Our latest interview is with Jim Jones-Shorten who joined the Navy, transfered to the Army and ended up in the Airforce.Quite a career!
Modern Forces: Can you tell us about your background and military service?
Jim Jones-Shorten: I joined the US Navy in 1964. After training I served at Naval Air Station, Litchfield Park, just outside of Phoenix, Arizona. After a year there I was sent to the USS Arlington AGMR2 for pre commissioning of the ship. The time went on so I served on Yard Tug boat's in Norfolk, Virginia, then I served for a couple of month's on the USS Denebola AF56 (Refrigeration ship) When I returned to Norfolk I decided to put in for Vietnam and was sent to DaNang, Vietnam.
After 22 month's I was discharged and then joined the US Army, Special Forces. I went through Basic infantry, then advanced infantry (graduated as the honor student) then I went to jump school in Ft. Benning, Georgia. Then up to Ft. Bragg for Special Forces training. I asked to go back to Vietnam and did. I was sent to A-502, 5th SFGp Abn, out of NaTrang, Vietnam. I was the NCOIC of a CIDG camp 554, Sui Dou. Then after after 6 month's or so, the camp closed down so I went to SOA-CCC (MACV-SOG) I was 1-1 of Rt. Delaware for one mission then became the 1-0 (team leader) I ran 7 mission's (4 linear recon and 3 brightlight missions) in Laos or Cambodia. After my 7th mission I was asked if I wanted to go to SOA-B53 and teach Special Op's mission's. I said ok and went to B-53 for an additional 6 month's. Then I was discharged and came home and joined the 12th SFGpAbn (reserves). In 1978 I did a cross service transfer to the 129th ARRS, USAF Pararescue.
I left the Army as an E-8 and dropped to E-6 in the USAF. After completing Pararescue school, I was a PJ. I was a rescue, parachuting paramedic for the first 3 launches of the Space Shuttle (STS-1, 2 and 3) also for the Mt. St. Helens Volcano eruption. President Carter and Senator Ted Kennedy. Also did 2 parachute rescue mission's for ship's at sea and a few hoist mission's. After an injury parachuting, I was medically discharged from the service. I had 20 year in service so I got out and went to college to become a Doctor (Radiologist) I did this for 20 years and now I hunt, sell and collect meteorite's.
Modern Forces: What made you join Special forces and then apply for SOG, did you know what it was before you joined?
Jim Jones-Shorten: We all pretty much new what SOG was about. Everyone told me not to go, you'd get killed there. The more they said, don't go, I wanted to go and did.
Modern Forces: What dates were you with SOG?
Jim Jones-Shorten: Late 1969 to Jan. 1971 (around a year)
Modern Forces: You were running recon later in the war so we have a few questions regarding this;
Modern Forces:Did the equipment change later in the war, if so in what way?
Jim Jones-Shorten: The only thing that I remember is John Plaster got us 30 round mag's for the M-16 (small version of the M-16) And Gerber Mark 2 Combat knives. The clothing and gear didn't change that much.
Modern Forces: Did you get access to any new technology such as sensors, night vision or anything else?
Jim Jones-Shorten: Not really. We used Mediscopes (Infra Red) We had Starlight but it was a bit big to carry on these types of mission's. We also had sensing devices of all type's.
Modern Forces: Did the mission profile change?
Jim Jones-Shorten: Not much. It got a bit harder when the Russian's started to train the NVA to hunt us down. We lost a few team's to them. It pretty much stayed with the point and linear recon's, road watches, POW snatches and brightlight (rescue) missions
Modern Forces: Did life around camp change (less lee way on base uniforms etc)?
Jim Jones-Shorten: No. We wore regular cloth's in camp or our team shirt's etc. If we left to go anywhere, we wore a regular uniform or civilian cloth's. Camp life stayed pretty much the same.
Modern Forces: What position did you run on the team?
Jim Jones-Shorten: I was 1-1 (assistant team leader to Dan Sterr) Then Dan left the team and I became the 1-0 of Rt. Delaware. I was also a 1-0 for Rt. Illinois for one brightlight mission when their 1-0 was on leave. Funny thing was that their team leader returned from leave and came up to Dak To to visit us as we were going on the mission, so he (Steve Keever) went along as the 1-1. I did the brightlight with just the 3 of us. We repelled in to retrieve a body. We had to get in and out fast. On the way out we took seven hit's to the chopper.
Modern Forces: We have an interest in getting our equipment right and a picture of you on the back of Grecos book Running Recon shows your LBE as very dark. Is this sprayed or dyed and can you describe the modifications you made?
Jim Jones-Shorten: That's just my regular uniform. You can see the Sgt stripes as yellow. My field uniform, I did modify. All name tag's are removed, even the manufacture's labels are removed. I removed the bottom two pocket's from the shirt and had them sewed onto the upper part of the sleeve's. I would tuck my shirt into my pant's and use a cravat (scarf) as a belt. I also tapped my pant leg's into my boot's and tapped them. I also spray painted black area's onto the uniform to break up the green.
Modern Forces: Did your team have a standard Sop for equipment carried over the fence? If so can you recall what this was?
Jim Jones-Shorten: Just the usual, no shiny stuff, no metal on metal. No metal canteen's. We used plastic canteens. We would cut the top half off a canteen and slide another canteen into it, to use as a cup if needed. We didn't do any cooking in the field. We would add water to a meal in the morning and stuff it in our pocket. By lunch time it would be soft enough to eat. Also, no smelly food.
Modern Forces: Did you have a weapon choice or preference?
Jim Jones-Shorten: We could take any weapon we wanted but I kept everyone's weapon the same except for the point man who carried an AK. Some times I would carry an RPD (Russian light machine-gun) but it was sawed off to iliminate some of the weight. On a fewe mission's in country (Vietnam) I would carry a Swedish-K just for fun. I also carried a Grease gun (.45 cal) that was silenced, to take prisoner's.
Modern Forces: did you ever carry a back up weapon, if so what was this and how did you carry it?
Jim Jones-Shorten: I had a 25 cal. cat house pistol that I would carry in the field, in my pocket from time to time. I also would carry a sawed off M-79 grenade launcher. Depended on the mission. On a few mission's I carried a sawed off 12 gage shotgun (for ambushes).
Modern Forces: Can you recall any other missions that stand out?
Jim Jones-Shorten: The one mission that Frank Greco added to his book. The other was the 3 man mission that I mentioned before. Most of the mission's were dry holes for the most part. On one mission we had a Battalion and a Regiment trying to capture us. That was my first SOG mission with Dan Sterr. We blew an abatese (sp) where you blow a tree down but the trunk is still connected. We climbed out on the tree so the helicopter could get us out. I was hanging on the skid as the chopper took off. I was around 300 feet above the ground before the indig team member could get the gunner to look down and see me. They pulled me into safety. That was a close call.
Modern Forces: Were your indigenous team members Montagyard, Nung or Vietnamese?
Jim Jones-Shorten: I only worked with the Montangyards
Modern Forces: Did any of them make it out to the States and if so have you ever been in touch?
Jim Jones-Shorten: I heard that a few did make it back to the states. I heard that the tall guy standing next to me in the back cover photo did make it back to the States. I think his name was "Jek" That photo is of Rt. Illinois. I also heard that a few on my team had been killed by the Vietnamese.
Modern Forces: As part of our living history display this year we are recreating the Dak To launch site (we assume you launched from here from Kontum), not the whole thing but some key features, can you share any details of the site, its features and what a typical routine was when waiting for insertion or Brightlight?
Jim Jones-Shorten: Dak To was an interesting place. If a C-130 landed or 4 helicopter's we would get hit with 122mm rocket's. Never failed. Behind the tarmac was a small fence that said. No one allowed beyond the fence. The fence was around 3 feet high. Then there was a small cabin/shack with 2 bunk bed's and a map on the wall. The map was covered with a large cloth, incase someone wondered in. There was a radio so we could call each other from the main camp and also, so we could relay the weather. To the right as you face out to the airstrip (tarmac) there was another building that the indig slept in. There was a tower off to the right as you faced the tarmac. Behind us was an RVN artillery base. On the other side of the tarmac was the Dak To river. That's about all I remember. I think Frank has some photo's in his book.