Category Archives: SF History and Lore

“Bubble” Culture and the Military

Are you in a bubble?

Are you in a bubble?

Lucky enough to get stationed only 40 miles or so from home, when the 10th Special Forces Group , or our little slice of it, at least, wasn’t out and doing, the gang regularly surged into the Hognose family manse, for any of a number of reasons. This put Hognose’s parents — a corporate executive and a teacher, the first in their families to have attended college — in close proximity to a crowd of high-functioning but demographically diverse SF teamies and support guys.

‘Nose didn’t notice anything unusual… the team guys were about similar, in intellect and interests, to his high school and college friends. It was his mother who noticed something: she was the only one of the guys’ mothers still married to the guy’s father. Many of them came from families that were marginal, if not chaotic.

A series of explorations on the cultural divide that PBS, of all things (Public Broadcasting System, a teleision and radio broadcaster run by the Government as an alternative to commercial channels, and a de facto infotainment subsidy for the wealthy elite) has been running, made us think about how the culture of the Army and armed forces in general is so different from the culture of the corrupt, greedy, inbred snobs who are running the country into the ground.

Charles Murray notes, in one of these posts:

One of my central propositions in my 2012 book “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010″ was that a high-IQ, highly educated new upper class has formed over the last half century. It has a culture of its own that is largely disconnected from the culture of mainstream white America. I could expect that many of my readers would be part of that new upper class. The problem that stumped me for a while was how to convince them that their isolation is real. Eventually, I decided to try self-recognition. And so Chapter 4 of “Coming Apart” was titled “How Thick is Your Bubble?” and contained a 25-item quiz that let readers see for themselves where they stood on a 100-point scale. The lower their scores, the thicker the cultural bubble that separated them from the lives of ordinary Americans.

For a kid from a well-off, bookish, and somewhat genteel family, the Army is a culture shock. For ‘Nose, it was a welcome shock, like diving into a cool lake on a baking August day, but for some others, it’s a horrifying one. This is kind of like the shock PBS viewers and listeners get as their rich-man’s-welfare-broadcaster shows them the horror of Trump, and worse, from their point of view, his teeming horde of oiks.

10th SF -- not a bad bubble to be in, 1980-1985.

10th SF — not a bad bubble to be in, 1980-1985.

You get the impression that the PBS types are all for democracy, but not if it means their guys can be voted out.

To the credit of PBS, someone over there is trying to understand, In any event. They have been asking the eminent social scientist (if there is a such thing) Charles Murray to clarify things, and he’s developed a quiz based on social isolation…. the Do You Live in a Bubble quiz.

Our hypothesis: most of the readers of this blog, don’t. Even though it’s probable that they average higher than, well, average, on markers of social status like education and income.

Murray on what your Bubble Score says about you.

Murray on the most socially inbred zip codes in the country. Stop us if this surprises you, but they’re not places like Hog Waller, Tennessee, Dry Toad, Tejas, or Brother Darrell, Vermont. They’re pretty much all in Manhattan.

The service can also be isolating, if you let it be. We know many vets who get along fine with vets and nonvets alike, but whose preferred social circle is, at its core, the Brotherhood that has Seen the Elephant.

It’s easy to get isolated from other vets if your veterans’ group is of low density on the ground — you can always find another soldier, but how many SF vets live in your community? In Nose’s, he’s it, although there’s at least one guy two towns south — social media is lifesaving. SF guys have an email list of some 20 years’ standing, a more recent Facebook page (SF Brothers), and a number of forums, some for SF alone (like and some for all-service SOF (like; all of these require authentication to post, or to be identified as an SF vet. There are other means of communication that open up once you’re tapped in to the community, but they operate according to the First Rule of Fight Club.

The armed forces also has the effect of raising your bubble score (higher the score, the lower the cultural isolation). Our guess is that the Blogbrother, who is not a vet, but who is by far the more social, less misanthropic brother, will score substantially lower on the quiz than Hognose, his own brother. That is because many of the things that raised Nose’s score apart from his mere veteranitude, are things he only experienced as a consequence of joining up — marching in a parade, living in poverty, living among a lot of non-college grads (which neither of us does anymore, our neighbors are all Ward and June Cleaver) .

Come to think of it, Blogbro went through a financial cauterizing, too, at one point in his life, and definitely lived on a low income — probably lower than mine as a private.

Thinking of it, Nose should not be proud of his high score (56) as it’s mostly an artifact of his decision to join up decades ago. But that alone had some pretty profound de-isolating effects.

How the US Got Into the CT Racket

SF1CRESTYesterday, we discussed a little ur-history of counterterrorism in the context of the HK MP5 legend.

Meanwhile, in the USA, a Special Forces officer named Charles Beckwith had a personal problem: he’d burned so many bridges in SF he was probably not going to get a command. He made rounds of headquarters, badmouthing SF and talking up SAS, where he’d served an exchange tour. SF used to be good (early in Vietnam, when Beckwith last had a command). Now they stank like a North Korean human wave offensive ten days after. What the Army needed, he said, was an SAS of its own, copied exactly from its British model. It was a message that was geared to ears at the Pentagon.

Chief of Staff Bernard W. Rogers, an Abrams protege, shared his mentor’s antipathy for paratroopers in general and SF in particular. (Abrams, and Rogers, had hoped that creating the Infantry Rangers in the early 70s would allow SF to be quietly closed down as a “Bad Idea of the Vietnam Era.”)

But he didn’t see that creating another elite unit was helpful at all. He thought that elite units sapped line units of their best NCOs, lowering the quality of the whole Army, and frankly, during Rogers’s tenure the quality was pretty low: large numbers of recruits were in Mental Categories IV and V, which is to say, below the 31st percentile in IQ. Category V is functionally retarded, and people that slow weren’t supposed to be recruited under any circumstances, but Rogers and other Army mandarins had built such a morass of dishonest reporting that recruiters got away for years with cheating on a titanic scale).

In came a new Chief of Staff, Edward “Shy” Meyer. (Rogers didn’t retire, but was kicked over to the NATO command). Meyer did not have Rogers’s hangups, but he also had a new problem: his own bosses were asking him what the Army was going to do about terrorism.

Meyer took a two-pronged approach: he asked the commander of Special Forces, then Brigadier General Joe Lutz, for an interim capability, and he took Beckwith’s briefing and approved his new unit.

The interim capability was stood up by Colonel Robert Mountel at 5th Special Forces Group and was code-named Blue Light. It was staffed by selected, recruited volunteers from within the group and had its own training area on then-remote Mott Lake Compound.

Beckwith originally envisioned that recruits would come to selection for his new unit mostly from Special Forces. But of the three extant SF Groups at the time, only one would let his recruiters pitch their men. Accordingly, he turned to the then-two Ranger Battalions and to the Army in general, with a vaguely worded request for volunteers, for his unit. He tried hard to recruit men who had served under him in a reconnaissance unit in South Vietnam, SF Detachment B-52 Project Delta. (There were several coded Greek-letter projects, most involving intelligence gathering). He was a polarizing figure, and while some men leapt at the chance to serve under him, others detested him. But in the late 1970s, it was not hard assembling a cadre of combat veterans for the new unit.

He called it an SFOD-D or Special Forces Operational Detachment Delta. His reasoning was: an ODA covers one unconventional warfare area of operations and responsibility. An ODB has a larger area, and an ODC, a concept never actually employed as such, has a responsibility that spans a nation. (In Vietnam, the ODC was established as a formal Group Headquarters). An ODD, as he imagined it, would have a responsibility, if a narrow one, for the entire world. Its responsibility was to prepare, and on command, execute, counterterrorist and hostage rescue operations in all areas outside of the United States. This was always envisioned as rescues of American hostages, or those of a friendly foreign nation on the request of that nation’s government. (The same mission within American borders was assigned to the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team, which was more or less co-developed in parallel with Delta, so that American CT tactics and operational art were similar worldwide).

The unit was initially outside the military chain of command for operations, and directly under the control of the National Command Authority. (This did not last indefinitely, the unit was later subordinated to the Joint Special Operations Command). Initially, it was the only military hostage rescue unit and jealously guarded its prerogatives; in the 1980s, the Navy developed a parallel organization, and several elements stood up here and there in the Armed Forces and interagency environment in direct support of this mission. Meanwhile, the mission broadened, largely because hostages needing rescuing are rare, and missions that might be handled by a razor-sharp direct action force are common.

Back at Fort Bragg, Blue Light stood down on Delta formally achieving certification of its initial operational capability (Certification was a big thing in SF in the 1980s). But the facilities and knowledge remained, so General Lutz’s command, the John F Kennedy Special Warfare Center, began running teams through a short CT school called Special Operations Training. In the long run, SOT evolved into another school which provides regional combatant commanders with an on-scene DA force called the Commander’s In-Extremis Force (sometimes rendered incorrectly as Commander’s Intervention Force, which makes people nervous). The CIF provides an immediate response before a national-level asset can get on scene, and provides support to that national-level asset once it arrives, as needed; the initial hostility between Beckwith and Mountel is long gone and the elements work well together.

From the aspect point of 2016, many of the dramas and crises of 1976 and 1986 are but dimly remembered, and many of the operational glitches of today will likewise be forgotten 30 or 40 years from now.

The Social History of the HK MP5

Maybe if they'd looked like this cop they'd have been less intimidating. Frankfurt Airport.

Maybe if they’d looked like this policewoman they’d have been less intimidating. Frankfurt Airport, 21st Century, the MP5 soldiers (cops?) on.

As a yout’, the German airport police were intimidating. They seemed to come in three sizes, with three different weapons: Ordinary-sized cops with ordinary auto pistols; incredibly big gorillas with leather jackets and tiny little PPKs or similar way down in thigh holsters (to accommodate their simian arms); and very young, skinny, pimpled kids with big ugly MP5s. It was almost as if the gun they gave a cop was inversely proportional to the officer’s own size and innate intimidation capability. “Karl-Heinz is not so scary, ja, ve better giff him ze big gun, nicht wahr?

The submachine guns were the roller-delayed HK MP5, a weapon that had been in production since 1964 but that only became a fixture in German airports after the terrorist attack on the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, an attack that put Arab terrorism on the map in the civilized world for the first time. The Fürstenfeldbruck police intervention, the one that ended with the hostage takers and hostages alike quick-fried to a crackly crunch, hadn’t collapsed into a disaster because the cops were outgunned, but because they were unprepared. Even the Israelis, who knew they were targets, hadn’t anticipated this kind of attack, made possible because the Arab terrorists at the time had European Communist helpers, leaders and planners.

But one outcome of the attack was submachine guns returning to public view in Germany for the first time in nearly 30 years. The SMG of choice was the MP5, a scale-down of H&K’s G3 rifle for the 9mm cartridge, originally developed as a military weapon. Since its 1964 introduction, the MP5 had found favor not only with militaries already using G3 variations like West Germany and Norway, but also with police forces.

Even the terrorists were seduced by the iconography of the MP5. Here, a Rote Armee Fraktion emblem, Germany 1980s.

Even the terrorists were seduced by the iconography of the MP5. Here, a Rote Armee Fraktion emblem, Germany 1980s.

Police have long used submachine guns worldwide, although they haven’t fired them much off the range. Savvy cops have long understood that an intimidated bandit is more likely to give himself up without a futile fight, so armories long contained these weapons. After 1972, they came out, not so much because the PFLP, PLO, Red Brigades and Baader-Meinhof Gang would be intimidated, but because the traveling public would be reassured: these airport cops are ready for anything!  So those intimidating cops were simply security theater, something that would be elevated to comic levels in the next 40 years.

Meanwhile, the cops that used submachine guns discovered that the MP5s were better for their purposes. Firing from a closed bolt, they were much more accurate when employed as pistol-caliber carbines than the Thompsons or Reisings they replaced, and they weren’t any less reliable. And around this time, SWAT rose to prominence.

Several police departments in the United States had hostage situations that ended badly, with most police chiefs, political animals that they are, defining “badly” as “bringing career-ending publicity.” And smart cops began thinking about how to winkle out a hostage taker or group of them, rescue the hostages, and, as the saying goes, restore order. Their answer was training and teamwork, and they largely worked it out on its own. The two agencies that led the way were the LA Police Department and LA Sheriff’s Office — and this was in the days when California was still a trendsetter for the nation. At first, they cleared structures with their regular cop guns — revolvers and riot guns. But at this time, the automatic pistol was starting to rise, and that became the weapon of choice for SWAT, briefly. Soon, they latched on to the MP5, and by the mid-1970s, SWAT cops could stack up and clear a building with MP5s or handguns. This all took place sub rosa and out of the public eye, although there’d be occasional news stories on this new unit and training the California cops were up to.

If you remember Nomex flight suits and MP5s you're at least middle-aged.

If you remember Nomex flight suits and MP5s you’re at least middle-aged.

In some nations, terrorism was seen as a military threat requiring a military response. Britain assigned the job, nationwide, to what became the CRW, Counter Revolutionary Wing of the SAS, a unit that had the counterterrorist tasking on a rotating basis. The SAS interfaced, discreetly, with the LAPD and others, and they too became exponents of the MP5. The Germans, for political reasons, kept their CT unit out of the police and the military by assigning it to the Border Guards. It was well armed with military style weapons, including the MP5. This too took place in the shadows.

When the US stood up a CT capability (of which, more tomorrow, as it was a multi-headed hydra from the very beginning) it was natural to liaise with the police and the British cousins who’d been doing this for a while. And one lesson they took away was to use the MP5. A very few MP5s and MP5ks were in the inventory for SF foreign weapons training, but more were ordered.

In initial years, American CT operators did not use the MP5 much, just as police north and east of LA County hadn’t that much interest in the knobbly German submachine gun. Our CT guys evolved a system of using pistols for building clearing that worked well. The conventional wisdom was that even a short MP5 was too long for true close-quarters combat, and, given enough training and practice, everybody got good enough with an accurized .45.

The Britons, meanwhile, cottoned to the MP5. It worked for them; the added solidity of a shoulder weapon meant more hits (and fewer wild rounds); and if it came to impact weapons, a buttstroke from an MP5 put a terr out with less mess and drama than a pistol-whipping with a 1911.

SAS raid2Then, the SAS took down a terrorist hostage-taking in, of all places, the Iranian embassy in 1980.  The men who took hostage the diplomats of the world’s greatest terrorist-sponsoring state were members of a forgotten separatist movement, who wanted to separate their Arabic-speaking province from Iran. The SAS hit them hard, and moreover, in daylight, in front of cameras. The iconic photos of the Prince’s Gate 16 raid had every world leader from Leonid Brezhnev to Idi Amin wanting a similar capability in his armed forces that Margaret Thatcher had in hers, and the iconic photos were full of MP5s.

Thus, in 1980, began the Decade of the MP5, even though the weapon itself was over 15 years old. Having been caught by the news cameras, the gun was now front and center before feature film cameras with such 80s exponents of gun bans as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone dual-wielding MP5s in childish Hollywood fantasies. But while the assclowns of Hollywood posed with them, special operations forces worldwide trained and, when the time came, fought with them.

It was the US Navy who planted the seeds of the end of the MP5’s long run, in two separate places and at two separate times. The first was the invasion of Grenada in October 1983. A Cuban- and Soviet-sponsored group overthrew the already leftist government and shot them, and “invited” Cuban troops to  the island to join Cuban engineers already building a military airfield, which was to feature hardened aircraft shelters for jet bombers. To the surprise of the revolutionaries, American force got there before Cuban did. Many lessons were learned from the imperfect special operations that supported the air and sea landing of combat forces. One of them, a lesson learned hard by a SEAL element, was that a 9mm submachine gun is outranged even by mooks with AKs, SKSs, and Czech 7.82 x 45mm Vz 52 rifles. By the invasion of Panama at the end of the decade, even hostage-rescue oriented units (which still were a current thing) had come to prefer rifle-caliber carbines.

Around that time, the Naval Special Warfare Center at Crane, Indiana, began its long run of modular AR development, picking up where ARMS and other early modularizers had left off. Nowadays, most AR development is done outside the military, and SOF units adopt what they like… and what proves out in SOF spreads quickly to the conventional forces (who, themselves, have sponsored and adopted some developments).

Funny thing: as the MP5 lost its popularity, and its civilian version was blown off the market by a 1989 George HW Bush executive order and the 1994 Un-Fudd Weapon Ban, it never really went away. It’s still in HK’s catalog (and has had some small updates, nodding towards modularity) today, even as the company’s efforts were shifted behind two successive would-be successors (UMP and MP7). And two other firms have introduced light, locked-breech, submachine guns and carbines, the SIG Sauer MPX and the CZ Skorpion Evo, both of which are entirely modern designs in a form factor very close to the MP5. And thanks to the tiered market created by the Hughes Amendment, those PDs that bought and registered MP5s in the USA in the blush of popularity between 1980 and 1986 now find that they can trade in one registered Form 4-able MP5 for 7 to 10 of the new guns.

So, now, over 50 years after its introduction, the MP5 isn’t dead, yet. But the silhouette of one will always evoke a certain era, in those of us who lived through the MP5’s finest hour.

Support a Jailed British Hero

We have never asked you to sign a petition before. Odds are we never will again. The petition has little hope of making a dent in the island-wide cranio-rectal inversion that is the British justice system, but sometimes you have to do the right thing: something the British Army has done globally for centuries, and something that British politicians (like those of 200 other countries) wouldn’t even sniff, unless maybe you dusted it with the pheromones of hookers and blow.

In England, where guns are outlawed (at least, some guns), and where police were literally complicit in the Rotherham rape ring because they’re so PC they don’t pursue Muslim violent felons, a staggering miscarriage of justice has sent SAS vet “Pat” Patterson to Her Majesty’s Freakin’ Prison for… this concludes the Dead March, drumroll please…. possession of a war trophy, unloaded, pistol that was a souvenir from the Falklands.

Pat Patterson almost 30 years go

The soi-disant judge that heard the case went all Mr Jobsworth: “Um, hate to do this, ah, actually, but my hands are tied here, I’m not actually a judge with my own independent nervous system, but merely a microprocessor that runs this subroutine out of a law book. I’d like to let him go, but it’s more than my job’s worth.”

It is, indeed. More than your soul is worth, too.

Pat, 65, is locked up in Her Majesty’s Hoosegow Hewell. What kind of place is that for an ex-serviceman?

In January, former paratrooper Craig Jones was “beaten to within an inch of his life” allegedly by an eight-strong gang led by a Muslim convert.

It led to calls for protection for ex-servicemen feared to be targeted by extremists.

A government review revealed many are not revealing their military past for fear of attacks.

Hey, but that’s okay — anything that brings the Diverse Vibrancy that guys like Pat and we have seen across the Middle East.

Pat in the first Gulf War

Not taken amidst the cottages of Wiltshire, circa 1991

And of course, it’s Britain, so they make “calls for protection” and checked the “done” box. What in the name of Niffelheim has happened to those people? Did Wellington make calls for giving Bonaparte what-for? Did Nelson suggest someone ought to consider sailing towards the enemy fleet? Did Kitchener say “Your country needs you, but I couldn’t be bothered, myself”?

Sun front pageDavid Willets, Defence Editor of the UK tab The Sun, has started a Change.Org petition on Pat’s behalf. (Usual disclaimers apply — they will spam you till you opt you, you are giving up your name and facts about yourself to the Obama organization, etc.) but this is a worthwhile one.

Pat is not the first SAS trooper to be nailed to this particular cross. You may remember the case of Danny Nightingale.  (Weaponsman coverage here and here. Subsequent to our second story, he lost his appeal and went to prison. Shorter David Cameron: “Thank you for serving Britain like I never thought about doing. You chumps.”)

It’s the Britons’ country, and on one level, if they want to run it in such a way that murderers walk out of jail in 7 to 14 years, no one dares arrest Muslims for crimes, and they treat their own servicemen with more contempt than they apply to the migrant asp that’s fangs-deep in John Bull’s plush posterior, it’s their funeral. But on another level, every former SOF soldier on the face of the globe has a stake in this.

Personally, we would like to see the British end their century-long rollback of the Rights of Englishmen, but again, it’s not our circus, not our monkeys. It just seems somewhat insane to us to divorce the rather vital what the guy was doing with it from the mundane what the guy had. Her Majesty has had all her life, to give an example, the exact same equipment a streetwalker uses in pursuit of her somewhat downscale trade, but it doesn’t make the former guilty of the crimes of the latter, does it?

Not everyone in Britain has completely lost their mind over guns. According to UK Shooting News, his supporters include SAS celebrity “Andy McNab,” Field Marshal Lord Guthrie, Admiral Lord West and Conservative MP Sir Gerald Howarth. (Hmm. Wonder if Howarth is related to David Howarth, author of SOE history? He is an RAF vet considered a “forces supporter” in Parliament).

UK Shooting News also notes this:

Unlawful possession of a firearm is a strict liability offence. Intent does not enter into the equation as far as the courts are concerned.

Looks like malum prohibitum is as big a problem with Britsh law as it is over here.

The judge’s sentencing was full of nonsense about the menace to police officers posed by Pat’s pistol. Piffle. He actually said, “all sorts of mayhem.”

The “self-loading rifle component” which is part of why they’re throwing the book at him was apparently a detachable rifle magazine. Jurisdictions with restrictive gun laws soon find themselves outlawing components, materials, and trying to outlaw knowledge. What’s next. judge, cutting off their bow fingers?

For more detail on the case of Pat Patterson, see The Sun’s story (worth it for the pictures of Pat’s daughter, who’s fortunately not as grizzled as her Dad), the equally exuberant Daily Mail (which includes a smugshot of the judge), somewhat more restrained view of The Telegraph, which concludes with this comment from former UK Commander in Afghanistan, Col. (Ret.) Richard Kent:

This is another example of our troops being persecuted by a government and courts obsessed with political correctness.

An SAS hero who risked his life to defend our country shouldn’t be treated like a south London drug dealer.

He should be freed immediately. The country should be grateful for what he did.

If you were wondering why Kent retired as a Colonel and didn’t reach the general officer ranks, that may just be an indicator.  Good for him.

Foreign Languages and SF

SF1CRESTArmy Special Forces is the only combat arms element in the US military that requires every member to have some mastery of a foreign languge. Once common in the USA, as it was a requirement for most college admissions and degrees to have taken several years of language study, the rise of the post-academic academy has shrunk the pool of linguistically-qualified candidates.

The only language the average college graduate today has mastery is social-justice cant, and many of them cannot express themselves clearly in English.

What Language?

What collegiate language study remains is highly concentrated in those originally European languages with a large cultural body of linguistic art: Spanish, German, French, Italian, Russian. There’s a secondary concentration in Oriental languages of similar cultural value: Chinese, Korean, and the most important languages of the Indian subcontinent. But wars are often fought in cultural backwaters and sometimes among peoples whose language, say Farsi or Arabic, contains little literature of cultural value.

The Army would rather you learn the language of potential enemies than of potential allies, but in any case, in Special Forces, the Army prefers you know a language (better, languages) known and used in the area where you will be operating. Makes sense, right? You’re a guerrilla, an advisor to guerrillas, or a counterguerrilla, and you need to navigate the human terrain.


Why learn a language at all. Why not just use interpreters?

Well, can you trust an interpreter the way you can a team member? Maybe. In time. With a certain subset of interpreters. But right from the beginning? No.

You also need to have linguists on the team as a safety check on those interpreters. If they think they can get away with it, they’re going to put their own spin on what you’re saying — at the very least. It’s human nature.

Who Picks the Language?

A second-term soldier can often pick his own language, if he gets a high enough aptitude score (of which more below). For an 18X, the language will probably be chosen for him.

Nowadays, language training is part of the Q Course, followed by refresher training and “survival language” training in the Group. For example, if your Group is oriented to Latin America and you catch a mission to a non-Spanish-speaking country like Suriname, French Guiana or Brazil, your tea,m would likely have a few weeks of intense language basics pre-mission. Sometimes (depending on the mission) you can borrow a linguist from elsewhere in the unit, but an MI guy (for example) won’t be SF qualified and will be an attachment to your team that you’re going to be responsible for.

 What if a Guy Can’t Learn?

Most people can learn a language well into their fifties or sixties, long past service age, although it’s easiest for young people — the younger the better. An SF candidate, almost always in his 20s, will still have the neuroplasticity to learn a new language very well. His high IQ will help; language-learning is only very loosely correlated to IQ, but IQ does make it easier to memorize vocabulary, to grasp complex grammar or to keep track of Asian-language tones and ideograms, for example.

But some people find language learning inordinately hard. We don’t know the neuropsychiatric explanation for this, but some bright people struggle to learn a language, just like some people are (at least in their youth) natural language sponges. It seems to be correlated with verbal reasoning in one’s native language, but not perfectly (or it would track IQ, most measures of which are half dependent on verbal reasoning). So there is a Language Aptitude or “L” factor which is only weakly correlated with Spearman’s “G” factor of general intelligence.

The Army (and now DOD) has a test that purports to measure one’s language aptitude. It’s recently been subject to a little drama, as the test scores tend to have a correlation with race, which is anathema to all right-thinking people, but so far they have not race-normed the scores (i.e., provided some affirmative action points to popular ancestries). Your performance on the DLAB, Defense Language Aptitude Battery is a usable indicator, albeit an imperfect one, of your general “L” factor, and the military will often assign languages based on DLAB performance. (The military assesses languages in Categories. Cat I is an easy language, for an English speaker, like Spanish or French. Cat IV is a tough one, like Chinese Mandarin or Arabic). For an 18X starting out in Special Forces, your language may also determine what Group you go to, although all bets are off in time of war. A trainee may get an opportunity to pick the language from within the category, depending on the needs of the Army. So if you’re a Category III, picking Russian might get you assigned to Europe-oriented 10th Group (although some Russian speakers are needed in other groups). Pick Chinese or Korean, and you will be wearing the yellow flash of the 1st Group; select Farsi, and you’ll be wearing the freshly-restored Vietnam-era flash of the 5th. Or a trainee may just be told “You start language school Monday. Roster Number 107, to French. Roster 116…”

People who scored high on the DLAB often find language learning easier than people who scored low. There’s a mountain of data on this after decades of DLABs. While the cut-off score for Cat I languages in 95, cut-off scores are a bit rubbery… if they don’t have enough students to fill a class, they may bend on admissions requirements. This bending often does the candidate no favors. Few people with scores below 100 complete a long-term language school like DLI, although with good study habits, hard work, and self-discipline, someone with limited aptitude can bull through the shorter SF language school.  And the higher the score, the better. While you can get into a Cat IV language school with a 110, the cluster of people down around the minimum score are often not there on graduation day.

Of course, SF and other linguist positions in the military sometimes luck into a native speaker. This is a good thing, subject to CI investigation of the student and his or her family. (If the CI work is botched, you get situations like the Naval flight officer now sitting in the brig, charged with spying for China).

Not Everyone in SF Thinks Language is Worthwhile

This idea tends to be concentrated in the officer corps, especially in those who have spent much of their career in Direct Action units (like the Rangers, for one example). One such officer was Colonel (later Brigadier General) Frank J. Toney, who had been a protegé of James Guest, in an environment where only door-kicking counted.  When Toney took over SF Command, he brought his attitude with him: “My men don’t need any language training. They can speak 5.56 and 7.62!”

We leave as an exercise for the reader, why his nickname was Blank Frank.

But that was then. Looking at SF missions and capabilities, Toney came around in a way he never had as an ODB, Battalion, or Group commander. The never-ending UW insurgency inside Special Forces harangued him, persuaded him, and ultimately converted him. He became, by 2001, a full-throated convert to the UW mission and a man who wanted to see “his” teams demonstrating UW prowess on exercises. Some of the door-kickers went down to Ranger Regiment or vanished from the overt Army roster so they could keep kickin’ doors, and SF’s UW guys were ready when the requirement for UW came in late 2001.

Even the “Wrong” Language Can Open Doors

One of the first SF teams on the ground in Afghanistan had Arabic speakers. But while Afghans are Islamic, and the Koran is written in Arabic, none of them knew Arabic, and most of them were illiterate in any language — even the mullahs were limited to memorized prayers.

The lifesaver? A team member was trained as a Russian linguist. A couple of Northern Alliance officers (Abdurrashid Dostum, for one) had done courses in the former Soviet Union, and the guy who thought his language would definitely be unnecessary found himself the linchpin of Afghan-American cooperation.

It isn’t Just Language, it’s Culture

Language school doesn’t just teach you language, it also teaches, or tries to, and understanding for and appreciation of the culture from which the language comes. This cultural knowledge is often more important than the ability to translate your thoughts into your counterpart’s language or his into yours. It’s one thing to talk with an Afghan elder, it’s another to respond to some ridiculous proposition on something by showing him the grey in your own beard, and if you’d learned language isolated from culture, you might not know that.

By “culture” we don’t necessarily mean high culture: the Russians you talk to may or may not appreciate ballet, and we only ran into the occasional Afghan who’d heard of the poetry of Rumi.

Post-Service Benefits?

Does the language you acquire (or improve) in the military, benefit you down the road? It can, sometimes in unexpected ways. For many people, it doesn’t; they never use their Army target language again in their lives. For others, it provides a leg up in academia or government service, and a few find a niche in international business.

And some just get a kick out of being able to read the news from their former target nation, thanks to the Internet.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Winter Soldier

winter_soldier_dot_com2In early 1971, a series of strange gatherings were held by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War and allied and fellow-traveler groups. In case you were curious about the orientation of these groups, they tended to include such broad-based elements as the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and were sponsored by such broad-based entities as a radical Unitarian church in LA.

OK, so maybe not so broad-based.

Although they did try to bring out active duty GIs by promising free beer and loose women, on the theory that having real draftees among them boosted their authenticity.

Their gatherings included mock “attacks” and good old Marxist/Leninist “street theater,” but the flagship enterprise of the VVAW was the Winter Soldier Investigation, an imitation court-martial in which ragged, scruffy, long-haired veterans vied with one another to tell the most over-the-top tales of atrocities and misconduct in Vietnam.

In 2004, interest in the VVAW (which still existed, in true Communist fashion, as two bitterly feuding factions, which we recall as the VVAW-Marxist/Leninist and the VVAW-Anti-Imperialist, but we might have the lefty cant wrong) rose again because of the Presidential candidacy of former VVAW figurehead John Kerry. Kerry had used the VVAW to launch himself on the trajectory that would bring him into the Senate in the Watergate Class of 1974.


At the time, Vietnam veterans and historians went looking for the original Winter Soldier documents, only to find there were very few to be found — Kerry’s minions had been buying 30-year-old copies of the Daily World and Daily Worker, and a book that was published with photographs of the young soi-disant Heroes who Spake Truth to Power.

In 2004, Scott Swett and a small team assembled all obtainable VVAW documents and records into a website, and Scott was instrumental in inspiring the formation of the Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth (later, the Swift Boat Veterans and POWs for the Truth). Mostly, this is all a footnote to history now, but the archive that Scott so painstakingly gathered over 10 years ago remains on line at

It is full of fascinating findings. The Army commissioned an actual investigation of the atrocity claims from Winter Soldier and was able to establish only one. 

More of the claims smelled bad, then and now. One SF weasel, a guy named Don Pugsley who had never deployed to combat because he was seriously injured in a helicopter crash during in-country reconnaissance training, told a story of a helicopter machine-gunning water buffalo. Placed under oath, his story withered away like the state was supposed to do under Marxism: no, he’d heard a guy talking about some U/I LTC ordering a chopper crew to shoot waterboos, which the crew then did not do. That wasn’t the way he’d told the story in Detroit, but, he wasn’t under a real oath in Detroit.

(Pugsley, the anti-military protester, would reinvent himself later as a gung-ho SF guy and join 19th Group in California, where he rose to be a company sergeant major, and, we are not making this up, a guy who consulted for Hollywood on combat. But he was still a weasel).

Another SF-claiming guy, Paul Withers, threw his medals down and said he had won:

…the Silver Star, the Distinguished [Service] Cross, nine (!) Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star, the Army Commendation Medal for heroism, the Air Medal, and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.

Search of an admittedly incomplete Vietnam SF database comes up blank on Withers. Search of a complete VIetnam Army DSC database at includes no recipient named Withers.

The year after Winter Soldier Withers appeared in a Communist newspaper, making outlandish claims about his Vietnam service, he was featured in a booklet called Trail of the Poppy claiming that he’d been a drug buyer for the CIA in Laos in 1966. (The booklet was published by another Communist group; that the US was, as a matter of official policy, involved in drug trade in Vietnam was a major propaganda theme of the Soviet KGB in the 1970s).

We’re willing to take one of Withers’s statements at face value: he probably really was a drug buyer.

The exaggerated claims of evil Vietnam vets that were to become a journalism, media and entertainment staple, drew extensively on the nonsense purveyed at Winter Soldier. And Swett and others have done historians a great boon by collecting the available records, publishing them online, and leaving them up for posterity.

Several Weeks’ Special Forces Casualties in SEA: 7 Mar-10 Apr (1960-73).

SF1CRESTWe seem to have left this off on 6 March, so there’s a bit of catch up to do. We’re sorry to hit you with so many at once, we thought we were up to date!

If we have listed these before, apologies for the duplication. The April ones are definitely all new, though.

As usual, we’ll answer questions if we can. Some of the MIAs listed here have since had their remains recovered.

Week of March 7 to March 13

E-5 SP5
Little J.
SVN; B-52, 5th Ranger Co. Advisor, YD558043 19k NE of A Luoi, Thua Thien Prov., Opn Samurai IV
E-4 SP4
John M.
KIA, DOW (WIA on 2/25/68)
SVN; A-109, Thoung Duc, Quang Nam Prov., convoy returning from Da Nang, w/ Beals
James E.
SVN; 1 MSFC, B-16, 11th MSF Co, Nung Company XO, at A-102, Tien Phuoc, Quang Tin Prov.
Peter L.
SVN; w/ 1st Cav, Bn Cdr at LZ Grant northeast of Saigon
SVN; 5 MSFC, A-503, at A-102, A Shau, Thua Thien Prov.
Billie A.
SVN; 5 MSFC, A-503, at A-102, A Shau, Thua Thien Prov., inside the perimeter
E-5 SP5
Phillip T.
SVN; A-102, A Shau, Thua Thien Prov.
Frank C.
KIA, war accident
SVN; 2 MSFC, A-219, on BlackJack 23; 1st Platoon Leader; BR552875; bomb from friendly aircraft
Dale R.
DNH, accidental self destruction
SVN; 441MI, 1st SFG, OP-35, Bien Hoa Prov.
Tim L.
KIA, DWM (recovered 02/16/99)
Laos; CCN, Ops-32, XD524658, shotdown aboard O-2A 67-21425 40k NW west of A-101 (old) Lang Vei
Merle E.
SVN; Advisors, Kien Giang Prov
James L.
SVN; 5 MSFC, A-503, at A-102, A Shau, Thua Thien Prov., YC485845, WIA in camp and died during E&E
Owen F.
SVN; A-102, A Shau, Thua Thien Prov.
Warren C.
SVN; w/ 11th LIB, Quang Ngai Prov.
Allan D.
SVN; 3 MSFC, B-36, Long Khanh Prov., CENTURIAN VI??
E-4 SP4
Stephen A.
SVN; B-52, Recondo Plt, Phuoc Long Prov., Opn Sabre & Spurs, YT318768 13k SSE of A-344, Bunard
Estel D.
SVN; A-109, Thoung Duc, Quang Nam Prov., his CIDG patrol was overrun
James E.
SVN; A-302, Mike Force, Phuoc Long Prov., YT132368, 8km north of A-312, Xom Cat, Opn Silver City
Edward D.
KIA, fixed wing shotdown
SVN; B-31, 519MI, near Xuan Loc; shot down in an L-19
J. Athan
SVN; A-238, Buon Blech, Pleiku Prov.
Willis F.
SVN; B-55, An Giang Prov., on Hill 92 at Nui Coto, NCOIC of the flamethrower platoon

Week of March 14 to March 20

 1969 03 14 O-2 1LT James L. Ripanti 31542 KIA Laos; CCC, RT New Hampshire, in Juliet 9, SSW of Leghorn Radio Relay Site
1966 03 16 E-7 SFC William H. Hubbard 71B4S DNH, accidental homicide SVN; B-31, Xuan Loc, shot by friendlies while reentering the perimeter
1967 03 16 E-8 MSG Kenneth R. Chadwick 11F5S KIA, DOW SVN; Advisors, MACV Team 77 at Trung Hoa Ranger Tng Ctr, was w/ SF in Laos at Thakhet in ’61-’62
1969 03 16 O-2 1LT Francis E. Sievers, Jr. 31542 KIA SVN; 2 MSFC, A-201, at A-244, Ben Het, Kontum Prov.
1969 03 16 E-8 MSG Robert G. Daniel 11F5S KIA, DOW, WIA 03/03/1969, DSC SVN; 2 MSFC, B-20, Kontum Prov., at A-244, Ben Het, YB871242 1 km S of Ben Het
1969 03 16 O-4 MAJ Marvin L. Foster unk DNH, BNR, recovered ’00; ID’d ’05 SVN; Command Liaison Det, YC936965, aboard U-21A 66-18007, crashed during approach to Hue-Phu Bai
1966 03 17 O-3 CPT William H. Craig, Jr. 9007 DNH, accidental self destruction SVN; CCN, FOB1, Kham Duc, Swedish K fired when dropped
1969 03 17 E-6 SSG Benedict M. Davan 11F4C KIA, DSC SVN; 5 MSFC, A-504, 521 MSF Co, at Nui Coto, Chau Doc Prov.
1970 03 17 O-3 CPT James M. Gribbin 31542 KIA, DOW SVN; 2 MSFC, A-204, near A-244, Ben Het, Kontum Prov.
1971 03 17 O-5 LTC Bryan J. Sutton 31542 DNH, helicopter crash SVN; w/ 101st, Quang Tri Prov., w/ SF in Laos in ’61 & w/ A1/232 in ’63; on OH-58 #68-16884
1971 03 17 O-4 MAJ Ronald O. Scharnberg 31542 DNH, helicopter crash SVN; w/ 101st, Quang Tri Prov., was first Cdr of B-40 in 1967 as a CPT, on OH-58 #68-16884
1969 03 18 E-7 SFC Margarito Fernandez, Jr. 11F4S KIA, DOW Cam; CCS, w/ RT??, XT441912, during BDA 11km due East of A-322, Katum; w/ B. Murphy
1969 03 18 E-5 SP5 Barry D. Murphy 12B4S KIA, BNR Cam; CCS, w/ RT??, XT441912, during BDA 11km due East of A-322, Katum; w/ M. Fernandez
1968 03 20 O-1 2LT Franklin E. Speight 31542 KIA SVN; w/ C Co, 503rd/173rd, Kontum Prov.; mult frag wounds
1969 03 20 E-7 SFC Ricardo G. Davis 91B4S MIA-PFD Laos; CCN, RT Copperhead, YC409110, 59k west of A-105, Kham Duc

Week of March 21 to March 27

  1966   03 21 E-4 SP4   John F.   Scull, Jr.   unk   KIA SVN; 5 SFG, Signal Co., at A-233, Buon Ea Yang, Darlac Prov.
1967 03 21 E-7 SFC Charles E. Hosking, Jr. 11B4S KIA MOH SVN; A-302, Mike Force, Phuoc Long Prov., on BLACKJACK 32
1967 03 22 E-7 SFC Allen H. Archer 11F4S KIA SVN; B-52, “RT 2”, BS779188, Binh Dinh Prov.
1968 03 22 E-7 SFC Estevan Torres 11F4S KIA, DOW SVN; B-50, FOB2, Binh Dinh Prov.
1968 03 22 E-7 SFC Linwood D. Martin 05B4S KIA, DSC SVN; B-50, ST Delaware, FOB2, Binh Dinh Prov.
1968 03 22 E-4 SP4 John C. Wells 11B4S DNH SVN; HHC, FOB3, Binh Dinh Prov., got run over
1969 03 22 E-7 SFC Richard F. Salazar 05B4S KIA SVN; A-333, Chi Linh, Binh Long Prov.
1963 03 23 O-3 CPT Lavester L. Williams 31542 DNH, DWM, drowned SVN; A5/5, An Long, Kien Phong Prov., WS409854; hit on head by passing VN boat while SCUBAing
1964 03 23 E-7 SFC Thomas L. Lewis 11F4S DNH, accidental self destruction SVN; A1/334B, Bu Prang (old), Quang Duc Prov., YU520545
1967 03 23 E-8 MSG Paul A. Conroy, Jr. 11F5S DNH, accidental self destruction SVN; CCN, FOB1, RT Maine, at Kham Duc, WP grenade accident during training
1965 03 24 O-3 CPT David J. W. Widder 32162 KIA SVN; B1/410, at A-106, Ba To, shot on board Caribou during approach to A-106, Ba To
1967 03 24 E-7 SFC Roger C. Hallberg 11B4S KIA, DWM SVN; A-302, Mike Force, Phuoc Long Prov., YU100305, 3km NE of A-341, Bu Dop
1967 03 24 O-4 MAJ Jack Thomas Stewart 31542 MIA-PFD, DSC SVN; A-302, Mike Force, Phuoc Long Prov., YU100305, 3km NE of A-341, Bu Dop
1968 03 24 O-2 1LT Michael A. Merkel 17860 KIA, DOW SVN; 7th PsyOps Gp, attached to MACV Tm 21, Pleiku Prov.
1969 03 24 E-7 SFC William M. Bryant 11F4S KIA MOH SVN; 3 MSFC, B-36, A-362, Long Khanh Prov., Opn Centurian V at Rang Rang
1969 03 24 E-5 SGT John M. Greene 05B4S KIA, DOW SVN; 5 MSFC, A-503, 512 MSF Co, at Nui Coto, Chau Doc Prov.
1970 03 24 O-2 1LT Jerry L. Pool 31542 MIA-PFD (remains ID’ed 06/2001) Cam; CCC, RT Pennslyvania, YB484003 38k SSW of Leghorn, Ratanakiri Prov., on UH-1H #68-15262
1970 03 24 E-7 SFC John A. Boronski unk KIA, BNR (remains ID’ed 06/2001) Cam; CCC, RT Pennsylvania, YB484003 38k SSW of Leghorn, Ratanakiri Prov., on UH-1H #68-15262
1970 03 24 E-6 SSG Gary A. Harned 05B4S MIA-PFD (remains ID’ed 06/2001) Cam; CCC, RT Pennsylvania, YB484003 38k SSW of Leghorn, Ratanakiri Prov., on UH-1H #68-15262
1967 03 25 O-3 CPT Richard E. Legate 31542 KIA Laos; CCC, FOB2, Nung Company Commander
1967 03 25 E-5 SGT Albert C. Files, Jr. 91B4S KIA, fixed wing shotdown SVN; A-243, Plateau Gi, Kontum Prov., aboard O-1E #56-2509, shot down during takeoff from A-243
1968 03 25 E-6 SSG Balfour O. Lytton, Jr. 05B4S KIA, DOW, DSC SVN; 2 MSFC, B-20, Darlac Prov., near Ban Me Thout, vic BR248245 on Opn BATH
1969 03 25 E-7 SFC Joseph C. Haga 12B4C KIA SVN; 3 MSFC, B-36, A-361, Long Khanh Prov., at Rang Rang on Opn CENTURIAN V
1967 03 26 E-5 SP5 Raymond B. Guarino 12B2S KIA, DWM SVN; A-235, Nhon Co, Quang Duc Prov., w/ SFC G.D. Hoskins
1967 03 26 E-7 SFC Gomer D. Hoskins, Jr. 11B4S KIA, DWM SVN; A-235, Nhon Co, Quang Duc Prov., w/ SP5 Guarino
1969 03 26 O-2 1LT Robert E. Sheridan 31542 KIA Laos; CCC, Hatchet Force, Co B; small arms fire
1966 03 27 E-7 SFC Alden B. Willey 11C4S KIA SVN; A-222, Dong Tre, Phu Yen Prov.
1968 03 27 E-7 SFC Johnny C. Calhoun 05B4S KIA, DWM, DSC Laos; CCN, FOB3, YC422918, 5k South of Ta Bat
1968 03 27 O-3 CPT Mac W. Speaks 31542 KIA SVN; A-102, Tien Phuoc, Quang Tin Prov.

Week of March 28 to April 3

  1968   03 28 E-8 MSG George R. Brown 11F5S MIA-PFD (recovered 02/2000) Laos; CCN, FOB4, RT Asp, XD434574 40k WNW of Khe Sanh, w/ Boyer & Huston
1968 03 28 E-6 SSG Charles G. Huston 05B4S MIA-PFD Laos; CCN, FOB4, RT Asp, XD434574 40k WNW of Khe Sanh, w/ G. R. Brown & Boyer
1968 03 28 E-6 SSG Alan L. Boyer 05B4S MIA-PFD Laos; CCN, FOB4, RT Asp, XD434574 40k WNW of Khe Sanh, w/ G. R. Brown & Huston
1968 03 30 E-5 SGT John F. Link 12B4S KIA, DOW, WIA 29 March, DSC SVN; B-52, 91st Ranger Bn Advisor, vic YD554037 18k NE of A Luoi on Opn Samurai IV
1967 04 2 E-5 SGT William P. Martin 91B4S KIA SVN; A-241, Polei Kleng, Kontum Prov.
1968 04 2 E-5 SP5 Ingo J. R. Wiskow 12B4S KIA SVN; B-36, A-362, Rapid Fire VIII, Phuoc Long Prov., YU322138, 14km ENE of Song Be
1970 04 2 E-7 SFC Donald G. Armstrong 11F4S KIA Laos; CCC, FORD DRUM during a low-level photo mission; aircraft managed to return to base

3 April (inadvertently left out of the previous week)

  1966   04 3 O-3 CPT Leo M.  Donker 31542 KIA SVN; A-412, Cai Cai, Kien Tuong Prov., (later renumbered A-431), by artillery round from Cambodia
1966 04 3 O-3 CPT Joseph W. Parent 31542 KIA, DOW SVN; A5/230, Phu Quoc, WS005515, GSW on March 10/ 11; at A-441 Tri Ton
1967 04 3 O-2 1LT Daniel L. Wente 31542 KIA, DWM SVN; A-351, Hiep Hoa, Hau Nghia Prov., gunboat ambushed on the Vam Co Dong between A-351 & Tra Cu
1970 04 3 E-6 SSG Everette E. Cofer 11B4S KIA, DOW Cam; CCS, RT Pick, mult frag wounds
1970 04 3 E-4 SP4 Carl J. Helring 96C20 DNH, drowned/suffocated SVN; MACSOG 80, Gia Dinh Prov.

Week of 4-11 April

 1968  04 4  E-7


Robert L.   Taylor 11C4S  KIA SVN; CCN, FOB3, ST Bear, Quang Tri Prov.
1970 04 4 WO-2 John G. Pettit AATTV KIA SVN; 2 MSFC, B-20, Kontum Prov., “2 or 3 km south of A-245, Dak Seang”
1970 04 5 E-5 SGT Brian L. Buker 05B4S KIA MOH SVN; 5 MSFC, A-503, 513 MSF Co, at Nui Khet, Chau Doc Prov.
1967 04 6 O-3 CPT John R. Minutoli 30210 KIA, DWM, fixed wing shotdown SVN; C-1 Signal Officer, Quang Nam Prov., aboard O-1E #51-5074; near Thuong Duc, 15 mi W of Da Nang
1968 04 6 E-6 SSG David A. Parker 91B4S KIA SVN; B-36, A-361, Rapid Fire VIII, Phuoc Long Prov., YU285211, 18km NE of Song Be
1970 04 6 E-6 SSG Andrew T. Brassfield 11B4S KIA, BNR Laos; CCN, RT Intruder, XD983057, 39k WNW of A Luoi
1962 04 8 E-6 SSG Wayne E. Marchand 11B4S KIA, DWM, executed SVN; A1/213, near An Phu Dong, w/ Gabriel
1962 04 8 E-5 SP5 James Gabriel, Jr. 12B4S KIA, DWM, executed SVN; A1/213, near An Phu Dong, w/ Marchand
1969 04 8 E-7 SFC Christian G. Girard 11F4S KIA, helicopter crash Cam; CCS, RT Pick??
1968 04 9 E-4 SP4 Karl W. Lawson 11C4S KIA, BNR, war accident SVN; B-36, A-362, Rapid Fire VIII, Phuoc Long Prov., YU184094 at Song Be by 175mm frag
1970 04 9 E-4 SP4 Ralph M. Jenerson, Jr. 11C2S KIA SVN; A-442, To Chau, Kien Giang Prov.
1970 04 9 O-2 1LT Donald C. Tannenbaum 31542 KIA SVN; B-43, Chi Lang, Kien Giang Prov., on the road between Chi Lang and Ba Xaoi
1970 04 9 E-4 SP4 James J. Pastore 96B4W KIA, DOW SVN; w/ ??, ??where??, Quang Ngai Prov.
1966 04 10 O-3 CPT Ronald T. Shelton 31542 KIA, DOW SVN; A-415, Tuyen Nhon, Kien Tuong Prov., mine
1968 04 10 O-3 CPT George N. Deverall 31542 KIA SVN; A-235, Nhon Co, Quang Duc Prov., GSW
1968 04 10 E-7 SFC Aubrey A. Bryan 11B4S DNH, helicopter crash SVN; CCN, FOB4, Quang Tin Prov. CH-34 crash, w/ 4 others enroute to Kham Duc
1968 04 10 E-7 SFC Crecencio Cardosa 11B4S DNH, helicopter crash SVN; CCN, FOB4, Quang Tin Prov. CH-34 crash, w/ 4 others enroute to Kham Duc
1968 04 10 E-7 SFC Samuel J. Padgett 11B4S DNH, BNR, helicopter crash SVN; CCN, FOB4, Quang Tin Prov. CH-34 crash, w/ 4 others enroute to Kham Duc
1968 04 10 E-7 SFC Charles E. Wilcox, Jr. 11B4S DNH, helicopter crash SVN; CCN, FOB4, Quang Tin Prov. CH-34 crash, w/ 4 others enroute to Kham Duc
1970 04 10 E-8 MSG Gale Stopher, Jr. 11F5S KIA SVN; A-101, Mai Loc, Quang Tri Prov., inside the camp after sappers gained access to the compound
1971 04 10 E-5 SGT Robert N. Fiesler 11C4S KIA SVN; TF2AE, RT Arizona, Kontum Prov.; killed at the Dak To Launch Site by mortar round

YSMFDYND — A Blast from the Past

Hognose is not in this picture but he knows every one of these guys. (He was at DLI enjoying himself, while they were freezing their yarbles off in the woods). This shows the intelligence collection team SOTA-2 emerging from the field at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, in (according to Don Loughrey) 1979. John Moses Browning, that’s almost forty years ago.


Left to right:

  1. Art, looks like he was LNO for the team this mission, later to be medically retired as a Master Sergeant after a horrific parachute accident in Flintlock-84, became a research biologist;
  2. Maceo, always looked deceptively sleepy. Retired as Command Sergeant Major of a special operations unit;
  3. Joe, retired as a Lieutenant Colonel aviator, and rotary-wing test pilot, no less;
  4. Jim, retired as a Sergeant Major, became a schoolteacher;
  5. Don, retired as a senior Chief Warrant Officer interrogator.

Five great guys, very different guys, very different paths forward. We’ve got at least one great story about each of these dudes. Mostly, we only tell ’em to each other.

We didn’t have jack for equipment in those days — that was winter gear, pre-GorTex. Field pants, OG shirt, cotton parka with a quilted liner. Sleeping bags somebody died in at the Chosin reservor. Birth control glasses in the field! Rifles are M16A1s with green canvas slings and alloy keepers, and only with 20-round mags (see Jim’s ammo pouch)!

These guys, especially Art and Jim, mentored a lot of dudes who wound up either in SOF intelligence collection, in Big Green intel, or in just plain regular SF. Sometimes the most important guys are not the ones who contest the wars, but their mentors who keep the pilot light lit during the lean times in between. (Although ISTR that Maceo and Jim were Vietnam vets).

This picture was taken at just about the nadir of the Carter years. There was no money for gear — you were issued three duffel bags of obsolete kit and a list of stuff you were on your own to buy at EMS or REI. There was no money for airlift… we used to “jump” onto the drop zone from the tailgate of a truck like the one in the picture, and, the extract chopper? Yeah, Jim and Maceo are leaning on it….

Did these guys care? Hell, no. They were about to get a shower, a shave, and something to eat that didn’t come out of an OD Green can or need to be rehydrated. Life was good, and there’s nothing like a little short, predictable period of deprivation to make you crave the simple pleasures.


SF Swag Charity Auction for the Green Beret Foundation

SF PatchWe’re passing this on for the Green Beret Foundation (a charity that does good deeds rather than has a few guys that do well for themselves) and the SF Brothers Facebook Group; some guys we know are involved with each.

A group of SF Brothers have donated their time and skilled craftsmanship to host an online auction in benefit of the Green Beret Foundation.  Check out the beautiful, handmade items listed below and place your bid!!

*NOTICE: the auction will take place on eBay starting March 28, 2016 and last 10 days.  Items will not be able to be seen online until the auction starts.

Click on the item’s photo (link – Ed. Click on the picture to see a bigger picture) to go to the auction site!

First item up, a hand-made field knife.

GBF Nomad Knife auction

Nomad Knife & Sheath
Item #: 152023858710

Next: a Rogers Rangers knife and tomahawk set, handmade by a Ranger, SF and SOF medic.

GBF Shipman knife

Knife & Hawk – Roger’s Ranger II
Item #:152023886928

GBF Shipman knife n hawk

(Ed. note: if this guy is who we’re thinking of, these edged weapons are made by an SF medic veteran. Well done, and we loved the Rogers’s Rangers theme. That’s why we gave it two photos).

The other items are past the jump. That allows us to have both big photos and not tie up the whole page all day. Continue reading

Special Forces Casualties in SEA March 14-20

5th SFG VN flashHere’s this week’s installment of the late Command Sergeant Major Reg Manning’s list of the Special Forces casualties in the Vietnam War.

There are a number of codes to understand in the “cause/circumstances” field. These include:

BNR – Body Not Recovered
DOW – Died of Wounds
DNH – Died Non-Hostile
DWM – Died While Missing
KIA – Killed In Action
MIA – Missing In Action
PFD – Presumptive Finding of Death

Order of data points is: Date Y/M/D, First. Last, MOS, cause/circumstances, nation/unit/location.

Other acronyms in use here:

 1969 03 14 O-2 1LT James L. Ripanti 31542 KIA Laos; CCC, RT New Hampshire, in Juliet 9, SSW of Leghorn Radio Relay Site
1966 03 16 E-7 SFC William H. Hubbard 71B4S DNH, accidental homicide SVN; B-31, Xuan Loc, shot by friendlies while reentering the perimeter
1967 03 16 E-8 MSG Kenneth R. Chadwick 11F5S KIA, DOW SVN; Advisors, MACV Team 77 at Trung Hoa Ranger Tng Ctr, was w/ SF in Laos at Thakhet in ’61-’62
1969 03 16 O-2 1LT Francis E. Sievers, Jr. 31542 KIA SVN; 2 MSFC, A-201, at A-244, Ben Het, Kontum Prov.
1969 03 16 E-8 MSG Robert G. Daniel 11F5S KIA, DOW, WIA 03/03/1969, DSC SVN; 2 MSFC, B-20, Kontum Prov., at A-244, Ben Het, YB871242 1 km S of Ben Het
1969 03 16 O-4 MAJ Marvin L. Foster unk DNH, BNR, recovered ’00; ID’d ’05 SVN; Command Liaison Det, YC936965, aboard U-21A 66-18007, crashed during approach to Hue-Phu Bai
1966 03 17 O-3 CPT William H. Craig, Jr. 9007 DNH, accidental self destruction SVN; CCN, FOB1, Kham Duc, Swedish K fired when dropped
1969 03 17 E-6 SSG Benedict M. Davan 11F4C KIA, DSC SVN; 5 MSFC, A-504, 521 MSF Co, at Nui Coto, Chau Doc Prov.
1970 03 17 O-3 CPT James M. Gribbin 31542 KIA, DOW SVN; 2 MSFC, A-204, near A-244, Ben Het, Kontum Prov.
1971 03 17 O-5 LTC Bryan J. Sutton 31542 DNH, helicopter crash SVN; w/ 101st, Quang Tri Prov., w/ SF in Laos in ’61 & w/ A1/232 in ’63; on OH-58 #68-16884
1971 03 17 O-4 MAJ Ronald O. Scharnberg 31542 DNH, helicopter crash SVN; w/ 101st, Quang Tri Prov., was first Cdr of B-40 in 1967 as a CPT, on OH-58 #68-16884
1969 03 18 E-7 SFC Margarito Fernandez, Jr. 11F4S KIA, DOW Cam; CCS, w/ RT??, XT441912, during BDA 11km due East of A-322, Katum; w/ B. Murphy
1969 03 18 E-5 SP5 Barry D. Murphy 12B4S KIA, BNR Cam; CCS, w/ RT??, XT441912, during BDA 11km due East of A-322, Katum; w/ M. Fernandez
1968 03 20 O-1 2LT Franklin E. Speight 31542 KIA SVN; w/ C Co, 503rd/173rd, Kontum Prov.; mult frag wounds
1969 03 20 E-7 SFC Ricardo G. Davis 91B4S MIA-PFD Laos; CCN, RT Copperhead, YC409110, 59k west of A-105, Kham Duc

BDA: Bomb Damage Assessment
CCC: Command & Control Central (SOG FOB/ launch and support site).
CCN: Command & Control North (SOG FOB/ launch and support site).
CCS: Command & Control South (SOG FOB/ launch and support site).
DSC: Distinguished Service Cross, 2nd highest valor award.
MACV: Military Assistance Command, Vietnam: the overall US command and HQ for most of the war.
MSFC: Mobile Strike Force Company, “Mike Force,” a reaction force used to reinforce A-camps under enemy pressure.
SVN: South Vietnam
RT: Reconnaissance Team

SF Team Nomenclature in the Vietnam War

A B-team was usually commanded by a Major and had a variable numbers of A-teams reporting to it. Most B teams or ODBs had a geographical area of responsibility. B-Teams had two digit numbers. B-1x through B-4x were responsible for teams in the 4 Military Regions (later Corps) command AOs of South Vietnam. Special Purpose B-teams directly responsible to Group HQ had two-digit numbers beginning with 5. So B-31 was a B team in MR 3 (the Central Highlands) and ODA 315 was one of its teams. A-105 would be a team in MR I (I Corps), just below the DMZ.

Conversely, SOG was a joint headquarters and it was organized a little differently. The individual reconnaissance teams were named, not numbered, and were a combined operation with US leaders and local national (usually from minority groups) soldiers who were directly hired by the US. They were better paid than they’d be as ARVN draftees (and arguably better treated), and were exempt from the RVN draft.

A little boilerplate we always include here; please read prior to commenting on this post:

Note that we are not Vietnam Vets here, we didn’t know any of these men personally, and so we can’t answer some questions about these guys. But we’ll try to answer what we can in the comments.

For those of you who want to comment about a friend and the circumstances of his loss, please remember two things.

  1. Every one of these guys left somebody behind in The World, and many of them have kids and grandkids that will google them someday.
  2. The Internet is forever.

So, don’t write anything here you wouldn’t want somebody’s widow or kids to read.