A Life for Freedom and Democracy
Special Branch - Northern Service (So Bac)
and the Secret War against Hanoi
In Memory of Colonel NGO THE LINH
(12/06/1928 - 2/25/1999)
Salute to all MACV-SOG Special Forces and Strategic Technical Directorate Commandos
(SPVZH Seal, Black Dragon, Thunder Tiger) and all ARVN heroes who died for Freedom
"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled,
or where the doer of deeds could have done better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust
and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again;
who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy course;
who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst,
if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be
with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat."
(Paris Sorbonne, 1910)
visited this page
Colonel Ngo The Linh never told us much of what he did for Freedom and Democracy for Vietnam. After his passing, stories were told, and his Top Secret Service for Vietnam and the Free World begun to appear in several books and Internet articles. Some facts and events here came from books, articles, and stories, the rest were what we know about him. If you knew him and had served with him, and can give some suggestion or correction, please email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Sincere Thanks,
His son, Ngo Xuan Hung
Family background of Colonel Ngo The Linh
The younger years fighting the communists in North Vietnam
25 years in the South - Fighting the communists (1949-1975)
History of Liaisons Service, 1st Observation Group, Presidential Palace (1956-1963) and Strategic Technical Directorate, ARVN (1964-1975)
Commander of SB - Presidential Liaisons Office (Chi Huy Truong So Bac - Phu Tong Thong) - the beginning of Strategic Technical Directorate
Commander of Coastal Security Service (CSS) - first Commander of Vietnamese SEA COMMANDOS
Commander of Special Missions Service (SMS) - first Commander of Vietnamese BLACK-DRAGON COMMANDOS
Vice Director of Strategic Technical Directorate (STD Commandos)
Heart-felt sharing from Colonel Ngo The Linh's son
25 years in America - Serving his people and maintaining the fight for Freedom and Democracy for Vietnam (1975-1999)
Nation remembers - Laying to rest a loyal son (To Quoc Ghi On)
References materials for this Tribute to Colonel Ngo The Linh
Colonel Ngo The Linh was a Fighter for Freedom and Democracy all of his life. He was borne Ngo Xuan Tuong on December 6, 1928, at Tho Hoang village in Huong Khe district, part of Ha Tinh province. Ha Tinh, Nghe An and Thanh Hoa are Northern Vietnam provinces well known for producing many Heroes with exceptionally strong characters of perseverance, endurance, and determination.
He was the only son of Mr. Ngo Xuan Huan, a-first-son-in-line leader, hence was the Ninth-generation Leader of the Ngo Xuan clan. His mother passed away when he was just barely 4 years old. When he was 17 years of age, his Dad died in an accident. His grand-father was the Prime Minister of Vietnam (in charge of ruling the country for 6 months while King Ham Nghi was sent away and was under arrest by the French). Prime Minister Giao Hoang resigned his post and retired early because he disagreed with the French Indochina policy. However, because of his loyal and excellent service to the King, he was rewarded with generous portion of land in Hatinh province. The famous Vietnamese poets 'Xuan Dieu' (Ngo Xuan Dieu) was Colonel Ngo The Linh's cousin. The Ngo Xuan family was rich and devout Catholic, and for this, the Communists came to confiscate their land, properties, and prosecute people in his village in Ha Tinh province.
FIRST FEW YEARS IN THE NORTH - RESISTING THE COMMUNISTS (1928 - 1949)
Raised by aunt and uncle, he studied with and followed Father Cao Van Luan's calling for a independent zone for Thanh Nghe Tinh from Communist rule. Father Cao Van Luan was a staunch anti-Communist Catholic priest. As a young man, Colonel Linh already involved with early secret anti-Communist movement to weaken the rise of Vietnamese Communists in the late 1940's.
When he was 21 years old, Viet Minh tried to kill him for his involvement against them, Mr. Ngo Xuan Tuong escaped to the South and changed his name to Ngo The Linh. In 1949, he avoided capture and escaped to the South Vietnam along the coast line of Central Vietnam. It was this same route, by sea, land and by air, that several years later he came back with his Sea Commandos to sabotage and attack the North Vietnamese Communists beyond the DMZ (Parallel 17).
After migrating to South Vietnam, in 1951 he volunteered and graduated from ARVN Military Officer Academy. Lieutenant Ngo The Linh begun serving at the Headquarter of Region II in Hue and Da Nang. In Hue, through the introduction of Father Cao Van Luan, he met and married Miss Cong Tang Ton Nu Ngoc Khue, a great grand-daughter of Emperor Gia Long and Saint Paul Tong Viet Buong, a Catholic Marty.
Captain Ngo The Linh (right) and his wife, Cong Tang Ton Nu Ngoc Khue, during Tet 1959 with his in-laws in Hue.
Father in-law, Mr. Ung Trao was Interior Department Minister, and grand-son of Prince Tran Bien - youngest son of Emperor Minh Mang. Mr. Ung Trao (sitting) was a very close friend of Mr. Ngo Dinh Kha, the father of the late President Ngo Dinh Diem. He was also the God-father of Brigadier General Le Van Than (Commander of Infantry 1st Division). Mother in-law, Mrs. Ung Trao was great-grand daughter of Saint Tong Viet Buong, a Catholic Martyr (who was executed by Emperor Minh Mang in 1840). Brother in-law, Father Buu Dong (not in picture), Pastor of Su Lo - An Truyen, was killed by Viet Cong in Tet 1968. Brother in-law, Lieutenant Colonel Buu Thieu (Class 4 - Military Officer Academy Da Lat) behind Mr. Ung Trao. The newly appointed Cardinal Francisco Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan (not in picture) is Mrs. Ngo The Linh's cousin, and was very close to both Colonel and Mrs. Ngo The Linh.
First born son - Ngo Xuan Huy (first from left), second son - Ngo Xuan Hung (third from left)
and first born daughter - Ngo Xuan Huong (Mrs. Ngo holding next to Captain Linh)
Colonel Ngo The Linh's Military Intelligence career begun since 1953 at Hue and Da Nang, the two locations that several years later he came back to control and command many top-secret spy and commando missions for the Republic of Viet Nam.
25 YEARS IN THE SOUTH - FIGHTING THE COMMUNISTS (1949 - 1975)
Choosing a military career to serve and to preserve Freedom and Democracy for The Republic of Vietnam, he volunteered to Thu Duc - Nam Dinh Officer Academy and graduated Class 3 in 1952. He was a friend of Major General Nguyen Khoa Nam, a famous ARVN Hero (who killed himself instead of surrendering to the communist on April 30th, 1975), from this class.
Since 1952, Lieutenant Ngo The Linh served as Military Intelligence Officer at Region II Command Headquarter (Bo Tu Lenh Quan Khu 2) in Hue, then at Military Region I Headquarter (Bo Tu Lenh Quan Doan 1) in Da Nang. Even before the Geneva Conference (1954 - dividing Vietnam into North and South), Lieutenant Linh had campained and worked with many other young Officers for Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem (in France) to come back and lead the Republic of Vietnam.
DEMOCRACY FOR SOUTH VIETNAM
At the end of 1956, the French-controlled Interior Department dissolved. By 1957, President Ngo Dinh Diem promoted Captain Le Quang Tung (Military Security Force Commander) to Major and sent him abroad for intelligence study. Coming back in 1958, Major Tung was promoted to a full Colonel and begun his command as Head of First Observation Group reporting to President Ngo Dinh Diem. The Vietnamese Special Forces (Luc Luong Dac Biet - LLDB) was created later that year with Captain Ngo The Linh and many other young patriotic ARVN Officers.
BRIEF HISTORY OF PRESIDENTIAL LIAISONS OFFICE (PLO) (1956 to 1963)
and STRATEGIC TECHNICAL DIRECTORATE, BO TONG THAM MUU, QUAN LUC VIET NAM CONG HOA (1964-1975)
Since 1956, the Presidential Liaisons Office (So Lien Lac, Phu Tong Thong) was founded and commanded by Colonel Le Quang Tung, with support and advice from Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This was a paramilitary organization operating outside of the South Vietnamese Army chain of command. It was under direct control of President Ngo Dinh Diem. Liaisons Service had several important Services including: Nothern Service (So Bac), Southern Service (So Nam), and First Observation Group (Lien Doi Quan Sat). Captain Ngo The Linh served in Liaisons Service from its inception and had gained the confidence of Colonel Tung, President Ngo Dinh Diem, Advisor Ngo Dinh Nhu, and Central Intelligence Agency Saigon Station Chief, William Colby.
In 1959, through a Presidential Order from President Diem, Captain Ngo The Linh set up and commanded Northern Service, also called Bureau 45B (So Bac, Phong 45B), a top-secret Service. He was the only commander of this Bureau. Northern Service was a joint Vietnamese-CIA operation to conduct agent operations against Hanoi.
Strategic Technical Directorate
Northern Service reported to President Ngo Dinh Diem. Captain Ngo The Linh and his Northern Service (So Bac) were responsible for spies and commandos missions in North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia - anything outside of the border of Vietnam. Captain Tran Van Minh commanded Southern Service (So Nam) responsible for security and elimination of Communist threat in South Vietnam.
In 1962, Hanoi begun to track increasing commandos activities in their back yard, Liaisons Service was renamed to Studies and Exploitation Service (SES) or So Khai Thac Dia Hinh but still only reported to President Ngo Dinh Diem. After the coup d'etat in November 1963 with President Diem assasinated, Studies and Exploitation Service was changed to Strategic Technical Directorate (STD) and transferred to Vietnamese Army chain of command. Colonel Tran Van Ho was the first Director of Strategic Technical Directorate. MACV-SOG was formed at this time (after 1962 CIA-MACV-Pacific Command Meeting).
However, being the 'key' commander for the secret Northern Service since its inception, despite of his close tie to President Ngo Dinh Diem, Major Ngo The Linh stayed on to command and actually expanded all spies and commandos activities north of the Parallel 17 and in Laos with continue support from his CIA friends and the new MACV-SOG Command.
It should be noted that Strategic Technical Directorate was only a 'cover' for Vietnamese Headquarter of Unconventional Warfare, equal to an Army Division with a two-star General as Commander. To preserve operational secrecy, STD officers and personnel were never mentioned in newspaper, rarely known even to friendly troups. Promotion and award was almost always kept within this organization.
1. Commander of Northern Service, Liaisons Service (Chi Huy Truong So Bac, So Lien Lac Tinh Bao, Phu Tong Thong),
the beginning of Strategic Technical Directorate or Nha Ky Thuat.
In 1958, President Ngo and President Eisenhower had officially agreed to join forces to create an office with First Observation Group and Central Intelligence Agency working together against North Vietnamese aggression by using long-term agents inserted to Northern coast to gather military intelligence. The lateWilliam Colby headed the CIA while Colonel Le Quang Tung commanded the Vietnamese group under Ngo Dinh Nhu, the brother and National Security Advisor to President Ngo Dinh Diem.
As the head of Bureau 45B or Office E - So Bac (Northern Service), Captain Ngo The Linh commanded this top-secret service and worked with William Colby to insert long-term agents and commandos teams to the North. So Bac (aka SB) operated outside of the Army of Republic of Viet Nam (ARVN) chain of command. During this time, very few people knew of its existence. Its personnel were trained at secret locations, stayed in many secret safe houses, operated in total secrecy, used several aliases with official papers, livde and worked among civilians, almost always wore civilian clothe, carried advanced weaponry with authorized permission from the Office of the President of Vietnam.
Central Intelligence Agency - Saigon Station Chief, William Colby was the key figure in Northern Service Planning and Command Committee. Captain Ngo The Linh code name was "Mr. Binh". He worked very closely with Bill Colby from 1958 until 1964 (when CIA transferred its agent operations to MACV-SOG). Central Intelligence Agency supplied advanced weapons, equipments and helped trained long-term spy agents and Sea Commandos at Long Thanh, Da Nang, and Nha Trang for missions to the North.
As Commander of So Bac - Northern Service, Captain Ngo The Linh organized and commanded spy and commando missions to North Vietnam as well as in Laos and Cambodia. Beside air-drop agent operation, Northern Service also had two others goups, Atlantic and Pacific (based in Hue and Da Nang), to send agents North by ground and by sea. Major Ngo The Linh organized the first Vietnamese SEAL Team by recruiting the best-of-the-best volunteers from Special Forces - Battalion 77 and ARVN Marine. They were trained at Nha Trang in 1960 and later in Taiwan with support from US Special Forces and US SEAL UDT Team Advisors.
Northern Service's long-term agents (dressed like North Vietnamese farmer) at Long Thanh training camp. Team Bull Leader, Mr. Nguyen Duc Nhon (front row - left) was captured in Ha Tinh (Major Linh's old province) and was jailed for 20 years. Mr. Nguyen is now living in Portland, Oregon, USA.
During 1961 and 1962 period, Northern Service dropped 41 Commando Recon Teams into Laos along Ho Chi Minh Trail and North Vietnam to gather intelligent information, to sabotage, and to attack communist military base. Major Linh commanded and personally went on agent insertion missions deep in North Vietnam (by C-41 plane, flew by Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Cao Ky) in the early phase of this Service. By the end of 1962, there were 22 agent teams inserted (Bell, Remus, Easy, Tourbillon, etc.) by plane. Later air-drops was conducted by Air America - First Flight Detachment commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Bill Rose with four unmarked C-123 transport planes.
Northern Service's C-46 transport plan dropping agents and supply over North Vietnam air space.
In this same period, Major Ngo The Linh and CIA Chief William Colby also inserted agents by sea with wooden sailing boats navigated by former North Vietnamese fishermen (who emigrated South after 1954) to Cam Pha, Dong Hoi, and Vinh. Northern Service expanded its operation to cover all facets of unconventional warfare against North Vietnamese government and its military installations. Several years later, Colby became Director of CIA after his long-time service in Vietnam and South-East Asia. Since 1958 up until 1964, Northern Service (based in Saigon, then moved to Da Nang) had inserted agents and sent attack commandos to the North, Laos and Cambodia. This was the beginning of a much larger unconventional warfare military organization later known as Strategic Technical Directorate (STD) or Nha Ky Thuat.
MACV-SOG The Legacy
2. Commander of Coastal Security Service (Chi Huy Truong So Phong Ve Duyen Hai)
In 1964, Northern Service and Strategic Technical Directorate were transferred under Vietnamese Army chain of command, Major Ngo The Linh was ordered to organize a new outfit, the Coastal Security Service (CSS), as a cover to organize and send many more Sea Commando teams North Vietnam. He was this Elite Service founder and first Commander.
So Phong Ve Duyen Hai (SPVZH) or Coastal Security Services (CSS) operated from Da Nang, in Central Vietnam. CSS was an expansion of Northern Service. It begun with Northern Service's Atlantic unit in Hue with Lieutenant Tran Ba Tuan and Pacific unit in Da Nang under Captain Ha Ngoc Oanh. These units had been in operation under Major Linh since 1960. Many secret Sea Commando Operation (Vulcan & others) were conducted against Hanoi by Major Linh and his Coastal Security Service.
Coastal Security Service Commanding Officers, Đà Nẵng 1964 (Left to right: unknown, Captain Trương Duy Tài - Sea Commandos Chief, Captain Lâm Nhật Ninh - Sea Commandos Commander, Major Ngô Thế Linh - Coastal Security Services Commander, 2nd Lieutenant Trần Kim Khánh - Major Linh's Attache').
CSS also had two other units: SEAL-UDT Sea Commando Teams and Luc Luong Hai Tuan (LLHT). LLHT personnel was transferred from Vietnamese Navy to operate the fast PTF boats while the SEA Commando Teams comprised of all volunteers from Vietnamese Special Forces, Navy Seals, and Marines. CSS trained Agents at at camp Long Thanh and Chinen (Okinawa) while the six elite Sea Commando teams were trained at Tien Sa, and launched attacks from My Khe, Son Tra in Da Nang. CSS sent spies, sabotaged, attacked and supported missions through the Northern coastal towns.
Coastal Security Service (SPVZH) Fast PT Boats launched from Da Nang to insert agents and Sea Commandos
He was a Major, then promoted to Lieutenant Colonel commanded the six Elite Sea Commando Teams, Northern Service civilian personnel, and was in charge of the fast PTF Swift and Nasty Boats. He worked with US Naval Advisor Detachment (NAD) Command from US Navy Pacific Command, Lieutenant Colonel James Munson (first NAD Chief), Colonel Jack Isler, and many others.
Sea Commandos (Biet Hai) trained at Da Nang with U.S. UDT-SEAL teams.
CSS Headquarter for was in Da Nang at what was known as the White Elephant Building (Bach Tuong). CSS main charter was to insert agents to North Vietnam, then later included coordinated attacks the Communists at several strategic bases. From 1959 to 1964, Major Linh commanded many top-secret spy and commando missions with advice and close support from Central Intelligence Agency. CIA financed the covert operations consisting of loyal Montagnard (Nung, Meo and Muong indigeous) commandos and Vietnamese SEA Commandos.
Lieutenant Trần Kim Khánh - Major Ngô Thế Linh (SPVZH Chief), Đà Nẵng, 1964
CSS, since its formation (1964) until 1970, had carried out hundreds of top-secret missions that very few people known. From US declassified documents, in February 1964, 3 PTF boats and commandos attacked and destroyed a strategic bridge with explosive. By July, CSS attacked and destroyed 5 coastal radar installations along the North Vietnamese shores, as well as launched many successful commando hit-and-run attack missions on land on communist strategic bases. Major Ngo The Linh went on a few missions to direct the operation. These are just a few details slowly came out after US Defense Department declassified its MACV-SOG report.
Paradise island: SOG's secret Psy-Op for Sacred Sword Patriot League to detain and interrogate North Vietnamese prisoners captured by commandos raids from 1964 through 1972.
Commando team being decorated after a successful mission by Colonel Ngo The Linh.
In 1962, McNamara held a meeting with Defense Department, Pacific Command, CIA, and Military Advisory Command Vietnam (MACV) in Honolulu, Lieutenant Colonel Ngo The Linh went as Vietnamese Covert Ops Chief. After this meeting, Military Advisory Command Vietnam - Studies and Observation Group or Special Operation Group (MACV-SOG) was formed. Since 1964, CSS began involving less with the CIA and more with the Pentagon and US MACV on missions after OPLAN34A was put in place. CSS command was later transferred to Navy Commander Colonel Ho Van Ky Thoai and operated under Vietnamese Navy Command while continued hundred more attack and spywar missions until 1972. Commander Ho Van Ky Thoai was later promoted to Navy Vice-Admiral.
After transferring CSS to the Navy, Colonel Ngo The Linh was promoted to Vice Director of Strategic Technical Directorate (under Colonel Tran Van Ho). As STD Executive Officer, Colonel Linh worked even more closely with MACV-SOG Chief Singlaub and SOG Officers on short-term STRATA, Earth Angels and other programs for intelligent gathering just North of DMZ, and Recon Missions with focus on Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos.
From 1958 to 1970, Commander Ngo The Linh's Special Branch Covert Operation was responsible for:
Organized and commanded six SEA COMMANDO Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) and was in charge of fast Swift and Nasty PTF boats based in Da Nang. He worked with Lieutenant James Munson (first US Naval Advisory Detachment - NAD Chief), Colonel Jack Isler
Commanded, organized, and sent over 500 long-term agents and Sea Commandos to North Vietnam by sea and by air for deception and sabortage missions. William Colby was the main architect and advisor for this program
Organized and commanded interdiction and Commando Operation - STRATA Teams (later were known as Special Mission Service SMS - So Cong Tac, Nha Ky Thuat):
Group 68 - Earth Angels: selected, trained and inserted North Vietnamese deserters to gather intelligent information, create deception, conduct SSPL spywar and distribute spywar material.
Group 11: short-term agent teams, inserted 150Km north of the DMZ from 2 to 4 weeks to gather information, sabotage road, bridges to disrupt Communist convoy on their way to the South. He worked with Major George "Speedy" Gaspard in this program.
Conducted Psychological Warfare with propaganda stations: Sacred Sword of the Patriot League - SSPL (Guom Thieng Ai Quoc), Freedom Radio, Vietnamese Mother radio, dropping pre-tuned radio, distributing leaflets, rigged (self-exploded) AK-47, and other psywar materials in the North.
Conducted Sacred Sword of the Patriot League -SSPL (Guom Thieng Ai Quoc) Program, Paradise Island (Cu Lao Cham, off shore from Da Nang) to kidnap North Vietnamese fishermen and giving propaganda materials, recruiting agents and planted agent in the group before sending them back. He ran these PsyOP programs with Lieutenant Colonel Robert McKnight (Chief of OPLAN34A under Colonel Singlaub) in 1968.
During this time, Dad reported to Colonel Tran Van Ho (STD Chief) and worked with all four SOG Chiefs: Colonel Blackburn, General Jack Singlaub, Colonel Cavanaugh, Colonel Sadler, and MACV-SOG staff. Lieutenant Colonel Robert McKnight (OPLAN34 Chief) was Dad closest friend, his buddy. The late LTC McKnight was God-father to Colonel Linh's oldest daughter. Other MACV-SOG leader was Major George "Speedy" Gaspard (Strata Project), Colonel Jack Isler, and many NAD's Commanders.
3. Commander of So Cong Tac (Nha Trang) - Special Mission Service (SMS)
Special Mission Service Through pressure of the US Congress and the American general opinion, after Tet 1968, President Johnson decided to halt all bombing in the North and ordered to stop all covert commando activities North of Parallel 17 (DMZ). At the same time, North Vietnamese were moving South in the thousands every month through Ho Chi Minh (HCM) Trail, just west of Vietnam-Laos border.
Right after SPVZH transfer, Colonel Linh organized other Commandos troops to expand Special Operation Groups with MACV-SOG within Nha Ky Thuat (Strategic Technical Directorate or STD) when they felt the focus should be along HCM trail. MACV-SOG and Strategic Technical Directorate stepped up the number of attack missions and Recon insertions in Cambodia, Lao. Colonel Ngo The Linh was put in charge of a new Service to accomplish this new task.
Special Mission Service (SMS) STRATA teams carried by noise-reduced helicopter from top-secret air base Nakhon Phanom (NKP) in Thailand for a 45 minute flight to Vinh and area 180Km north of DMZ.
In 1968, promoted to Colonel rank, he organized and commanded Elite Special Forces Commandos to form Special Mission Service - STD (So Cong Tac of Nha Ky Thuat). These were the Hac-Long (Black Dragon) Commandos, organized into 5 combat battalions. Hac Long Commandos were led by many courageous Special Forces Officers such as Lieutenant Colonel Bui Van Thien (Commander of Special Mission Group 71), Major Nguyen Phan Tuu - White Tiger (Commander of Special Mission Group 72), the late Lieutenant Colonel Dao Dang Dai (Commander of Special Mission Group 11), Captain Hoang Cong Kham (Leader of Special Mission Group 11), etc..
Commando Units 68 and 11 (STRATA teams and Earth Angels - North Vietnamese Ralliers) located in Da Nang and Long Thanh, and were responsible for Northern missions. During 1968, STRATA Teams made 24 missions to the North of DMZ (Parallel 17th) to attack and gather intelligence on weapon and troop movement to the South. Hac Long Commando Units 71, 72, and 75 based in Nha Trang for attack and destroy missions in Laos along HCM Trail, by American Air Commando One and Vietnamese courageous Combat Helicopter Unit 219, known as the King Bee.
Colonel Ngo The Linh also took part in planning and helped Brigadier General Leroy J. Manor and Colonel Bull Simons on Son Tay raid in 1970 to rescue 70 American prisonners of war held in Son Tay camp. The raid failed however because the prisonners were moved to another lovation prior to the raid.
Tet 1971, Special Forces Commanders at Colonel Ngo The Linh home (72 Duy Tan villa, Nha Trang). Please write to us to add all the names in this picture.
Thank you Delta Ranger CaptainPham Rang for providing this very rare picture. Cám ơn BCD Phạm Râng (ĐĐ4/TĐ91/BCND) đă gửi tặng.
1st row: Mrs. Ngô thế Linh, brother and children of Colonel Ngô thế Linh
2nd row: Lt. Colonel Phan bá Kỳ, Major Trung, Colonel Linh (a cross on his medals)
Major Hùng (wore sunglasses) and Captain Huỳnh thanh Nhơn.
3rd row: 2nd Lt. Tùng, Lt. Colonel Đào đăng Đại, 2nd Lt. (unkown), Major Trần đ́nh Thái (current Chairman of VSF Association), Lt. Colonel Nguyễn đức Phổ, Lt. Colonel Tôn thất Chiêm, Major Quang, Major Nguyễn hữu Hà (mustache), Major Nguyễn hải Triệu, Lieutenant Lộc.
Last row: Captain Châu (mang kiếng), Captain Nguyễn đăng Lâu (ĐĐ3/91BCND), Captain Phạm Râng (ĐĐ4/91BCND), Major Viên, Captain Nghĩa, Major Khánh
4. Vice Director of Strategic Technical Directorate MACV/SOG - STD
Colonel Ngo The Linh was Special Forces Commander for many Services and top-secret Intellient Operations and had served the Vietnam Republic for 23 years. He organized and commanded many spy and commando missions since the inception of Northern Service (So Bac). He was the highest commander of Nha Ky Thuat who started the organization and remained there until the end. In 1972 Colonel Linh was Vice Director of Nha Ky Thuat (STD), and later was also Commander of Commando Training Center Yen The at Long Thanh. During the 16 years with STD, he travelled often to the United States, Thailand, Laos, Philippine, Hawaii, and Taiwan for CIA, MACV-SOG, and Nha Ky Thuat meetings. He studied and planned intelligence/counter-intelligence operations. He commanded missions for Hac Long (Black Dragon), STRATA teams, Loi Ho (Thunder Tiger), Bong Ma Bien Gioi Duong Mon Ho Chi Minh (The Ghosts of Ho Chi Minh Trail), Biet Hai (Sea Commandos), and other Special Forces Commandos.
Thunder Tiger (Loi Ho) Commandos with MACV-SOG Recon Team (RT) for intelligent-gathering, kidnap NVN officers, search and destroy missions in Laos.
During 10 years he commanded Northern Service and Coastal Security Service, over 500 courageous long-term Agents and Commandos went North to infiltrate and attack the Vietnamese Communist. They created havoc and made Hanoi government worried with internal insurgency and chaos. Northern Service agents infiltrated Communist government and military to gather information while Coastal Security Service Commandos kidnapped, sabotaged and attacked at Ha Noi, Hai Phong, and other Communist strategic bases. Hanoi admitted later that they were worried that CIA/MACVSOG/STD had inserted more than 1,000 spies, twice the actual numbers sent.
Strategic Technical Directorate also had other Services: Liaison Service (So Lien Lac, Nha Ky Thuat) also known as Thunder Tiger Commandos (Loi Ho) with three Combat Units (Command Control North, Center, and South) operated from Danang (CCN), Komtum (CCC) and Ban Me Thuot (CCS) Central Highland. Within Liaison Service, the late Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Hung Rinh, a courageous STD Officer served as Commander of each one of the three units for many years. Major Ho Dang Nhut, killed in action in 1975 while helping people evacuate from Central Highland. Through many large scale operations (Shinning Brass, Tailwind, etc. ) the Thunder Tiger Commandos went with American 5th Special Forces on dangerous insertions behind enemy lines, routinely carried out reconnaissance missions along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, penetrated deep into Laos and Cambodia, recovered downed pilots and attempted several POW rescues.
Nha Ky Thuat also had many other Services such as: Helicopter Unit 219 (the famous King Bee with courageous pilots: Major An Nguyen, "Cowboy" and "Mustachio" Nguyen Van Hoang), Air Support Service (So Khong Yem), Military Security Service (So An Ninh Quan Doi), and others (So Hanh Chanh Tiep Van, Quan Y, Truyen Tin, and Dai Doi Cong Vu).
Through his service, he had risen to the rank of Colonel, staying at that rank for 7 years. However, his function and power sometime exceeded that of an Army general. He was a quiet leader who fought not for the glory, recognition or reward, but for a higher goal, for Freedom and Democracy, just like many of his Commandos (Biet Kich Vi Van No, Tourbillion, 1962) and American Special Forces (Capt. Larry Thorne, Jerry "Mad Dog" Shriver, etc.).
Eventually, Colonel Linh became Pho Giam Doc Nha Ky Thuat, Bo Tong Tham Muu QLVNCH (Vice Director of Strategic Technical Directorate) covering all facets of un-conventional, recon and intelligent warfare.
In his 23 years Military Career, Colonel Ngo The Linh fought intelligence warfare, attacked and destroyed Communist secret and strategic headquarters. He organized and was the Commanding Officer of many top-secret and highly-decorated ARVN Special Forces:
Commander of Northern Service, Presidential Liaision (Intelligence) Service.
Commander of Coastal Security Service (CSS) and SPVZH Seal Commandos.
Commander of Special Mission Service - Black Dragon Commandos.
Commander of Commandos Training Center, Special Operations Groups.
Vice Director of Strategic Technical Directorate (STD / MACV-SOG).
Colonel Ngo The Linh was
Vice Director and Executive Officer
of Strategic Technical Directorate
An ARVN Hero by T.70
Before leaving Saigon in 1975, I remembered going to his room and look at all of his Medals and Civilian Awards to see how many he received after gallantly and courageously served for 23 years. For his patriotic and outstanding service to Vietnam, Colonel Ngo The Linh received 53 Medals, Honors and Citations in his career including National Order (Bao Quoc Huan Chuong), ARVN Joint Forces Order (Luc Quan Huan Chuong), Service Medal (Tham Muu Boi Tinh), Campaign Medal (Chien Dich Boi Tinh), and very many (several bands) of Gallantry Crosses with Nhanh Duong Lieu (Valiant Combat), Gold and Silver Stars, 2 Purple Hearts, and many other ARVN and US Medals and Citations.
The Lost Commandos ... But in late 1972, as the Paris peace talks convened, clothing and food improved for the captured commandos. Word spread among them that all prisoners of war would be released under the emerging treaty. On Jan. 27, 1973, the cease-fire agreement was signed by the United States, South Vietnam and North Vietnam, calling for the return of prisoners of war within 60 days. Although almost 600 U.S. POWs were released, the commandos-some of whom had been in the same prisons as the Americans-were not. In protest, scores of them staged a series of hunger strikes that were mercilessly broken up by prison guards armed with clubs and dogs.
At the negotiating table in Paris, the United States might not have been in any position to ask for the release of the commandos. "How could you ask for them?" Andrade asks. "These were not supposed to be United States teams, and you would not want to disclose your collusion in a secret operation. Even if we were involved in the training and the missions, it was (South Vietnamese) President Nguyen Van Thieu's job to ask for them."
HEART-FELT SHARING FROM A SON
South Viet Nam intelligence network in the North and Vietnamese Military Top Secrets went to his grave with him. Few people alive today know the full detail of his service to the Free World, but former President Nguyen Van Thieu, Air Force General Nguyen Cao Ky, the late CIA Director William Colby, and a few other Vietnamese and American retired Colonels, Generals, and Special Forces and STD Commandos.
Through interrogation of the captives from early unsuccessful missions in the North, Hanoi learned of his secret organization since 1960. They wanted him dead and tried unsuccessfully several times to assassinate him. I recalled hearing his name on Hanoi radio when I was 9 years old, asking him to go back to Ha Tinh where he was borne. We feared for his life and prayed for him frequently. In combat missions, he was wounded twice but managed to survive then fought on for many years.
I remember the times when he went to work in civilian clothe with bodyguards, sometimes in a convoy to lessen the chance of the enemy blowing up his car. We remember top-secret documents he brought home that we were not supposed to touch. They had other names printed on. These were different aliases he used during the war. He was known also as Colonel Tran Vien Phuong, Colonel Binh. The American called him "Bing", hence "Binh" in Vietnamese. We were proud of him but always afraid that he would die or be assassinated. Even one of our baby-sitters was a Viet Cong, but she was discovered by So Bac intelligent network, we were told.
He never told us any detail about his service to Vietnam Democracy. Many stories were told after his death. We were told that the "Major Binh" who gave the top-secret secret information to Dang Chi Binh in Thep Den story just before he went to the North (as a spy) was actually our Dad. Binh was his nickname. I read this book many years ago, remembering Tien Sa and So Phong Ve Duyen Hai, not knowing that it was Dad in the story. He smiled when he saw the book at our home, commented that it is a good book to read. Once, he told me briefly that he went to the North, twice on attack missions, with no other detail. This was just a few weeks before he died. May be he was feeling that his time was getting close. He never told me anything else.
On April 27th, 1975, our family was transported to Tan Son Nhat Airport by Defense Attache Office (DAO) bus under U.S. Marines protection. Dad's Jeep followed closely behind with 2 other Jeeps with his STD Commandos carrying machine guns. The Airport Military Police quickly followed, thinking that Dad was deserting his post like many other high-commanding officers. He said good-bye to our mother, picked up and kissed us as he put each one on the plane.
The family cried and begged him to go with us, even the US Marines and DAO officers were asking him to get on while they aimed their guns back at the Vietnamese MPs. Dad only turned around and walked back to his Jeep, then just drove away while every soldiers (including the US Marines) stood saluting. That was the last time we saw him in camouflaged combat fatigue. Afraid that we would never see him again, we cried but I myself was so proud of him.
On April 30th, 1975, Colonel Ngo The Linh left Vietnam with Nha Ky Thuat (STD) troops aboard a Navy ship. He neither deserted his STD post nor abandoned his Commando Units. He followed Presidential Order, for the last time, to lay down weapon to avoid further bloodshed. Four weeks later our family was united in Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.
25 YEARS IN AMERICA - MAINTAINING THE FIGHT FOR FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY FOR VIETNAM (1975 - 1999)
Viet Nam Democracy and our people freedom were taken away in 1975. For the people that were left behind, it was horrible stories of re-education camps, corruptions, tortures, death by firing squads, properties seized, and gross violations of basic Human Rights. Dad always felt that The Fight for Freedom and Democracy for Motherland must continue, by us and by our children until Viet Nam can be free again.
People said that the American wanted Dad to continue working with them in Washington DC. But all we knew was that Dad and our family stayed in refugee camp for a long six months, and after the long wait, we moved to San Jose, California where Dad lived a quiet civilian life.
We did not have money when we came to the U.S. in 1975. It was the same as in 1949 when Dad left his hometown to go to the South. We received food, shelter and assistance from a kind groups of people from Saint Joseph of Cupertino, in Cupertino, California. He held a System Analyst job with Sperry Univac and worked there for a few years. He got up early each morning to drive us to schools in an old Ford LTD, then he went to work. Probably none of his co-workers or our church-sponsors knew who he was nor what he really did for Vietnam and the Free World back then.
Dad encouraged us to study and work hard to gain admission to public universities through scholarships. This we did and many of us graduated from UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, UCSF Hasting Law, San Jose State Universities, and Cal State Hayward. We all have good jobs with good careers. He told us many times that he was proud of us, for our effort. If only he knew how proud he made us feel for who he was, for what he did, and for being his children.
Dad accepted his honor without fanfare. He accepted disappointment without complaint. His belief was strong. He was a tough man for Communists to deal with. They had wanted him dead since 1960. The South Viet Nam intelligence secrets were forever safe with him, a loyal and trusted Son, a courageous Officer, and a Patriot. He once told a comrade: "being a commander who fought to preserve Vietnam Democracy, but had to abandoned our post while the Communists were advancing, with this shame of losing the war, even for any political reason, we can not claim any victory or taking credit for our heroic sacrifice". This however did not stop many others from praising him and his service in their articles, books, and speeches, after his death.
Colonel Ngo The Linh was a proud, courageous, gallant, and loyal patriot. He earned the respect from his Commandos and fellow Officers through years of dedication and service. Being one of the key people in running Vietnam top-secret programs for many years, but still kept these secret services to himself. He never wrote book, or made public speeches, to tell who he was or what he did except to a few who made these sacrifice with him, his fellow STD Commandos. He was a Freedom Fighter all of his life, willing to pay the ultimate price for Freedom and Democracy for all.
Dad dedicated his life to 'a fight for Freedom' that he believed in. He wanted us to do the same. We follow his footsteps. We worked hard through school, to become Lawyer, Engineers, Managers, MBA, and restaurant owner. We follow Dad and continue to realize his dream for a 'free' Vietnam.
In the USA, he organized and supported several organizations to keep working toward a free Vietnam through political mean and to unite the patriots together. Later in his life, he often held meetings with former Commandos, fellow Officers and those who keep an active voice demanding Human Rights, Freedom, and Democracy for Vietnam. Colonel Ngo the Linh organized these Associations:
General Association of Former Members of Army of Republic of Viet Nam (ARVN) - Hoi Cuu Chien Si Quan Luc Viet Nam Cong Hoa
General Association of Former Cadets of Military Officers Academy in Thu Duc & Nam Dinh - Tong Hoi Cuu Sinh Vien Si Quan Vo Khoa Thu Duc & Nam Dinh
General Association of Compatriot from Vinh - Hoi Ai Huu Vinh
General Association for Vietnamese Elderlies for Support - Hoi Tuong Te Cao Nien, Santa Clara, California
He organized several musical events to raise fund to help disabled ARVN Veterans back home. In four years, General Association of Former Cadets of Military Officers Academy in Thu Duc & Nam Dinh and Colonel Linh raised over $40,000 dollars. More than 250 veterans were helped through this program that Colonel started 5 years ago. The money was used to buy crutches and wheelchairs for disabled Veterans, some went to help widows and orphans of those who made the Ultimate Sacrifice in our fight for Freedom (Co Nhi Qua Phu cua Quan Luc Viet Nam Cong Hoa).
He organized Hoi Ai Huu Dia Phan Vinh (Association of Vinh Catholic Immigrants) to keep the people from his village together. They migrated to South Vietnam and now residing in the USA. He organized and supported Hoi Tuong Te Cao Nien (Association of Vietnamese Elders) to keep the elders together, to support one another, and help prepare for their eventual final arrangements.
Dad was a staunch anti-Communist. He knew who they were and what they were capable of. But it was his courage, organizing and commanding skills, and abilities to rally people together for a cause, that enabled him to succeed in military and civilian career. He was a superb military-intelligent-service strategist, a courageous combat officer, and a trusted leader who, with his troops, risked their lives for Freedom and Democracy for Vietnam. He passed away but left behind a Legacy and Honor to our family, his fellow STD Commandos, and all others who served our country to the end.
Just before his death, during Tet Celebration at Santa Clara (California) Fairground, Dad was representing the Vietnamese there. He and the Major of San Jose, Ronald Gonzales, held up the South Viet Nam flag, while red and yellow balloons were releasing in the air symbolizing our demand for Freedom and Human Right for Vietnam. After the ceremony, he went to my home to celebrate Tet with his children and grandchildren. I remember representing our family to wish him good health, not knowing that that was the last time we talked to him. God called him home five days later on February 25th 1999. He lived until age 70, survived by 12 sons, 6 daughters, and 14 grandchildren.
When Dad died, he had little in his possession. He enjoyed very much a car that our brothers bought for him a few months before. His clothes and belonging were simple and modest. The "gas" money we asked him to keep whenever we saw him, he often gave to Disabled Veteran Fund or other charity groups. We grew up admiring Dad for his kindness, generosity, courage, and encouragement, but most importantly, his loving and caring way.
Dad lived his life for the Freedom of Vietnam and for the people he loved. He protected and served Democracy. He was willing to die for our Freedom, which was what he wanted for himself and his children.
NATION REMEMBERS - LAID TO REST A LOYAL SON (TO QUOC GHI ON)
To honor him, former President Nguyen Van Thieu called our family and sent condolence with his representatives. Former Prime Minister Nguyen Ba Can, Minister Ngo Khac Tinh, General Hoang Xuan Lam, Nguyen Khac Binh, Bui Dinh Dam, Huynh Van Lac, Bui Huu Nhon, Lam Quang Thi, Lai Duc Chuan, and many of his friends, military officers and Special Forces comrades and representatives from all Military Branches came to pay their last respect.
He was buried with Military Honor as one who died in the line of duty. The funeral procession stretched over five-mile long with 10 to 15 police motorcycles escorting. Highway and city traffic was blocked for more than half an hour. We have never seen so many of his friends and comrades all at the same time before.
SPECIAL FORCES COMMANDER
Northern Service Agents, Sea Commandos, Black Dragon and Thunder Tiger Commandos and former ARVN Generals, Colonels, Officers and Soldiers from ARVN Military Branches attended and paid tribute to a loyal son who lived and fought for Freedom and Democracy for Motherland.
It was comforting for our family to know that in the end, Dad was being honored, but the grief of losing a Father was too much for us to bear that day. After 50 years of fighting Communist aggression, the loyal son received the highest honor from Motherland, the honor that he could not have when he was alive to protect national top-secret.
On that sunny day March 5th, 1999, the loyal son of Motherland (Me Viet Nam) was laid to rest on foreign soil, at Gate of Heaven Cemetary, Los Altos, California. His coffin was laid facing the Pacific Ocean (Thai Binh Duong) while, many thousand miles away, Vietnamese mothers perhaps were singing folk songs for their children to sleep. Many came to pray for him, many cried. These are the people he loved, cared for, and served with through out his life.
His loyal Biet Kich Loi Ho, Biet Kich Hac Long, Biet Hai SPVZH Commandos (arrived from distant cities) stood guard around him for three days. The coffin was covered with a flag that Dad saluted to, so many times before. It was the Flag of The former Viet Nam Republic, Yellow Flag with three Red Stripes (Co Vang Ba Soc Do). We know that would be how he wished to be remembered, a soldier and an officer who risked his life to preserve Freedom and Democracy for Motherland (To Quoc) and the people (Dan Toc). The Commandos requested our family permission to carry Dad to his final resting place and bit him "Farewell".
Everyone who attended the burial felt a strong sense of patriotism, an urge to do some thing great for our Motherland across the Pacific Ocean (Dat Me ben kia bo Dai Duong). His grandchildren started talking about going to Vietnam when they grow up, to go back and to do something for our people, for our land.
After the burial, his stories were told leaving our family and guests wondering and admiring him for all those years he risked his life in secret for our freedom, the Freedom that often, we take for granted. Colonel Ngo The Linh was a true Patriot, a courageous and daring Officer, an outstanding Commander, one who served Vietnam and our people faithfully to the best of his abilities.
Donation, in his memory, can be made to "Quy Thuong Phe Binh - Tong Hoi Cuu Sinh Vien Vo Khoa Thu Duc Nam Dinh" (Vietnamese Disabled Veterans Fund - General Association of Former Cadets of Military Officers Academy in Thu Duc & Nam Dinh). This fund was set up by him to help those forgotten Vietnamese Disabled Veterans who are living in Vietnam. This activity was one that Dad held close to his heart until his last days. He would be pleased to know that the funeral donation goes to help the Disabled Veterans. He would want it that way, to help his fallen comrades and their families.
If you are interested, and would like to make a tax-deductible donation to help the ARVN disabled veterans, please send email to me at email@example.com for more information.
Some day soon, Vietnam will be free again. And we, his children, once again will be able to walk on Vietnam soil as free and proud Vietnamese, without the need of a foreign passport.
I salute you and all Freedom Fighters who fought and died to preserve Freedom and Democracy.
I am very proud to be his son. To me, he was always "Dad", a caring and very loving Dad.
Dad, please keep watch over us so we can do more for our people and for our Motherland.
I love you Dad, in your loving memory.
Ngo Xuan Hung.
March 10th, 1999, at San Jose, California.
Reference Materials for this article:
Spies and Commandos - How America Lost the Secret War in North Vietnam, by Ken Conboy and Dale Andrade, USA.
Secret Army, Secret War: Washington's Tragic Spy Operation in North Vietnam, by Sedgwick D. Tourison
An ARVN Hero - Director of Special Branch (Office 45B), by Number T.70, USA.
The Secret War of American commandos in Vietnam, by John L. Plaster, Peguin Group Publisher, USA.
The Secret War Against Hanoi, by Richard H. Shultz, J.R., Harper Collins Publisher, USA.
William Egan Colby, Director of Central Intelligence Agency, A Tribute and brief Biography
Ambassador William Colby, "Turning Points in the Vietnam War", Keynote Speech, 2nd Triennial Vietnam Symposium The Vietnam Center at Texas Tech University.
CIA Director William Colby, an Oral History Interview, LBJ Library Archives at University of Texas.
History of Strategic Technical Directorate, by Ken Conboy.
CIA Judgments on President Johnson's Decision To "Go Big" in Vietnam, Central Intelligence Agency Center for the Study of Intelligence
The Lost Commandos, Los Angeles Times, January 12, 1992.
MACV-SOG The Legacy, from website www.macv-sog.org
Special Branch (So Bac) Operation Vulcan, from website: http://www.ptfnasty.com/
Major Tran Kim Khanh of Northern Service and Coastal Security Service (So Bac - SPVZH) Da Nang, Colonel Linh right-hand man for many years at SPVZH and later was Commanding Officer for Thunder Tiger CCC/CCS.
Men who went to the North Sea (Nguoi Ra Bien Bac), by Tran Do Cam, Nguyet San Doan Ket (Magazine), Austin, Texas, USA.
Commando Captain Nguyen Van Loc, former Attache to Colonel Ngo The Linh at Special Mission Service - SMS (So Cong Tac) Strategic Technical Directorate, Nha Ky Thuat.
Commando Captain Lam Quang Chieu, Thunder Tiger (Komtum) Liaisons Service, NKT.
Commando Doan Khanh, MACV-SOG Thunder Tiger (Da Nang) Liaisons Service, NKT.
Sea Commando Nguyen Tram - Coastal Security Service (SPVZH Da Nang).
Northern Service Agent Nguyen Tam (Nguyen Manh Hung) who went in 1962, captured and imprisoned for 19 years.
For correction and any other suggestion, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ngo xuan Hung
(March 9th, 1999)
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