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Son Tay Raid

On November 20-21, 1970 Operation IVORY COAST was conducted to rescue American prisoners of war (POWs) held at the Son Tay POW camp northwest of Hanoi, North Vietnam.

Son Tay Raider patch

The rescue operation was mounted from air bases in Thailand. The Joint Contingency Task Group (JCTG) consisted of six helicopters, various support aircraft, and 56 U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers. It was a joint military operation under the direct control of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The SF soldiers were mosting from the 6th and 7th Special Forces Group based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The Green Berets trained for several weeks prior to the conduct of the rescue mission.


Planning and Rehearsal

The rescue force extensively trained and rehearsed the operation at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida from May 25 to November 20, 1970.


Command and Control

The joint task force was commanded by Air Force Brigadier General LeRoy J. Manor and Army Colonel Arthur D. "Bull" Simons. The ground force was organized into three platoons:

"Blueboy" was a 14-man assault group which would crash-land within the prison compound on a helicopter.

"Greenleaf" was a 22-man support element. "Bull" Simons was with the Greenleaf group.

"Redwine" was a 20-man security group that would protect the prison area from North Vietnamese Army reaction forces and to provide addition backup support to "Blueboy" and "Greenleaf". LTC Elliott P. Sydnor was with the Redwine group.

Each soldier carried a survival radio and the force also had UHF-AM and VHF-FM radios as well.


Weapons and Equipment

The raiders were heavily armed with sidearms, CAR-15 carbines, M79 grenade launchers, shotguns, and M60 machine guns. They also had Claymore mines, demo charges, hand grenades, wire cutters, bolt cutters, axes, chainsaws, crowbars, ropes, bullhorns, lights, and other specialized equipment.


Aviation Support

A variety of aircraft would be used to infiil and exfil the rescue force as well as to provide support. The aircraft included C-130E(I) Combat Talons, HC-130P Hercules, HH-53C Super Jollys, HH-3E Jolly Green, A1-E Skyraiders, F-4D Phantoms, and F-105G Wild Weasel III's.


Conduct of the Raid

The Special Forces solders were flown from Takhli, Thailand to the helicopter staging base at Udorn RTAFB by C-130 on the evening of November 20, 1970.

The raid was unsuccessful due to the relocation of the POWs a few weeks prior to the rescue operation. However, the raid promped the North Vietnamese to relocate POWs from smaller camps to more centralized locations in and near Hanoi. This resulted in higher morale and better treatment for the American prisoners of war.

A secondary effect of the raid was the killing of a large number of Chinese military advisors who were also in the general area.

Despite the failure the raid is an example of a well-planned, rehearsed, and executed special operations mission.


References

Operation Ivory Coast - WikipediA
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Ivory_Coast

The Son Tay Raid. A book about the raid is entitled Who Will Go. Learn about the book at this link https://thesontayraid.com/ and purchase the book at the SOF News Book Shop at Who Will Go.

"The Son Tay Raid", Air Force Magazine, by Carroll V. Glines, November 1, 1995.
https://www.airforcemag.com/article/1195raid/

"Son Tay raider recalls the hunt for POWs in North Vietnam 50 years ago today", by Jared Morgan, Military Times, November 21, 2020.

Kingpin: 27 Minutes at Son Tay. A documentary film that tells the story of the courageous men who risked life and limb to rescue Americans held in a POW camp in North Vietnam.
https://operationkingpin.com/

"The Daring Vietnam War Hostage Rescue Mission That Only MACV-SOG Could Pull Off", by Matt Fratus, Coffee or Die Magazine, November 29, 2019.
https://coffeeordie.com/macv-sog-son-tay-hostage-rescue/


Videos about the Son Tay Raid

Son Tay: The Most Daring Raid of the Vietnam War, featuring Mr. Terry Buckler, United States Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC), May 21, 2016, 1 hour.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bx9C8ynUS_U

 

 

 


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