Tiger Force

Last updated
Tiger Force
ActiveNovember 1965 to November 1967 (Vietnam)
CountryFlag of the United States.svg  United States
Branch United States Army
Type Special Operations Forces
Role Special Reconnaissance, Counter-Insurgency, Direct Action, Raids
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
David Hackworth

Tiger Force was the name of a long-range reconnaissance patrol unit [1] of the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 327th Infantry, 1st Brigade (Separate), 101st Airborne Division, which fought in the Vietnam War from November 1965 to November 1967. [2] :223 The unit gained notoriety after investigations during the course of the war and decades afterwards revealed extensive war crimes against civilians, which numbered into the hundreds. [3]



Members of Tiger Force move along an infiltration trail, 1968 NARA photo 111-CCV-619-CC53195.jpg
Members of Tiger Force move along an infiltration trail, 1968

The platoon-sized unit, approximately 45 paratroopers, was founded by Colonel David Hackworth in November 1965 to "outguerrilla the guerrillas". [2] :13–14, 23, 224 Tiger Force (Recon) 1-327th was a highly decorated small unit in Vietnam, and paid for its reputation with heavy casualties. [4] 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 Đắk Tô in June 1966. [5]

Investigations of war crimes

Recon. Platoon leader, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry, uses an AN/PRC-25 radio to check with his command helicopter for new directions, 1969 NARA photo 111-CCV-626-CC62213.jpg
Recon. Platoon leader, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry, uses an AN/PRC-25 radio to check with his command helicopter for new directions, 1969

On October 19, 2003, Michael D. Sallah, a reporter at The Blade (Toledo) 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 One file in these records referred to a previously unpublished war crimes investigation known as the Coy Allegation.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 gained access to a large collection of documents produced by the investigation held at the National Archives in College Park, MD. [2] :309–11

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. [2] :264–306 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 investigators concluded that many of the war crimes took place. [2] :383 This included the murder of former-ARVN personnel, the murder of two blind brothers, the crippled and old and the routine murder of women and children. [3] Despite this, the Army decided not to pursue any prosecutions. [2] :306

Their high bodycounts were recognized and encouraged by military officials. Col. Morse ordered troops to rack up a body count of 327 casualties in order to match the battalion's infantry designation, 327th; [3] however by the end of the campaign soldiers were congratulated for their 1000th kill. [7] Those killed were listed as enemy combatants. [3]

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 [8] and Song Ve Valley residents. [9] The reporters also managed to track down dozens of additional investigative records not included in the National Archives.

The reporters published their findings in a series of articles in The Toledo Blade [10] in October 2003. The New York Times subsequently performed their own investigation, contacting a few Tiger Force veterans and corroborating The Toledo Blade's findings. [11]

Since The Blade's 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 The 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. [12] The Blade has not reported on any more recent updates from the U.S. Army.

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

In 2006, Sallah, now an investigative reporter with The Washington Post , 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 (2006). He is currently on the national investigations team for Gannett/USA Today Network. [2]

Notable former members 1965–1969

See also

Vietnam War
Broader, related topics
World War II

Related Research Articles

Vietnam veteran

A Vietnam veteran is someone who served in the armed forces of participating countries during the Vietnam War.

Vietnam War 1955–1975 conflict in Vietnam

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My Lai Massacre Massacre of civilians by American soldiers during the Vietnam War

The Mỹ Lai Massacre was the Vietnam War mass murder of unarmed South Vietnamese civilians by U.S. troops in Sơn Tịnh District, South Vietnam, on 16 March 1968. Between 347 and 504 unarmed people were killed by U.S. Army soldiers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment and Company B, 4th Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade, 23rd (Americal) Infantry Division. Victims included men, women, children, and infants. Some of the women were gang-raped and their bodies mutilated, as were children as young as 12. Twenty-six soldiers were charged with criminal offenses, but only Lieutenant William Calley Jr., a platoon leader in C Company, was convicted. Found guilty of killing 22 villagers, he was originally given a life sentence, but served only three-and-a-half years under house arrest.

101st Airborne Division Active United States Army formation

The 101st Airborne Division is a light infantry division of the United States Army specializing in air assault operations. The Screaming Eagles were referred to as "the tip of the spear" by former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the most potent and tactically mobile of the U.S. Army's divisions by former Chief of Staff of the Army GEN Edward C. Meyer (ret). The 101st Airborne is able to plan, coordinate, and execute brigade-size air assault operations capable of seizing key terrain in support of operational objectives and is capable of working in austere environments with limited or degraded infrastructure. These operations can be conducted by mobile teams covering large distances and engaging enemy forces behind enemy lines. According to the author of Screaming Eagles: 101st Airborne Division, its unique battlefield mobility and high level of training have kept it in the vanguard of US land combat forces in recent conflicts. More recently, the 101st Airborne has been performing foreign internal defense and counterterrorism operations within Iraq and Afghanistan.

David Hackworth Recipient of the Purple Heart medal

David Haskell Hackworth also known as Hack, was a prominent military journalist and a former United States Army colonel who was decorated in both the Korean War and Vietnam War. Hackworth is known for his role in the creation and command of Tiger Force, a military unit which was formed in South Vietnam to apply guerrilla warfare tactics against Viet Cong guerrilla fighters.

Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting

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The Pulitzer Prizes for 2004 were announced on April 5, 2004.

Long-range reconnaissance patrol small, heavily armed long-range reconnaissance teams that patrol deep in enemy-held territory

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The "Winter Soldier Investigation" was a media event sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) from January 31, 1971, to February 2, 1971. It was intended to publicize war crimes and atrocities by the United States Armed Forces and their allies in the Vietnam War. The VVAW challenged the morality and conduct of the war by showing the direct relationship between military policies and war crimes in Vietnam. The three-day gathering of 109 veterans and 16 civilians took place in Detroit, Michigan. Discharged servicemen from each branch of military service, as well as civilian contractors, medical personnel and academics, all gave testimony about war crimes they had committed or witnessed during the years 1963–1970.

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The National Committee for a Citizens Commission of Inquiry on U.S. War Crimes in Vietnam was founded in New York by Ralph Schoenman in November 1969 to document American atrocities throughout Indochina. The formation of the organization was prompted by the disclosure of the My Lai Massacre on November 12, 1969 by Seymour Hersh, writing for the New York Times. The group was the first to bring to public attention the testimony of American Vietnam War veterans who had witnessed or participated in atrocities.

James Hawkins, from Maysville, Kentucky, was a Battlefield commissioned Second lieutenant and field operations leader of the United States Army Tiger Force commando unit, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade (Separate), 101st Airborne Division, during the Vietnam War. The unit was featured in the Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper series Buried Secrets, Brutal Truths, written by Toledo Blade reporters Michael D. Sallah and Mitch Weiss. The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command investigated the Tiger Force for atrocities, including torture, maiming, rape, and murder of unarmed villagers, including babies, children, and the elderly, during operations in the Song Ve Valley. The Army did not file charges against Tiger Force soldiers, including their acting platoon leader, Hawkins. The investigations into the atrocities committed by Tiger Force occurred after reports and investigations into atrocities by United States Army soldiers in the My Lai Massacre. Hawkins attributes the lack of charges to the timing of the investigation after My Lai and the potential for additional bad "publicity."

Joe Mahr is an American investigative journalist, who won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting.

Nick Turse is an American investigative journalist, historian, and author. He is the associate editor and research director of the blog TomDispatch and a fellow at The Nation Institute.

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The 101st Airborne Division is a specialized modular light infantry division of the US Army trained for air assault operations. The Screaming Eagles has been referred to by journalists as "the tip of the spear" as well as one of the most potent and tactically mobile of the U.S. Army's divisions. The 101st Airborne Division has a history that is nearly a century long. During World War II, it was renowned for its role in Operation Overlord, Operation Market Garden, the liberation of the Netherlands and its action during the Battle of the Bulge around the city of Bastogne, Belgium. During the Vietnam War, the 101st Airborne Division fought in several major campaigns and battles, including the Battle of Hamburger Hill in May 1969. In mid-1968, it was reorganized and redesignated as an airmobile division and then in 1974 as an air assault division. In recent years, the division has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the height of the War on Terror, the 101st Airborne Division had over 200 aircraft. The division now has slightly over 100 aircraft.

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Operation Van Buren was a harvest security operation conducted by the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division in the Tuy Hòa Valley, Phú Yên Province, lasting from 15 January to 25 February 1966. During Operation Van Buren, many civilians were alleged to have been killed in and around the Tuy Hoa Valley by South Korean troops. These were reported as "enemy KIA", as distinctions were not made concerning body counts. Following these operations, the area became a hotbed of resistance and Viet Cong activity.


  1. Rottman, Gordon (2008). US Army Long-Range Patrol Scout in Vietnam 1965-71. Osprey Publishing. p. 33.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 Sallah, Michael; Weiss, Mitch (2006). Tiger Force: A True Story of Men and War. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN   0316159972.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Ward, Geoffrey C.; Burns, Ken (2017). The Vietnam War: An Intimate History. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. pp. 235–8. ISBN   9781524733100.
  4. Joe Mahr (28 March 2004). "Unit's founder says he didn't know of atrocities". Toledo Blade.
  5. U.S. Army, "101st Airborne Division, Unit Decorations War Department General Orders 59, 21 October 1968". U.S. Army.
  6. "The Vietnam War Crimes You Never Heard Of". hnn.us. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  7. "Vietnam war crimes". socialistworker.org. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  8. Michael Sallah; Mitch Weiss (22 October 2003). "Rogue GIs unleashed wave of terror in Central Highlands". Toledo Blade.
  9. Michael Sallah; Mitch Weiss (22 October 2003). "Pain lingers 36 years after deadly rampage". Toledo Blade.
  10. Sallah, Michael D.; Weiss, Mitch; Mahr, Joe (2003). "Tiger Force columns in order of appearance in the original entry". Toledo Blade. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  11. John Kifner (December 28, 2003). "Report on Brutal Vietnam Campaign Stirs Memories". The New York Times.
  12. Joe Mahr (12 May 2004). "Tiger Force answers still elusive". Toledo Blade.
  13. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-12-12. Retrieved 2006-12-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. "SPJ Announces Recipients of 2003 Sigma Delta Chi Awards - Society of Professional Journalists". www.spj.org. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  15. http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/pageone/taylor2004.html
  16. http://www.pulitzer.org/citation/2004,Investigative+Reporting

Further reading