The definition of war is a state of armed conflict between two or more groups or nations. There is nothing pretty about it. It is violent and destructive and often leads to widespread suffering and loss of life. War can take many forms, from conventional battles between armies to guerrilla warfare and cyberattacks. The causes of war can vary, but they often involve disputes over territory, resources, or ideology. Money and power are huge components as well. War has been a constant throughout human history, with countless conflicts occurring in every corner of the globe.
Project Eldest Son
While some may argue that it’s acceptable to use any means necessary to achieve one’s goals in love and war, others may disagree with specific tactics. Are you allowed to sabotage your enemy while at war? Most people would say yes, anything to win. But where is the line? Throughout history, there have been various ways in which people have sabotaged their enemies during war. Here are a few examples:
● Spying and sabotage missions: Spies have played a significant role in wars throughout history. They infiltrate enemy territory and gather intelligence, carrying out sabotage missions. More on this in a minute.
● Disinformation campaigns: Propaganda and disinformation campaigns are used to spread false information and sow confusion among the enemy’s ranks. This can include fake news, rumors, conspiracy, and other forms of misinformation. Some say we are in the midst of this currently.
● Assassinations: Assassinations of key enemy figures have been used to destabilize the enemy’s leadership and sow chaos within their ranks.
● Cyberattacks: In modern times, cyberattacks have become a popular way to sabotage enemies. These attacks can target key infrastructure such as power grids and communication systems, causing widespread disruption and chaos.
● Guerrilla warfare: Guerrilla warfare is a tactic that involves small, mobile groups of fighters that carry out surprise attacks on enemy forces and then disappear back into the surrounding countryside. This type of warfare is particularly effective against larger, more conventional armies.
To me, nothing is off the table while at war. When it is you or the enemy, you have to do whatever you need to do to win, to survive. A lot of times, this means being more creative than your enemy.
Introducing the Studies and Observation Group
During the Vietnam War, something called the Studies and Observations Group (SOG) is a wild name for a bunch of outright savages, but that is weird history for you. This was a highly classified United States Special Operations Forces unit. It was formed in 1964 and consisted primarily of members from the Army Special Forces, the Navy SEALs, and the Air Force.
The SOG’s mission was to conduct clandestine operations behind enemy lines. These operations included intelligence gathering and sabotage, among others. The SOG used unconventional tactics and relied heavily on the element of surprise to carry out their missions. They often operated deep in enemy territory and faced significant risks, including capture, torture, and death.
One such operation SOG created was an innovative top-secret program called Project Eldest Son.
What is Project Eldest Son?
As SOG carried out other covert operations during the Vietnam War, they found tons of enemy ammunition at abandoned enemy camps. They traveled in small teams, so there was no way for them to remove it or secure the sites. The ammunition could not be destroyed, so they were unsure what to do with it. Then they had the idea to sabotage it, and Project Eldest Son was underway.
The project aimed to sabotage enemy ammunition by altering it so the bullets would explode or jam when fired. SOG believed this would lead to a loss of trust among the Viet Cong and cause them to question the reliability of their weapons. SOG developed various sabotage techniques, including bullets with altered powder loads, defective primers, and weakened casings. They also worked with manufacturers in the United States and overseas to produce ammunition that could be used for sabotage.
How it Worked
When the SOG found an abandoned enemy camp with ammo left behind, they planted their modified ammunition. Be careful only to replace one round per magazine, belt, or ammo can. The reason for this was that after it was fired and the gun exploded, it was less likely that the enemy would be able to find another round and identify the sabotage.
They would get clever in their subterfuge, also. One story is that they found an enemy sampan (a Chinese fishing boat), shot it full of bullet holes, and loaded it up with tainted ammunition cases. Splattered chicken blood all over it, then sent it downstream toward an enemy village, to the waiting arms of enemy soldiers.
As more and more of the sabotaged ammo got into enemy hands, it was time for the next phase of Project Eldest Son. Remember that this operation’s goal was never to kill the enemy but to sow doubt in the enemy that their weapons were faulty. Now they needed to capitalize on the rumors that enemy weapons were faulty and blowing up in enemy hands when they fired them. Since this operation was completely secret and not even American or Allied soldiers knew this was happening. The SOG warned Armed Forces Radio, TV, and the tabloid Army Times that many enemy AKs could blow up when fired. They did this hoping that word would get to our soldiers to protect them from using enemy weapons, but also to sow doubt among the Viet Cong further.
Covert No More
In 1969, word of Project Eldest Son started to leak in United States newspapers when SOG was still working its way through the total amount of sabotage ammo rounds that had been produced. The project was renamed Italian Green and Pole Green as it kept moving forward, but the Joint Chiefs decided to end it as it became more and more known. When it was completed, per a declassified report, SOG operatives had inserted 3,638 rounds of sabotaged 7.62 mm, plus 167 rounds of 12.7 mm and 821 rounds of 82 mm mortar ammunition.
Was Project Eldest Son a success? As more and more news of the operation spread, the enemy had to question endlessly which ammo was sabotaged and which wasn’t; in that sense, yes, it was. But like all covert operations, we will never know the full extent of the process or its true success.
As for the SOG, it was disbanded after the Vietnam War, but its military history and legacy live on as a model for special operations forces around the world.