Richard J. Meadows

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Richard J. Meadows
Richard meadows.gif
Nickname(s) "Dick"
Born (1931-06-16)June 16, 1931
Johnson Creek, Alleghany County, Virginia, U.S.
Died July 29, 1995(1995-07-29) (aged 64)
Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, U.S.
Buried at Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, U.S.
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1947–1977
Rank Major
Battles/wars Korean War
Vietnam War
Operation Ivory Coast
Operation Eagle Claw
Awards Distinguished Service Cross
Silver Stars (2)
Bronze Star with V Device
Air Medal
Legion of Merit
Combat Infantryman Badge
Master Parachutist badge
Ranger Tab
Scuba Badge

Richard J. Meadows (June 16, 1931 – July 29, 1995) was a U.S. Army Special Forces officer who saw combat in Korea and Vietnam. He was a key figure in the Iran Hostage Rescue mission in 1980. He was a pivotal player in the creation of the modern U.S. Army Special Forces.


Meadows enlisted in the Army in 1946 at age 15. He first saw combat in Korea and was, by age 20, the youngest Master Sergeant in the Army at that time. In 1953, he entered the U.S. Army Special Forces and remained active in them or the Rangers until his retirement in 1977. His participation in the Iran Hostage Rescue mission came after his official retirement.

In 1960, Meadows was one of the first U.S. Army officers to participate in an exchange program with the British Special Air Service special forces unit. Meadows completed SAS training, was an acting troop leader for 12 months, and participated in a field combat operation with his unit. It is widely believed that Meadows' SAS experience helped form the basis for future US Army Special Forces selection, training, and organizational structures.

Vietnam War[edit]

While assigned to the 8th Special Forces Group in Panama, MSgt. Meadows volunteered for a tour in Vietnam. At the end of his first tour, serving in the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam - Studies and Observations Group, Meadows received a direct commission as a captain on April 14, 1967.

On Nov 21, 1970 Captain Meadows was the team leader for the initial assault team in the Son Tay prison camp raid (see Operation Ivory Coast). This 14-man team (plus pilots), code-named Blueboy, intentionally crash-landed an HH-3 helicopter right in the middle of the prison camp to achieve maximum surprise. One team member was injured in the landing (broken ankle). The remaining team members executed their mission without further casualties. However, much to Meadows' disappointment, the enemy had moved all its captives weeks earlier.

In the mid-1970s, Meadows was a key figure in the founding of the US Delta Force special operations and hostage rescue force.

Meadows retired from the Army after 31 years of service in 1977.

Later life and death[edit]

In 1980, Meadows returned to service as a special consultant and, posing as an Irish businessman in the European automotive industry, provided covert reconnaissance of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran prior to and during Operation Eagle Claw, better known as the Iran Hostage Rescue mission.[1] That mission ended in a major accident at a ground refueling point in the Iran desert and was aborted. Although documents found at the crash site compromised both the mission and Meadows' cover in Iran, Meadows was able to escape Iran aboard a commercial flight with his cover intact.

In 1982 Meadows appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine in an issue which had a feature article on Meadows.

In 1995, Meadows was diagnosed with and subsequently died of leukemia. It is contended by many in the Special Forces community that, had the contents of Meadows' military record been disclosed, he would have been awarded the Medal of Honor. However, the majority of Meadows' covert roles in Vietnam working with the CIA's Special Activities Division, remain undisclosed.

Awards and decorations[edit]

His military awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, Bronze Star with Valor Device, Air Medal, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, three Army Commendation Medals, Combat Infantryman Badge, Master Parachutist badge, Glider Badge, Ranger Tab, Scuba Badge, and numerous foreign awards.

Just before his death, in July, 1995, Meadows was told he was to be presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Clinton.[2]


On June 6, 1997, a statue and adjacent parade field near U.S. Army Special Operations Command building in Fort Bragg, North Carolina were dedicated in Meadows’ memory.[3]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The Tom Clancy Novel Without Remorse features a prison camp raid that is heavily based on the Son Tay raid and main character John Clark's career as an intelligence officer is also very similar to that of Meadows' career.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Manzetti. The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth. Penguin Books. p. 69. ISBN 1594204802. 
  2. ^ Special Operations - A Special Kind of Hero
  3. ^ "Meadows Memorial Parade Field Marker". The Historical Marker database. Retrieved 19 April 2016.