Son Tay Raid veteran mentors MISO Soldiers


running up that hill
Jan 3, 2007
in Wonderland, with my Alice

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Lupyak poses with members of Company B, 6th MISB, in front of the Iron Mike statue at the Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville Oct. 27, after speaking to the group about his service in Korea and Vietnam. (Photo by Mark Schulz, 4th MISG PAO)

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, Nov. 17, 2011) - About two dozen Soldiers listen quietly, the silence only broken occasionally by the sound of laughter as retired Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Lupyak relays his stories of service in Korea and Vietnam.
Many of the stories that Lupyak relayed to the Soldiers came from his past, including the events surrounding the Son Tay raid in 1970 in which Special Forces were sent in to rescue 65 American prisoners of war.
Though the story topics changed throughout the meeting, the theme stayed the same: psychological operations are an important and integral part of special operations.
Lupyak, who works in the Training Development Division at U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, joined the Army in 1951 at the age of 19 and was sent to the Republic of South Korea to fight in the Korean War. It was there as a member of the 3rd Infantry Division, he received his for taste of psychological operations on the battlefield when, on his first day, the North Koreans using loudspeakers said, “Welcome back Charlie Company, 15th Infantry Regiment.”
“They already knew we were there even though we had come up another hill that night in the darkness,” Lupyak said. “The enemy was only about 300 meters away and they knew who we were and the name of our company commander.”
The American forces were also using psychological operations on the North Koreans. Leaflets had been produced saying that if the enemy gave themselves up they would be treated well.
“You'd be surprised at the number of prisoners we got through those leaflets,” he said.
He told one story of a Soldier who screamed because three Chinese Soldiers had walked up to his foxhole while he was asleep. The Chinese Soldiers were lucky they did not get shot, but they did successfully turn themselves in.
When he returned from Korea, Lupyak left the Army but came back after less than one day of working in the coal mines in his home state of Pennsylvania. He completed refresher training and joined the 77th Special Forces Group (renamed 7th SFG in 1960).
As a master sergeant, Lupyak was selected to go on the Son Tay raid. He described it as “one of the biggest psychological operations that was ever pulled off.”
The raiding party trained at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., with a camp built that was identical to the Son Tay layout. Lupyak said they rehearsed the raid more than 500 times.
He recalled that there was a subtle form of “psyop” used after their departure from Florida, as a group of Soldiers were left at the base to continue rehearsal as a decoy force similar to that used by the Allies on D-Day.
Before the raid, as there was a bombing moratorium on North Vietnam, U.S. Navy ships bombarded the east coast of North Vietnam with blanks and flares to give the impression of bombs, providing a diversion from the path of infiltration by the American helicopters.
“They thought they were being invaded by the United States," said Lupyak, "so their radar was turned toward the coast. We flew in and never had a shot fired at us.”
The full benefits of this operation were not appreciated until 1973 when Lupyak and other Raiders met with prisoners of war who had been released after the war. They met in San Francisco, Calif. and the prisoners were extremely grateful for the effort to save them.
They said that as a result of the raid the North Vietnamese immediately "took all the prisoners from the outlying camps and took them to the Hanoi Hilton," said Lupyak. They said they also received better medical treatment and better food.
Lupyak also said that the raid resulted in the Chinese pulling out their support of North Vietnam and was therefore "the biggest psychological effect on the war." The prisoners said they could have stayed another 10 years in the camps because they knew that the Americans would not forget them.
Lupyak was later assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group (A) as the group command sergeant major but he said that, "every place we went, we took ‘psyop’ people with us…" but it is up to you young Soldiers to carry on and psych out the enemy.
He retired from the Army at Fort Bragg in 1980.
Lt. Col. James Hickman, 6th Battalion Commander, thanked Lupyak for talking to the young Soldiers of MISO and "reaffirming my belief in the lineage of what we do."