First of Three Parts
Early after midnight on 21 November 1970, the U.S. Navy in the Gulf of Tonkin executed what should be lauded as the greatest special operations deception in modern warfare by assisting the Army and the Air Force in their attempt to rescue American prisoners of war from Son Tay in North Vietnam.
Perhaps the main reason why this unique operation is not regarded as such by our military historians is because its principal creator, Vice Admiral Frederick A. Bardshar, Commander of Task Force 77 (TF-77), ordered his subordinates to destroy all copies of the plans and prohibited publicity about the operation’s execution. Now, more than 50 years later, it is recognized by historians as a tremendous tactical success, and the Navy deserves due credit for its critical role in it. The raid did not rescue anyone; however, it saved the lives of many suffering prisoners and resulted in more humane treatment for all who remained captive in North Vietnam.
1. Benjamin F. Schemmer, The Raid (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), 60, 66.
2. Schemmer, The Raid, 132.
3. LTGEN LeRoy J. Manor, USAF (Ret.), “U.S. Air Force Oral History Interview, 26–27 Jan. and May 1988,” 130.
4. Manor oral history, 130.
5. Ship’s Deck Log, USS America (CVA-66), 1 January 1970–31 December 1970, Thursday, 5 November 1970.
6. Operation Kingpin, Briefing book for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Command Authorities, Office, Joint Chiefs of Staff, November 1970, 3.
7. Manor oral history, 132.
8. Author’s phone conversations with VADM Maurice F. Weisner, 2003.
9. TF-77 OPORD, November 1970, 1.
10. TF-77 OPORD, 12
11. Email message from Modern Military Records, National Archives and Record Group, College Park, MD.
12. RADM James D. Ramage, USN (Ret.), “Carrier Task Force 77 and the Son Tay Raid,” (Unpublished memoir given to the author), 2–3
13. Ramage, “Carrier Task Force 77,” 4.