The Son Tay Raid (1970)

Amidon, Mark [LTCOL/USAF]. "Groupthink, Politics, and the Decision to Attempt the Son Tay Rescue." Parameters 35, no. 3 (Autumn 2005): 119-131.

"The Son Tay mission 'go' decision provides a rich lesson in group decision dynamics and political maneuvering. The White House and Pentagon both fell victim to 'groupthink' as they struggled to arrive at a mission launch decision. Unknown to each other, each group weighed different criteria for mission launch, and each group defined ultimate mission success differently."

Commander, JCS Joint Contingency Task Group. The Son Tay Prisoner of War Rescue Operation. Washington. DC: Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1971.

Official after-action report.

David, Heather. Operation Rescue -- the First Complete Account of the Daring Drop into North Vietnam to Rescue American Prisoners of War. New York: Pinnacle, 1971.

Gargus, John. The Son Tay Raid: American POWs in Vietnam Were Not Forgotten. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2007.

For Keiser, Proceedings 134.3 (Mar. 2008), the author "gives us a fascinating account of a top-secret operation that never got the credit it deserved." Stringer, Military Review (Sep.-Oct. 2008), calls this "a splendid and thorough account ... that goes well beyond previous works." The author, "an Air Force planner and lead navigator for the strike force, provides personal insight into the mission," but "avoids over-emphasizing his own participation by maintaining a historian's objectivity and detachment."

Pope, Air & Space Power Journal 23.4 (Winter 2009), says that the author "guides the reader through the intricacies and difficulties of planning a major raid deep in the heart of North Vietnam in near-complete secrecy.... Gargus adds volumes of new and previously unpublished information, charts, pictures, and intricate details of ground operations in and around the prison camp."

Harris, Richard. "Raid at Son Tay." American History Illustrated 25 (Mar.-Apr. 1990).

Kamps, Charles Tustin. "The Son Tay Raid: A 35-Year Retrospective." Air & Space Power Journal 19, no. 1 (Spring 2005). []

Although no POWs were rescued "(the enemy had moved them to other facilities), the [Son Tay] raid serves as a model of a well-planned and -executed joint special operation." Indeed, Operation Kingpin was "[m]arked by outstanding organization, training, and unity of effort."

Newton, Rick. "Operation Kingpin: The Son Tay Raid." Air Commando Journal 1, no. 3 (Spring 2012): 12-15. []

This is an easy-reading recap of events surrounding the Son Tay raid. See also, Annie Jacobsen, "Element of Surprise," Air Commando Journal 1, no. 3 (Spring 2012): 16-17 (originally published in LA Times Magazine (Jan. 2012).

McRaven, William H. [ADM/USN] Special Operations -- Case Studies in Special Operations Warfare: Theory and Practice. Novato, CA: Presidio, 1995.

Rhee, Will. "Comparing U.S. Operations Kingpin (1970) and Eagle Claw (1980)." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 6, no. 4 (Winter 1993): 489-506.

Schemmer, Benjamin F. The Raid. New York: Harper & Row, 1976. New York: Avon, 1986. [pb] The Raid: The Son Tay Prison Rescue Mission. New York: Ballantine, 2002. [pb]

Southworth, Samuel A., ed. Great Raids in History: From Drake to Desert One. New York: Sarpedon Publishers, 1997.

Eggenberger, History 26.2, finds that "[o]n the whole,... the stories are well done and make for interesting reading." Included in the 19 raids discussed are Lawrence of Arabia, Otto Skorzeny, the Canadians at Dieppe, the Chindits in Burma, and the U.S. hostage-rescue raids on Son Tay and in Iran. Additionally, in a concluding chapter on the future of such raids, the Israeli raid at Entebbe is "well discussed."

Vandenbroucke, Lucien S. Perilous Options: Special Operations as an Instrument of U.S. Foreign Policy. New York: Oxford University, 1993. E8404V36

Cohen, FA 73.2 (Mar.-Apr. 1994), calls this a "commendable study of ... the Bay of Pigs, the Son Tay raid, the Mayaguez rescue and the Desert One fiasco.... Readers ... may set aside the didactic concluding chapter and content themselves with four well-researched cases."

According to Immerman, AHR 100.1, "Vandenbroucke identifies common explanations for the outcomes [of his four cases]. These include faulty intelligence, poor interagency and interservice cooperation and coordination, a decision-making system plagued by flawed advice and wishful thinking, and micromanagement by both civilian and military leaders far removed from the theater of operations.... This is a suggestive study, but asking broader questions would have made it more compelling."

Hilsman, PSQ 109.4, refers to the author's "calm gathering of the facts" and "convincing analysis." The author "shows that only one of the four principal special operations in the last thirty years was justified." The "book contains only a few minor errors." For example, it was the Soviets, not Castro, who took the initiative in placing Soviet missiles in Cuba. "More serious is the author's overall conclusion that ... the United States should put more emphasis on espionage.... But the fact is that ... espionage has been successful only in ferreting out technical and scientific secrets and almost never plans for offensives and the like."

Veith, George J. Code-Name Bright Light: The Untold Story of U.S. POW Rescue Efforts During the Vietnam War. New York: Free Press, 1998. New York: Dell Publishing, 1998. [pb]

Herrington,, 12 Aug. 2001 (originally published in Vietnam magazine), notes that this "book is primarily the story of ... the Joint Personnel Recovery Center (JPRC). Veith reconstructs the supersecret JPRC's efforts, using declassified documents and interviews with its members, and readers learn much of what went on behind the scenes as dedicated American military personnel tried in vain to locate and liberate missing comrades." The book's "major flaw" is that the author "err[s] on the side of completeness," but "[m]uch of the information that has found its way into print is probably deeply flawed."

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