SOG CHRONICLES: SOF Exclusive Interview With Author

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SOG Chronicles

 

SOF’s Robert Brown Interviews SOG Author John Stryker “Tilt” Meyer

Lt. Col. Brown: “Tilt, when did you first start writing about SOG, you know the Military Assistance Command Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group, where you ran top secret missions for 19 months during the eight-year secret war waged by Green Berets and their indigenous troops across the fence in N. Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia?”

Meyer: “Robert, it started with you and Soldier of Fortune Magazine in 1986. We met through a fellow Green Beret. You asked me if I’d like to write SOG stories for SOF. I said yes, but cautioned that the 20-year secret document I signed in SOG prohibiting me from writing about it, was still in effect. Your response was quick. You said, ‘Fuck ‘em. If they fuck with you while you’re writing for me we’ll take ‘em to the fucking Supreme Court. Ok?’ I saluted and started writing.”

Brown: “After basic training, AIT, Jump School, Special Forces training at Ft. Bragg and some top secret RTT training at Ft. Gordon, Ga., when did you land in ‘Nam? Tell us about your volunteering for SOG. You had what some might term a rude introduction to SOG, tell us about that.

Meyer: “We landed in ‘Nam at the end of 1968, went to 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Headquarters in Nha Trang and completed the three-week in country training, at the end of which, a bantam rooster-sized Green Beret came out and said something to the effect: ‘We’re looking for volunteers. Do I have any hands?’  Keep in mind, when we went through (Special Forces) training group (at Bragg), the old Vietnam hands told us this would happen. They all advised us to go to an A Camp first. John MacIntyre asked what we were volunteering for and the sergeant glared back and said, ‘You’re in SF now, you’ll know when you have a need to know.’ Well, Mac and I had just seen the movie the Green Berets with John Wayne, we raised our hands and that was that, we were shipped to Da Nang.”

Brown: “Finish the question, Tilt.”

Meyer: “Yes, sir. When we arrived at Da Nang, we stayed in an SF/CIA safe house simply called House 22, not to be confused with House 10 in Saigon. That was our informal introduction, where there were veteran Green Berets, some mysterious types in civilian clothes who stayed away from green horns like Johnny Mac and I. A truck drove us to the C&C (Command and Control Headquarters) near the air base. We were herded into a nondescript room and started pulling out pencils and pads, as we had been doing for months. A Sgt. Maj. came in and said, ‘Put away all pens, pencils and notebooks. This is a top secret briefing….Welcome to Command and Control Detachment of the 5th Special Forces Group, Airborne….Gentlemen before you is a confidentiality agreement…you can’t talk about C&C or SOG for 20 years. If you do you face federal prosecution.’

“ Then one of our guys asked him privately if he knew SFC Paul Villarosa, who helped to get Mac and I through commo training. He told us the Villarosa was KIA earlier in the year, running a target out of FOB 4, in Da Nang. That was a shock to us, he had served three previous tours, and we all held him in the highest esteem, a true SF legend and now he was dead. Mac and I then flew up to FOB 1 in Phu Bai. When we got off the H-34 (South Vietnamese Air Force’s 219 Special Operations Squadron) Kingbee a SOG recon team got on board and left for Laos, and were never heard from again. There was an instant opening in SOG recon. Welcome to the fucking secret war. I landed on Spike Team Idaho with Robert J. “Spider” Parks as team leader and Don Wolken, assistant team leader.”

Brown: “What was the AO like, particularly in the Prairie Fire (Laos) AO?”

Meyer: “The AO was heating up, by then the NVA had been building up the Ho Chi Minh Trail for 10 years, intel reports said there were 40,000 to 50,000 NVA troops moving supplies, soldiers, weapons and ever-increasing amounts of anti-aircraft weapons. The Green Berets at FOB 1 had lost several recon teams, in addition to ST Idaho. Another team, ST Alabama lost everyone except the team leader, who had to E&E back to Nam, where pilots picked him up.”

Brown: “Your first book, Across The Fence, the Secret War in Vietnam – Expanded Edition, details those early months including the mind-blowing mission of Oct. 5, 1968, where a reinstated ST Alabama came up against how many NVA, a battalion? Where was ST Idaho at this point in time?”

Meyer: “Bob, it was actually a nine-man team versus ST Alabama. The final score: three KIAs from ST Alabama, 90 percent casualties inflicted on the NVA’s 10,000-man division. How do we know that? Lynne Black had a phone call many years later from the NVA officer who led the attack against ST Alabama, confirming manpower level of the NVA division and percentage of casualties inflicted by team, Air Force A-1 Skyraiders, Fast Movers, and gunships from Marine Corps, Scarface and the Muskets from the 176th.”

Brown: “Two days later, ST Idaho had an epic encounter with the NVA in Laos, correct?”

Meyer: “Correct. For ST Idaho it was epic, but it pales in comparison to ST Alabama on Oct. 5. The NVA came at us for several hours. We stacked up bodies, then they stacked up dead enemy soldiers in an attempt to shoot down upon us. The Kingbee pulled us out at last light, after four hours of firefights and air strikes. I was down to last bullets and last grenade.”

Brown: “Now, to your latest book. Your first was Across The Fence, your second was On The Ground, and now SOG Publishing is printing its third book, SOG Chronicles Volume One. What’s with Volume One?”

Meyer: “Bob, as you know better than most, there are literally hundreds of untold SOG stories out there. My first two books were based upon my time in SOG, entwined with stories from Green Berets that are far more amazing than anything I did. Thus, with the encouragement of my wife Anna, we embarked upon SOG Chronicles, hoping it will be the first in a string of volumes chronicling SOG stories from living SOG members before they die. SOG veterans/survivors have a double whammy in regards to our history: First, it was a secret war. We’re Green Berets, the silent professionals. We took pride in a good mission, celebrated with the team, then got ready for the next mission. We didn’t talk about it, or write about it. Second, the mass media has so tainted the Vietnam War, that there’s a collective effort to forget it, with the exceptions of Soldier of Fortune and a few on-line websites such as SOFREP.com. So our unofficial motto is: Write until we die.”

Brown: “What’s the biggest, or favorite story in Volume One?”

Meyer: “The centerpiece of the book is ‘Operation Tailwind,’ probably one of the most successful Hatchet Force (company-sized unit) operation in SOG’s eight-year history. In September 1970, a CIA operation in southwestern Laos was getting hammered by the communists. They asked SOG to run a diversion mission, which amounts to a suicide mission, to hit NVA caches and troops to take the pressure off of the CIA. The CO for Operation Tailwind was a savvy SOG soldier then-Capt. Gene McCarley who led the 136-man unit into Laos with 16 Green Berets and 120 indig. They raised hell with the NVA, pulled off a major intel coup, destroyed tons of enemy supplies, equipment, food, weapons and barely survived by moving day and night, keeping the communists off balance all the while.”

Brown: “How did you learn about it? That was a CCC (based in Kontum) mission you’re a CCN recon dog?”

Meyer: “I think I learned about it the same way you did, after the communist news network and Time magazine printed a scandalous, inaccurate, libelous story that turned Operation Tailwind from an amazing story of valor and courage under extremely adverse conditions into a character assassination of the Green Berets, their indigenous troops and the heroic airmen who saved their bacon during those four days on the ground. The slam pieces ran in June 1998. DoD did a complete investigation proving those scandalous stories were false, inaccurate and dead wrong.”

Brown: “I remember those commie cocksuckers libeling our Green Berets and those airmen. It was fake news at its worse. Why do the book now? “

Meyer: “The collective valor of the men from that mission, both on the ground and in the air was never put together in one telling with interviews from the men on the ground, but also from the aviation warriors, from Scarface to A-1 pilots and the tough Marines who flew the CH-53 D’s, the biggest chopper in the military at that time – two of which were shot down, by the way.”

Brown: “How did you pull that off?”

Meyer: “That’s part of the book, finally meeting many of the participants at a Special Operations Association reunion in Vegas and at three successive A-1 Skyraider reunions in Sevierville, Tennessee at the Tennessee Museum of Aviation. Bob, you know from your time in Vietnam, how many times did you call in gunships, A-1 Skyraiders, F-4 Phantom fast movers, and they’d save your bacon and go home. You never, or seldom had a chance to thank them for putting their lives on the line for you. This, for me was one of the compelling aspects of telling the story of Operation Tailwind.”

Brown: “And there’s a contemporary news aspect to the valor that stemmed from that operation, correct?”

Meyer: “Yes sir. On that mission, there was only one Green Beret medic Gary Mike Rose and an indig troop he was doing rudimentary medical training with. The first night, Rose, McCarley and several indig troops were seriously wounded from a B-40 anti-personnel rocket shrapnel. Mike’s hand was injured – to this day he can’t open his left hand all the way, and shrapnel torn a huge gash in his foot. Three indig suffered grievious wounds. One died, but Mike kept the other two indig alive, as he treated them throughout the four-day mission. Remember 33 Purple Hearts were awarded to the Green Berets on that mission.”

Brown: “Aren’t you missing the lead to the story here?”

Meyer: “That’s why you’re the editor and I your humble writer. From that mission President Donald J. Trump presented the Medal of Honor to Rose at the White House, in the East Wing, with many participants from the mission present on Oct. 23, 2017. My wife and I were among those invited to the prestigious award ceremony, an honor Rose earned and awarded only through the efforts of unsung heroes who worked for years to get it to the White House for that auspicious moment in time.”

Brown: “How can we get your books?”

Meyer: “Through Amazon.com – just punch in my byline, John Stryker Meyer. My website also has a link to Amazon. My website is: www.sogchronicles.com.  By the end of February, I’ll have hard copies of SOG Chronicles Volume One available only through the SOG website.”

Brown: “Any endorsements?”

Meyer: “I only have one, SOG/CIA Operation Billy Waugh, who I served briefly with at CCN.”

Operation Tailwind, The Battle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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