Soldier of Fortune (magazine)
September 1995 cover
|Editor/Publisher||Robert K. Brown|
|Final issue||April 2016|
|Company||Omega Group Ltd.|
|Based in||Boulder, Colorado|
|Language||English, many others|
Soldier of Fortune (SOF), The Journal of Professional Adventurers, is a monthly U.S. periodical founded in 1975 as a mercenary magazine devoted to worldwide reporting of wars, including conventional warfare, low-intensity warfare, counter-insurgency, and counter-terrorism. It has been published by the Omega Group Ltd., in Boulder, Colorado.
Soldier of Fortune magazine was founded in 1975, by Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army Reserve, (Ret.) Robert K. Brown, a Green Beret who served with Special Forces in Vietnam. After retiring from active duty, Brown began publishing a “circular”, magazine-type publication with few pages which contained information on mercenary employment in Oman, where the Sultan Qaboos had recently deposed his father and was battling a communist insurgency. Brown's small circular soon evolved into a glossy, large-format, full-color magazine.
In 1970, Brown co-founded Paladin Press in conjunction with Peder Lund. The company published non-fiction books and videos covering a wide range of specialty topics, including personal and financial freedom, survivalism and preparedness, firearms and shooting, various martial arts and self-defense, military and police tactics, investigation techniques, spying, lockpicking, sabotage, revenge, knives and knife fighting, explosives, and other "action topics". After five years, he left in 1975 to start SOF magazine.
Significant to the early development of SOF was its unprecedented, successful recruitment of foreign nationals to serve in the Rhodesian Security Forces, during the Rhodesian Bush War (1964–79). During the late 1970s and the 1980s, the success and popularity of a military magazine such as SOF led to the proliferation of like magazines such as Survive, Gung Ho!, New Breed, Eagle, Combat Illustrated, Special Weapons and Tactics, and Combat Ready. SOF has been published by the Omega Group Ltd., in Boulder, Colorado. At the height of its circulation in the early 1980s the magazine had 190,000 subscribers. The April 2016 issue of Soldier of Fortune was the final print edition; further editions have only been distributed online.
"Gun for Hire" lawsuits
During the late 1980s, Soldier of Fortune was sued in civil court several times for having published classified advertisements of services by private mercenaries. In 1987, Norman Norwood, of Arkansas, sued SOF magazine, because of injuries he suffered during a murder attempt by two men hired via a "Gun for Hire" advertisement in the magazine. The US District Court denied the magazine's motion for summary judgment based upon the Constitutional right of free speech under the First Amendment. The Court said, "reasonable jurors could find that the advertisement posed a substantial risk of harm" and that "gun for hire" ads were not the type of speech intended for protection under the First Amendment. In the end, Norwood and Soldier of Fortune magazine settled his lawsuit out of court.
In February 1985, John Wayne Hearn, a Vietnam veteran, shot and killed Sandra Black for a $10,000 payment from her husband, Robert Black. Black communicated with Hearn through a classified advertisement published in Soldier of Fortune, wherein Hearn solicited "high-risk assignments. U.S. or overseas". In 1989, Sandra Black's son Gary and her mother Marjorie Eimann filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against SOF magazine and its parent publishing company Omega Group Ltd., seeking $21 million in redress of their grievance.
The jury found Soldier of Fortune grossly negligent in publishing Hearn's classified ad for implicit illegal activity (murder) and awarded the plaintiffs $9.5 million in damages. However, in 1990 the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the verdict, saying that the standard of conduct imposed upon the magazine was too high, because the advertisement was ambiguously worded.
In 1989, four men were convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in the 1985 contract killing of Richard Braun, of Atlanta, Georgia. The killers were hired through a classified services advertisement published in SOF magazine that read: "GUN FOR HIRE". Braun's sons filed a civil lawsuit against the magazine and a jury found in their favor, awarding them $12.37 million in damages, which the judge later reduced to $4.37 million. Nonetheless, in 1992 the United States 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the judgement of the jury, saying "the publisher could recognize the offer of criminal activity as readily as its readers, obviously, did". The Brauns and SOF magazine settled the wrongful-death lawsuit for $200,000. One consequence of the lost lawsuits was the magazine's suspension of publication of classified advertisements for mercenary work, either in the U.S. or overseas.
- Col. David "Hack" Hackworth, US Army, (ret/deceased)
- Wayne Laugesen
- Ltc. Robert C. MacKenzie, US Army, (ret/deceased)
- Ltc. Oliver North, US Marine Corps, (ret.)
- Dale Dye, US Marine Corps, (ret.)
- Al J Venter
- Michael Echanis (1950–1978), Vietnam veteran, Purple Heart recipient – martial-arts editor
- John Plaster, US Army, (ret.)
- Omega First Amendment Legal Fund, All Business, allbusiness.com
- Robert K. Brown Archived 2008-06-10 at the Wayback Machine, Biography, National Rifle Association
-  Archived October 18, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
-  Archived March 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
- Ward Churchill, "U.S. Mercenaries in Southern Africa: The Recruiting Network and U.S. Policy", Africa Today, Vol. 27, No. 2, External Intervention in Africa (2nd Qtr., 1980), pp. 21–46
- James Taulbee, "Soldiers of fortune: A legal leash for the dogs of war?", Defense & Security Analysis, 1475-1801, Volume 1, Issue 3, 1985, pp. 187–203
- "Contact Us Archived 2011-09-30 at the Wayback Machine." Soldier of Fortune. Retrieved September 24, 2011. "2135 11th St. Boulder, CO 80303"
- Meany, Thomas (August 1, 2019) "White Power." London Review of Books, Vol 41, No 15. Page 5.
- The Internet Claims Another Victim – ‘Soldier of Fortune’ Magazine To Cease Hard Copy Publication, Go Digital Only Soldiers Systems. Retrieved March 9, 2016.
- Norwood v. Soldier of Fortune, Inc., United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division, January 29, 1987
- Smothers, Ronald, Soldier of Fortune Magazine Held Liable for Killer's Ad, New York Times, August 19, 1992
- Belkin, Lisa, Soldier of Fortune Magazine Is Sued Over Slaying, New York Times, February 14, 1988
- Award in Case of Killer Hired by Ad Is Overturned, Associated Press, August 18, 1989
- Transcript of the Fifth Circuit's decision in Eimann v. SOF
- Moscou, Jim, Soldier of Fortune Toughs Out Changing Times, New York Times, October 16, 2000