November 21 marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most, if not the most, well-executed rescue operations related to the Vietnam War. It was a tight collaboration between the Navy, Army, and Air Force. The Son Tay Raid in 1970, also known as Operation Ivory Coast / Operation Kingpin, aimed to rescue as many as 70 American prisoners of war (POW) from their Vietnamese captors in Hanoi, North Vietnam. The Raiders were made up of handpicked and rigorously selected and trained Soldiers from the U.S Army Special Forces (Green Berets).
The Silent Warrior Foundation (https://silentwarriorfoundation.com) proudly hosted the 2020 gathering at the Dillon Aero (https://dillonaero.com) Range in Maricopa, Arizona. This year saw the attendance of surviving Raiders, as well as former prisoners of war.
I was there with Eric Graves for Soldier System Daily (https://soldiersystems.net) and we rode the helicopter going to the area.
I witnessed firsthand how intensive the preparations were. There was a reenactment of the raid and so you could see a lot of men dressed in full regalia. They even built a partial reproduction of the Son Tay raid. The whole reenactment, filmed for a documentary, captured the flow of events of the raid. The meticulous detail was definitely given from the people acting out the scenes, the location, the ammunition, and the gears, they used to create an authentic feel of the raid.
The men participating in the documentary got to test the rifles in the firing range, as well as, get ample instruction on how to go about in every scene. Many attendees rode the Uh-1H Huey and MD500 Little Bird helicopters, which in the original raid used the HH-3E (which was intentionally crash landed inside of the compound with the Blueboy assault element) and MH-53 Jolly Green Giant helicopters.
Surviving Raiders, also dressed in full regalia, offered historical insights and stories from that day to inspire listeners and further substantiate the pride we felt for the efforts and the dangers these people were willing to face to defend the country they love. This gathering further solidifies the unity and camaraderie between raider survivors and soldiers alike.
As a former Army Special Forces Soldier, I am privileged to be part of this momentous event and I am one of the countless Americans that celebrate its significant contributions.
To further commemorate the 50th anniversary of the bravery of the Soldiers in the Son Tay Raid, a book entitled “WHO WILL GO? INTO THE SON TAY POW CAMP” was released. The book was aptly written by Terry Buckler, a Son Tay Raider. The book is a must-read for Special Operation mission planners, as well as enthusiasts in military accounts, as it was told by brave men who actually lived it.
Buckler, together with other Soldiers and POWs, paints a full picture of the raid as they relive their direct experience that involves the planning, training, and implementation, including the lessons learned from the raid that was utilized in Special Operations and ultimately in military history.