Our latest interview is a special one, Bill Kendall was with SOG in the early days, from 1964 to 1965 and then did another tour at CCC in 1968. This was a great period of change for SOG with the change over from CIA management to being run by the Army. The early years had a focus on agent insertion into North Vietnam and less on cross border reconnaissances into Lo as and Cambodia.
Bill was around during teh very early days of SOG, in fact pre-dating them as he worked with teh CIA led precurser running agent teams into North Vietnam. The Special Operations Group (as the unit was initially titled) was in fact controlled by the Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities (SACSA) and his staff at the Pentagon.This arrangement was necessary since SOG needed some listing in the MACV table of organization and the fact that MACV's commander, General William Westmoreland, had no authority to conduct operations outside territorial South Vietnam. This command arrangement through SACSA also allowed tight control (up to the presidential level) of the scope and scale of the organization's operations.The mission of the organization was
"to execute an intensified program of harassment, diversion, political pressure, capture of prisoners, physical destruction, acquisition of intelligence, generation of propaganda, and diversion of resources, against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam."
These operations (OPLAN 34-Alpha) were conducted in an effort to convince that nation to cease its sponsorship of the communist insurgency in South Vietnam. Similar operations had originally been under the purview of the CIA, which had carried out the emplacement of agent teams in North Vietnam using air drops and over-the-beach insertions. Under pressure from Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, the program, along with all other agency para-military operations, was turned over to the military in the wake of the disastrous Bay of Pigs Invasion operation in Cuba.
Colonel Clyde Russell (SOG's first commander) had difficulty in creating an organization with which to fulfill his mission since, at the time, United States Special Forces were unprepared either doctrinally or organizationally to carry it out. At this point the mission of the Special Forces was the conduct of guerrilla operations behind enemy lines in the event of an invasion by conventional forces, not in the conduct of agent, maritime, or psychological operations. Russell expected to take over a fully functional organization and assumed that the CIA (which would maintain a representative on SOG's staff and contribute personnel to the organization) would see the military through any teething troubles. His expectations and assumptions were incorrect. The contribution of the South Vietnamese came in the form of SOG's counterpart organization (which used a plethora of titles, finally ending with the Strategic Technical Directorate [STD]).
After a slow and shaky start, the unit got its operations underway. Originally, these consisted of a continuation of the CIA's agent infiltrations. Teams of South Vietnamese volunteers were parachuted into the north, but the majority were captured soon after their insertions. Maritime operations against the coast of North Vietnam picked up after the delivery of Norwegian-built "Nasty" Class torpedo boats to the unit, but these operations also fell short of expectations.
Bill Kendall: Interview
SOG 1963-1965: House 10 and Agent Insertion
SOG 1968-1969: CCC, Kontum and running recon
Bill Kendall Album: Graduation pictures and current photos
House 10 (also known as Villa 10 or the Safe House in Saigon): A series of shots showing the facilities at House 10 during the 1964-65 timeframe, this was the covert logistics base of SOG operations and originally run by the CIA and taken over by the Army in 1964.The address was (I think) 606 Duong Tran Hung Dao.
Bill Kendall and his PDO Vien at House 10, Saigon during 1964
This picture is of Nill Kendall, Ray Riekel and one of the Case Officers (CSD<CIA) eating and getting ready for one of teams in 1964 at House 10
Operation White Star: Not in Vietnam but a plane being loaded for air resupply in Laos in 1955 as part of Operation White Star
Delivery Beacon Testing: These are the pictures testing the dropping of the beacon bundle that would go in with the teams so they could find the bundles tied to them, when dropped into North Vietnam
Model of an oil refinery to train agents dropped into North Vietnam
Model of a small factory facility to train agents dropped into North Vietnam
Model of a bridge to train agents dropped into North Vietnam
Camp Long Thanh: Some images of Camp Long Thanh being built early 1960's