Bo Gritz

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Bo Gritz
Personal details
Born James Gordon Gritz
(1939-01-18) January 18, 1939 (age 78)
Enid, Oklahoma, U.S.
Political party Populist (1984–1996)
Alma mater University of Illinois, Urbana-
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1957–1979
Rank US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel
Unit B-36, 5th Special Forces Group
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Laotian Civil War
Awards Silver Star
Soldier's Medal
Bronze Star
Purple Heart
Air Medal

James Gordon Gritz (/ˈɡrts/;[1] born January 18, 1939) — known as Bo Gritz — is a former United States Army Special Forces officer who served for 22 years, including in the Vietnam War. His activities in retirement – notably attempted POW rescues in conjunction with the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue – have proven controversial.

Gritz may be most notable for his United States presidential campaign in association with the Populist Party in 1992. Gritz ran in 1992 under the slogan: "God, Guns and Gritz," and published an isolationist political manifesto entitled "The Bill of Gritz". Among other things, the "Bill of Gritz" called for the complete closing of the border with Mexico, and the dissolution of the Federal Reserve.[2] Gritz lives near Sandy Valley, Nevada, with his wife Judy, now estranged.[3]

U.S. military service[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 on patriotic stories of his father's heroics in the war. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on August 20, 1957, and shortly thereafter attended Officer Candidate School (OCS). He was promoted to the rank of captain on April 15, 1963, and to major on June 13, 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 which operated in the III Corps area of Southern South Vietnam.[3] He served in a variety of assignments until his retirement in 1979 at the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Gritz has claimed that he received an array of military awards, and this claim has been drawn 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 awards 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.[6]

Attempts to locate prisoners of war[edit]

During the 1980s Gritz undertook a series of private trips into Southeast Asia, purportedly to locate United States prisoners of war which as part of the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue some believed were still being held by Laos and the Socialist Republic of 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 marketing commemorative POW-rescue T-shirts.[7][8]

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.[9]

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

In 1986, after a trip to Burma 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. Footage, also shot by a film team for Italian television, produced and directed by Patrick King and Tudor Gates in Burma, features in a new documentary "Erase and Forget."[10] 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,[11] 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 other 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 researcher Barbara Honegger, Bill Davis of the Christic Institute, conspiracy theorist 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 activities[edit]

During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Gritz was an outspoken opponent of that 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",[12] left-wing audiences lost interest in Gritz, and the Christic Institute and Pacifica Radio cut off any further association.[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.[13]

Populist Party presidential tickets[edit]

In 1988, Gritz was the candidate for Vice President of the United States on the Populist Party ticket, as the running mate of former Ku Klux Klansman David Duke. Gritz pulled out early in the race and publically distanced himself from Duke[14] and ran instead for a Nevada Congressional seat.[15] 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. After learning it would be not be Traficant but Duke, he decided to drop out. 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."[16]

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 0.14% of the popular vote.[2] In two states he had a respectable showing for a third party candidate: Utah, where he received 3.84% of the vote and Idaho, where he received 2.13% of the vote.[2] In some counties, his support topped 10%,[2] and in Franklin County, Idaho, was only a few votes away from pushing Bill Clinton into fourth place in the county. 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.[17]

Also during 1992, Gritz attracted national attention as mediator during the government standoff with Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge, Idaho.[18]

Controversial activities[edit]

In 1993, Gritz changed his emphasis again and began offering a course called SPIKE (Specially Prepared Individuals for Key Events), where those events oppose the New World Order, which taught paramilitary and survivalist skills because he predicted that there would be a total sociopolitical and economic collapse in the U.S. He also established a community in Kamiah, Idaho (contiguous to the Nez Perce Reservation) 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 holed up on his rural home in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, 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 a collection of charges. After speaking with the "Freemen," he left in frustration, stating that they presented him with what he called "legal mumbo-jumbo"[19] 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]

He has been accused of supporting the christian identity ideology,[20] 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.[21]

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."[22] As well, Gritz openly renounced racism during his "Spike" training courses, and welcomed all who wanted to join in the training regardless of race.

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.[23]

In 2005, Gritz became an active protester for intervention in the Terri Schiavo case. On 19 March 2005, when her tube was removed, he was arrested for trespassing after trying to enter the hospice where she lived.[24]

Gritz' original website ( is no longer registered to him and is now occupied by a cooking web site.[25] A radio broadcast called "Freedom Call" on The American Voice Radio Network [26] via Internet Audio Streaming, Phone Bridge, Independent Am/FM and via the Free-to-air Ku band home satellite system on Galaxy 19.[27] He may have been active as the Commander of the American Legion Post 27 in Sandy Valley, Nevada, but is no longer listed as officer on their web site.[28]

Beginning in 2014, Lt. Col Gritz has hosted a radio show on known as Freedom Call. It is broadcast weekdays at 5pm EST.[29]

Involvement with Mormonism[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 his federal income tax.[30] In response, Gritz resigned his membership in the LDS Church.[2][30]

In 1999, Gritz and his 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]


The character of John "Hannibal" Smith on the 1980s television series The A-Team was loosely based on Gritz.[31] In the early 1980s, actor William Shatner paid almost $15,000 for the entertainment rights to Gritz's life story.[32]

His deeply controversial activities, and the cost of his (often sanctioned) actions, both from within and outside of the military, feature in the 2017 film Erase and Forget.[33]

Decorations and medals[edit]

Note – the following is based largely on photographs of Lieutenant Colonel Gritz in which he is wearing military awards and can not be independently verified.[34]

Badges and Tabs[edit]

United States Decorations[edit]

Unit Awards[edit]

United States Service Medals[edit]

International Orders, Decorations and Medals[edit]

State Award[edit]


  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. ^ a b "Biography". Bo Gritz. 2004. Retrieved 21 August 2013. 
  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. Special Operations Association. Turner Pub Co. p. 84. ISBN 1-59652-156-2. OCLC 71200760. 
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-05-19. Retrieved 2010-12-24. 
  7. ^ Colonel Robert K. Brown; Jim Graves (Spring 1983). "Hoaglund Hoax: Gritz Caught in War Lie". Soldier of Fortune: 51–53. 
  8. ^ Keating, Susan Katz (1994). Prisoners of Hope: Exploiting the POW/MIA Myth in America. Random House. ISBN 0-679-43016-4. [page needed]
  9. ^ Haney, Eric (2005). Inside Delta Force. United States: Delta. pp. 316–317. ISBN 978-0385339360. 
  10. ^ Gritz, Bo; Kotcheff, Ted; Gagik; Gates, Tudor (2017-02-11), Erase and Forget, retrieved 2017-04-19 
  11. ^ 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. 
  12. ^ People Against Racist Terror (March 1992). Front man for fascism?: "Bo" Gritz and the Racist Populist Party. OCLC 28540420. 
  13. ^ "Mail Orders". Bo Gritz. 2005. Retrieved 2009-02-27. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ Diamond, Sara. (1995). Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States. The Guilford Press. p. 264. ISBN 0-89862-864-4. 
  16. ^ Gritz, Bo.
  17. ^ Sewell, Thomas. "Where does the mint a coin to pay off the debt idea originate from?". Catallaxy Media. Retrieved 12 January 2013. 
  18. ^ Snow, Robert J. (2002). Terrorists Among Us: The Militia Threat. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Perseus Books Group. p. 9. ISBN 0-7382-0766-7. OCLC 50615207. 
  19. ^ Snow, Robert J. (2002). Terrorists Among Us: The Militia Threat. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Perseus Books Group. p. 216. ISBN 0-7382-0766-7. OCLC 50615207. 
  20. ^ "Bo Gritz". The Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved 14 February 2017. 
  21. ^ "Christian Identity". Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved 14 February 2017. 
  22. ^ Neiwert, David (10 November 1994). "An Interview with Bo Gritz". The Milita Watchdog. Retrieved 23 December 2008. 
  23. ^ "Bo Gritz says FBI has enlisted him in Rudolph search". CNN. 3 August 1998. Retrieved 22 December 2008. 
  24. ^ "Congress Wages Feeding Tube War". CBS News. 19 March 2005. Retrieved 22 December 2008. 
  25. ^ "The Bog Ritz, What's Cooking Down In The Bog". Retrieved 14 February 2017. 
  26. ^ The American Voice Radio Network
  27. ^ "Listen". Bo Gritz. 2007. Retrieved 27 February 2009. 
  28. ^ The American Legion, Department of Nevada | accessdate=20 February 2017
  29. ^
  30. ^ a b "Radicalized Prophets of the Far, Far Right", Sunstone, Oct. 2003, p. 39.
  31. ^ David Neiwert, "What kind of life do I have without my bride?",, 1998-09-28.
  32. ^ Pico Iyer, "Colonel Gritz's Dubious Mission", Time, 1983-04-04.
  33. ^
  34. ^ ". . . medals rained from the heavens". MIA Facts Site. Retrieved 14 February 2017. 

External links[edit]

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

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