posted on Apr, 4 2008 @ 03:11 AM
Each report submitted by participating organizations consists of a summary report to the Secretary of Defense with supporting tabular attachments.
In addition, in an effort to complement the reviews of the Service Secretaries and the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Under Secretary of Defense
for Personnel and Readiness conducted interviews and gathered information from OPERATION TAILWIND participants.
(Please view the pdf. news reports for more info)
OPERATION TAILWIND was conducted by 16 SOG members, accompanied by approximately 120 Montagnard troops. These forces were inserted by air into the
Southern Laotian panhandle. The dual purposes of the mission were to conduct a reconnaissance-in-force—an offensive operation to contact the
enemy—and to create a diversion so that North Vietnamese forces pressuring friendly forces conducting OPERATION GAUNTLET elsewhere in Laos would be
OPERATION GAUNTLET lasted approximately three weeks (September 3-23, 1970). Its objectives were to harass and interdict enemy lines of
communication in southern Laos and to clear the eastern rim of the Bolovens Plateau. The operation involved approximately 5,000 irregular troops, with
half of them moving against the Bolovens, while the other half operated in the central Laos panhandle. They initially met stiff resistance but were
ultimately able to succeed, probably because some enemy forces were diverted by OPERATION TAILWIND. Enemy activity there remained low during October
1970 due to tropical storms, U.S. air strikes, and OPERATION GAUNTLET.
OPERATION GAUNTLET lasted approximately three weeks (September 3-23, 1970). Its objectives were to harass and interdict enemy lines of communication
in southern Laos and to clear the eastern rim of the Bolovens Plateau. The operation involved approximately 5,000 irregular troops, with half of them
moving against the Bolovens, while the other half operated in the central Laos panhandle. They initially met stiff resistance but were ultimately able
to succeed, probably because some enemy forces were diverted by OPERATION TAILWIND. Enemy activity there remained low during October 1970 due to
tropical storms, U.S. air strikes, and OPERATION GAUNTLET.
OPERATION TAILWIND was unprecedented because of the large size of the force conducting the operation and because of the depth of the penetration into
Laotian territory. As a result, the senior MACV leadership was aware of its conduct and was briefed on its outcome.
To gain an accurate understanding of what actually occurred during the conduct of OPERATION TAILWIND, the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and
Readiness) (USD(P&R)) invited key individuals involved in the planning and execution of the operation to the Pentagon on June 23, 1998, to recount
Key invitees included, among others, Major General John Singlaub, USA (Ret.) (former SOG Commander); Colonel John Sadler, USA (Ret.)(SOG Commander
during OPERATION TAILWIND); Colonel Robert Pinkerton, USA (Ret.)(SOG Operations Officer and principal unit planner for OPERATION TAILWIND); Lieutenant
Colonel Eugene McCarley, USA (Ret.)(Company Commander and senior officer on the ground during OPERATION TAILWIND); and Captain Michael Rose, USA
(Ret.)(Company medic for OPERATION TAILWIND) with the following comments:
Colonel Sadler, the SOG Commander, described his role in OPERATION TAILWIND—"The buck should start and stop here [with me]. I was responsible for
planning it [OPERATION TAILWIND], getting it approved, and directing it." He described the purpose of OPERATION TAILWIND as 1) to "help relieve
pressure on the task force coming down from the North—it was a beehive there"; and 2) in the area of Chavane [Laos] "we knew there was something
in there in force. We had to go see why the area was so important to the enemy."
With respect to the allegation contained in the CNN/Time Magazine story that women and children in a village were killed by the SOG forces, Captain
Michael Rose, the medic on OPERATION TAILWIND, made the following comments:
It wasn’t a village we went into as CNN said. It was a compound. I came up after the fight was over. I only saw two bodies, both dead from small
arms fire, and I’ve seen enough dead people from small arms fire to know what that looks like.
Lieutenant Colonel (then Captain) Eugene McCarley, field commander of OPERATION TAILWIND, explained that riot control agent or tear gas was used
to keep the enemy from overrunning the position of the American forces:
The FAC [forward air controller] advised me the gas was coming in. He could see the NVA [North Vietnamese Army] massing. We were almost out of ammo.
We were exhausted. He could see that once we got to the extraction zone, we would be overrun. The FAC called for the gas. I never requested it.
Captain Rose vividly recounted the final hours of the mission as the SOG force moved to the evacuation point:
We got hit with gas. It was CS [tear gas]. I know what CS is from basic training. It’s like skunk. Once you smell it, you never forget, even if
it’s fifty years later. It was definitely tear gas. I was wincing, my eyes watered, my nose and lungs burned. You turn your face into the wind and
it clears. My wounded were in distress. I never saw any evidence of nerve gas. It was CS! It’s criminal to say our own Air Force would drop nerve
gas on us!
Captain Rose later added: "I’m living proof that toxic gas was not dropped on us that day. Nobody showed any signs of exposure to toxic gas."
As to the presence of defectors during OPERATION TAILWIND, Colonel Pinkerton explained: "I never heard in the year I was SOG operations officer
any reference to defectors." Colonel Sadler added: "Another reason the defector story doesn’t pass muster is that it was a standing imperative
that if you saw POWs, that [POW rescue] became your mission, regardless of what mission you were on." Lieutenant Colonel McCarley added: "There was
no mention whatsoever in the debrief of [Caucasians] or nerve gas."
In the eyes of the participants, OPERATION TAILWIND was also a success. Colonel Sadler commented that the operation succeeded in gathering
exceptionally good intelligence about the enemy. "The two footlockers of documents we got, [General Creighton] Abrams described as ‘the best
logistics intelligence ever gained in the Vietnam War.’ "