Tiger Force

Tiger Force
Tiger Force
Country USA
Branch United States Army
Type Special operations forces
Role close target reconnaissance, counterrevolutionary warfare, direct action operations, raids
Size 45
Part of U.S. XVIII Airborne Corps
Garrison/HQ Fort Campbell (1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade)
Engagements Vietnam War
Decorations Streamer PUC Army.PNG
United States Presidential Unit Citation
Gerald Morse

Tiger Force was a task force of the United States Army, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade (Separate), 101st Airborne Division, which fought in the Vietnam War.[1]

The platoon-sized unit, approximately 45 paratroopers was founded by Colonel David Hackworth in November 1965 to "outguerrilla the guerrillas."[2] Tiger Force was a highly decorated unit, and paid for its reputation with heavy casualties.[3] In October 1968, Tiger Force's parent battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation by President Lyndon B. Johnson, which included a mention of Tiger Force's service at Dak To in June 1966.[4]

In October 2003, the Toledo Blade reported on members of the Tiger Force unit, alleging that they had committed numerous war crimes, murdering, raping, and mutilating large numbers of noncombatant women and children.[5]


Investigations of war crimes

In December 2002, Michael D. Sallah, a reporter at the Toledo Blade newspaper, obtained unreleased, confidential records of U.S. Army commander Henry Tufts. One file in these records referred to a previously unpublished war crimes investigation known as the Coy Allegation. To investigate this further, Sallah obtained access to a large collection of documents produced by the investigation held at the National Archives in College Park, MD.[6]

Sallah found that between 1971 and 1975 the Army's Criminal Investigation Command had investigated the Tiger Force unit for alleged war crimes committed between May and November 1967.[7] The documents included sworn statements from many Tiger Force veterans, which detailed war crimes allegedly committed by Tiger Force members during the Song Ve Valley and Operation Wheeler military campaigns. The statements, from both individuals who allegedly participated in the war crimes and those that did not, described war crimes such as the following:

  • the routine torture and execution of prisoners[8]
  • the routine practice of intentionally killing unarmed Vietnamese villagers including men, women, children, and elderly people[9]
  • the routine practice of cutting off and collecting the ears of victims[10]
  • the practice of wearing necklaces composed of human ears[11]
  • the practice of cutting off and collecting the scalps of victims[12]
  • incidents where soldiers would plant weapons on murdered Vietnamese villagers [13]
  • an incident where a young mother was drugged, raped, and then executed[14]
  • an incident where a soldier killed a baby and cut off his or her head after the baby's mother was killed[15]

The investigators concluded that many of the war crimes indeed took place.[16] Despite this, the Army decided not to pursue any prosecutions.[17]

For instance, when Capt. Harold McGaha first landed in the Operations area where the Tigers were waiting, he was taken aback. He noticed that several were wearing what he recognized as human ears. It wasn’t a secret at the base that some soldiers were mutilating bodies.[18] This was not isolated to Tiger Force, but according to some reports, occurred to varying degrees in other Army infantry and Marine units.[19]

Violence and murder were both recognized and encouraged by military officials. Col. Morse ordered troops to rack in a body count of 327 casualties in order to match the battalions infantry designation, 327th, however by the end of the campaign soldiers were congratulated for their 1000th kill.[20]

Many members of Tiger Force and other military groups would attempt to resist from the spread of violence against Vietnamese locals. In fact, many soldiers would turn on their team members in order to prevent one from massacring unarmed individuals. Those who would protect locals from being murdered or mutilated could receive punishment from a corporal officer and possibly be ordered to seek psychiatric aid. Many soldiers who were opposed to the violence they were forced to spread had debated reporting their actions to higher officials, many did not out of fear of what their team leaders would do to them.[20]

After studying the documents, Sallah and fellow reporter Mitch Weiss located and interviewed dozens of veterans who served in Tiger Force during the period in question as well as the CID investigators who later carried out the Army's inquiry. The reporters also traveled to Vietnam and tracked down numerous residents of Song Ve Valley who identified themselves as witnesses. Sallah and Weiss reported that the war crimes were corroborated by both veterans[5] and Song Ve Valley residents.[21] The reporters also managed to track down dozens of additional investigative records not included in the National Archives.

In October 2003, the reporters published their findings in a series of articles in the Toledo Blade. Subsequently, the New York Times performed their own investigation, contacting a few Tiger Force veterans and corroborating the Toledo Blade's findings.[22]

Since the Toledo Blade story, the United States Army has opened a review of the former Tiger Force investigation, but has not yet provided much additional information. On May 11, 2004, Lt. Col. Pamela Hart informed Toledo Blade reporters that she had been too busy responding to prisoner abuse by U.S. soldiers in Iraq to check on the status of the Tiger Force case.[23] The Toledo Blade has not reported on any more recent updates from the U.S. Army.

Reporters Michael D. Sallah, Mitch Weiss and Joe Mahr received multiple awards for their series:

In 2006, Sallah, now an investigative reporter with The Miami Herald, and Weiss, an investigative reporter with The Associated Press, co-authored a book chronicling their findings: Tiger Force: A True Story of Men and War (Little, Brown and Company).

Partial list of Members 1965-1969

  • Lt. Col. David Hackworth,[24] unit founder
  • Lt. Col. Harold Austin[25]
  • Lt. Col. Joseph Collins[25]
  • Lt. Col. Gerald Morse[25] (radiocall = Ghost Rider, retired in 1979) Battalion commander, and not an actual member of the team.
  • Capt. Carl James[25]
  • Capt. Harold McGaha[25]
  • Capt. Bradford Mutchler[25]
  • Lt. Gary Forbes[25]
  • Lt. James Hawkins[25]
  • Lt. James A. Gardner (awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously) killed in action, before any of the controversial events
  • Lt. William F. Kernan
  • Lt. Stephen Naughton[25]
  • Lt. Edward Sanders[25]
  • Lt. Donald Wood[25] (whistleblower)
  • Ssg. John G. Gertsch (awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously) killed in action
  • Sgt. James Barnett[25]
  • Sgt. Gerald Bruner[25] (whistleblower)
  • Sgt. Robert Diaz[25]
  • Sgt. William Doyle[25]
  • Sgt. Benjamin Edge[25]
  • Sgt. Charles Fulton[25]
  • Sgt. Kenneth Green[25]
  • SFC. Terry Gammage
  • Sgt. James Haugh[25]
  • Sgt. Leo Heaney[25]
  • Sgt. Eric Walker[25] (Implicated in leading nearly all controversial events) missing in action
  • Sgt. Ervin Lee[25]
  • Sgt. Forrest Miller[25]
  • Sgt. Ernest Moreland[25]
  • Sgt. Domingo Munoz[25]
  • Sgt. Terry Lee Oakden[25]
  • Sgt. Cleve Rose {before any controversial events}
  • Sgt. Manuel Sanchez Jr.[25]
  • Sgt. Harold Trout[25]
  • Sgt. Robin Varney[25]
  • Spc. Barry Bowman[25]
  • Spc. Lonnie Butts (awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, posthumously) killed in action, before any of the controversial events
  • Spc. William Carpenter[25] (whistleblower)
  • Spc. Jean Louis Soucy
  • Pvt. Michael Allums[25]
  • Pvt. Edward Beck[25]
  • Pvt. Rion Causey[25] (whistleblower)
  • Pvt. Daniel Clint[25]
  • Pvt. James Cogan[25]
  • Pvt. John Colligan[5]
  • Pvt. Harold Fischer III[25]
  • Pvt. Jerry Ingram[25]
  • Pvt. Kenneth Kerney[25] (whistleblower)
  • Pvt. Terrence Kerrigan[25]
  • Pvt. Gary Kornatowski[25]
  • Pvt. Ralph Mayhew[25]
  • Pvt. James Messer[25]
  • Pvt. Cecil Peden[25]
  • Pvt. Floyd Sawyer[25]
  • Pvt. Douglas Teeters[25]
  • Pvt. Sam Ybarra[25]
  • Pvt. Jim Raysor
  • Joseph Evans[26]
  • Platoon Medic Larry Cottingham[5]
  • Spec. Richard Russell (awarded 3 bronze stars 1 for valor, 4 purple hearts, army commendation medal and good conduct medal)
  • PFC - Sterling Craig Hendricks, Bronze Star, Purple heart, KIA April 19, 1967
  • Spec. Dallas rogers (awarded 2 purple hearts, Bronze Star, Arcom medal.)

See also


  1. ^ Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 22-23.
  2. ^ Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 13-14, 23, 224.
  3. ^ Mahr, "Unit's founder.
  4. ^ U.S. Army, 101st Airborne Division.
  5. ^ a b c d Sallah and Weiss, "DAY 1."
  6. ^ Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 309-311.
  7. ^ Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 264-306.
  8. ^ Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 337, 344-345, 349, 353, 370-372.
  9. ^ Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 335, 339-346, 350-352, 354-355, 359, 361-362, 367-369, 374-375, 376.
  10. ^ Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 335-336, 371.
  11. ^ Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 371.
  12. ^ Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 346, 374.
  13. ^ http://hnn.us/articles/1802.html
  14. ^ Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 361-362, 377-378.
  15. ^ Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 360, 363-364, 372-373.
  16. ^ Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 383.
  17. ^ Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 306.
  18. ^ Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 205, 206, 207
  19. ^ Mark Baker, NAM, 154
  20. ^ a b http://socialistworker.org/2003-2/476/476_05_WarCrimes.shtml
  21. ^ Sallah and Weiss, "DAY 3."
  22. ^ Kifner, "Report."
  23. ^ Mahr, "Tiger Force answers."
  24. ^ Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 13.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, vii-xi.
  26. ^ Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 330, 331, 333.


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