|Branch||United States Army|
|Type||Special operations forces|
|Role||Special reconnaissance, counter-insurgency, direct action, raiding|
|Part of||U.S. XVIII Airborne Corps|
|Garrison/HQ||Fort Campbell (1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade)|
The platoon-sized unit, approximately 45 paratroopers, was founded by Colonel David Hackworth in November 1965 to "outguerrilla the guerrillas". Tiger Force (Recon) 1/327th was a highly decorated small unit in Vietnam, and paid for its reputation with heavy casualties. 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.
Investigations of war crimes
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 One file in these records referred to a previously unpublished war crimes investigation known as the Coy Allegation.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.
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. 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
- the routine practice of intentionally killing unarmed Vietnamese villagers including men, women, children, and elderly people
- the routine practice of cutting off and collecting the ears of victims
- the practice of wearing necklaces composed of human ears
- the practice of cutting off and collecting the scalps of victims
- incidents where soldiers would plant weapons on murdered Vietnamese villagers
- an incident where a young mother was drugged, raped, and then executed
- an incident where a soldier killed a baby and cut off his or her head after the baby's mother was killed
For instance, when Capt. Harold McGaha first landed in the operations area where the Tigers were waiting, he was taken aback. He noticed that several were wearing what he recognized as human ears. It was not a secret at the base that some soldiers were mutilating bodies. This was not isolated to Tiger Force, but according to some reports, occurred to varying degrees in other Army infantry and Marine units.
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; however by the end of the campaign soldiers were congratulated for their 1000th kill.
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 and Song Ve Valley residents. The reporters also managed to track down dozens of additional investigative records not included in the National Archives.
In October 2003, the reporters published their findings in a series of articles in The Toledo Blade. Subsequently, The New York Times performed their own investigation, contacting a few Tiger Force veterans and corroborating The Toledo Blade's findings.
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. The Blade has not reported on any more recent updates from the U.S. Army.
- In 2003, the reporters won the IRE Medal.
- In 2003, the reporters won the Sigma Delta Chi Award for investigative reporting, for publications with a circulation of 100,000 or greater.
- In 2004, the reporters won the Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Newspapers.
- In 2004, the reporters won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting.
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).
Partial list of members 1965–1969
- Lt. Col. David Hackworth, unit founder
- Lt. Col. Harold Austin
- Lt. Col. Joseph Collins
- Lt. Col. Gerald Morse (radiocall = Ghost Rider, retired in 1979) Battalion commander, and not an actual member of the team.
- Capt. Carl James
- Capt. Harold McGaha
- Capt. Bradford Mutchler
- Lt. Gary Forbes
- Lt. James Hawkins
- Lt. James A. Gardner (awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously) killed in action, before any of the controversial events
- Lt. William F. Kernan
- Lt. Stephen Naughton
- Lt. Edward Sanders
- Lt. Donald Wood (whistleblower)
- Ssg. John G. Gertsch (awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously) killed in action
- Sgt. James Barnett
- Sgt. Gerald Bruner (whistleblower)
- Sgt. Robert Diaz
- Sgt. William Doyle
- Sgt. Benjamin Edge
- Sgt. Charles Fulton
- Sgt. Kenneth Green
- SFC. Terry Gammage
- Sgt. James Haugh
- Sgt. Leo Heaney
- Sgt. Eric Walker (Implicated in leading nearly all controversial events) missing in action
- Sgt. Ervin Lee
- Sgt. Forrest Miller
- Sgt. Ernest Moreland
- Sgt. Domingo Munoz
- Sgt. Terry Lee Oakden
- Sgt. Cleve Rose (before any controversial events)
- Sgt. Manuel Sanchez Jr.
- Sgt. Harold Trout
- Sgt. Robin Varney
- Spc. Barry Bowman
- Spc. Lonnie Butts (awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, posthumously) killed in action, before any of the controversial events
- Spc. William Carpenter (whistleblower)
- Spc. Jean Louis Soucy
- Pvt. Michael Allums
- Pvt. Edward Beck
- Pvt. Rion Causey (whistleblower)
- Pvt. Daniel Clint
- Pvt. James Cogan
- Pvt. John Colligan
- Pvt. Harold Fischer III
- Pvt. Jerry Ingram
- Pvt. Kenneth Kerney (whistleblower)
- Pvt. Terrence Kerrigan
- Pvt. Gary Kornatowski
- Pvt. Ralph Mayhew
- Pvt. James Messer
- Pvt. Cecil Peden
- Pvt. Floyd Sawyer
- Pvt. Douglas Teeters
- Pvt. Sam Ybarra
- Pvt. Jim Raysor
- Joseph Evans
- Platoon Medic Larry Cottingham
- Spec. Richard Russell (awarded 3 bronze stars 1 for valor, 4 purple hearts, army commendation medal and good conduct medal)
- PFC. Sterling Craig Hendricks, Bronze Star, Purple heart, KIA April 19, 1967
- Spec. Dallas Rogers (awarded 2 purple hearts, Bronze Star, Arcom medal.)
In popular culture
- The 1992 film Universal Soldier features a soldier collecting the ears of Vietnamese villagers in 1969.
- In the 2013 episode of Mad Men season 6, "The Doorway", Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) receives a late-night call from Cutler Gleason and Chaogh account man Bert Peterson, who advises: a comic appearing on The Tonight Show has made jokes about American soldiers in Vietnam cutting off Viet Cong soldiers' ears and wearing them around their necks like trophies, rendering CGC's planned Super Bowl commercial for Koss headphones (featuring the slogan "Lend Me Your Ears") potentially too controversial. Peterson wants Peggy to develop a new ad.
- Vietnam War
- Phoenix Program
- Operation Speedy Express
- Former United States special operations units
- Vietnam War Crimes Working Group Files
- Broader, related topics
- Human trophy collecting
- Medical torture
- War crimes committed by the United States
- World War II
- Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 22–23.
- Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 13–14, 23, 224.
- Mahr, "Unit's founder".
- U.S. Army, "101st Airborne Division".
- Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 309–311.
- Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 264–306.
- Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 337, 344–345, 349, 353, 370–372.
- Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 335, 339–346, 350–352, 354–355, 359, 361–362, 367–369, 374–375, 376.
- Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 335–336, 371.
- Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 371.
- Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 346, 374.
- Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 361–362, 377–378.
- Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 360, 363–364, 372–373.
- Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 383.
- Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 306.
- Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 205, 206, 207
- Mark Baker, NAM, 154
- Terry, Wallace (1984). Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans. Random House. p. 26. ISBN 0394530284. (ISBN 978-0-394-53028-4)
- Sallah and Weiss, "DAY 1."
- Sallah and Weiss, "DAY 3."
- Sallah, Michael D.; Weiss, Mitch; & Mahr, Joe (2003). "Tiger Force columns in order of appearance in the original entry". Toledo Blade. Retrieved December 2013.
- Kifner (December 28, 2003). "Report on Brutal Vietnam Campaign Stirs Memories". The New York Times.
- Mahr, Joe. "Tiger Force answers". Toledo Blade.
- Sallah, Michael & Weiss, Mitch (May 15, 2006). Tiger Force: A True Story of Men and War. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0316159972.
- Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 13.
- Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, vii-xi.
- Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 330, 331, 333.
- Kifner, John. "Report on Brutal Vietnam Campaign Stirs Memories." New York Times, 28 December 2003.
- Mahr, Joe. "Tiger Force answers still elusive." Toledo Blade, 12 May 2004.
- Mahr, Joe. "Unit's founder says he didn't know of atrocities." Toledo Blade, 28 March 2004.
- Sallah, Michael and Mitch Weiss. "Investigators will question ex-GIs about killing spree." Toledo Blade, 15 February 2004.
- Sallah, Michael and Mitch Weiss. "DAY 1: Rogue GIs unleashed wave of terror in Central Highlands." Toledo Blade, 22 October 2003.
- Sallah, Michael and Mitch Weiss. "DAY 3: Pain lingers 36 years after deadly rampage." Toledo Blade, 22 October 2003.
- Sallah, Michael and Mitch Weiss. Tiger Force: A True Story of Men and War. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2006.
- U.S. Army. 101st Airborne Division, Unit Decorations. War Department General Orders 59, 21 October 1968.
- Greiner, Bernd. Krieg ohne Fronten: Die USA in Vietnam. Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 2007. 
- Sallah, Michael D.; Weiss, Mitch; & Mahr, Joe (2003). "Tiger Force columns in order of appearance". Toledo Blade. Retrieved December 2013.
- Tiger Force veterans' website
- Michael Sallah interviewed on Democracy Now!
- Michael Sallah and Mitch Weiss interviewed on NPR's Talk of the Nation
- Michael Sallah interviewed on NPR's On The Media
- Interview with Sallah and Weiss at the Pritzker Military Library