Here is the rest of it guys!
In May of 1969 Recon Team Illinois was infiltrated into Cambodia to conduct a Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) on the latest airstrike as a part of Henry Kissinger's so-called “secret” bombing campaign. This was the third bombing of Operation Menu
, this time targeting the North Vietnamese Army's 27th Infantry Regiment's base camp.
On the ground that day as RT Illinois One-Zero (Team Leader) was Staff Sergeant Ben Thompson, One-One John Plaster, and One-Two, George Bacon.
George had to fight just to get to the fight. Trained as a Special Forces medic, the brass at Command and Control North (CCN) in Da Nang outright refused to allow him to participate in combat operations. CCN, CCC, and CCS where the three major commands within MACV-SOG, Military Assistance Command-Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group. SOG was officially denied, and their mission top-secret. Known as the hairiest assignment in Vietnam, SOG recruited heavily from Army Special Forces but also from the other services assembling a crack unit that conducted classified cross-border operations into Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam.
In a unit that had over a 100% casualty rate, the decision was made that Special Forces had invested too much time and money to lose a medic like George on one of SOG's extremely dangerous reconnaissance patrols so he was kept on the base.
A committed anti-communist, George found this situation unacceptable and went AWOL. Making his way south, he linked up with Command and Control Central (CCC) in Komtum and got himself put on some some patrols.
RT Illinois hit the ground just twenty minutes after the B-52 airstrike and was soon in contact with the enemy. The Recon Team had hoped to find some NVA who were still shell shocked, kill them with suppressed weapons and leave one alive to take as a prisoner. Instead, they made contact with an NVA unit and got into a running firefight, enemy gunfire ripping through the jungle around them.
Two of the indigenous soldiers, “little people” as they were affectionately known to the SOG members, were seriously injured in short order. Sergeant Thompson began dragging them to the LZ while calling for an extraction. John Plaster and George Bacon stayed behind to effect a delaying action, slowing the enemy down to give Thompson time to save their team mates.
“George, get out of here! I'm the One-One, this is my job!” Plaster ordered.
George fired another burst at the enemy in response.
“Who do you think you are, John Wayne?” Plaster yelled at him.
“Nope, just George Bacon. Now let's shoot some of these guys.”
George hosed the enemy down with his CAR-15 carbine while John fired his suppressed Swedish K submachine gun. John found the Swedish-K disturbingly ineffective in the firefight. While suppressed weapons are great for covert work, they leave much to be desired in direct combat with the enemy. With the suppressor in place, the enemy didn't even know they were receiving fire and continued to advance. Furthermore, the sub-gun's 9mm rounds didn't have the knock down power he would have liked. Meanwhile, George's CAR-15 fire kept the enemy's heads down.
Finally, George and John raced back to rejoin the rest of their Recon Team, boarded a Huey helicopter and exfiled off of the target.
No doubt Plaster was glad to have had George's help during pre-mission rehearsals when he stopped him to critique how his gear was set up.
“A student of scientific method, George had developed a doctrine that can best be called, 'function dictates location',” writes Plaster. In today's Special Forces, we call this economy of motion, that is, setting up your gear so that you can use it with the least amount of movement as possible. George had it figured out decades prior, showing Plaster how to layer his gear on his body and situate it so that the most critical items like spare magazines and fragmentation grenades were at hand when needed at a moments notice.
George along with RT Illinois also took part in a hunt for a D-48 85mm artillery piece during another mission into Cambodia. The Recon Team had NVA hunting them their first night in country. Getting online, the enemy swept downhill towards RT Illinois' patrol base. Plaster held tight to two hand grenades, George with a hand around a Claymore clacker. The enemy passed over their position, literally in spitting distance without noticing them.
When George was good and ready, he decided to come back to CCN.
John Meyer, RT Idaho One-Zero, remembers playing poker with George in Da Nang.
“George Bacon epitomized the young, brilliant eccentric American who, bored with college and academia, became a Green Beret medic to serve his country and the indigenous people of foreign lands who fought oppression and human subjugation. His compassion for them was genuine, heartwarming and never ending.”
George's eccentric genius was something that helped make him a talented Special Forces soldier, uniquely suited for the unconventional aspect of the job. The Massachusetts native was especially close to his little people, Montagnard fighters who hated the Vietnamese as much as they hated communism. He picked up Bru, the language of the Montagnard tribesmen he worked with in about a month. Quickly learning the language, he began the task of writing a dictionary for the language. It was a tedious and difficult task since there was no written form of Bru, he had to sound it out phonetically and write it in Vietnamese. From there it was easy for him to learn one of the Laotian languages. Later, he also came to be fluent in Mandarin.
In and out of uniform, George preferred an austere lifestyle, a trait that would serve him well in Vietnam, and later as a CIA Para-Military Officer in Laos.
George had difficulty finding his niche in civilian life. One gets the impression that this hardship did not arise from a difficultly reintegrating with society in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, but rather from the fact that George wasn't a man suited for the day-to-day boredom, bureaucracy, and bullshit that he encountered in the civilian world.
He continued to work with the CIA stateside but would get frustrated with the Harvard-Princeton-Yale crowd and their ineptitude when it came to running operations, something George had a great deal of experience with at this point. Fed up with the bureaucracy, George would tender his resignation and go to work at UMass doing administrative duties. Before long, George would get irritated with the Pinko-Commie-Liberals at the university. He hated the leftists and remained a staunch anti-communist. He would then quit and go back to the CIA. It seemed that he alternated between the two jobs every six months or so. He bounced between the CIA and UMass for years and was so good at what he did that the Agency put up with his antics.
Thankfully, he also had some hobbies.
While undergoing training with the CIA and living in Georgetown, he pursued his long time ambition of owning a Harley-Davidson motorcycle so he began going to mid-night auctions and bidding on the parts he would need to build one. Bit by bit he purchased the components he needed to build a Harley and began assembling it in his basement. Finally, when he had built a working motorcycle he had to ask a friend for help. As it turned out, George had always dreamed of having a Harley despite having no idea how to ride a motorcycle!
He asked his friend how he could possibly get it out of his basement (another oversight that he had failed to consider) and his buddy suggested riding the motorcycle right up the steps. With some hesitation, George's friend agreed to do it himself since George didn't know how to ride, much less ride one up some stairs. Accelerating up the steps, George's friend flew through the house, blasted through the screen door, and barely stopped himself from flying right off the front porch.
Excited by the spectacle George asked if his friend could do it again!
Amazed that he survived doing it once, let alone making a second attempt just for fun, the rider had to decline.
George did learn how to ride his motorcycle but decided to get rid of it and stick with his jalopy of a car after a bee got up under his helmet while he was riding the Harley across Chain Bridge near CIA headquarters. Getting stung by the bee, George panicked and grabbed the front brake, causing him to flip over the handlebars.
Continuing to live the spartan lifestyle that he had enjoyed in Vietnam and Laos, George owned a home in a black neighborhood in Washington DC. He was known to go out drinking with friends such as Jim Lewis.
Fluent in multiple languages, it was natural for Lewis to be friends with someone like George, both were Special Forces vets and both had gone on to become para-military operatives. Lewis was a hard but quiet man who led Mike Force patrols in Vietnam before working all over South East Asia for the CIA. In 1975, as Laos was falling to the communists, Lewis was captured and held in the infamous Son Tay prison after all the other American POW's had been released.
At the time he met with George, Lewis was attending George Washington University on the Agency's dime and undergoing a rehab program to help him reintegrate after the ordeal he suffered at the hands of Vietnamese interrogators. It was no wonder that these two men enjoyed a few drinks together, George no doubt wearing his Rolex watch at the bar, the metal strap replaced with a ratty length of rope in his case.
Years later, Lewis was killed along with his Vietnamese wife when the American embassy was bombed in Beirut on April 17th 1983.
Driving in George's Morris Minor around the Washington, DC area was...interesting. Another of George's idiosyncrasies was that he didn't believe in or regard the lawful nature of traffic lights. “I'm a human being, I can see if cars are coming or not so why do I need some god damn machine to tell me what to do?” he would scoff at his passengers as they looked on in horror while he blew through one red light after another.
It is hard to say if anyone truly understood George. Friends describe him as a complicated person, a kind of eccentric genius who defied categorization. He had friends, girlfriends, he liked to drink, but there was a part of him that he kept to himself. One co-worker suspects that George actually gave most of his money away to others as he had little use for it.
One day George and a fellow Agency employee (the basement motorcycle rider) were traveling when they parked their car outside a liquor store in Washington DC to take a break. Both of them carried concealed .45's and they had two Uzis in the trunk just in case. George went into the liquor store with their money and came out several minutes later to report that he had been robbed by some thug. His friend asked him what the hell was wrong with him, he was carrying a gun, why didn't he clean the bastard out?
“Can you imagine the paperwork?” George asked absently.
Apparently the Harvard-Princeton-Yale crew was getting to him again.
MACV-SOG had been a joint venture between the Special Forces and the CIA from the very beginning. It was a concept well ahead of it's time that fused the intelligence gathering aspects of the CIA with the technical and tactical proficiency of professional soldiers who knew how to work on the sharp end. Special Forces legends such Billy Waugh, along with many other SOG veterans, did contract work for the Agency later on in their careers.
With the linguistic skills, cultural awareness, and his all around unconventional worldview, it comes as no surprise that George Bacon was trained by the CIA and put back into the action, this time in Laos.
First he and other potential Para-Military operatives underwent training at “The Farm”, the CIA's training facility in Williamsburg, Virginia. The instructors were none to pleased with George's eccentric behavior as he traveled everywhere with his pet gerbils. He was always taking the cardboard tubes out of the toilet paper rolls in the bathroom for his gerbils to chew on and had his fellow students helping him with this endeavor, irritating their CIA instructors to no end.
Whenever the CIA trainees wore suits, George was by far the best dressed. His father worked for Hicky-Freeman, the men's garment company. Despite having a degree, he had served as a Sergeant and despite coming from money he insisted on directly taking part in the fight against communism. A man of more than a few irregularities, George always wore his combat boots with his Hicky-Freeman tailored suits just in case he had to “stomp ass.”
Shipping off to Laos at the age of 24, George relieved Burr Smith as the liaison officer to Task Force Vang Pao. After this assignment, George worked with Groupe Mobile
-24 in June of 1971. GM-24 was a mixed Regiment of irregular soldiers consisting of Hmong units from Northern Laos with an attached heavy weapons platoon of Thai mercenaries.
Operating on the Plaine Des Jarres
, a fifty square mile section of flat highlands that separated Vietnam from Laos, GM-24 was flown by Air America helicopters to Khang Kho for a major offensive. They then marched north to Lat Sen where the Regiment conducted search and attack operations for several days before moving West to the communist held Phou Seu, which was captured easily as the PAVN forces were already withdrawing.
When GM-24 was extracted out of the field, George (callsign Kayak) was the last man out of the field, hopping onto the final Air America chopper off of the Plaine Des Jarres
. He had wanted to lead his Hmong irregulars on a patrol to cut off and kill a NVA reconnaissance unit in the area. Returning to their headquarters in Long Tieng,
he was reminded in no uncertain terms that he wasn't a SOG commando anymore and was not to be leading combat patrols but rather acting as an adviser. “I know, I know,” George replied taking his ever present toothbrush out of his mouth.
The Hmong patrol he did send out came back with important intelligence about new uniforms the enemy wore and George was able to chart the route that the NVA were taking along the west end of the plains.
Fellow para-military officer James Parker worked closely with George. Writing about his eccentric genius, he mentions that George read, “the thickest, dullest tomes ever written, mostly about economics and the stock market...” Back home George was known to play the stock market and mostly made bad investments due to poor communications which were two weeks out of date. Yet somehow, he managed to make money doing it.
Described as a loner, he was known to read a paperback in less than two hours and even go picking through the garbage for more books to read when he exhausted whatever supply was on hand. George believed that if it was written than it deserved to be read. Parker remembers him blowing through books with titles such as “Calculus as Art”, “Labor Union Considerations of Dental Plans”, and “The Effects of the Industrial Revolution on Italian Emigration Patterns.”
He slept in the nude, much to Parker's chagrin since they bunked together, reading his books and eating crackers in his bunk late into the night.
GM-24 continued to fight offensives across the plains of Laos, presumably with George Bacon in an advisory role, until the end of the Vietnam war when the clandestine “Secret War” was shut down by the CIA.
For his actions in Laos the CIA awarded him the Intelligence Star, their second highest honor. Obviously, George was doing something right over there.
Before long George was talking about going to Africa to take up the fight against communism once more. He flew to Angola in 1975 and attempted to join FNLA but was turned down. The other anti-communist movement, UNITA, also turned him down, perhaps because they suspected him of being a CIA informant.
In late 1975 David Bufkin was recruiting mercenaries to join FNLA to help fight the communists in Angola, while a second recruiter worked England. It was a shit show from the very beginning, FNLA representatives promising the world, good pay, good kit, and top notch soldiers. Of course none of it was true.
Former Marine, Gary Acker linked up with Bufkin when he responded to one of his newspaper ads. Bufkin also began publishing a paper called Mercenary Forces Group
and this may have been how George happened across the FNLA recruiters, looking for an in after failing to join up on his first try. On February 6th, 1976, Bufkin, Acker, Gearhart, and George Bacon flew from Kennedy Airport in New York to Charles de Gaulle airport in France before getting a connecting flight to Kinsasha, Zaire.
After paying the mandatory bribe at the airport, the would-be mercs stayed for three days at the Intercontinental where George received a phone call from the American embassy ordering him to come in and fly home immediately. Was George truly off the reservation and freelancing in Angola or was he a part of a covert CIA mission?
Peter McAleese and a FNLA Officer came and briefed the newcomers on their second night at the hotel. McAleese is perhaps the only man to have been kicked out of the Special Air Service three times. If memory serves he was booted from the British SAS twice and the Rhodesian SAS once, mostly for drunken brawls at the bar. Regardless, McAleese was an experienced soldier and a strong leader by all accounts.
The former SAS man cut to the chase, FNLA was losing the war against the communist FAPLA. He also told them about the mad man Costas “Callan” Georgio who was on the run from both the enemy and now FNLA as well. McAleese issued shoot on sight orders in regards to Callan.
Callan was a legitimate psychopath who had joined FNLA and soon taken to executing his own men in a misguided bid to terrorize his troops into obeying his orders. The last straw was the Massacre at Maquela in which Callan and his inner circle lined up and gunned down British FNLA recruits who had signed up for non-combat roles. The youngest was 16 years old, a few had military experience, most did not. One was a street sweeper by trade.
Of course their recruiter in England had filled their heads with lies about how they would be truck drivers and have other support positions. In Angola, Callan expected them to take up arms against the Cubans. This led to the recruits revolting against him and inevitably to the massacre itself. It was a straight up murder and now Callan was a hunted man. He continued to fight FAPLA and was later captured by the communist forces.
While at the hotel Acker learned that Bufkin hoped that he would be killed in combat because he was afraid that former Marine might talk to the FBI when they got back the US. Searching his hotel room, they found that Bufkin had a go-bag packed with an Uzi, three spare mags and Walther P-38. As the mercenaries began to talk amongst themselves, the gravity of Bufkin's deception suddenly became apparent. He owed all of them money and had been telling lies about the situation in Angola from the beginning. He had told them that FNLA had 250 mercenaries including a commando element. What they had was a handful of professionals trying to herd cats in the form of poorly trained civilians and a losing war. Something had to be done.
Acker, Gearhart, and George Bacon strong armed Bufkin back to his hotel room and confronted him. While Acker wanted to smoke his ass right then and there, cooler heads prevailed and the trial of David Bufkin was held by the mercs on the spot. It was decided that rather than return to the US as he planned, Bufkin would be press ganged into service as a front line trooper like the rest of them.
Peter McAleese found out about the verdict later on and upheld it.
Getting some basic kit issued, Acker commandeered Bufkin's Uzi but later gave it to George when he picked up an MG-42 in Angola. Loading into a Panhard Scout car and a Land Rover, the merry band of mercs started heading out for Angola. The brand new Scout car soon broke down so they cross loaded everyone into the Land Rover. At the border checkpoint George used his language skills to negotiated their passing in French with the guards.
George and Acker conducted some recce patrols, scouting out egress routs back to Zaire and and doing a basic area reconnaissance. They also trained 10-20 man groups of Angolan FNLA troops in marksmanship and weapons handling.
On the 14th of February the mercenaries got word that the Cubans were on the move. “Unsourced” aerial photography showed the Cuban convoys advancing during the night. Acker went out with a British mercenary named Dave (not Dave Tompkins who had already left Angola after being wounded by one of his own landmines) to establish a blocking position while George loaded up several men and explosives into a Land Rover. His mission was to blow up two concrete bridges to further delay the enemy advance.
The plan was for Acker and Dave to rain fire on the enemy convoy as a harassing action to slow them down. By first light, George would have the bridge prepped for demolition and once Acker's element broke contact with the enemy at dawn, they would race the Land Rover across the bridge. At that point George would blow the bridge sky high, once again delaying the Cuban advance.
“Its important to remember that these were symbolic actions,” Acker wrote for Soldier of Fortune magazine. “We were surrounded and outnumbered thousands to one. Within days Tomboco fell, Damba fell, Maquela do Zombo fell. Stalin's Organs [Katusha Rockets] and MG42's weren't the only things we shared with the Germans on the Eastern Front: We were dead meat. Cubans were closing in, and they were exerting every effort to catch us in Sao Salvador.”
Acker laid in his blocking position and waited all night alongside the road but the enemy never showed themselves. Meanwhile, back at George's position at the bridge, one of the black Angolans had accidentally shot himself. After giving the black mercenary medical treatment, George set to work on rigging the bridge with TNT. He dug deep into the earth around the concrete pylons to make sure that the bridge was brought down properly.
When dawn came, Acker and Dave returned and formed back up with George's element. The bridge was ready to blow, but the former SOG commando wanted radio confirmation from higher that they were to initiate the demolition plan. Thus far, they had seen no sign of the Cubans. Failing to establish comms with Sao Salvador, “Canada” Newby told them to go and link up with a second patrol in Cuimba.
George climbed over the ammunition and explosives inside their Land Rover so that Acker could orient himself facing out the back with his German-made MG-42 machine gun. Three mercenaries sat in the front including the driver, Fernando and “Canada” Newby. Two more strap hangers stood on the running boards, hanging on tightly as they initiate their movement to Cuimba.
“I don't like this, George,” Acker said as they drove.
George Bacon shook his head.
A veteran Special Forces commando and CIA para-military, George must have had a bad feeling, a premonition of what was to come. Continuing down the road, they slowed down as they spotted a young Angolan carrying a AK and wearing a chest rig full of magazines. Fernando asked him who he was and the kid replied that he was with FNLA. Taking the statement at face value, the driver continued down the road without a care in the world. Acker, and surely George, were furious. They had just passed an enemy scout.
Seconds later they turned around a bend in the road and literally ran into the Cuban convoy.
Slamming on the brakes, the Land Rover skidded to a halt.
An enemy riflemen standing next to a BRDM armored personnel carrier opened fire first, a single shot blasting through the windshield. After a pregnant pause, the flood gates opened and the FNLA vehicle was raked with enemy fire.
“Aluminum paneling ripped and popped before my eyes and glass flew through the air like leaves in a tornado,” Acker wrote of the one sided firefight.
Acker was hit multiple times in the fusillade of rifle fire. George reacted immediately, throwing open the back door and pushing Acker out. The other mercenaries jumped out from the side doors and were gunned down by the Cuban and FAPLA troops.
Attempting to crawl to cover, Acker found himself surrounded by the enemy. Becoming entangled on something, he looked back to see what was holding him up.
Bailing out of the vehicle together, Acker's shoelaces had gotten wrapped around George. The former SOG operator leaned back against the Land Rover, his eyes motionless. He had probably been hit in the initial barrage of gunfire, then hit a few more times once they got out of the truck. His shin bone was sticking through the upper portion of his boot.
George Washington Bacon was killed on Valentines Day, February 14th 1976.
Surrounded and outgunned, the seriously injured Gary Acker played possum, a ruse that worked as the enemy came to loot his watch and other belongings. They laid George's body down next to him. Before long someone saw Acker breathing and finally took him prisoner.
“Canada” Newby was screaming at the FAPLA troops, begging them to kill him. He'd been ravaged, shot through both legs and was in serious pain.
It was only as they were trucked away that Acker saw the entire convoy. In addition to the BRDM there were two T-54 tanks, a bulldozer, and dozens of trucks. The enemy convoy stretched out into forever, and they had run right into it.
“Canada” was provided medical treatment but did not survive the surgery.
George's body was unloaded at Damba where the mercenaries' remains were filmed by a television crew and broadcast on Angolan TV for propaganda purposes.
George Bacon's friends learned of his death upon reading the newspapers several days later. The reporters had misspelled his name, but they knew damn well who it was.
A friend and fellow SOG veteran received an anonymous phone call that day.
His passport would be frozen for the next year.
There would be no recovery operation.
Days later, FNLA collapsed under the weight of the Cuban and FAPLA advance. Peter McAleese conducted an aerial recce in a Cessna airplane, spotting 2,000 enemy soldiers and 75 vehicles closing on Sao Salvador. Back on the ground, he initiated Operation Breakout, the contingency plan to retreat back to Zaire. Their war was over.
As for the captured foreign mercenaries being held by FAPLA, they were to face a kangaroo court for their crimes, both real and perceived.
Gary Acker spent seven and a half years in an Angolan prison before he was finally released. He was lucky to escape with his life. On July 10th 1976, Andrew McKenzie, Daniel Gearhart, John Barker, and the mad man, Costas “Callan” Georgio were executed by firing squad.
What became of George Bacon's remains are unknown.
Questions and uncertainly continue to surround the circumstances under which George came to Angola and if he wasn't in fact acting under the auspices of the Central Intelligence Agency. Although he received a call from the American embassy in Zaire to return home, it is certainly possible that he was working in a compartmentalized program and the left hand didn't talk to the right hand, simply because they didn't have a need to know.
Back in Washington DC, George's Morris Minor automobile sat unattended in a parking lot by itself. The local police had gotten word to leave it alone. It sat there for years, a close friend driving by to see it every so often, recalling many fond memories about George.
A Chief of Station who was nearby at the time of FNLA's demise denied that George was working for the Agency at the time. However, with the amount of smoke and mirrors that deliberately obscures the actions of any intelligence agency, it is hard to know for sure.
George was committed to fighting communism, whenever, wherever it showed itself. It is easy to think that if America hadn't been fighting the communists in South East Asia that George would have gone over there and started a war himself. He certainly didn't need prompting from the CIA to go to Angola and take the fight to the Cubans.
He was a secret soldier fighting a shadow war. From Vietnam, to Cambodia, to Laos, and finally Angola, George Washington Bacon was a man who lived his life exactly the way that he chose.
From what records we do have about George from his time with the CIA is this, he went operational with the CIA's Para-Military service in 1971.
There is no record of when his service ended.