On the night of 21 November 1970, a little after
2 a.m., 15 aircraft, led by 7th SOS MC-130E Combat
Talons, converged on the Son Tay prison located 23
miles west of Hanoi. They were supported by another
100 Air Force and Navy aircraft fulfilling various
roles in Operation KINGPIN, the mission to rescue
Lt Gen Leroy Manor led the planning and execution of
this challenging and historic effort and I was proud
to be a part of his great team as a planner. John
Gargus’ excellent article, “Recollections of the Son
Tay Raiders,” is the lead story in this issue of the Air
Commando Journal honoring the skill and courage of
all the participants and marking the 50th Anniversary
of the Son Tay Raid...
The same out of the box thinking, courage, and
aerial skill exhibited by the Son Tay raiders in 1970
has transcended time and was displayed again by Air
Commandos during the opening days of Operation
IRAQI FREEDOM in March 2003. Air Commandos
from Hurlburt Field planned, coordinated, and flew
multiple tough missions early in the war inserting
US Special Forces into the Iraqi desert by helicopters
and by MC-130s while AC-130 gunships flew
top cover and interdiction missions...
As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the
Son Tay Raid and last reunion for the Raiders, we
also honor and remember our Air Commandos, past
and present, who live up to the motto “Anytime,
Anyplace” every day.
Colonel (Ret) Larry Ropka
Master navigator and special operations aircraft expert, selected as one of the original operational planners of the Son Tay Raid in Washington D.C.