Bo Gritz

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Bo Gritz
Personal details
James Gordon Gritz

(1939-01-18) January 18, 1939 (age 83)
Enid, Oklahoma, U.S.
Political partyPopulist (1984–1996)
Alma materUniversity of Illinois, Urbana-
Military service
AllegianceUnited States of America
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1957–1979
RankUS-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel
UnitB-36, 5th Special Forces Group
Battles/warsVietnam War
Laotian Civil War
AwardsSilver Star (5)
Soldier's Medal
Bronze Star (10)
Purple Heart
Air Medal (26)
Distinguished Flying Cross
Legion of Merit (2)

James Gordon "Bo" Gritz (/ˈɡrts/;[1] born January 18, 1939) is an American former United States Army Special Forces officer and presidential candidate. After serving in the Vietnam War and retiring from the military, Gritz has worked on attempted POW rescues in conjunction with the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue.

Gritz ran for United States president under the Populist Party in 1992. Gritz ran in 1992 under the slogan: "God, Guns and Gritz," and published an isolationist political manifesto titled "The Bill of Gritz".[2] Gritz lives in Sandy Valley, Nevada and has four children.

Early life[edit]

Gritz was born on January 18, 1939, in Enid, Oklahoma. His father served in the Army Air Force in World War II and was killed in action. He was raised by his maternal grandparents. After being expelled from his local high school, Gritz attended and graduated from Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia.[3]

Military service[edit]

Gritz enlisted in the Army on August 20, 1957, and shortly thereafter attended Officer Candidate School (OCS). He was promoted to the rank of captain in 1963, and to major in 1967.

As a lieutenant colonel in Vietnam, he commanded detachment "B-36", U.S. Army Special Forces 5th SFG for a time.[4][5] B-36 was a mixed American and South Vietnamese unit that operated in the III Corps area of Southern South Vietnam.[6] He served in a variety of assignments, including commanding Special Forces in Latin America 1975–77, as a Desk Officer for the Middle East, and Chief of Congressional Relations for the Defense Security Agency (International Security Affairs) in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (1977–79) until his retirement in 1979 at the rank of lieutenant colonel.

General William Westmoreland in his memoir, A Soldier Reports, cites Gritz as "The" American Soldier.[7]

Gritz received an array of military awards, and some of these have been called into question. A memo regarding his awards and award recommendations during his time in Vietnam seems to indicate that Gritz was personally involved with the recommendation of some of his medals, including the Legion of Merit, and that some of his award recommendations cited the same missions and incidents, effectively awarding Gritz multiple medals for the same missions, including the Legion of Merit, Air Medal, Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Army Commendation Medal.[8]

Post-war activities[edit]

Attempts to locate prisoners of war[edit]

During the 1980s, as part of the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue, Gritz undertook a series of private trips into Southeast Asia, in attempts to locate United States prisoners of war that some Americans believed had been detained since the Vietnam War, by the communist governments of Laos and Vietnam, e.g., at Nhommarath. Those missions were heavily publicized, controversial and widely decried as haphazard. For instance, as some commentators stated, few successful secret missions involve bringing to the border towns women openly selling commemorative POW-rescue T-shirts.[9][10]

In the book Inside Delta Force, CSM Eric L. Haney, a former Delta Force operator, claims that the unit was twice told to prepare for a mission involving the rescue of American POWs from Vietnam. However, both times the missions were scrubbed, according to Haney, when Gritz suddenly appeared in the spotlight, drawing too much attention to the issue and making the missions too difficult to accomplish.[11]

U.S. government involvement in drug trafficking[edit]

In 1986, after a trip to Burma (now Myanmar) to interview drug kingpin Khun Sa regarding possible locations of U.S. POWs, Gritz returned from Burma with a videotaped interview of Khun Sa purporting to name several officials in the Reagan administration involved in narcotics trafficking in Southeast Asia. Among those named was Richard Armitage, who most recently served as Deputy Secretary of State during George W. Bush's first term as president. Gritz believed that those same officials were involved in a coverup of missing American POWs.[citation needed]

During this period Gritz established contacts with the Christic Institute,[12] a progressive group which was then pursuing a lawsuit against the U.S. government over charges of drug trafficking in both Southeast Asia and Central America.[citation needed]

Conspiracy theorist[edit]

In 1989, Gritz established the Center For Action, which was active on a number of issues, mostly pertaining to conspiracy theories. Attempting to build bridges among conspiracy theorists and unite activists of both the left and right, in 1990 he held a conference in Las Vegas, Nevada called "Freedom Call '90". Speakers at that conference included October Surprise conspiracy theory researcher Barbara Honegger, Bill Davis of the Christic Institute, writer Eustace Mullins, and several others. This newfound interest in conspiracy theories proved to be as controversial as Gritz's earlier missions searching for POWs.

Anti-war activism[edit]

During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Gritz was an opponent of the war, and linked it to a conspiracy theory alleging plans to implement a one-world government, known as the "New World Order." He appeared on Pacifica Radio stations in California as a guest several times, and for a short time was in demand as a speaker to left-wing and anti-war audiences. However, during this period he also became closely associated with the Christian Patriot movement on the right, and spoke at conferences sponsored by Christian Identity pastor Pete Peters. When these associations became known to those on the left, especially after the publication of a report by the Los Angeles-based group People Against Racist Terror calling Gritz a "front man for fascism",[13] left-wing audiences lost interest in Gritz, and the Christic Institute and Pacifica Radio cut off any further association. He has since distanced himself from the movement.[citation needed]


Gritz is the author of three books. The first, A Nation Betrayed, was published in 1989 and contained Gritz's allegations of drug trafficking and a POW coverup, based on the Khun Sa interview. The second, Called To Serve, was published in 1992 and expanded on the previous book to cover a wide range of conspiracies, including the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and allegations of a conspiracy to establish a new world order. His third book is titled My Brother's Keeper and was published in 2003.[14]

Populist Party presidential tickets[edit]

In 1988, Gritz was the candidate for Vice President of the United States on the Populist Party line; initially, unbeknownst to him, he was billed as the running mate of former Ku Klux Klansman David Duke. Gritz pulled out early in the race and publicly distanced himself from Duke[15] and ran instead for a Nevada Congressional seat.[16] Gritz was then replaced by Floyd Parker on some ballots. Gritz has claimed that he accepted the party's nomination in the belief that he would be the running mate of James Traficant. Shortly after meeting Duke, Gritz wrote that Duke was "a brash, untraveled, overly opinionated, bigoted young man" and that "I will not support anyone that I know to hate any class of Americans."[17]

In 1992, after failing to secure the U.S. Taxpayers' Party's nomination, Gritz ran for President of the United States, again with the Populist Party. Under the campaign slogan "God, Guns and Gritz" and publishing his political manifesto "The Bill of Gritz" (playing on his last name rhyming with "rights"), he called for staunch opposition to what he called "global government" and the "New World Order", ending all foreign aid, and abolishing the federal income tax and the Federal Reserve System.[2] During the campaign, Gritz openly proclaimed the United States to be a "Christian Nation", stating that the country's legal statutes "should reflect unashamed acceptance of Almighty God and His Laws."[citation needed] He received 106,152 votes nationwide, or only 0.14 percent of the popular vote.[2] In two states he had a respectable showing for a third party candidate: Utah, where he received 3.84 percent of the vote and Idaho, where he received 2.13 percent of the vote.[2] In Duchesne County[18] and Oneida County, Idaho,[19] his support topped ten percent,[2] whilst in Franklin County, Idaho, Gritz received over twelve percent and was only 23 votes away from pushing Bill Clinton into fourth place[19] – which has not happened to a major party nominee in any county nationwide since 1916. His run on the Populist Party ticket was prompted by his association with another far-right political Christian talk radio host, Tom Valentine.[citation needed] During his presidential run, part of Gritz's standard stump speech was an idea to pay off the National debt by minting a coin at the Treasury and sending it to the Federal Reserve. This predates the 2012 trillion-dollar coin concept.[20] Among other things, the "Bill of Gritz" called for the complete closing of the border with Mexico, and the dissolution of the Federal Reserve System.[21]

Also during 1992, Gritz attracted national attention as mediator during the government standoff with Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge, Idaho.[22] Gerry Spence was asked by Gritz to defend Weaver, and in turn defended his action to do so in a letter to Alan Hirschfield, the former chairman of chief executive officer of Columbia Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox.[23]


He established a community in Kamiah, Idaho (contiguous to the Nez Perce people) called Almost Heaven.

Several times he used his influence and reputation in the Christian Patriot community in attempts to negotiate conclusions between legal authorities and far-right activists. In August 1992, he intervened on behalf of Randy Weaver who, with his family, was living at his rural home at Ruby Ridge, after U.S. Marshals attempted to arrest him for failure to appear in court. The 11-day standoff, which resulted in the deaths of a U.S. Marshal and Weaver's son and wife, ended after Gritz convinced Weaver to leave his cabin and place his faith and trust in the court system. In 1996, he unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate a conclusion to the stand-off by the Montana Freemen, a group of Christian Patriot activists who were wanted on an assortment of charges. After speaking with the Freemen, he left in frustration, stating that they presented him with what he called "legal mumbo-jumbo"[24] to support their claims, and cautioned others in the Patriot movement not to support them. The stand-off ended when the Freemen surrendered after 81 days.[citation needed]

While he was married to Judy Kirsch, who was a Christian Identity follower, he was accused of supporting the Christian Identity ideology,[25] in which whites of European descent can be traced back to the "Lost Tribes of Israel." In this ideology, many consider Jews to be the Satanic offspring of Eve and the Serpent, while non-whites are "mud peoples" created before Adam and Eve.[26]

He has been accused of white supremacy by some, although he denounced the belief in an interview with The Militia Watchdog, saying "I've served with black, white, yellow, brown, red; all religions; nobody ever asked you about your religion, your blood bleeds red the same as everyone else."[27] As well, Gritz openly denounced racism during his "Spike" training courses, and welcomed all who wanted to join in the training, regardless of race.

Later life[edit]

Subsequent activities[edit]

In 1998, Gritz organized a fruitless search for the Centennial Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph in order to save Rudolph's life.[28]

In 2005, Gritz became an active protester for intervention in the Terri Schiavo case. On 19 March 2005, when her feeding tube was removed, he was arrested for trespassing after trying to enter the hospice where she lived.[29]

Beginning in 2014, Gritz hosted a radio show on known as Freedom Call.[30]

Involvement with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints[edit]

In 1984, Gritz and his wife Claudia were baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).[2] However, amid infidelity scandals, Gritz's stake president refused to renew Gritz's temple recommend until Gritz could prove that he had paid federal income tax.[31] In response, Gritz resigned his membership in the LDS Church.[2][31]

In 1999, Gritz and his then fourth wife Judy became involved in the Church of Israel, a group that originated within the Latter Day Saint movement and has become involved with the Christian Identity movement, from which he has now distanced himself.[2]

In popular culture[edit]

The character of John "Hannibal" Smith on the 1980s television series The A-Team was loosely based on Gritz.[32] In the early 1980s, actor William Shatner paid almost $15,000 for the entertainment rights to Gritz's life story.[33]

Gritz's community Almost Heaven featured in the episode "Survivalists" of Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends in 1998, produced for BBC2.

In 2017, the documentary Erase and Forget was released. Filmmaker Andrea Luka Zimmerman followed Gritz for more than 10 years. The film shows him at gun shows and re-enacting scenes from his life. The Guardian wrote that the film "tell[s] Gritz's story and explore[s] the deep bonds between Hollywood's fictionalised conflicts and America's hidden wars" and said that, aside from a biographical documentary, the film is also "an essay on the historic causes of America's deep disillusionment with its own government."[34][35]

In the 1996 TV movie Ruby Ridge: An American Tragedy/Siege at Ruby Ridge, Gritz is portrayed by actor Bob Gunton.

In the 2018 Paramount miniseries Waco, Gritz is portrayed by actor Vic Browder. [36]


  1. ^ Rabinovitz, Jonathan (2 October 1996). "A Militia Leader's New Battle With Authority". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 May 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Newell G. Bringhurst and Craig L Foster (2008). The Mormon Quest for the Presidency (Ann Arbor, Mich.: John Whitmer Books, ISBN 1-934901-11-3) pp. 208–226.
  3. ^ Harris, Art (1983-03-03). "Bo Gritz: The Glory &". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2017-12-18.
  4. ^ Donahue, James C. (1997). Mobile Guerrilla Force: With The Special Forces In War Zone D. New York: St. Martin's Paperbacks. p. 260. ISBN 0-312-96164-2. OCLC 36494698.
  5. ^ Detra, Dick (2005). "B-56, Bo Gritz and Cambodia". In Special Operations Association (ed.). Special Operations Association. Turner Pub Co. p. 84. ISBN 1-59652-156-2. OCLC 71200760.
  6. ^ "Biography". Bo Gritz. 2004. Archived from the original on 25 August 2013. Retrieved 21 August 2013.
  7. ^ Westmoreland, General (1976). A Soldier Reports. ISBN 9780385004343.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-05-19. Retrieved 2010-12-24.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ Colonel Robert K. Brown; Jim Graves (Spring 1983). "Hoaglund Hoax: Gritz Caught in War Lie". Soldier of Fortune: 51–53.
  10. ^ Keating, Susan Katz (1994). Prisoners of Hope: Exploiting the POW/MIA Myth in America. Random House. ISBN 0-679-43016-4.[page needed]
  11. ^ Haney, Eric (2005). Inside Delta Force. United States: Delta. pp. 316–317. ISBN 978-0385339360.
  12. ^ Berlet, Chip; Matthew Nemiroff Lyons (2000). Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. New York: The Guilford Press. p. 340. ISBN 1-57230-562-2. OCLC 43929926.
  13. ^ People Against Racist Terror (March 1992). Front man for fascism?: "Bo" Gritz and the Racist Populist Party. OCLC 28540420.
  14. ^ "Mail Orders". Bo Gritz. 2005. Archived from the original on 2009-02-20. Retrieved 2009-02-27.
  15. ^ Oltermann, Philip (2017-02-13). "Erase and Forget: new documentary reveals life story of the real Rambo". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  16. ^ Diamond, Sara. (1995). Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States. Guilford Press. p. 264. ISBN 0-89862-864-4.
  17. ^ Gritz, Bo.
  18. ^ Our Campaigns; UT US Presidential Election November 03, 1992
  19. ^ a b Our Campaigns; ID US Presidential Election, November 03, 1992
  20. ^ Sewell, Thomas. "Where does the mint a coin to pay off the debt idea originate from?". Catallaxy Media. Archived from the original on 15 February 2013. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
  21. ^ Newell G. Bringhurst and Craig L Foster (2008). The Mormon Quest for the Presidency. Ann Arbor, Mich.: John Whitmer Books. pp. 208–226. ISBN 978-1-934901-11-3.
  22. ^ Snow, Robert J. (2002). Terrorists Among Us: The Militia Threat. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Perseus Books Group. p. 9. ISBN 0-7382-0766-7. OCLC 50615207.
  23. ^ "Gerry Spence on Why He Agreed to Defend Randy Weaver".
  24. ^ Snow, Robert J. (2002). Terrorists Among Us: The Militia Threat. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Perseus Books Group. p. 216. ISBN 0-7382-0766-7. OCLC 50615207.
  25. ^ "Bo Gritz". The Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  26. ^ "Christian Identity". Anti-Defamation League. Archived from the original on 10 February 2017. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  27. ^ Neiwert, David (10 November 1994). "An Interview with Bo Gritz". The Militia Watchdog. Archived from the original on 6 October 2008. Retrieved 23 December 2008.
  28. ^ "Bo Gritz says FBI has enlisted him in Rudolph search". CNN. 3 August 1998. Retrieved 22 December 2008.
  29. ^ "Congress Wages Feeding Tube War". CBS News. 19 March 2005. Retrieved 22 December 2008.
  30. ^
  31. ^ a b "Radicalized Prophets of the Far, Far Right", Sunstone, Oct. 2003, p. 39.
  32. ^ Neiwert, David (Sep 28, 1998). "What kind of life do I have without my bride?". Salon. Retrieved 2020-10-15.
  33. ^ Pico Iyer, "Colonel Gritz's Dubious Mission", Time, 1983-04-04.
  34. ^ Oltermann, Philip (2017-02-13). "Erase and Forget: new documentary reveals life story of the real Rambo". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-08-13.
  35. ^ "Erase and Forget". IMDb. 2 March 2018.
  36. ^ "Waco (TV Mini-Series 2018)-Cast-IMDb"

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by Populist nominee for Vice President of the United States

Served alongside: Trenton Stokes
Succeeded by
Preceded by Populist nominee for President of the United States
Party abolished