U.S. force raids Son Tay prison camp - HISTORY
Year
1970

U.S. force raids Son Tay prison camp

A combined U.S. Air Force and Army team of 40 Americans–led by Army Colonel “Bull” Simons–conducts a raid on the Son Tay prison camp, 23 miles west of Hanoi, in an attempt to free between 70 and 100 Americans suspected of being held there.

Planning for the mission–code-named Operation Ivory Coast–began in June 1970. The plan called for U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets) to be flown to Son Tay by helicopter and crash-land inside the compound. The plan was for one group of Green Berets to pour out of the helicopter and neutralize any opposition while Green Berets in other helicopters, landing outside the walls, would break in and complete the rescue operation.

At 11:30 p.m. on November 20, the raiding force departed Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand. As the force approached the camp, U.S. Air Force and Navy warplanes struck North Vietnamese troop installations and antiaircraft sites in the area. Part of the force initially landed at the wrong compound, but otherwise the mission came off without a hitch.

Unfortunately, the Green Berets could not locate any prisoners in the huts. After a sharp firefight with the North Vietnamese troops in the area, the order was given to withdraw–27 minutes after the raid began, the force was in the air headed back to Thailand. The raid was accomplished in a superb manner and all Americans returned safely, but it was learned later that the prisoners had been moved elsewhere in July. Despite that disappointment, the raid was a tactical success and sent a message to the North Vietnamese that the United States was capable of inserting a combat force undetected only miles from their capital. Stunned by the raid, high Hanoi officials ordered all U.S. POWs moved to several central prison complexes. This was actually a welcome change–the move afforded the prisoners more contact with each other and boosted their morale.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Edison’s first great invention

The American inventor announces his invention of the phonograph, a way to record and play back sound. Edison stumbled on one of his great inventions–the phonograph–while working on a way to record telephone communication at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey. His work led ...read more

Men fly over Paris

French physician Jean-François Pilatre de Rozier and François Laurent, the marquis d’ Arlandes, make the first untethered hot-air balloon flight, flying 5.5 miles over Paris in about 25 minutes. Their cloth balloon was crafted by French papermaking brothers Jacques-Étienne and ...read more

Millions tune in to find out who shot J.R.

On this day in 1980, 350 million people around the world tune in to television’s popular primetime drama “Dallas” to find out who shot J.R. Ewing, the character fans loved to hate. J.R. had been shot on the season-ending episode the previous March 21, which now stands as one of ...read more

USC ends Notre Dame winning streak

On November 21, 1931, the University of Southern California surprises Notre Dame with a last-minute game-winning field goal at the new Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. The victory won USC the national championship and was, according to that year’s Trojan yearbook, “the biggest ...read more

Tom Horn is born in Missouri

The notorious hired killer Tom Horn is born on this day in 1860, in Memphis, Missouri. “Killing is my specialty,” Horn reportedly once said. “I look at it as a business proposition, and I think I have a corner on the market.”Horn was raised on a farm, and like many young farm ...read more

Voltaire’s birthday

On this day in 1694, Francois-Marie Arouet, later known as Voltaire, is born in Paris to a treasury officer and his wife.Voltaire studied law but abandoned it to become a writer. He won success with his plays-mostly classical tragedies at first. He also wrote histories and epic ...read more

Rocky premieres

On this day in 1976, Rocky, starring Sylvester Stallone as the underdog prizefighter Rocky Balboa, debuts in New York City. The movie, which opened in theaters across the United States on December 3, 1976, was a huge box-office hit and received 10 Academy Award nominations, ...read more

Britannic sinks in Aegean Sea

The Britannic, sister ship to the Titanic, sinks in the Aegean Sea on this day in 1916, killing 30 people. More than 1,000 others were rescued.In the wake of the Titanic disaster on April 14, 1912, the White Star Line made several modifications in the construction of its ...read more

Holland Tunnel appears on the cover of Time

On this day in 1927, Time magazine puts the week-old Holland Tunnel on its cover. The tunnel, which runs under the Hudson River between New York City and Jersey City, New Jersey, had opened to traffic the week before, at the stroke of midnight on November 13. (Earlier that day, ...read more