Tiger Force

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]:22–3 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]

Tiger Force
ActiveNovember 1965 to November 1967 (Vietnam)
Country United States
BranchUnited States Army
TypeSpecial Operations Forces
RoleSpecial Reconnaissance, Counter-Insurgency, Direct Action, Raids
Part ofU.S. XVIII Airborne Corps
Garrison/HQFort Campbell (1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade)
EngagementsVietnam War
DecorationsStreamer PUC Army.PNG
United States Presidential Unit Citation
David Hackworth


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 crimesEdit

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 One file in these records referred to a previously unpublished war crimes investigation known as the Coy Allegation.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 routine torture and execution of prisoners[2]:337, 344–5, 349, 353, 370–2
  • the routine practice of intentionally killing unarmed Vietnamese villagers including men, women, children, and elderly people[2]:335, 339–346, 350–2, 354–5, 359, 361–2, 367–9, 374–5, 376
  • the routine practice of cutting off and collecting the ears of victims[2]:335–6, 371
  • the practice of wearing necklaces composed of human ears[2]:371
  • the practice of cutting off and collecting the scalps of victims[2]:346, 374
  • incidents where soldiers planted weapons on murdered Vietnamese villagers[6]
  • an incident where a young mother was drugged, raped, and then executed[2]:361–2, 377–8
  • an incident where a soldier killed a baby and cut off his or her head after the baby's mother was killed[2]:360, 363–4, 372–3

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 1965–1969Edit

In popular cultureEdit

  • In the 2014 book Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett, character Jasper Murray is enlisted in the military and assigned to Tiger Force in Vietnam. He witnesses and is forced to participate in several war crimes, such as rape and murder of Vietnamese family and using Vietnamese peasants as "mine dogs" to detect mines and traps laid by Viet Cong.

See alsoEdit

Vietnam War
Broader, related topics
World War II


  1. ^ Rottman, Gordon (2008). US Army Long-Range Patrol Scout in Vietnam 1965-71. Osprey Publishing. p. 33.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Sallah, Michael; Weiss, Mitch (2006). Tiger Force: A True Story of Men and War. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0316159972.
  3. ^ a b c d 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 readingEdit

External linksEdit