Panel Four

On 21 November 1970, 56 specially selected and trained Special Forces Soldiers took on a mission, codenamed Operation IVORY COAST, to liberate American prisoners of war (POWs) held in a small prisoner of war camp at Son Tay, 23 miles west of Hanoi, the North Vietnamese capital. Although the mission was a tactical success, Special Forces Soldiers, also known as “Green Berets,” found the camp deserted.

Unknown to the Green Berets, rain had flooded the prison just prior to the raid, forcing the Vietnamese guards to move prisoners to another location. The POWs, who had been moved only a few miles down the road, somberly watched the raid unfold.

Although unsuccessful, the raid was not in vain. The rescue attempt boosted the morale of the prisoners; they knew they had not been forgotten. The North Vietnamese realized that if the operation had been successful, the sight of the POWs in their current state of health would have been disastrous. As a result, food and medical care improved for the prisoners.