Special Section: Where'd That Buffalo Go?

On Nov. 21, 1970, American commandos raided an installation 20 miles from Hanoi—the Son Tay prison—thought to house 60 American prisoners of war. The raid was heroically executed but was based on an egregious failure of intelligence: the prison had been closed at least three months earlier.

The raid produced a rather bizarre footnote generated by my warped sense of humor. An officer briefing me on the raid apologized for its failure. I told him not to apologize, joking that no doubt they had brought back a baby water buffalo, and the North Vietnamese were going crazy trying to figure out why...

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