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Operation Azalee


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Operations Ivory Coast/Kingpin

Three helicopters would be used for the mission. Two CH-HH3s, codenamed "Apple 1" and "Apple 2", and one HH-53 codenamed "Apple 3" would be used in the operation. 56 Special Forces soldiers would be used to perform the rescue. Col. Arthur "Bull" Simons was put in charge of the operation. Under him in the change of command was Lt.Col. Elliot P. "Bud" Sydnor, Capt. Richard Meadows, and Capt. Udo Walther.

On the night of November 20th/21st of 1970 the helicopters took off from Udorn, Thailand. The US Navy began to strike N.Vietnam by sea and air to divert attention away from the group. The HH-53 went into a hover over Son Tay and provided cover for the main assault force. The door gunner let loose with his Mini-gun cutting everything ( and everyone who got in his way ) in half. The HH3 that was carring Meadows wasn't as lucky. To allow the recue team to get into the compound faster, the pilot threw the helicopter onto the ground almost crashing it. The assault team piled out and entered the building. The soldiers yeld to for the prisoners to stay down and keep calm, but they never got an answer. The 14 men cut down several NVA guards before realizing that their were no prisoners.

"Apple 2" landed just south of the camps outer walls. This helicopter was carring Bull Simons. As soon as the helo touched down the men went to work. They set up a road block about 100 meters away from the camp to stop anyone attempting to enter or leave the camp. It was also set up to protact their LZ. NVA guards started firing on the group. Automatic gun fire rang out through the night. By the end the NVA had lost 50 soldiers. The Son Tay "Raider" lost none. Simons noticed something odd, he hadn't seen "Apple 1" yet.

"Apple 1" had, by mistake, landed almost 500 meters away from the camp. Not knowing this the soldiers exited the helo and entered the main building. What they found shocked them. It wasn't Son Tay but a barracks, housing Chinese and Russian Advisors and NVA regulars. It housed over 100 soldiers: All of whom died in under 5 minutes. The soldiers simply kicked open every door and fired their CAR-15s and handguns into the beds of the soldiers. "Apple 1" returned top Son Tay after realizing that it had landed in the wrong place.

From the time the 1st helicopter touched down until the last one pulled out, the whole operation took about 25 minutes. Although no prisoners were found almost 150 enemy lay dead without a single loss to Son Tay Raiders. American and Allied POWs from that point on were treated better. The Vietnamese learned that America wouldn't give up on it's POWs. Although their are still Americans considered POWs in Vietnam today, and the US makes very little effort to help release them. It is now known from former Son Tay prisoners that the N.Vietnamese had no idea of the Raid but moved them just a few days before to put them in a "better" camp only a few miles away.