Night of the Son Tay P.O.W. Raid
by William A. Guenon, Jr.
Air Commando Pilot
Many thanks for taking a peek at our humble website. As a little-known piece of Nam history, raid knowledge and its lessons lay dormant for too long; especially the nagging glitches we had to deal with that night. The mission did influence the North Vietnamese communists in positive and immediate ways none of us could have imagined back then. Hopefully you'll now be better informed, enlightened and maybe even inspired. As you will discover, we always believed in the mission, had confidence in our plan, and pressed on accordingly. So, this is our story, we're sticking to it 'cause this is the way the raid went down. It goes without saying but; we would not, under any circumstance, be upset if you would refer us to everyone you know. We're self-published you understand!
$18.95 (9.5 x 6.25)
A thrilling eyewitness account of the secret humanitarian mission in 1970, by one of the air commando pilots who flew the amazing 'C-130' lead aircraft low level, on the edge of a stall, at night, while guiding six of our largest helicopters in close formation deep into North Vietnam for a daring rescue attempt of POWs being held in the shadows of Hanoi.
two-part story which also describes the raider-pilot's return to Son Tay prison 24 years
after the raid, in broad daylight with only camera in hand, including his high-anxiety
confrontation and arrest by North Vietnamese police.
Revealed are 71 rare pictures and diagrams, most never declassified or published until now.
"Bill" Guenon, Jr., a Pennsylvania native, has spent the majority of his
aviation career covering many facets of the transportation industry for both military and
civil applications on a global basis. Bill
served in the U. S. Air Force as a Command Pilot and Senior Air Traffic Controller. A bit of an adventurer, Bill finished third in the
Great Atlantic Air Race, which started from the top of the Empire State Building in NYC
and ended atop London's Post Office tower building. Although self-sponsored, his
commendable time of 7 hours, 39 minutes, and 42 seconds was accomplished in 1969, using a
Pan Am "Clipper" 707 well before the supersonic Concorde went into commercial
not involved with consulting chores for his company, WagonWings Press, Bill can usually
be found mingling at air shows, aviation exhibitions, and aerospace museums.
"This must-read adventure, [particularly in light of the precision CAS (Called-in Air Strikes) that defeated the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan in 2001 and '92] is a gripping and most candid tale of the incredible mission Son-Tay, flown deep into North Vietnam...its inspirational caliber ranks right up there with the Doolittle raid on Tokyo!"
- ROBIN MOORE, author of
The French Connection, The Green Berets, and
The Hunt for Bin Laden
masterfully written an important history of what I will always believe were our finest
hours in Southeast Asia."
The Armed Forces Journal
by an experienced special operations pilot who shares his story in the working-lingo of
highly trained elite forces."
Son Tay POW
"...perhaps the most detailed read on flying the daunting Son Tay Raid!"
- DAVID BROOKS, 20th Century Fox Studios
The author, air commando pilot Bill Guenon, gives lectures and talks detailing the highlights of the Son Tay mission and his return to Vietnam 24 years after the raid. If you are interested in retaining him for a talk at your event, please contact him at Bill@secretanddangerous.com . These presentations can be given in either PowerPoint or overhead vu-graph slides. The talk is flexible enough that it can be tailored to the topic or theme of your event.
Organizations where Bill has presented the raider’s real story:
THE SIGNED LITHOGRAPH Available only here !!
Print signers are:
LeRoy Manor, Brig Gen. USAF, Commander, Joint Contingency Task Force
Wm. A. Guenon, Jr., Capt., USAF, C-130 Pilot, "Cherry-1"
Thomas L. Stiles, Capt, USAF, C-130 Navigator, "Cherry-1"
George W. Petrie, 1st Lt. USA, Special Forces, "Blueboy"
Frederic M. Donohue, Maj., USAF, HH-53 Pilot, "Apple-3"
Jon A. Reynolds, Capt, USAF, Son Tay Prisoner of War
William Beyer, Artist
Raid patch images are:
Son Tay Raider
7th Air Commando Squadron
Rare mushroom patch (Kept in the Dark - Fed on Horse Stuffings)
USA Special Forces
USAF Air Rescue Service
4th Allied P.O.W. Wing
Recently discovered 8.5 x 11 full-color copy of the handwritten note of raid confidence from President Nixon to Melvin Laird, Secretary of Defense, written just days before the raid.
$5.00 "Cherry One" & Friends $8.00 Gaggle Departure
Left: Select 8 x 10 glossy: high over Florida's Duke Field runway 18, a modified picture of Cherry One, the raid C-130E(I) leading five HH-53's and one HH-3 which intentionally crash-landed inside Son Tay (closest helicopter on the left side of the C-130). Photo was taken to document the raiders' existence if they did not return.
Right: Select 8 x 14 glossy: C-130E's commence a tactical "flying elephant" formation takeoff (USAF - E. Lewis, Jr.)
This limited edition coin commemorates the Son Tay raid and Cherry One, the lead C-130E(I) for the mission.
All items are signed by the pilot.
Questions? Contact Bill@secretanddangerous.com
Through fate, the Doolittle and Son Tay Raids are inextricably linked by little-known mission similarities. These defiant low-level, revenge flights of the 20th century were signature commando operations over Asia. Each was driven by clever use of the aeronautical edge. They shared resourceful procedures involving the delicate combination of wing flaps & throttles.
Execution was designed around surprise, skill, and cunning, the very essence of stealth.
Most raiders were chosen for their expertise and experience. Indeed, these quiet, ruffle-proof professionals were the very soul of American patriotism especially in a wartime environment. They were young committed warriors, motivated by a confidence they could do any mission, anywhere, no matter the risk. And this they did with boundless determination, a bit of luck, and each needed some indispensable help from our resourceful Navy.
Both armadas carried out their planning, training, and fine-tuning on the Eglin Air Force Base complex in Florida. They astutely saw its isolated airfields as the perfect security screen. To counter mission compromise, most raiders were not briefed on the actual objectives until just days before takeoff. They were even offered a last-minute reprieve to honorably stand-down with no repercussions. Because the missions appeared so vital to America's strategy and public morale – almost everyone declined the easy way out and volunteered to go knowing they would be facing one perilous trip, perhaps even one-way.
Acting spontaneously, both groups signed their bombs with appropriate messages including the symbolic, “Kilroy was here” greeting. Although well-rehearsed and prepared, each raider force still had to cope with a startling array of glitches – always the lurking Murphy curse to ambush at the worst possible moment, especially true on clandestine operations. Or just maybe the only correct way to pull off these types of raids safely with their magnitude of threats was to plan around any conceivable threat or obstacle in order to survive. From experience it’s obvious, equally sharp minds thought and reasoned alike to respond accordingly and correctly.
Independently, both groups used the same drop altitude of 1,500 feet over their respective targets. Amazingly, both raiding elements spent about 29 minutes over their immediate target areas surrounded by the myriad of threats defending their individual capitals of Tokyo and Hanoi. And both relied heavily on deception for their safety. After releasing bombs, Doolittle raiders departed to the south even though they were extremely low on fuel, and needed to be heading west in order to make it all the way to China and safe airfields. This spoof was to mislead any Japanese fighters who might decide to chase after the departing raiders. This is proof positive; one can never assume anything and should always plan for any contingencies imaginable. Critical details already covered just in case they may be needed from their deep bag of tricks.
The Son Tay raiders used a big deception by having Navy fighters launch from Yankee Station carrier fleet and fly along the North Vietnamese coastline at staggered altitudes up to 30,000 feet over Haiphong and Northeast of Hanoi. This ruse was to fool the enemy defenses into thinking there was a raid or invasion coming out of the east. After the war we learned the navy diversion was so good the V were convinced there was a full invasion about to take place or already underway. So much so the high ranking leaders even fled Hanoi to China so as not to be captured. And all the while the real raiding force of MC-130s, large helicopters, and A-1Es was flying inbound, low and slow, from out of the west, the enemies’ backdoor. Incidentally, they were never detected until the very end when departing North Vietnam. This subversion had worked better than expected.
Afterward both groups mistakenly assumed they had failed. Not until each war's end would their missions' full impacts be understood – surprisingly much better than anyone could have possibly imagined then. It seems the enemy's had been badly shaken - they had bought into the illusion their capitals were so well defended it would deter the US from mounting any attack. Little did they know until it was suddenly too late.
Remarkably both sides of the aisle would agree: in spite of great odds, these bold raids had given the nation an unexpected boost in hope, confidence, and pride the American way.