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The U.S. military (and MACV-SOG personnel) kept tight security over knowledge of the unit’s operations and existence until the early 1980s. Although there had been some small leaks by the media during the conflict, they were usually erroneous and easily dismissed. More specific was the release of documents dealing with the early days of the operation in the Pentagon Papers and by the testimony of ex-SOG personnel during congressional investigations into the bombing campaigns in Laos and Cambodia in the early 1970s. Historians interested in the unit’s activities had to wait until the early 1990s, when MACV-SOG’s Annexes to the annual MACV Command Histories and a Pentagon documentation study of the organization were declassified for the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs’ hearings on the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue.

One early source of information (if one read between the lines) were the citations issued for the award of the Medal of Honor to MACV-SOG personnel (although they were never recognized as such). One USAF helicopter pilot, two U.S. Navy SEALs, one U.S. Army medic, and nine Green Berets earned the nation’s highest award on SOG operations:

Staff Sergeant Roy P. Benavidez (who had to wait until he received his award from President Ronald Reagan)

Cavaiani, Jon R.


Rank and organization: Master Sergeant. Organization:
Detachment B-56, 5th Special Forces Group, Republic of Vietnam
Place and date: West of Loc Ninh on May 2, 1968
Entered service at: Houston, Texas June 1955
Born: August 5, 1935, DeWitt County, Cuero, Texas.

Master Sergeant (then Staff Sergeant) Roy P. BENAVIDEZ United States Army, distinguished himself by a series of daring and extremely valorous actions on 2 May 1968 while assigned to Detachment B56, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, Republic of Vietnam.

On the morning of 2 May 1968, a 12-man Special Forces Reconnaissance Team was inserted by helicopters of the 240th Assault Helicopter Company in a dense jungle area west of Loc Ninh, Vietnam to gather intelligence information about confirmed large-scale enemy activity. This area was controlled and routinely patrolled by the North Vietnamese Army. After a short period of time on the ground, the team met heavy enemy resistance, and requested emergency extraction. Three helicopters attempted extraction, but were unable to land due to intense enemy small arms and anti-aircraft fire.

On the morning of 2 May 1968, a 12-man Special Forces Reconnaissance Team was inserted by helicopters of the 240th Assault Helicopter Company in a dense jungle area west of Loc Ninh, Vietnam to gather intelligence information about confirmed large-scale enemy activity. This area was controlled and routinely patrolled by the North Vietnamese Army. After a short period of time on the ground, the team met heavy enemy resistance, and requested emergency extraction. Three helicopters attempted extraction, but were unable to land due to intense enemy small arms and anti-aircraft fire.

Sergeant BENAVIDEZ was at the Forward Operating Base in Loc Ninh monitoring the operation by radio when these helicopters, of the 240th Assault Helicopter Company, returned to off-load wounded crew members and to assess aircraft damage. Sergeant BENAVIDEZ voluntarily boarded a returning aircraft to assist in another extraction attempt. Realizing that all the team members were either dead or wounded and unable to move to the pickup zone, he directed the aircraft to a nearby clearing where he jumped from the hovering helicopter, and ran approximately 75 meters under withering small arms fire to the crippled team.

Prior to reaching the team’s position he was wounded in his right leg, face, and head. Despite these painful injuries, he took charge, repositioning the team members and directing their fire to facilitate the landing of an extraction aircraft, and the loading of wounded and dead team members. He then threw smoke canisters to direct the aircraft to the team’s position. Despite his severe wounds and under intense enemy fire, he carried and dragged half of the wounded team members to the awaiting aircraft. He then provided protective fire by running alongside the aircraft as it moved to pick up the remaining team members. As the enemy’s fire intensified, he hurried to recover the body and classified documents on the dead team leader.

When he reached the leader’s body, Sergeant BENAVIDEZ was severely wounded by small arms fire in the abdomen and grenade fragments in his back. At nearly the same moment, the aircraft pilot was mortally wounded, and his helicopter crashed. Although in extremely critical condition due to his multiple wounds, Sergeant BENAVIDEZ secured the classified documents and made his way back to the wreckage, where he aided the wounded out of the overturned aircraft, and gathered the stunned survivors into a defensive perimeter. Under increasing enemy automatic weapons and grenade fire, he moved around the perimeter distributing water and ammunition to his weary men, reinstilling in them a will to live and fight. Facing a buildup of enemy opposition with a beleaguered team, Sergeant BENAVIDEZ mustered his strength, began calling in tactical air strikes and directed the fire from supporting gunships to suppress the enemy’s fire and so permit another extraction attempt.

He was wounded again in his thigh by small arms fire while administering first aid to a wounded team member just before another extraction helicopter was able to land. His indomitable spirit kept him going as he began to ferry his comrades to the craft. On his second trip with the wounded, he was clubbed from behind by an enemy soldier. In the ensuing hand-to-hand combat, he sustained additional wounds to his head and arms before killing his adversary. He then continued under devastating fire to carry the wounded to the helicopter. Upon reaching the aircraft, he spotted and killed two enemy soldiers who were rushing the craft from an angle that prevented the aircraft door gunner from firing upon them. With little strength remaining, he made one last trip to the perimeter to ensure that all classified material had been collected or destroyed, and to bring in the remaining wounded.

Only then, in extremely serious condition from numerous wounds and loss of blood, did he allow himself to be pulled into the extraction aircraft. Sergeant BENAVIDEZ’ gallant choice to join voluntarily his comrades who were in critical straits, to expose himself constantly to withering enemy fire, and his refusal to be stopped despite numerous severe wounds, saved the lives of at least eight men. His fearless personal leadership, tenacious devotion to duty, and extremely valorous actions in the face of overwhelming odds were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflect the utmost credit on him and the United States Army.

Cavaiani, Jon R.

Jon R Cavaiani was awarded the Medal of Honor – the highest military honor in the United States for personal acts of valor above the call of duty – by President Gerald Ford on Dec. 12, 1974 for his actions during the Vietnam War.

Then a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, Cavaiani was award the Medal of Honor for his courageous act on June 4-5, 1971 in the Republic of Vietnam.
Cavaiani was serving with the 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam, and was captured while defending a secret radio site deep in enemy territory:

Rank: Staff Sergeant
Organization: U.S. Army
Division: Vietnam Training Advisory Group
Born: 2 August 1943, Royston, England
Departed: Yes (07/29/2014)
Entered Service At: Fresno, Calif.
Date of Issue: 12/12/1974
Accredited To: California
Place / Date: Republic of Vietnam, 4 and 5 June 1971

Citation S/Sgt. Cavaiani distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action in the Republic of Vietnam on 4 and 5 June 1971 while serving as a platoon leader to a security platoon providing security for an isolated radio relay site located within enemy-held territory. On the morning of 4 June 1971, the entire camp came under an intense barrage of enemy small arms, automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenade and mortar fire from a superior size enemy force. S/Sgt. Cavaiani acted with complete disregard for his personal safety as he repeatedly exposed himself to heavy enemy fire in order to move about the camp’s perimeter directing the platoon’s fire and rallying the platoon in a desperate fight for survival. S/Sgt. Cavaiani also returned heavy suppressive fire upon the assaulting enemy force during this period with a variety of weapons. When the entire platoon was to be evacuated, S/Sgt. Cavaiani unhesitatingly volunteered to remain on the ground and direct the helicopters into the landing zone. S/Sgt. Cavaiani was able to direct the first 3 helicopters in evacuating a major portion of the platoon. Due to intense increase in enemy fire, S/Sgt. Cavaiani was forced to remain at the camp overnight where he calmly directed the remaining platoon members in strengthening their defenses. On the morning of S June, a heavy ground fog restricted visibility. The superior size enemy force launched a major ground attack in an attempt to completely annihilate the remaining small force. The enemy force advanced in 2 ranks, first firing a heavy volume of small arms automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenade fire while the second rank continuously threw a steady barrage of hand grenades at the beleaguered force. S/Sgt. Cavaiani returned a heavy barrage of small arms and hand grenade fire on the assaulting enemy force but was unable to slow them down. He ordered the remaining platoon members to attempt to escape while he provided them with cover fire. With 1 last courageous exertion, S/Sgt. Cavaiani recovered a machine gun, stood up, completely exposing himself to the heavy enemy fire directed at him, and began firing the machine gun in a sweeping motion along the 2 ranks of advancing enemy soldiers. Through S/Sgt. Cavaiani’s valiant efforts with complete disregard for his safety, the majority of the remaining platoon members were able to escape. While inflicting severe losses on the advancing enemy force, S/Sgt. Cavaiani was wounded numerous times. S/Sgt. Cavaiani’s conspicuous gallantry, extraordinary heroism and intrepidity at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.

He served 23 months in a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp, and was released from the after the war ended.


Rank: First Lieutenant
Organization: U.S. Army
Division: Vietnam Training Advisory Group
Born: 25 February 1946, Fargo, N. Dak.
Departed: Yes
Entered Service At: Fargo, N. Dak.
Place / Date: Republic of Vietnam, 7 August 1971


1st Lt. Hagen distinguished himself in action while serving as the team leader of a small reconnaissance team operating deep within enemy-held territory. At approximately 0630 hours on the morning of 7 August 1971 the small team came under a fierce assault by a superior-sized enemy force using heavy small arms, automatic weapons, mortar, and rocket fire. 1st Lt. Hagen immediately began returning small-arms fire upon the attackers and successfully led this team in repelling the first enemy onslaught. He then quickly deployed his men into more strategic defense locations before the enemy struck again in an attempt to overrun and annihilate the beleaguered team’s members. 1st Lt. Hagen were a great source of inspiration and instilled confidence in the team members.

After observing an enemy rocket make a direct hit on and destroy 1 of the team’s bunkers, 1st Lt. Hagen moved toward the wrecked bunker in search for team members despite the fact that the enemy force now controlled the bunker area. With total disregard for his own personal safety, he crawled through the enemy fire while returning small-arms fire upon the enemy force. Undaunted by the enemy rockets and grenades impacting all around him, 1st Lt. Hagen desperately advanced upon the destroyed bunker until he was fatally wounded by enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire. With complete disregard for his personal safety, 1st Lt. Hagen’s courageous gallantry, extraordinary heroism, and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty, at the cost of his own life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon him and the U.S. Army.

Loren Douglas Hagen (February 25, 1946 – August 7, 1971) was a United States Army Special Forces officer and a recipient of the United States military’s highest decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions during the Vietnam War as Recon Team (RT) leader of a small special reconnaissance unit “RT Kansas”, manned by USASF Green Berets and highly trained Montagnard commandos from Task Force One Advisory Element aka Command & Control North, a division of Studies and Observations Group in the Vietnam War. Hagen was the last member of the U.S. Army to earn a Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War.

Hagen joined the Army from his birth city of Fargo, North Dakota in 1968, and by August 7, 1971 was serving as a first lieutenant in command of special Recon Team (RT) Kansas, a mixed unit of U.S. Army Special Forces and Montagnard commandos from Task Force One Advisory Element (TF1AE), also known as Command & Control North (CCN) with MACV-SOG (name changed in March 1971 to “TAG” Training Advisory Group, U.S. Army).

Hagan’s special reconnaissance team had landed and secured their position for the overnight mission almost within sight of the Hanoi High Command’s most critical new venture of late 1971, the first six-inch fuel pipeline laid across the Vietnamese DMZ, which was essential a few months in the future when entire tank battalions rolled through the area for the Vietnam War’s largest offensive. The North Vietnamese Army (NVA) 304th Division was already massing there, plus a regiment of the 308th Division, in preparation for the 1972 Easter Offensive.

During an enemy attack on August 7, in an assembly area of the North Vietnamese Army in the A Shau Valley of the Republic of Vietnam, Hagen led his small recon team’s defense, and when USASF Sgt. Bruce Allen Berg was hit by a rocket in one of the team’s bunkers, Hagen crawled towards Berg’s position through heavy fire in an attempt to assist Berg, returning fire as he proceeded. Mortally wounded in the process, Hagen was later posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. Berg was never found and he was initially listed as Missing in Action, Body Not Recovered. Berg was 21 at the time of his loss. He was later declared Killed in Action, Body Not Recovered (KIA/BNR).

Other members of Recon Team Kansas were: USASF SSG Oran Bingham, USASF SGT William R. “Bill” Queen (DSC awarded for his actions), USASF SGT Bruce Allen Berg, USASF SGT William “Bill” Rimondi, USASF SGT Anthony G. “Tony Andersen” (DSC awarded for his actions), and eight Bru Degar (Montagnard) Commandos (no names available).

Hagen, aged 25 at his death, was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington County, Virginia.


Rank: First Lieutenant
Organization: U.S. Army
Division: 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces
Born: 11 July 1939, Opelika, Ala.
Departed: Yes (12/23/2009)
Entered Service At: Montgomery, Ala.
Place / Date: Republic of Vietnam, 30 December 1968


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. 1st Lt. Howard (then Sfc .), distinguished himself while serving as platoon sergeant of an American-Vietnamese platoon which was on a mission to rescue a missing American soldier in enemy controlled territory in the Republic of Vietnam. The platoon had left its helicopter landing zone and was moving out on its mission when it was attacked by an estimated 2-company force. During the initial engagement, 1st Lt. Howard was wounded and his weapon destroyed by a grenade explosion. 1st Lt. Howard saw his platoon leader had been wounded seriously and was exposed to fire. Although unable to walk, and weaponless, 1st Lt. Howard unhesitatingly crawled through a hail of fire to retrieve his wounded leader. As 1st Lt. Howard was administering first aid and removing the officer’s equipment, an enemy bullet struck 1 of the ammunition pouches on the lieutenant’s belt, detonating several magazines of ammunition. 1st Lt. Howard momentarily sought cover and then realizing that he must rejoin the platoon, which had been disorganized by the enemy attack, he again began dragging the seriously wounded officer toward the platoon area. Through his outstanding example of indomitable courage and bravery, 1st Lt. Howard was able to rally the platoon into an organized defense force. With complete disregard for his safety, 1st Lt. Howard crawled from position to position, administering first aid to the wounded, giving encouragement to the defenders and directing their fire on the encircling enemy. For 3 1/2 hours 1st Lt. Howard’s small force and supporting aircraft successfully repulsed enemy attacks and finally were in sufficient control to permit the landing of rescue helicopters. 1st Lt. Howard personally supervised the loading of his men and did not leave the bullet-swept landing zone until all were aboard safely. 1st Lt. Howard’s gallantry in action, his complete devotion to the welfare of his men at the risk of his life were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.

In 1968, Robert L. Howard was a 30-year-old sergeant first class and the most physically fit man on our compound. Broad-chested, solid as a lumberjack and mentally tough, he cut an imposing presence. I was among the lucky few Army Special Forces soldiers to have served with Bob Howard in our 60-man Recon Company at Command and Control Central, a top secret Green Beret unit that ran covert missions behind enemy lines. As an element of the secretive Studies and Observations Group (SOG), we did our best to recon, raid, attack and disrupt the enemy’s Ho Chi Minh Trail network in Laos and Cambodia.

Take all of John Wayne’s films—throw in Clint Eastwood’s, too—and these fictions could not measure up to the real Bob Howard. Officially he was awarded eight Purple Hearts, but he actually was wounded 14 times. Six of the wounds, he decided, weren’t severe enough to be worthy of the award. Keep in mind that for each time he was wounded, there probably were ten times that he was nearly wounded, and you get some idea of his combat service. He was right up there with America’s greatest heroes—Davy Crockett, Alvin York, Audie Murphy, the inspiring example we other Green Berets tried to live up to. “What would Bob Howard do?” many of us asked ourselves when surrounded and outnumbered, just a handful of men to fight off hordes of North Vietnamese.

To call him a legend is no exaggeration. Take the time he was in a chow line at an American base and a Vietnamese terrorist on a motorbike tossed a hand grenade at them. While others leaped for cover, Howard snatched an M-16 from a petrified security guard, dropped to one knee and expertly shot the driver, and then chased the passenger a half-mile and killed him, too.

One night his recon team laid beside an enemy highway in Laos as a convoy rolled past. Running alongside an enemy truck in pitch blackness, he spun an armed claymore mine over his head like a lasso, then threw it among enemy soldiers crammed in the back, detonated it, and ran away to fight another day.

Another time, he was riding in a Huey with Larry White and Robert Clough into Laos, when their pilot unknowingly landed beside two heavily camouflaged enemy helicopters. Fire erupted instantly, riddling their Huey and hitting White three times, knocking him to the ground. Firing back, Howard and Clough jumped out and grabbed White, and their Huey somehow limped back to South Vietnam.

“Just knowing Bob Howard was ready to come and get you meant a lot to us,” said recon team leader Lloyd O’Daniels. Consider the rescue of Joe Walker. His recon team and an SOG platoon had been overrun near a major Laotian highway and, seriously wounded, Walker was hiding with a Montagnard soldier, unable to move. Howard inserted a good distance away with a dozen men and, because there were so many enemy present, waited for darkness to sneak into the area. Howard felt among bodies for heartbeats, and checked one figure’s lanky legs, then felt for Joe’s signature horn-rimmed glasses. “You sweet Son of a Gun,” Walker whispered, and Howard took him to safety. What’s all the more remarkable is that not one of these incidents resulted in any award. Howard was just doing what had to be done, he thought.

Unique in American military history, this Opelika, Alabama native was recommended for the Medal of Honor three times in 13 months for separate combat actions, witnessed by fellow Green Berets. The first came in November 1967. While a larger SOG element destroyed an enemy cache, Howard screened forward and confronted a large enemy force. He killed four enemy soldiers and took out an NVA sniper. Then, “pinned down…with a blazing machine gun only six inches above his head,” he shot and killed an entire NVA gun crew at point-blank range, and then destroyed another machine gun position with a grenade. He so demoralized the enemy force that they withdrew. This Medal of Honor recommendation was downgraded to a Silver Star. The next incident came a year later. Again accompanying a larger SOG force, he performed magnificently, single-handedly knocking out a PT-76 tank. A day later he wiped out an anti-aircraft gun crew, and afterward rescued the crew of a downed Huey. Repeatedly wounded, he was bleeding from his arms, legs, back and face, but he refused to be evacuated. Again submitted for the Medal of Honor, his recommendation was downgraded, this time to the Distinguished Service Cross.

Just six weeks later, Howard volunteered to accompany a platoon going into Laos in search of a missing recon man, Robert Scherdin. Ambushed by a large enemy force, Howard was badly wounded, his M-16 blown to bits—yet he crawled to the aid of a wounded lieutenant, fought off NVA soldiers with a grenade, then a .45 pistol, and managed to drag the officer away. Having been burned and slashed by shrapnel, we thought we’d never see him again. But he went AWOL from the hospital and came back in pajamas to learn he’d been again submitted for the Medal of Honor. This time it went forward to Washington, with assurances that it would be approved.

Howard did not know the word, “hopeless.” Many years later he explained his mindset during the Medal of Honor operation: “I had one choice: to lay and wait, or keep fighting for my men. If I waited, I gambled that things would get better while I did nothing. If I kept fighting, no matter how painful, I could stack the odds that recovery for my men and a safe exodus were achievable.”

Although eventually sent home, he came back yet again, to spend with us the final months before his Medal of Honor ceremony. By then he had served more than 5 years in Vietnam. Why so much time in Vietnam? “I guess it’s because I want to help in any way I can,” Howard explained. “I may as well be here where I can use my training; and besides, I have to do it – it’s the way I feel about my job.”

The warrior ethic came naturally to Bob Howard. His father and four uncles had all been paratroopers in World War Two. Of them, two died in combat and the other three succumbed to wounds after the war. To support his mother and maternal grandparents, he and his sister picked cotton. He also learned old-fashioned Southern civility, removing his hat for any lady and answering, “Yes, ma’am.”

He also possessed a deep sense of honor and justice, and lived by his unspoken warrior’s code, with the priorities mission, men, and his own interests coming last. He absolutely fit the bill as a leader you’d follow through hell’s gates – IF you could keep up with him. A hard-charging physical fitness advocate, he even had our Montagnard tribesmen running and doing calisthenics.

After draping the Medal of Honor around Howard’s neck, President Nixon asked him what he wanted to do the rest of that memorable day – lunch with the president, a tour of the White House, almost anything. Howard asked simply to be taken to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to share his thoughts with others who had gone before him. Tragically, the U.S. media, reflecting the anti-war sentiments of that period, said not one word about Howard or his valiant deeds, although by the time he received the Medal of Honor he was America’s most highly decorated serviceman.

Despite the lack of recognition, Howard went on serving to the best of his ability. He was the training officer at the Army’s Airborne School, then he was a company commander in the 2nd Ranger Battalion at Ft. Lewis, Washington. He continued to excel at everything he did, making Distinguished Honor Graduate in his Officer Advance Course class.

As the officer-in-charge of Special Forces training at Camp Mackall, near Ft. Bragg, N.C., and later, commanding the Mountain Ranger Training Camp at Dahlonega, Georgia, he did his utmost to inspire young students. Howard’s frame of reference was SOG—hard combat, the toughest kind against terrible odds with impossible missions. He knew good men would die or fail in combat without martial skills, tactical knowledge and physical conditioning. He was famous for leading runs and long-distance rucksack marches— stronger than men half his age, usually he outran entire classes of students. A whole generation of Army Special Forces and Rangers earned their qualifications under his shining example, with some graduates among the senior leaders of today’s Special Forces and Ranger units.

His highest assignment was commander of Special Forces Detachment, Korea. He might have gone higher but he dared to publicly suggest that American POWs had been left in enemy hands, and was willing to testify to that before Congress in 1986. After he retired as a full colonel, he went through multiple surgeries to try to correct the many injuries he’d suffered over the years.

But he could not stop helping GIs. He spent another 20 years with the Department of Veterans Affairs, helping disabled vets. He had a reputation for rankling his superiors as an unapologetic advocate of veterans.

THIS HUMBLE KNIGHT BELONGS TO HISTORYHis spirit never waned. In 2004 I sat with Green Berets of the 1st Special Forces Group at Ft. Lewis, Wash., who laughed and cheered when he joked about still being tough enough to take on any two men in the audience—not one raised his hand. After retiring from the VA, Col. Howard often visited with American servicemen to speak about his combat experiences, making five trips to Iraq and Afghanistan. In the fall of 2009, he visited troops in Germany, Bosnia and Kosovo.

Despite increasing pain and sickness, on Veterans Day 2009 he kept his word to attend a memorial ceremony, but finally he had to seek help. He was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and given a few weeks to live.

In those final days old Special Forces and Ranger friends slipped past “No Visitors” signs to see him. When SOG vets Ben Lyons and Martin Bennett and a civilian friend, Chuck Hendricks, visited him, Howard climbed from his bed to model the uniform jacket he would be buried in, festooned with the Medal of Honor and rows upon rows of ribbons. A proud Master Parachutist and military skydiver, he showed them the polished jump boots he’d been working on, and asked Bennett to touch up the spit shine. Though his feet might not be visible in his coffin, he wanted that shine just right.

As they left, Col. Howard thanked Bennett, and then saluted him and held his hand crisply to his eyebrow until Bennett returned it. Bob Howard passed away two days before Christmas.

This great hero, a humble knight who was a paragon for all, belongs to history now. He is survived by his daughters Denicia, Melissa and Rosslyn; an Airborne-Ranger son, Robert Jr., and four grandchildren.


Rank: Specialist Fifth Class
Organization: U.S. Army
Division: 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces
Born: 31 July 1946, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Departed: Yes
Entered Service At: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Place / Date: Republic of Vietnam, 13 June 1968


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sp5c. Kedenburg, U.S. Army, Command and Control Detachment North, Forward Operating Base 2, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), distinguished himself while serving as advisor to a long-range reconnaissance team of South Vietnamese irregular troops. The team’s mission was to conduct counter-guerrilla operations deep within enemy-held territory. prior to reaching the day’s objective, the team was attacked and encircled by a battalion-size North Vietnamese Army force. Sp5c. Kedenburg assumed immediate command of the team which succeeded, after a fierce fight, in breaking out of the encirclement. As the team moved through thick jungle to a position from which it could be extracted by helicopter, Sp5c.

Kedenburg conducted a gallant rear guard fight against the pursuing enemy and called for tactical air support and rescue helicopters. His withering fire against the enemy permitted the team to reach a preselected landing zone with the loss of only 1 man, who was unaccounted for. Once in the landing zone, Sp5c. Kedenburg deployed the team into a perimeter defense against the numerically superior enemy force. When tactical air support arrived, he skillfully directed air strikes against the enemy, suppressing their fire so that helicopters could hover over the area and drop slings to be used in the extraction of the team. After half of the team was extracted by helicopter, Sp5c. Kedenburg and the remaining 3 members of the team harnessed themselves to the sling on a second hovering helicopter. Just as the helicopter was to lift them out of the area, the South Vietnamese team member who had been unaccounted for after the initial encounter with the enemy appeared in the landing zone. Sp5c. Kedenburg unhesitatingly gave up his place in the sling to the man and directed the helicopter pilot to leave the area. He then continued to engage the enemy who were swarming into the landing zone, killing 6 enemy soldiers before he was overpowered. Sp5c. Kedenburg’s inspiring leadership, consummate courage and willing self-sacrifice permitted his small team to inflict heavy casualties on the enemy and escape almost certain annihilation. His actions reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.

John J. Kedenburg joined the Army from his birthplace of Brooklyn, New York in 1965, and by June 13, 1968, was serving as a Specialist Five in the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces. During a fierce firefight on that day, in the Republic of Vietnam/Laos, Kedenburg voluntarily gave the last spot on an extraction helicopter to a South Vietnamese soldier. Ordering the full helicopter to leave, he then continued to engage the enemy alone until being overrun.

A road at Fort Bragg, NC is named in his honor.

Kedenburg, aged 21 at his death, was buried in Long Island National Cemetery, Farmingdale, New York.


Rank: Staff Sergeant
Organization: U.S. Army
Division: 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces
Born: 27 January 1945, Elizabeth City, N.C.
Departed: Yes
Entered Service At: Albuquerque, N. Mex.
Place / Date: Kontum province, Republic of Vietnam, 5 January 1970


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. S/Sgt. Miller, 5th Special Forces Group, distinguished himself while serving as team leader of an American-Vietnamese long-range reconnaissance patrol operating deep within enemy controlled territory. Leaving the helicopter insertion point, the patrol moved forward on its mission. Suddenly, 1 of the team members tripped a hostile booby trap which wounded 4 soldiers. S/Sgt. Miller, knowing that the explosion would alert the enemy, quickly administered first aid to the wounded and directed the team into positions across a small stream bed at the base of a steep hill. Within a few minutes, S/Sgt. Miller saw the lead element of what he estimated to be a platoon-size enemy force moving toward his location.

Concerned for the safety of his men, he directed the small team to move up the hill to a more secure position. He remained alone, separated from the patrol, to meet the attack. S/Sgt. Miller single-handedly repulsed 2 determined attacks by the numerically superior enemy force and caused them to withdraw in disorder. He rejoined his team, established contact with a forward air controller and arranged the evacuation of his patrol. However, the only suitable extraction location in the heavy jungle was a bomb crater some 150 meters from the team location. S/Sgt. Miller reconnoitered the route to the crater and led his men through the enemy controlled jungle to the extraction site. As the evacuation helicopter hovered over the crater to pick up the patrol, the enemy launched a savage automatic weapon and rocket-propelled grenade attack against the beleaguered team, driving off the rescue helicopter. S/Sgt. Miller led the team in a valiant defense which drove back the enemy in its attempt to overrun the small patrol. Although seriously wounded and with every man in his patrol a casualty, S/Sgt. Miller moved forward to again single-handedly meet the hostile attackers. From his forward exposed position, S/Sgt. Miller gallantly repelled 2 attacks by the enemy before a friendly relief force reached the patrol location. S/Sgt. Miller’s gallantry, intrepidity in action, and selfless devotion to the welfare of his comrades are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the U.S. Army.


Born on October 27, 1942, Fred ‘Zab’ Zabitosky grew up with little discipline. Vandalism and petty theft had earned him some time in the reformatory in Trenton, New Jersey, while an unhappy home life had him running away frequently. Trouble was something with which he was intimately familiar.

When he joined the Army at the age of 17, Zabitosky found the home he had never had. ‘I loved the discipline and I loved the pride,’ remembers Zabitosky. ‘This was the first time I ever experienced either.’

Basic training was also the first time he had ever been out of the New Jersey area. He trained in Fort Benning, Ga., and did well. By the time he returned to Vietnam for his third tour in September 1967, he was a combat-ready Green Beret who knew his job.

Zabitosky was assigned to Military Assistance Command Vietnam’s Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG), Operations Project 35, also known as ‘Shining Brass’ and code-named ‘Prairie Fire.’ Its mission was to conduct secret operations into Laos and Cambodia. The operation, conducted from Kontum at Forward Operational Base No. 2, had been going on for two years; Zabitosky’s mission was to infiltrate across the Laotian and Cambodian borders to monitor the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Zabitosky was made the leader of Spike Team Maine, which consisted of three Americans and nine indigenous troops, usually Chinese Nungs. Because his team was operating in unconventional warfare mode, the men wore no uniforms. In fact, they wore either North Vietnamese clothes or generic military fatigues without any identification. Their rifles were either Russian AK-47s or Swedish K-submachine guns. They carried North Vietnamese combat gear and ate only Vietnamese food. Before a mission, they didn’t wash for several days, since they didn’t want to smell like Americans.

For Staff Sgt. Doug Glover, the MACV-SOG missions were his first combat assignments. By the time Glover was ready for his third mission on February 18, 1968, he was made a team leader and he and Zabitosky were friends. The Tet Offensive had begun, and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) troops were using Laos and Cambodia as their staging areas. A decision was made to infiltrate five MACV-SOG teams into Cambodia and Laos to determine enemy troop concentrations and to decide if a second enemy offensive was probable.

The night before the mission, Glover told Zabitosky: ‘I had a dream that I’m going to get killed. I know I’m going to die tomorrow.’ On hearing that, Zabitosky realized that his friend was not confident enough to lead a team the next day, and he responded, ‘Doug, I’ll go in with you as your assistant team leader.’

The next day, two helicopters carrying the team landed east of Attopeu, Laos. As the Green Berets moved through 10-foot-tall elephant grass and bamboo thickets near the landing zone (LZ), Zabitosky could see that Glover was uncomfortable.

The team members started into the jungle and suddenly realized they were in the middle of an NVA complex. There were bunkers and K-wire everywhere. But the real tip-off was the enemy soldiers sitting at their campsites, eating. Just as the Green Berets realized where they were, the NVA realized it, too. All of a sudden, guns started blazing from both sides. The team dropped back.

Zabitosky asked Glover what he wanted to do. ‘You take over the team,’ Glover responded. ‘You got to take over the team.’ Zabitosky said, ‘All right, move the men back to the LZ, and I’ll stay here and cover.’ The team withdrew. ‘I wanted them out of there. I had my hands full and I work better alone,’ remembers Zabitosky. ‘The team had a better chance of survival at the LZ.’
Zabitosky started to withdraw, firing his M-16 as he moved back and setting Claymore mines connected to white phosphorus ‘Willy-Peter’ grenades. He radioed Glover to call in airstrikes on the white smoke as soon as the grenades started going off. A Douglas Skyraider A1-E strike force was on the way.

When the phosphorus grenades started to blow, the bombers dropped in. Zabitosky had no way to communicate directly with the aircraft himself, and now 750-pound bombs and napalm were dropping all around him. Dozens of NVA were still making their way toward him. ‘I finally made it back to the LZ with the rest of the squad, but there were no helicopters to get us out of there yet,’ he recalls. Realizing they would have to buy time, he positioned each man around a tight perimeter defense just outside the LZ.

Glover was the radioman now. The FAC (forward air control) plane, flying above the surrounded troops, asked if there were any more Americans outside the defended area. When the pilot was told no, he called the A1-Es even closer, creating a scorching ring of fire. Napalm, 750-pound bombs and cluster bomb units (CBUs) were dropped on the surrounded Green Berets’ perimeter. The NVA kept attacking with wave after wave of frontal assaults. Over the next 11Ž2 hours, the overhead FAC aircraft counted 22 separate attacks made by four NVA companies. Zabitosky’s team was running out of ammo.

Finally, some Bell UH-1’slicks’ arrived. These unarmed, stripped bare utility helicopters were designed to carry as many troops as possible. Two of the choppers came over the team, while a third circled above them. Medic Luke Nance was in the third helicopter.

The slicks informed the team that they couldn’t bring their ships down on their LZ–it was too ‘hot.’ The team was ordered to a new LZ about 500 meters away. The NVA continued attacking. ‘We had been in battles this intense before, but none so prolonged,’ explains Zabitosky. ‘I was still in charge, and I was standing and trying to direct our fire and movement to the new LZ. When you are in charge, your men look to you for guidance, and you don’t want them to know you are as scared as they are.’ He knew their time was running out along with their ammunition and luck.

The team started moving toward the second LZ. The American air attackers increased their barrage on the surrounding enemy, which allowed Zabitosky and his men to reach the clearing just as the first slick landed. Zabitosky ordered two Nungs and one American onto the helicopter.

The NVA realized what the Americans were doing just as the first helicopter took off and the second landed. The enemy troops regrouped and started moving toward the new position. Zabitosky’s team kept firing. It looked as if they were going to make it out, even though it would be close.

Glover looked at Zabitosky, smiled, and said, ‘You brought us through again, Zab.’ Zabitosky replied, ‘You see, you had nothing to worry about with that dream.’

The six remaining team members ran to the open door of the second helicopter. Zabitosky ran to the left side, firing at the onrushing NVA while the other men got in on the right. The NVA were getting closer, and Zabitosky hung out the door, spraying automatic fire as the helicopter took off. The helicopter’s machine-gunners were firing, too, but suddenly the ship’s tail boom was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

‘There was a violent jolt, followed by screaming,’ Zabitosky remembers. ‘I saw the tail boom come around and I heard an explosion. Then I remember falling. It was like a dream.’ The helicopter crashed and Zabitosky landed about 20 feet from the burning wreckage. He was on fire, and he remembers thinking that he was near a very hot sun. When he started coming to, he realized the ‘hot sun’ was the blazing helicopter, and he was in the fight of his life. His clothes were in flames, and he could hear screams coming from the downed chopper. He knew he was hurt, and his first thought was, ‘Don’t let them catch you or they’ll kill you.’ He wanted to crawl into the bush and maybe be rescued. But he heard the screams from the helicopter again.

The ship’s fuel cells and ordnance were going off, and Zabitosky knew five of his team members were still in the bird, along with two pilots and two machine-gunners. He was the only one who had been thrown clear of the helicopter, which had broken at midsection and twisted on its right side. ‘I was out of ammunition, and the barrel of my rifle was bent from the fall,’ he remembers. ‘Now, all of a sudden, I was faced with the possibility of losing my whole team. I was hurting bad.’

Zabitosky had broken his back and several ribs in the crash. Despite his injuries, he managed to fight his way to the cockpit and started dragging out a dazed pilot.

He remembers, ‘I dragged the pilot out and saw he was awake. I asked him to help me get the co-pilot, who was still screaming. The pilot refused, saying it was too late and there was no chance the co-pilot could live. He left me, dragging my bent gun with him.’

Green Beret medic Luke Nance, who was in one of the rescue helicopters, remembers: ‘We were receiving fire and I saw Zab’s helicopter go down. It was exploding, but I thought I saw something move just outside.’ The pilots in the helicopter overhead were convinced that no one survived the crash, and they started to leave the area. Nance went to the cockpit and calmly said: ‘No, we’re not leaving. We’re going down there.’ Looking into his face, the pilots realized the Green Beret meant what he said. They were on their way down to the crash site.

Nance’s helicopter came down about 60 meters from the crashed helicopter, and the injured pilot Zabitosky had rescued earlier started crawling toward them.

‘We went down but didn’t quite land,’ Nance remembers. ‘I jumped out of the chopper and shot an NVA point-blank out of a tree. There was a lot of fire, and there were NVA troops coming at us. I could see men still alive, and I wanted to get to them.’

Despite the continued NVA attack, Zabitosky started into the burning helicopter again. The co-pilot kept yelling: ‘Help me! Please, help me!’

‘I made my way inside the cockpit and was able to get to his side,’ Zabitosky recalls. ‘I felt my face and shirt burning.’ The last fuel cell blew as he started dragging the co-pilot out. ‘We were thrown clear, but both of us were on fire. I started dragging him toward the chase copter. He only had a leather pistol belt left on. Everything else was burned off.’

Zabitosky remembers the co-pilot saying to him: ‘Thanks for not leaving me. Are we going to make it?’ Zabitosky replied, ‘I really don’t think so, but we’ll try.’

The only weapons he had left were a pistol and one hand grenade. The NVA had been held outside the LZ perimeter by the intense air support, but now some enemy soldiers were starting to get through. ‘I pulled the pin on my hand grenade and was ready to just let it blow,’ recalls Zabitosky, ‘but at the last second I threw it toward some attacking soldiers.’

Zabitosky hoisted the co-pilot on his shoulder and painfully made his way toward the chase helicopter. On the way, he saw the pilot, who was still on his hands and knees. ‘I considered leaving him, but I didn’t; I started dragging him, too,’ he recalls. ‘We got within 10 feet of the rescue ship and I remember Luke Nance’s skinny little hands coming to our rescue. He saved my life.’ Evacuated to Pleiku, Zabitosky would be hospitalized for six weeks.

Several hundred enemy soldiers were killed that day, including 109 at the first LZ. The crashed helicopter’s two machine-gunners, Spc. 4 Melvin C. Dye and Spc. 4 Robert S. Griffith, and three Nungs died in the crash. The co-pilot died two days later. Glover also died in the crash; sadly, his dream came true.

‘There is no such thing as patriotism in a combat situation,’ says Zabitosky, looking back at the mission. ‘You don’t think about medals, promotions or even the flag. You don’t think about why you are there or even your family. You think strictly about the people you are with, and what you can do for each other.’

President Richard M. Nixon presented the Medal of Honor to Fred Zabitosky in March 1969 for his heroic efforts during the classified 1967 mission. ‘I wear the medal, but it was earned by Doug Glover, my indigenous team members and all the Special Forces enlisted men who served on special projects,’ says Zabitosky. ‘All the guys who wore that beret in combat have done just as much as I have, even though they may not have received the Medal of Honor.’
— Written by Dr. Kent DeLong and originally published in the February 1996 issue of Vietnam Magazine.

Rank: Staff Sergeant
Organization: U.S. Army
Division: 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces
Born: 27 January 1945, Elizabeth City, N.C.
Departed: Yes
Entered Service At: Albuquerque, N. Mex.
Place / Date: Kontum province, Republic of Vietnam, 5 January 1970


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sfc. Zabitosky, U.S. Army, distinguished himself while serving as an assistant team leader of a 9-man Special Forces long-range reconnaissance patrol. Sfc. Zabitosky’s patrol was operating deep within enemy-controlled territory when they were attacked by a numerically superior North Vietnamese Army unit. Sfc. Zabitosky rallied his team members, deployed them into defensive positions, and, exposing himself to concentrated enemy automatic weapons fire, directed their return fire. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Sfc. Zabitosky ordered his patrol to move to a landing zone for helicopter extraction while he covered their withdrawal with rifle fire and grenades.

Rejoining the patrol under increasing enemy pressure, he positioned each man in a tight perimeter defense and continually moved from man to man, encouraging them and controlling their defensive fire. Mainly due to his example, the outnumbered patrol maintained its precarious position until the arrival of tactical air support and a helicopter extraction team. As the rescue helicopters arrived, the determined North Vietnamese pressed their attack. Sfc. Zabitosky repeatedly exposed himself to their fire to adjust suppressive helicopter gunship fire around the landing zone. After boarding 1 of the rescue helicopters, he positioned himself in the door delivering fire on the enemy as the ship took off. The helicopter was engulfed in a hail of bullets and Sfc. Zabitosky was thrown from the craft as it spun out of control and crashed. Recovering consciousness, he ignored his extremely painful injuries and moved to the flaming wreckage. Heedless of the danger of exploding ordnance and fuel, he pulled the severely wounded pilot from the searing blaze and made repeated attempts to rescue his patrol members but was driven back by the intense heat. Despite his serious burns and crushed ribs, he carried and dragged the unconscious pilot through a curtain of enemy fire to within 10 feet of a hovering rescue helicopter before collapsing. Sfc. Zabitosky’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.


Rank: Sergeant
Organization: U.S. Army
Company: Military Assistance Command, Vietnam — Studies and Observations Group
Division: 5th Special Forces Group
Born: 17 October 1947, Watertown, New York
Departed: No
Date of Issue: 10/23/2017
Place / Date: Chavane, Laos, September 11-14, 1970


The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Gary M. Rose
United States Army

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

Sergeant Gary M. Rose distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity while serving as a Special Forces Medic with a company-sized exploitation force, Special Operations Augmentation, Command and Control Central, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, Republic of Vietnam.

Between 11 and 14 September 1970, Sergeant Rose’s company was continuously engaged by a well-armed and numerically superior hostile force deep in enemy-controlled territory. Enemy B-40 rockets and mortar rounds rained down while the adversary sprayed the area with small arms and machine gun fire, wounding many and forcing everyone to seek cover. Sergeant Rose, braving the hail of bullets, sprinted fifty meters to a wounded soldier’s side. He then used his own body to protect the casualty from further injury while treating his wounds. After stabilizing the casualty, Sergeant Rose carried him through the bullet-ridden combat zone to protective cover. As the enemy accelerated the attack, Sergeant Rose continuously exposed himself to intense fire as he fearlessly moved from casualty to casualty, administering life-saving aid. A B-40 rocket impacted just meters from Sergeant Rose, knocking him from his feet and injuring his head, hand, and foot. Ignoring his wounds, Sergeant Rose struggled to his feet and continued to render aid to the other injured soldiers. During an attempted medevac, Sergeant Rose again exposed himself to enemy fire as he attempted to hoist wounded personnel up to the hovering helicopter, which was unable to land due to unsuitable terrain. The medevac mission was aborted due to intense enemy fire and the helicopter crashed a few miles away due to the enemy fire sustained during the attempted extraction. Over the next two days, Sergeant Rose continued to expose himself to enemy fire in order to treat the wounded, estimated to be half of the company’s personnel. On September 14, during the company’s eventual helicopter extraction, the enemy launched a full-scale offensive. Sergeant Rose, after loading wounded personnel on the first set of extraction helicopters, returned to the outer perimeter under enemy fire, carrying friendly casualties and moving wounded personnel to more secure positions until they could be evacuated. He then returned to the perimeter to help repel the enemy until the final extraction helicopter arrived. As the final helicopter was loaded, the enemy began to overrun the company’s position, and the helicopter’s Marine door gunner was shot in the neck. Sergeant Rose instantly administered critical medical treatment onboard the helicopter, saving the Marine’s life. The helicopter carrying Sergeant Rose crashed several hundred meters from the evacuation point, further injuring Sergeant Rose and the personnel on board. Despite his numerous wounds from the past three days, Sergeant Rose continued to pull and carry unconscious and wounded personnel out of the burning wreckage and continued to administer aid to the wounded until another extraction helicopter arrived. Sergeant Rose’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty were critical to saving numerous lives over that four day time period. His actions are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 1st Special Forces, and the United States Army.


Rank: 1st Lieutenant
Organization: U.S. Air Force
Division: 20th Special Operations Squadron
Born: 12 March 1943, Sedalia, Mo.
Entered Service At: Pullman, Wash.
Date of Issue: 05/14/1970
Accredited To: Washington
Place / Date: Near Duc Co, Republic of Vietnam, 26 November 1968


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Capt. Fleming (then 1st Lt.) distinguished himself as the Aircraft Commander of a UH-1F transport Helicopter. Capt. Fleming went to the aid of a 6-man special forces long range reconnaissance patrol that was in danger of being overrun by a large, heavily armed hostile force. Despite the knowledge that 1 helicopter had been downed by intense hostile fire, Capt. Fleming descended, and balanced his helicopter on a river bank with the tail boom hanging over open water. The patrol could not penetrate to the landing site and he was forced to withdraw. Dangerously low on fuel, Capt. Fleming repeated his original landing maneuver.

Disregarding his own safety, he remained in this exposed position. Hostile fire crashed through his windscreen as the patrol boarded his helicopter. Capt. Fleming made a successful takeoff through a barrage of hostile fire and recovered safely at a forward base. Capt. Fleming’s profound concern for his fellowmen, and at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.