Following up his well-received RAID Operation Eagle Claw 1980, Justin Williamson makes a welcome return to offer us an authoritative study of the Son Tay prison raid in Vietnam, a milestone in the development of today’s SOF.


Operation Ivory Coast 1970: US Special Forces raid Son Tay prison
By Justin Williamson

A superbly illustrated account of one of the most important milestones in the development of modern US Special Operations Forces, the hugely complex and flawlessly performed POW rescue at Son Tay.

On November 21, 1970, a meticulously prepared force of US Special Forces in HH-53 helicopters, supported by a bewildering array of combat aircraft including Phantoms, F-105s, Combat Talons, Skyraiders, and even the legendary SR-71 Blackbird, raided the POW camp at Son Tay, North Vietnam, just 23 miles west of Hanoi. The mission was to rescue 61 Americans. Having trained for months and utilizing the best troops and air crews possible, the raiders executed the mission flawlessly. No Americans were killed and only two aircraft were downed, with the raiders killing several dozen North Vietnamese. It was the epitome of joint commando operations and regarded as an unheralded success. Except, the prisoners were missing. The raiders had come up empty handed.

Drawing on declassified documents and new interviews with participants, diplomat and historian Justin Williamson explains the significance of this highly complex mission, deep inside enemy territory. A joint-Army-Air Force assault, with the Navy flying diversionary missions, Ivory Coast was the first operation to be conducted under the direct command of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and ranks among the most important moments in the development of modern US Special Operations Forces.