SPECIAL PROJECTS

PROJECT DELTA DETACHMENT B-52

SFD B-50 Project Omega

SFD B-56 Project Sigma:

 

Project DELTA

5TH Special Forces Detachment B-52

(to view Project Delta's website, click--> B-52  )

Project DELTA was formed and headquartered in Nha Trang. Patterned after a joint Vietnamese and CIDG reconnaissance project controlled by U.S. Special Forces, codename, LEAPING LENA, Project DELTA was formed in October of 1964 to conduct the most hazardous and critical missions inside the country of South Vietnam. The organizational structure and make up of the teams was very similar to LEAPING LENA. However, unlike its predecessor, Project DELTA would prove to be one of the most successful Special Operations units in the Vietnam War. In June of 1965, 5th Special Forces Group (A), Detachment B-52 was activated to act as a controller and headquarters element for the newly formed Project DELTA and its clandestine operations.

The mission of Project DELTA was to conduct special reconnaissance missions in corps areas that were designated jointly by COMUSMACV and the Vietnamese Joint Central Staff. The missions were conducted under operational control (OPCON) of a division or larger command.

While the operational strength of B-52 varied and fluctuated during its history, typically it was comprised of 11 officers and 82 enlisted men from the U.S. Army Special Forces, a 105 man CIDG Nung Security Company responsible for Compound and TCC security and Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA), 20 officers and 78 enlisted men from the Vietnamese Special Forces, a 123 man CIDG Roadrunner Company and the 81st Airborne Ranger Battalion (RVN) made up of 43 officers and 763 enlisted men. The 81st Airborne Ranger Battalion was the reactionary force for Project DELTA. In most cases elements of the 281st AHC were attached OPCON for aviation support. Additionally, there were U.S. Airforce personnel assigned as Forward Air Controllers. Project DELTA traditionally employed indigenous civilians as maintenance and construction workers. Most of these workers were employed at Nha Trang but would occasionally be utilized in construction of Forward Operational Bases (FOB) and Mission Support Sites (MSS).

Upon receipt of an Operational Order, B-52 would be transported by C-130 to the area of operation to the pre-selected FOB or MSS. The 281st AHC (-) would self deploy to the FOB or MSS during the five day set-up period. Upon becoming operational Project DELTA utilized the following techniques and procedures to complete its mission for the Host unit:

  1. Conducted long range and covert reconnaissance into denied areas.
  2. Collected intelligence for tactical or strategic exploitation.
  3. Planned and directed air strikes on normally inaccessible targets.
  4. Conducted BDA in enemy controlled areas.
  5. Utilized Reconnaissance-in-force missions against concealed enemy positions.
  6. Executed hunter-killer missions at night using helicopter borne personnel with sniper scopes and starlite scopes.
  7. Recovered allied POW?s
  8. Captured enemy personnel for intelligence exploitation
  9. Employed wire tap procedures on enemy communication lines.
  10. Mined enemy transportation routes.
  11. Mislead enemy counterintelligence by using deceptive missions, mock ordnance devices, and dummy infiltrations.
  12. Used harassing gas and smoke to channel enemy personnel into kill zones.
  13. Conducted photo reconnaissance to include processing, printing, imagery interpretation and production of photo intelligence reports.
  14. Assisted in psychological operations (PSYOPS).
  15. Conducted airborne (Helicopter) personnel detector missions (SNIFFER).

The Recon Teams (combined USASF and VNSF) and Roadrunner Teams (VNSF equipped with enemy uniforms, accouterments and weapons) were the primary source of intelligence collection for Project DELTA. Insertion of these Teams for infiltration was accomplished in a covert manner by helicopter with techniques developed initially by the 145th AVN PLT and Project DELTA and refined by the 281st AHC. The insertions were usually made at twilight using four UH-1H Slicks and a Light Fire Team comprised of two UH-1C Gunships. The aircraft flew in a DELTA formation to the area of insertion maintaining high altitude. The LZ, generally a natural clearing, was selected during an overflight by the FAC and Team Leader prior to the day of planned infiltration. The lead aircraft was the C&C ship. The Aircraft Commander (AC) of the C&C aircraft would act as the Air Mission Commander (AMC). The Team was in the "hole ship", and the other two Slicks would serve as recovery aircraft. Upon reaching the Release Point (RP) the "hole ship" would descend to tree-top level and receive directions to the LZ from the C&C ship. A false insertion would be conducted either before or after the actual insertion as a diversionary tactic. The Team would disembark the aircraft by means of rappelling or ladder depending on terrain and LZ conditions. During this phase of the operation, the Light Fire Team would remain at altitude with the FAC. The recovery aircraft orbited with C&C, prepared to recover the Team if the insertion was compromised or recover the crew of the hole ship if the aircraft was downed due to accident or enemy fire. An airborne FAC or other aircraft with communication equipment remained on station throughout the duration of the ground mission. The Team maintained radio contact by checking in at least three times a day via aerial radio relay to the FOB. In addition to the scheduled SITREPS, enemy sightings and other intelligence was transmitted immediately.

Extraction or exfiltration was accomplished in much the same manner as the insertion. After the Team was identified by means of predesignated codes the recovery operation proceeded. Depending on the terrain, weather, extent of wounds and enemy situation, the Team may be extracted with ladders, McGuire Rigs or Electric Hoist. In later years the McGuire Rigs were refined into the STABO Rig. If the LZ was hot and the Team was in contact, the Team was usually extracted with the McGuire or STABO and flown to a secured area to be recovered into the aircraft.

During its history, Project DELTA identified 68 enemy units, captured vast amounts of equipment and supplies and identified many major enemy installations and supply routes. Enemy losses attributed to B-52 during its operations include 338 KIA, 25 WIA and 69 POWs. Detachment B-52 was awarded the Valorous Unit Award, RVN Cross of Gallantry, RVN Civil Actions Honor Medal (PC) and the Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon. It was OPCON to the 25th Infantry Division, 1st Cavalry Division, 101st Airborne Division, 4th Infantry Division, 3rd Marine Division and the 5th ARVN Division as well as the CG, I CTZ; CG II CTZ; CG, III CTZ; I FFVN; II FFVN; II MAF; III MAF and Company A, 5th Special Forces Group. After conducting 55-60 separate operations, Project DELTA was deactivated in June of 1970. There are 29 former members of Project DELTA listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.

Sources: Green Berets at War, Shelby Stanton; Special Forces in Southeast Asia, AAR Series, Steve Sherman; 281st AHC Unit Histories; Personal Memories of Bob Mitchell, Bandit 24.

SFD B-50 Project Omega:

Special Forces Detachment B-50 Project Omega was established in July 1966 and was initially based at Nha Trang, and later at Ban Me Thout. Created with the purpose of providing I Field Force Vietnam a means of long range patrol and intelligence gathering in the far flung remotest area's of their Corps tactical zones.

As with project Sigma (B-56), project Omega was to have had a regular ARVN Ranger Battalion attached to it. However Special Forces were unhappy with this arrangement and there by provided it's own forces in the form of three Mike Force companies. The Mike Force companies were called commando companies and were used as a reaction/exploitation force. To exploit small unit contacts, and to assist in the extraction of compromised teams.

B-50 was composed of 4 (later 8) Road Runner teams which conducted long range reconnaissance on the enemy's trail networks. The Road Runner teams consisted of 4 indigenous people posing as local VC, and moved with impunity through a designated target area to a prearranged pick up point, observing enemy activity on the way. In 1968 the Road Runner teams were transferred to SFOD B-57 to continue their intel gathering patrols. B-50 also initially had 8 (later this was increased to 16) recon teams which conducted saturation patrols through designated reconnaissance zones.

SFOD B-50 used Jah, Sedang, and Rhade Montagnards, and Cham and (ethnic) Chinese personnel in its units. SFOD B-50 (supposedly?) departed Vietnam in June 1972. Project Omega possibly had its own cloth patch although details of this are a bit sketchy. If one existed then it is thought it was based on the Greek "Omega" character and possibly had a parachute and lightening bolt on it with the words "Project Omega" above and below the parachute respectively

See Project Omega-James E. Acre's book

 

SFD B-56 Project Sigma:

SFOD B-56 Project Sigma was formed in August 1966 and was very similar in make up and operational procedure to B-50 project Omega. Like Omega, Sigma was also created for the purpose of providing reconnaissance in area's controlled by the VC. Again as with SFOD B-50 Omega, Sigma was also to have had an ARVN Ranger battalion attached to it, but this idea was vetoed by SF and they supplied their own forces.

Located at camp Ho Ngoc Tao near Tu Duc, along highway 1 between Saigon and Long Binh. SFOD B-56 Project Sigma had 8 reconnaissance teams, 3 commando (reaction) companies and a 168-man Nung security company. The personnel for the commando companies, and reconnaissance teams were either ethnic Cambodians or Nung mercenaries.

SFOD B-56 Project Sigma teams abducted POWs back from the enemy in the Fish Hook area of war zone C. An enemy telephone line was located, tapped, and conversations recorded. Other teams placed electronic surveillance devices, set mechanical ambushes, and a host of electronic devices to hinder and harass the enemy along infiltration routes into South Vietnam.

SFOD B-56 Project Sigma's Road Runner Teams were transferred over to SFOD B-57 project Gamma in 1967. SFOD B-56 Project Sigma also assisted and acted as forward reconnaissance elements in several Black Jack operations which were conducted in its area of operations. In November 1967 operational control of SFOD B-56 was given directly to MACV whereupon B-56 was placed under the control of the II Field Force.

SFOD B-56 Project Sigma was relocated to Ban Me Thuot in 1969. Finally leaving(?!) Vietnam on the 2nd of May 1971.