counterinsurgency to win hearts and minds, rather than a war devoted to taking ground from the enemy and holding it. The biggest battles would revolve around the monolithic South Vietnamese governmental system and its conversion from a remote, autocratic business to a service-providing political structure that would link it—in terms of legitimacy –with its mostly rural subjects."
"Despite the aid and troops, the military situation failed to improve measurably. In 1963 South Vietnamese forces operating 30 miles outside of Saigon in the village of Ap Bac, engaged the Viet Cong. ARVN troops had the VC outnumbered at least six to one, yet managed to lose the battle along with 100 SVN soldiers killed or wounded, three American KIA's, and five helicopters shot down. In after action reports US advisors, who had observed the performance of the Vietnamese on the battlefield, placed the blame for the defeat squarely on the shoulders of the SVN commanders, whom they accused of poor coordination/ leadership and a decided lack of aggressiveness."
In response to the deteriorating situation, President Kennedy dispatched Secretary McNamara and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Maxwell Taylor to investigate the Diem regime. Their reports confirmed most of the suspicions of the State Department, and in November of 1963 Diem and his brother were captured by elements of the SVN Army and Marines. The Diem brothers later died in custody, their deaths officially described as "accidental suicide. The Diem government was replaced by a Military Revolutionary Council headed by Major General Duong Van Minh and Premier Nguyen Ngoc Tho. In August of 1964 Minh himself was replaced by LT. Gen Nguyen Khanh, who assumed the presidency. Tran Van Buong, the ex-mayor of Saigon, became the Premier of South Vietnam." "After the fall of the Diem and Minh governments the US indulged itself in a period of wishful thinking and unjustified optimism. It was hoped that the Khanh government would be more responsive to US advice than its predecessor. These unfounded hopes were short lived. In 1964, following a decision to expand the US advisory role, the Viet Cong were still scoring military victories and the GVN was still unstable." (EN 1-4)
McNamara, the former President of Ford Motor Co., who knew little about the conduct of war and nothing about covert actions being pushed by the Kennedy administration, began to discuss "spin control options" and then a course of action that would eventually create SOG through the Pacific Command and OPLAN34A. Meanwhile Pres. Kennedy decided to increase the US military strength to help stabilize the RVN government and on 03/08/65 the first US combat troops units of 3,500 Marines landed at the US Air base at DaNang.
At this point, we again recommend that the reader studies the very excellent book by Richard H. Shultz, Jr., The Secret War Against Hanoi, for background on the actions taken at the highest levels of government – Presidents Johnson and Kennedy, the top military leaders of the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA, for his thorough research into their thinking that led to the confusing establishment of SOG to pursuit covert action against Hanoi – with an ambiguous mission and a "start-from scratch" organization that was expected to produce "quick results with a program of a series of raids and sabotage missions against North Vietnam." (EN 1-5)
Our book will initially 'lightly' cover the history of America's commitments in Vietnam, the formation and organization of SOG and its many restrictions. Seldom in the US Army's history of ground covert operations have our intelligence units been so handicapped by our own governments restrictions, that were imposed by the President, the State Department and the Dept. of Defense, and MACV itself. In fact, initially all of our recon missions and targets had to have Presidential approval. The problems caused by this super-sensitive control will be discussed in more detail later in this book. Ironically, in about 1970, while we could not have Tactical Air (Tac Air) support to protect our recon teams in desperate trouble in Cambodia, our US Air Force B-52 bombers could be called into the same areas on saturation bombing missions. Eventually, President Nixon lifted the TAC Air restrictions – but only for the two months of May & June 1970 - only to then deny all of our US troops ground and air resources any access back into the Cambodian Ho Chi Minh trails once again. To make matters worse, the presidential or State Department restrictions were frequently broadcast to the world ahead of time, giving our enemy our limitations and schedules for operations. The NVA knew we were not allowed to come into Cambodia. They knew of our plans to increase or decrease the strength of our forces ahead of time – thanks to our freedom of the press and our political leaders who placed more emphasis on "covering their rears" with the public, rather than ensure secrecy to protect the military forces. The enemy even knew when we were going to attack into Cambodia with our conventional forces and then when we had to withdraw.
Excerpted from SECRET GREEN BERET COMMANDOS IN CAMBODIA by Fred S. Lindsey Copyright © 2012 by LTC Fred S. Lindsey. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsDedication, To Those Who Gave All....................9
Foreword - LTG William P. Tangney, USA Ret., former Dep CG USSOCOM....................19
Introduction - Why We Had to Write This Book....................21
Maps of SOG Theatre of Operation....................29
Chapter One - Background of the Vietnam Conflict; The SOG Organization....................33
Chapter Two - SF Ops Delta, Omega & Sigma Operations; Omega & Sigma's Cross Border Missions in 1966 & '67 and '68; Merger to Form CCS in June 1968....................49
Chapter Three - First Half of 1968 - CCS & SOG Events....................118
Chapter Four - The Second Half of 1968 Events - The Formation of CCS....................160
Chapter Five - 1969 Jan-June, Recon Missions & Other Special Events....................237
Chapter Six - Later 1969, July-Dec, Recon Missions & Special Events....................357
Chapter Seven - Early 1970 (Jan-April) Events and Missions....................449
Chapter Eight - Later 1970 Events - SOG & CCS Leads the Offensive Into Cambodia; the Link-up with and Evacuation of Cambodian Brigade....................543
Chapter Nine - Summary of Experiences of our Exported Teams in CCC & CCN....................598
Chapter Ten - Summary of Experiences by our "Exported" Recon Teams/Members....................628
Chapter Eleven - 1971-1972 Missions and Close Out of CCS Successor Units....................657
Chapter Twelve - Reflections....................702
Glossary of Military Slang, Abbreviations and Acronyms....................716
About the Compiler/Author....................737
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