Funny True Story from Vietnam SOG teams
I was reading a book on SOG teams in Vietnam and came across a real jewel of a funny story. It stood out for me because there really are only a few of these light hearted moments in a sea of sorrow for the men of SOG, whose casualty rates were exceedingly high.
The story begins upon insertion into Cambodia to seek out and pinpoint a major supply base known (which means “thought”) to be in the area. The one-zero (team leader) inserts and leads men in a five day search of the area but finds absolutely nothing. Extremely frustrated at the waste of time they come across a single hooch with a brand new bicycle next to it. Now in Vietnam, the bicycle was and still is as common as the car in modern day US but to find a brand new one with a nice red paintjob was rare indeed!
Seeing as they were in a free fire “it moves it dies” zone, the SOG leader saw no problem with taking the bike as a nice souvenir seeing as he wasn’t concerned about hearts and minds in the middle of Cambodia and the bike likely belonged to a “helo spotter” who would often perch up in a tree and listen for American Kingbees or Hueys and then bike off to report the SOG team landing. These helo spotters could be found all over Cambodia/Vietnam/Laos and didn’t necessarily mean a nearby base needing protecting. It was just an effective early warning platform the NVA/VC used all over the place……
The team waited for the man to return for his bike so they could capture him but he never arrived and they decided to exfil and take his new bike as a SOG “fuck you” to the NVA/VC of the area. Before they left, they booby-trapped the entrance to the hooch just in case the dirtbag decided to come back in a few days…..
When radioing for extraction the team was asked if they had found the base. The team leader replied, sarcastically, “no, but we found a shiny red bicycle and we are going to bring it back.” The radio operator back at home base was amazed and shocked and told the A-team to hold on and they would have fast mover air cover, cobra gunships, and slicks in 15 minutes and not to let anything happen to the “new bike”.
The A team leader, now really pissed off, said “well I’m ready to get home so if you guys don’t get hear fast I’m gonna throw this damn bike in the river and you can get it yourselves. Exasperated, the man on the other end of the radio told the A team “Do not let that bike out of your sight!!!” Confused, the leader gave a “roger” and joked about somebody taking one too many caffeine pills. Just to be sure they checked their code books but found no reference to a “new bike” code for anything.
Sure enough, soon after the air cover arrived in the form of F4 phantoms, Skyraiders, Skyhawks, Cobra gunships, Huey gunships, and huey slicks… The A team was utterly amazed as they had called for a cold extract and couldn’t understand why half the US air force had arrived to support their extraction…
One of the helicopters landed a few hundred yards away and so the team decided to leave the bike and rush to the helo as it was still a very dangerous area and they could come under fire at any time from lurking VC attracted to all the US firepower now over the area.
Upon reaching the helicopter without the “new bicycle” they were asked where it was. The team leader replied, “I left the ****ing thing back there, it wasn’t worth hauling it the hundred yards over here”. The Colonel in the helo ordered him to go back and secure the bicycle or he and his entire team would be court martialed.
At that point, the team leader realized he was being yelled at by a full colonel and no colonel had ever come on an extraction, much less on a secret extraction in Cambodia. They hadn’t come under fire yet so he obeyed and ran back for the bike. When he got back to the helo the Colonel shouted, “what in the hell is that??” “It’s the ****ing bike you wanted so damn bad Colonel. I ran all the way back to get it and now it’s all yours. I hope you’re happy. Jesus, it’s a new bike and all but its nothing compared to a Schwinn”.
It turns out; the radio operator on the other end was using the wrong code book. When the A-team reported they had found a “new bicycle” he had failed to pick up the sarcasm over the radio and looked it up as a code. Sure enough in his code book, “new bicycle” was secret code for “enemy four star General”. So for a period of about 30 minutes, the United Stated thought it had captured an NVA four star general in Cambodia and sent everything it could to the area to secure it…..Instead they got a shiny red bike, a confused and angry A-team, and a really embarrassed radio operator with a destroyed career….
Pretty damn funny if you ask me.