Special Operations Group “SOG” receives the 'Presidential Unit Citation


Comanchero SOA members attend the PUC ceremony at Fort Bragg.
Comancheros attending were Bob Clewell, Larry Cooper,  Bob Morris and Curt Bodin and JJ MaKool.

It was a very nice occasion.  More MACVSOG folks came Wednesday than were expected, the weather cooperated, and everyone seemed very well pleased by the ceremony and related events.  I counted a dozen ethnic Vietnamese among the guests, including that chap who received the Navy Cross for helping Tom Norris /Bat 21 during the '72 Easter Offensive.

 The ceremony included all former and living commanders of SOG as well as those former members of SOG who are still on active duty, most of them now Colonels, about twenty men who marched en rank and accepted the award on behalf of the other SOG men, present and absent, but also one Sergeant.

Major John Plaster's key role in securing the recognition was acknowledged, the command speeches were just splendid, the band struck its first notes as the sun broke out on the Colors, and the onlookers included just the right mix of present day service personnel, jungle uniforms, and berets.

This all took place on the plaza behind the JFK Special Warfare Center school and beneath that pointing finger of Colonel Bull Simons' rather imposing memorial statuary.  Several striped tents held the dignitaries
who sat on folding chairs beyond the finger. For the most part, the veterans sat wearing "Members Only black nylon jackets" in bleachers which where were arranged in two sets at the sides of the plaza, the band being at the top. So we could see and hear everything well.

The events thereafter included a tour by bus with stops for the command briefing and lunch, a short indoor film, a nearby firing range, sniper and a breaching demonstration,  vertical wind tunnel and (HALO) training, and a
> nice layout of A Team equipment with uniformed persons present to answer questions.  It was hard to say who enjoyed it more, those of us who were the spectators or the folks in uniform who were genuinely happy to see us and doing the work.

The ceremony took place on Wednesday morning at 11 o'clock, whereas the previous evening there had been an outstanding mixer and picnic for all, food provided, that had been hosted by the Special Forces Association off post and of course, that had been plenty of elbow bending back at the nearest watering hole to the Best Western for some of the attendees.

It was so good to see these wonderful Americans receiving the recognition they deserved. Better yet that they have their own organic helicopter assets now, so everyone who might be left behind in I Corps can be a little less uncertain about it.  It was great to be a part of the event, and I am telling everyone who couldn't make it to the PUC to try to come to the SOAR reunion in Vegas in October. Or for sure, get to the SOA big one at Bragg
in 2002.  


Regards,  Comanchero6  "Bob"   Oct70-May71


The Comancheros attending the SOG PUC ceremony surround the citation and award certificate which will be displayed at the JFK museum at Ft. Bragg.  From the left:  Curt Bodin, Bob Clewell, J.J. Makool, Bob Morris  and Larry Cooper.

Photograph provided by Bob Morris

 Bob Clewell standing with several Vietnamese commandos who were amazed at his "command" of their language.


Photograph provided by Bob Morris

J.J. "Crash" Makool and George "Sunny" Hewitt meet for the first time in 30 years, their first opportunity to discuss face-to-face the events
9/14/70 surrounding the fateful extraction of CCN RT Moccasin. Read the story here 

Photograph provided by Bob Morris

George Hewitt displays two of his most valuable possessions, his daughter Annie and the orange panel sewn into his SOA jacket.

Photograph provided by Bob Morris

Close-up of the citation justifying the PUC award.

 Photograph provided by Bob Morris

The SOG PUC award certificate.

Photograph provided by Bob Morris

George's orange panel that was once "popped" to attract the attention of extraction aircraft has been embroidered to commemorate his service with CCS and CCN.  It still draws attention.

Photograph provided by Bob Morris

See the Full text of the SOG PUC

Why was a contingent of Comancheros at the SOG PUC ceremony?

This plaque was presented to A/101 Avn. in 1970 by the MLT-2 unit of SOG's Command and Control North. The inscribed tribute on the plaque sums up how the CCN troopers felt about A/101 Avn. in 1970.  It's nice to know that they appreciated us as much as we admired them.  (The Comancheros owe a debt of gratitude to Mike Victory for having the good sense to preserve the CCN plaque, saving it from the oblivion suffered by all the other A/101 mementos that were never recovered after the unit's stand-down from Vietnam deployment.)

Photograph enhanced by Ponytail Paul Cauley



By Perry M. Smith
March 31, 2001

It has finally happened! The super-secret Studies and Observation Group (SOG), which fought so heroically throughout the Vietnam War, has earned The Presidential Unit Citation-the highest award a military unit can earn. Veterans of SOG will gather at Fort Bragg, North Carolina on April 4th to receive the recognition that their nation could not accord to them thirty years ago when their top secret missions were officially denied.

Who were these men? They were highly trained Army special forces who went deep behind enemy lines in Laos and Cambodia to gather intelligence, sabotage enemy stockpiles, tap phone lines, mine highways, kidnap key enemy personnel, ambush truck convoys, rescue downed aviators, assess B-52 strikes and find lucrative targets for American airpower. The SOG warriors fought alongside their indigenous allies (Vietnamese, Nungs and Montagnards) to disrupt enemy activities along the Ho Chi Minh trail which North Vietnam was using to move supplies and troops into South Vietnam.

They were assisted by Air Force, Navy and Marines who gave them supporting firepower and provided helicopters to take them in and out of their dangerous positions. Among the SOG elements was the Vietnam War's most decorated unit, a 60 man reconnaissance company whose soldiers earned five Medals of Honor. In this company was Robert Howard who earned the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star and eight Purple Hearts. He was the most highly decorated warrior in the war.

How did this award for the SOG troops finally come to pass? The triggering moment occurred in the Pentagon in July 1998. The previous month, CNN had run a special "The Valley of Death" which accused the SOG and other supporting military units of the most heinous of war crimes during the war in Southeast Asia. CNN charged the US military of massacring a large number of women and children during a secret operation (Operation Tailwind) in Laos in September,1970. CNN also accused the military of using lethal nerve gas (sarin gas) to kill our own military troops on the ground during this same operation.

CNN's accusations were so shocking that the Secretary of Defense initiated an in-depth analysis to see if these charges could be true. All of the military services participated in this study. Happily, the historical records were complete and the recollections of the men who conducted this hazardous (all 16 Americans were wounded in this four day operation) mission were quite vivid. The analysis by the Department of Defense of Operation Tailwind proved conclusively that the CNN charges were false.

When the Secretary of Defense became aware of the extraordinary heroics of the SOG, he was open to the suggestion by John Plaster that the unit might deserve the Presidential Unit Citation. Plaster, who had served with SOG and had written two books on SOG operations, did the leg work and made the submission for this award.

For those who might be interested in the extraordinary exploits of these military heroes, may I recommend two books. SOG by John Plaster and The Secret War Against Hanoi by Richard Shultz. In addition, Shultz is completing a book on the Tailwind operation, the CNN special and its aftermath. The book, CNN's Dereliction of Duty: The Anatomy of the Nerve Gas Debacle, will be published later this year.

When I resigned my position as CNN's military analyst on the 14th of June, 1998, I thought no good would result from CNN's dishonest reporting.  I was wrong. Because of the extreme pressure brought to bear on CNN by thousands of outraged viewers, the CNN officials who were directly responsible for the "Valley of Death' special have departed CNN, including the two producers, April Oliver and Jack Smith, the lead reporter, Peter Arnett, the executive producer, Pam Hill, and the President of CNN (domestic) Rick Kaplan.

In the aftermath of the CNN debacle, the warriors of Tailwind and all of the other behind-the-lines SOG operations will be finally publicly recognized. The Presidential Unit Citation will be presented at Fort Bragg at 11 am on April 4th. Hundreds of SOG veterans will be in attendance, including three of its former commanders, Jack Singlaub, Don Blackburn and Skip Salder. At the invitation of the Special Operations Association, I will be there to help honor these men and to meet a number of the warriors who helped me realize, in the summer
of 1998, that I must permanently sever my relationship with CNN.

Major General Perry M Smith, USAF (ret.) is the author of the biography of a distinguished Augustan (A Hero Among Heroes: Jimmie Dyess and the 4th Marine Division).


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