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Some of the most desperate stories of close combat from Vietnam come from the covert cross-border missions of the Studies and Observation Unit (MACV-SOG). These small teams were normally made up of a mix of American Special Forces troops and South East Asians from various indigenous ethnic groups. Though their exploits remain classified in many cases. The one that earned Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez the Medal of Honor stands out as a classic example of their heroism.

Benavidez first enlisted in the Texas National Guard in 1952 before entering the regular army in 1955. After serving a hitch with the 82nd Airborne, he was sent on his first tour in Vietnam as an advisor to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) in 1965, during which he was wounded by a land mine and returned to the states for recovery. Once fit for duty, he volunteered for Special Forces training, which led to a second tour in Vietnam with the then super-secret MACV-SOG, which was conducting operations in Cambodia and Laos.

On May 2, 1968, a 12-man SOG recon team running a mission in Cambodia west of Loc Ninh, Vietnam, was discovered by a North Vietnamese Army unit of battalion or larger size (one helicopter pilot estimated the enemy formation as being around 5,000 men). A huge firefight quickly developed, with helicopter gunships and Air Force bombers supporting the greatly outnumbered Green Beret unit. Several helicopters attempting to extract the team were forced away after being hit numerous times by ground fire. One ship did make it into the team’s landing zone but, tragically, it was destroyed on the ground with most of the crew badly wounded or killed.

Back in the SOG base camp, Benavidez had been monitoring the radio traffic emanating from this terrible battle. When yet another helicopter started in to medevac the wounded, he jumped on board armed only with a “Special Forces Bowie Knife” and a medic’s bag.

For the complete article please refer to Tactical Knives July 2013.

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