Recon Team Pick of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group, pictured shortly after the prisoner snatch mission in which Staff Sgt. Robert Graham, far left, used a bow and arrows in combat. Photo courtesy of sogsite.com. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.
During the Vietnam War, the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group, better known as MACV-SOG, conducted cross-border operations in denied areas in Laos and Cambodia to strike North Vietnamese Army targets inside enemy territory. Since their missions were unconventional by nature and they usually traveled light, MACV-SOG members often used improvised weapons to carry out their operations.
“Recon men carried any number of odd weapons, from sawed-off shotguns to flail-like Okinawan nunchakus,” writes MACV-SOG veteran and author John Plaster in his book SOG: The Secret Wars of America’s Commandos in Vietnam. “But the award for the most peculiar weapon actually employed has to go to CCS [Command and Control South] One-Zero Robert Graham, who experimented with Montagnard crossbows but found them underpowered.”
A native Canadian and avid bowhunter, Staff Sgt. Graham sent a letter to a friend back home requesting that he mail a 55-pound bow with razor-edged broadhead arrows to Vietnam.
In 1969, while serving with Recon Team Pick in MACV-SOG, Graham would put his bow and arrows to real use on a prisoner snatch mission. The mission entailed infiltrating Cambodia’s Fishhook, an enemy-controlled area located about 50 miles northwest of Saigon.
Graham’s five-man team, including two other Americans and two Montagnards, found an ideal ambush site to surprise their targets. However, an NVA patrol stumbled onto their position before they could set up. Immediately, gunfire erupted, and the MACV-SOG team bounded back to their landing zone. The Americans reached a bomb crater for cover and were pinned down there by AK-47 fire. As the team’s ammo supply started to dwindle, Graham grabbed his bow and arrows and went to work.
“I yelled as loud as I could and fired exactly where the flashes were coming, and got back down again,” Graham told Plaster, adding that, when he looked around, he saw his teammates staring at him wide-eyed, and the noise of constant gunfire had stopped.
Graham perched above the bomb crater again and fired additional arrows toward the enemy just long enough for a Green Hornet Huey helicopter to swoop in and pick them up.
“I’m sure there’s a bunch of guys sitting around a bar up in Hanoi today, and they’re all saying, ‘Yeah, you think you got one!’” Graham reflected while retelling the story to Plaster. “‘I was out there one time and I had this guy yell, jump up and fire an arrow at me. No, no really!’”
Matt Fratus is a history staff writer for Coffee or Die. He prides himself on uncovering the most fascinating tales of history by sharing them through any means of engaging storytelling. He writes for his micro-blog @LateNightHistory on Instagram, where he shares the story behind the image. He is also the host of the Late Night History podcast. When not writing about history, Matt enjoys volunteering for One More Wave and rooting for Boston sports teams.
Lucas O'Hara of Grizzly Forge has teamed up with BRCC for a badass, exclusive Shirt Club T-shirt design featuring his most popular knife and tiomahawk.
Coffee or Die sits down with one of the graphic designers behind Black Rifle Coffee's signature look and vibe.
Biden will award the Medal of Honor to a Vietnam War Army helicopter pilot who risked his life to save a reconnaissance team from almost certain death.
Ever wonder how much Jack Mandaville would f*ck sh*t up if he went back in time? The American Revolution didn't even see him coming.
A nearly 200-year-old West Point time capsule that at first appeared to yield little more than dust contains hidden treasure, the US Military Academy said.
Since the 1920s, a low-tech tabletop replica of an aircraft carrier’s flight deck has been an essential tool in coordinating air operations.
For nearly as long as the Army-Navy football rivalry, the academies’ hoofed mascots have stared each other down from the sidelines. Here are their stories.
Zelenskyy said on his Telegram channel the weapon was produced by Ukraine’s Ministry of Strategic Industries but gave no other details.