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Interview with Logan D. Fitch [6/24/2012]

Al Ellis:

As we lawyers like to say, introduce yourself to the jury.

Logan D. Fitch:

My name is Logan Fitch. I've been asked to come here today as a guinea pig, I guess, for y'all to look at your Veteran's History Project. And that's why I'm here, to try to answer some questions and tell a little bit about my experience in the military.

Al Ellis:

Okay. First of all, on behalf of myself and on behalf of all of these people here, thank you for your service.

Logan D. Fitch:

Thank you.

Al Ellis:

We appreciate it. Why don't we start off and why don't you tell us about your family, marriage, daughters, grandsons; give us some background information.

Logan D. Fitch:

Okay. I am married to -- gosh, how long has it been -- a long time. We live in Fort Worth. I have two daughters, one of whom lives in Fort Worth as well, has a -- the reason that we came to Fort Worth, which was little Logan. And I have another daughter who just finished law school this year. She's still in Austin doing the Bar prep and will be coming back to Fort Worth in August. Both my wife and I are retired. She retired from Shell Oil Company, and I retired from the Army and then later, 25 years later, retired again from -- was in the financial services business for 25 years.

Al Ellis:

Tell me where you were born and raised.

Logan D. Fitch:

Well, I'm sorry to say that I was born in Colorado. My family, my parents, and all of my brothers and sisters were born in Texas, but they happened to be in Colorado when I was born. We moved back to Texas, to Plainview, Texas up in the panhandle, and that's where I was raised, where I went to high school and so on until I joined the Army.

Al Ellis:

Okay. And, Logan, having talked to you in advance before, I understand that you were a stellar high school student, you were a pillar of your community, and then you chose to serve your county by going into the Army; am I correct?

Logan D. Fitch:

Well, not exactly.

Al Ellis:

Well, why don't you tell me the truth then?

Logan D. Fitch:

I wasn't a very good kid. If you've ever seen The Last Picture Show, Plainview is a whole lot like The Last Picture Show, and there's not a heck of a lot to go on -- going on. And so I wasn't a good student, wasn't a very good kid. And in an effort to get away from that place up there, I decided I would join the Army when I was 17. I'd finished -- I didn't finish high school. I had finished 12 years. I didn't have enough credits, so I didn't graduate from high school when I joined the Army at 17.

Al Ellis:

How did you get in the Army at 17; How were -- how were you -- how were you able to do that?

Logan D. Fitch:

I think my parents were probably glad to get rid of me, too, and so they signed off.

Al Ellis:

All right. So when you got in the Army, what -- what did you do originally --

Logan D. Fitch:

I went to --

Al Ellis:

-- initially?

Logan D. Fitch:

-- Fort Carson, Colorado, which is in Colorado Springs, for basic training. And while I was in high school, I had worked as a mechanic's helper and really enjoyed that, and I thought that would be a great career field. So the Army sent me to mechanic's helper's school at -- at Fort Ord, California on the beautiful Carmel Peninsula -- Monterrey Peninsula and then to Germany. I spent three years in Germany. But I never worked as a mechanic. I became a clerk somehow and worked as a clerk in various roles there. I came back from Germany after three years and went to Colo -- went to Fort Irwin, California, which is down in the Mojave Desert. I was there for about a year and I got levied to go to Vietnam in 1965 and served there on the staff of General Westmoreland, who was the commander of the -- of the Military Assistance Command in Vietnam, MACV. And I --

Al Ellis:

Was that your first tour to Vietnam then?

Logan D. Fitch:

That was my first tour in '65 and '66. And again, I was there as a clerk and I was then stationed in Saigon.

Al Ellis:

All right. And then during this period of time that you were in the Army, did you instantly grow up and become -- decided that you wanted to make a career in the Army or did you -- did it take you awhile to do that?

Logan D. Fitch:

Well, my wife would tell you that I'm not through yet. But no, I -- I was pretty wild. I continued being a wild kid for my first tour. And -- and Germany's a great place to be a wild kid. You know, get all the beer you wanted cheaply and there's no age on drinking. But it -- it was just fun. But things started to get a little more serious when I went to Vietnam. And I didn't see any combat on that first tour. But, I don't know; I guess I grew up a little bit, and I had been urged from time to time to consider becoming an officer. And so I applied for officer candidate school while I was in Vietnam and -- and wanted to be an infantry officer. And so when I'd finished that first tour and went back to Fort Benning, Georgia to go to infantry officer candidate school.

Al Ellis:

Was there a turning point for you as far as your service up to that point is concerned that kind of -- you know, a person or a thing that happened that made you decide, It's time for me to get my life --

Logan D. Fitch:

I can't --

Al Ellis:

-- together?

Logan D. Fitch:

-- I can't say that there was this watershed event, Al. But I think clearly in Vietnam, even though I never saw any combat or anything like that, I became a more -- let's just say a more mature or more serious person and decided that I wanted to stay in the Army and that if I did -- if I was going to do that, then I wanted to be an officer and I wanted to be an infantry officer.

Al Ellis:

Why did you want to be an infantry officer? You had been in communication and mechanic schooling and stuff like that, why infantry?

Logan D. Fitch:

Because everything revolves around the infantry: the Air Force, the Navy. They wouldn't tell you that, but it's true. The artillery, everybody supports the infantry. And again, if -- I thought if I wanted to be -- if I was going to be in the Army and make a career of it, I wanted to be at the center of -- the center of the action.

Al Ellis:

Okay. I'm looking at your résumé and it looks like you went to officer candidate school in 1966, and you also attended airborne school at that time and then went to Germany and qualified to be special forces. So why don't you take us through your career up until your next tour in Vietnam?

Logan D. Fitch:

Okay. 1966, late 1966, I -- I was commissioned as a second lieutenant and went to airborne school, paratrooper school, and I was assigned without having -- without being special forces qualified. I'd never been to the school or anything like that, but I was assigned to a special forces group in southern Germany, but -- since I had some German language capability. I never made it there. I went to Berlin instead and was with what was then a classified unit. It was a special forces unit. And so I was trained, sort of on-the-job training, took courses and so on. And then over the year and a half or so that I was there became special forces qualified and could wear the green beret.

Al Ellis:

What does it mean to become special forces qualified? What -- just give us an example of the type of training that you had to endure in order to receive that honor.

Logan D. Fitch:

It -- it -- it -- thank you. It is an honor. It is for me. Special forces has a qualification course which they run at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and at which I was later an instructor. But basically, it's a lot of field craft. There's a lot of individual development. And I -- there, I would say, in terms of character, in terms of integrity, be -- be -- you know, the old "Say what you mean and mean what you say" type of stuff. Because special forces generally oper -- operates in a 12-man team. And if there's only 12 guys out there in the middle of nowhere, you really have to depend on each other. And if -- and if -- and if someone tells me something, I've got to trust them and -- and vice versa. So there's -- a lot of it is that. There's a lot of field craft. There's a lot of weapons training. There's a lot of communications. Some people specialize -- everybody gets some advanced medical training, but some people specialize and become almost as good as a doctor, and maybe in some cases even better, and then a lot of intelligence training as well.

Al Ellis:

Okay. I think a lot of us have seen a whole bunch of movies with Delta Forces and special forces and Ranger training and folks out in the field learning how to eat trees and bugs and snakes and survive with nothing to eat. Is that realistic?

Logan D. Fitch:

It is. It -- it -- it is. Again, in special forces the classic role is to go into a foreign country and work with indigenous people. And that means eating what they eat and drinking what they drink. In most cases there are language -- in -- no, not even most cases; in all cases now there are language requirements. You have to know a language, at least one language. And yeah, it -- it -- it's an excite -- it's very exciting, very fulfilling, but it can get a little rough. And sometimes you get tested to the point where you wonder if it's -- it -- it -- you know, Why am I doing this crap? But it -- it's very rewarding.

Al Ellis:

What --

Logan D. Fitch:

It really is.

Al Ellis:

What percentage of people, if you know, that begin special forces training actually complete the course?

Logan D. Fitch:

I don't know what it is now. It used to be something like 20 percent or so. I'm not sure what it is now.

Al Ellis:

Okay. All right. Looking at your résumé, it looks like in '68 and '69 you went to Vietnam, and then you were also there for a tour in '69 and '70. Why don't you tell the audience about your tours in Vietnam, what you did, what -- what your activities were.

Logan D. Fitch:

Well, I -- I was introduced to special forces, as I said, without having had any experience in special forces and not being qualified. But I became qualified and -- and I loved it. I thought it was just the greatest thing that ever happened, and I wanted to be a part of special forces. So I got to Vietnam. I got to Saigon, and they have a personnel office there. It's a -- a replacement depot-type stuff. And I was assigned as the assistant headquarters commandant in Da Nang. And I went to this person, this assignment officer, and I said, You know, I don't want to be a headquarters commandant guy. I want to be out in the field. I want to work -- you know, I -- I -- I've got friends in special forces. I know I can go to special forces. They've got a job for me, and on and on and on. And he said, Yeah, I hear that every day. Everybody that comes here assigned to MACV wants to be with the -- with the -- with an American unit or with special forces or something else. He said, You're going to be in MACV. He said, Now, I'll put you with the combat unit if that's what you want. I said, Absolutely. I don't want to be a -- a desk -- you know, I don't want to be a clerk, so I did. I went to a -- a province, which we would compare to a state in our country. And the province has several districts in it, which, ah, in a way, oh, would be sort of like counties or so. And so I became the advisor to the Regional Popular Force, which is a militia force of Vietnamese. Mainly, it's villagers who have rudimentary military training. And their job is to -- is to protect their own village. They don't go anywhere, you know, and so on. And then later, I became the operations officer or -- for the -- for the American team and also operations advisor to the province advisor, who would be similar to our governor.

Al Ellis:

What rank were you at that time?

Logan D. Fitch:

I was a captain.

Al Ellis:

I'm going to put you on the spot. How were the Vietnamese as fighters and soldiers?

Logan D. Fitch:

I like the Vietnamese. I think they're very warm people. They're industrious. And I like them and I respect them even to this day. There's an old saying that there aren't any bad soldiers; there are only bad leaders. And I believe that to be true, that if -- if a soldier, whether he's an American soldier or a Vietnamese or whatever he or she is, if they have good leadership, they'll be good soldiers.

Al Ellis:

Enough said. How about the text tour? It looks like you were with the 503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade. What was your -- what was that tour like?

Logan D. Fitch:

Okay. I still -- I still hadn't been able to serve in combat. I did see some combat in that second tour with MACV, but it was sort of few and far between, and I wanted to serve with an American unit. I wanted to be -- you know, all the -- all the time I'd been commissioned, I'd been trained to -- to -- to lead troops in combat, and I wanted to do that. And so I took on another tour. I went up to a -- a different part of Vietnam up in the northern part and joined the 173rd Airborne Brigade, which is -- was at that time a pretty elite unit. And I -- I had a piece of paper from the brigade commander that said, We're going to make -- I said, I'm -- I'll come up there and I will -- I'll take another tour, but I want to be a company commander. They said, Okay. No problem. Well, I -- I didn't get to be a company commander immediately, but I think I spent about a month in -- with the brigade, which was good. It got me acclimated. And then I assumed command of B Company, Second Battalion 503rd and commanded that company for the rest of my tour there. Initially, we were on what we called a pacification project; that is we had my company split out among a number of small villages, and we were there to provide security for those villages and to help the Vietnamese residents of those villages defend themselves. Later on, we went into a more of a combat role where we went up into Indian country, as they call it, and mixed it up a little bit.

Al Ellis:

Tell me about mixing it up a little bit. How did that go for you, and how did it go for your troops and your company?

Logan D. Fitch:

I think Teddy Roosevelt, after being in Cuba, I think in 1898 or something like that, he said, Nothing is more -- I don't know if I -- I can't quote it directly, but it's something like, Nothing is more exhilarating than having been shot at without success. And I -- you know, I -- people sometimes at the Vietnam Memorial -- I said, No, I enjoyed Vietnam. I did. I mean, there's some ugly things that happened. You know, I mean, people died; people got hit, wounded, and so on. But I devoted my career. I decided to have a career in leading infantry combat troops. And I got to do it, and I did it successfully, and I'm extremely proud of it. We mixed it up a lot with the North Vietnamese units. By that time they were reconstituting after having discover -- suffered about 50 percent casualties during Tet of 1968. And so they were beginning to try to make inroads in large formations, large North Vietnamese Army formations. And so we worked -- mixed it up with them.

Al Ellis:

How would you describe the North Vietnamese as soldiers?

Logan D. Fitch:

They are a whole lot like Soviets, the old Soviets, in that they are -- they're tough as hell. The problem with the Soviet Army at the time and also with the Vietnamese is they -- they -- you know, if you say, Okay. I want you to move from this point to that point and don't let anything stop you, they'll do it. But if -- if -- if they run into an ob -- obstacle, for example, and they could very easily detour around it and get to their objective, they can't do that. They're very -- they're very structured, no initiative on the part of the individual soldier or on the smaller unit leaders. But they were well armed. They were well trained, and they were -- they're tough guys. I respected them.

Al Ellis:

Okay.

Logan D. Fitch:

Still do.

Al Ellis:

Looking through your résumé again, I notice that you received a Silver Star, Bronze Star for Valor. Were those medals awarded to you in Vietnam? Tell us about that.

Logan D. Fitch:

Okay. That second tour -- I don't know. Anybody ever heard of Tet 1968?

Al Ellis:

Yeah.

Logan D. Fitch:

Okay. Well, Tet 1968 was a -- was an attempt by the North Vietnamese Government to overrun -- North Vietnamese Army to overrun South Vietnam, and it failed miserably. So Tet of 1969, a year later, they tried it again, not a -- not -- not quite as -- not even close in terms of the magnitude of the effort. But I was with some Vietnamese soldiers and -- actually, it was North Vietnamese that had invaded one of these little villages down there and tried to capture the village, and we repelled them. And I got a little wound and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart for that. Then later in -- in -- when I was in the 173rd, my third tour up there, I won a Silver Star for going to the rescue of some of my soldiers that were in contact and having some trouble, and I was wounded there again.

Al Ellis:

Thank you again for your service, sir. You got back from Vietnam. And it looks like you went to Fort Benning Rangers School, graduated with honor. What -- what is Ranger school. Tell us about that. How is that different from special forces?

Logan D. Fitch:

They are very different. Special forces tends to have a more mature individual, particularly, especially among the noncommissioned officers, sergeants, and they are really the back -- well, the -- I would also -- always say that the noncommissioned officer is the backbone of the Army anyway, but especially in special forces. At that time officers tended to rotate in and out of special forces. I was an infantry officer, so I could go into special forces for a tour and then I had to go back and pay my dues to the infantry and so on. That's not the case anymore, but that used to be it. But the NCOs, on the other hand, the sergeants, stayed in that unit, and they would have, in some cases, you know, decades, tens of years of experience and just, just absolutely -- overworked word, but awesome, absolutely awesome. And the Rangers, Rangers are formed -- it -- it -- well, back then we didn't have Ranger battalions like we have now. We had them in World War II, we had them in Korea, and we had some Ranger companies in Vietnam. But Ranger school was primarily for small unit infantry leaders, and they tried to, I guess, simulate the stresses of leadership in combat by making you miserable, by starving you to death and working you to death. And I enjoyed it. It -- it was fun. I'm not real smart.

Al Ellis:

So you enjoyed being starved to death and worked to death?

Logan D. Fitch:

Yeah, I'm not very smart. But, no, we -- it was fun, and it's a -- it's a fine course for small unit leaders, combat leaders. Subsequent to that, of course, they started forming Ranger battalions, and still to this day have three of them. And they are formed as light infantry. And not all of the Rangers, all of the people populating the companies and the battalions are Ranger qualified. Most of them are, but a lot of the younger people are not, at least not yet. But they are probably the finest small infantry, small unit infantry in the world. All right? They're outstanding. They're -- they're a bunch of, you know, 19- to 20-, 23-, 24-year-old kids that, again, you tell them, I want you to go from here to there. Don't get in their way. It won't be healthy. But they're fine people. We in special forces, the Green Berets, we have a lot more class than that. You know, we -- we tend to -- we tend to -- and I'm both, so I -- I can make fun of them -- but we -- we don't always engage in direct combat, although that can be one of our missions. Our mission -- the classic mission of special forces is to advise foreign or indigenous units. Right after 9/11, 500 -- no, actually, about 300 special forces people went into Afghanistan and using the Afghan military units, they defeated the Taliban. 300 Americans, 300. And that's a classic special forces role. Another role is direct action, such as we'll talk about a little later when we went into Iran. But the killing of Osama bin Laden a year or so ago was a direct action mission: Go in, get a job done, get out.

Al Ellis:

After Ranger school, it looks like you spent some time in Fort Benning -- by the way, when you graduated from Ranger school, what was your rank?

Logan D. Fitch:

Captain.

Al Ellis:

All right. And then it looks like you did some time in Fort Benning, actually went to college, got your undergraduate degree. Tell us about that period of time before you --

Logan D. Fitch:

Okay.

Al Ellis:

-- shipped out to Germany.

Logan D. Fitch:

When I was in Vietnam -- well, I won't get into a lot of technicalities -- but I was integrated into the regular Army, which was pretty unusual for someone that doesn't have a college degree, and so I had requested assignment to be an instructor in the Ranger department when I left Vietnam the last time. And, of course, you got to go to Ranger school first. I had not been to Ranger school at that time. So I did go to Ranger school and was assigned there as an instructor in the Ranger department, but I only stayed there a few months. And then I went to what they called infantry officer advanced course, which is 9-month course in Fort Benning where captains mostly and some majors are taught how to function at a higher level than say a company or so, you know, a battalion staff and a brigade staff. And so I -- I -- I completed that course and then did another course there for another month in a nuclear weapons analysis course. And then I left Fort Benning to go to Europe again.

Al Ellis:

Okay. You got your degree, it looks like, from Alabama?

Logan D. Fitch:

Oh, I forgot about that.

Al Ellis:

Yeah. Forgot about that. Tell us about that.

Logan D. Fitch:

Yeah. I -- I didn't have a college degree, as I said; in fact, I didn't even finish high school. But the Army said, Look, if you're going to be a regular Army officer, we've got to get you educated. So find yourself a place to go. And they gave -- I had two calendar years to complete a degree. And I applied to a few places, and I had a friend at the University of Alabama. And I knew there was a guy there that was a pretty good football coach and I'm a football fan. So I said, I'll just go to Alabama. And I did. I graduated there with a degree in international relations and a minor in German. Met my wife there. Spent -- spent two years and got a degree.

Al Ellis:

Okay. And you had not gotten your high school diploma, correct?

Logan D. Fitch:

Still haven't.

Al Ellis:

All right. You got a GED?

Logan D. Fitch:

Yeah.

Al Ellis:

All right. Let me digress a little bit for the audience. What's the difference between being in the regular Army and the reserve Army? Explain that to us.

Logan D. Fitch:

Well, you could explain that.

Al Ellis:

You can explain it. I'm the interviewer.

Logan D. Fitch:

The reserve is -- by the way, this gentleman has a fairly distinguished military record himself. The reserves are -- the regular Army is a relatively small cadre of soldiers, primarily officers -- I'm sorry. In the officer corps, they comprise the -- the real corps of the Army. And then to the extent that more people are needed, say, at a time of combat or war or something like that, reservists are called up. Well, when I was first commissioned, I was commissioned as a reserve officer, which meant that I would serve a tour and then, you know, if the Army decided they liked me or they still -- the main thing is they needed me and a bunch of other dummies like me and -- and so they would keep me on. But to get a regular Army commission means that you're a professional soldier and that you have certain longevity entitlements, and so on and so on and so on. So it's -- I don't know really how you would draw an analogy to a civilian situation, but -- but it's -- it was quite an acquired thing to -- to get a regular Army commission.

Al Ellis:

Especially for somebody that had no high school education and had gotten their college diploma late in life, correct?

Logan D. Fitch:

Well, I got --

Al Ellis:

Do you agree?

Logan D. Fitch:

I got commissioned in the regular Army before I went to college.

Al Ellis:

Okay.

Logan D. Fitch:

And, In fact, that's why the Army said, You got to go, boy, and get educated and -- and -- and said, We'll give you two years.

Al Ellis:

Gotcha. All right. So you go to Germany. And it looks like in Germany, if I'm looking at your résumé correctly, you start -- got involved in being a free fall parachutist. And tell us more about Germany and that.

Logan D. Fitch:

Well, while I was at the University of Alabama, I went to the skydiving school there, and the -- they have a little club. I had a lot of fun, really enjoyed it. I went to a place called Mainz, Germany and I was a company commander again for a period -- for about six months or so there and finally got out of that and went to the special forces assignment in southern Germany that I was supposed to have gone to in 1966. So I wound up down there still a captain, commander of two different A teams, one of which was the HALO team; that is the High Altitude Low Opening, where we jump out of airplanes at high altitudes with oxygen and free fall down to about 2,000 feet and open the parachute. It's a means of infiltration, but it's also a lot of fun. So I became pretty well involved in that and served three years there in Bad Tölz, which is down south of Munich, Germany and did a lot of free fall stuff. We -- actually, like the Golden -- Golden Knights, the Army parachute team, goes all over the world but primarily United States. We -- my team actually had the mission of going to a lot of countries in Europe and putting on parachute demonstrations. We jumped in a lot of air shows. It doesn't have a whole lot of military application, but it was fun, and it's -- it's a show-the-flag type thing. I jumped with, I guess, about every Western European country's military: Russians, Poles, Czechs, Rumanians. I can't remember any others, but it was -- it was pretty neat.

Al Ellis:

How many jumps altogether?

Logan D. Fitch:

I don't know. Seven or 800. I've got 600 free falls and I don't know how many static-line jumps.

Al Ellis:

I'm looking at Military Free Fall Badge, RVN Parachutist Badge, German Parachutist Badge, French Parachutist Badge, Danish Parachutist Badge, Belgian Parachutist Badge, Spanish Parachutist Badge. How did you get all those different badges from those countries?

Logan D. Fitch:

It's -- we do the same for them. It's sort of an interchange between military forces, like when they would come to Bad Tölz and we'd -- we'd -- in fact, I remember putting Iranians -- back when we were still friends with them, I remember putting them through jump school in -- in Bad Tölz. And so they had Iranian wings and they also had American wings. We would award them -- award them American wings. So I jumped in all those countries with those military forces and I was awarded their parachute badge.

Al Ellis:

Okay. It looks like when you were in Germany, you also took advantage of your opportunity to get educated and received an MS from the University of Southern California. Tell us about that.

Logan D. Fitch:

They -- they have Army Education Centers. They're primarily there to -- to help soldiers learn a particular skill beyond what they're already doing or perhaps to finish their -- their high school work or so on. We instituted a program there -- and University of Southern California was the one that actually executed the program -- to come over and they would send adjunct professors over for about two months. And those who wanted to do so would go -- would take a class, very intensive for two months, and then we'd have a break and they'd send someone else. So a lot of the teachers that were there in the military -- in the -- in the DOD schools, the Department of Defense schools. And so -- and so -- so I got a Master's Degree from Southern Cal while I was there.

Al Ellis:

Okay. Let me divert again a little bit. You were in the military when it started as a draft military?

Logan D. Fitch:

I didn't -- no, I was a volunteer.

Al Ellis:

You were a volunteer. But there were still draftees, correct?

Logan D. Fitch:

Correct.

Al Ellis:

And then you saw the changeover to an all-volunteer military. Which is better and why?

Logan D. Fitch:

I would have to say they're both good. That's a -- that's a -- an equivocal answer. But I think the volunteer Army is better in the sense that the people want to be there, for the most part. They're -- they're there because they want to be there. They're dedicated. The standards are much, much higher today than they were when I joined the Army. They would not have let me in the Army because I didn't have a high school degree and I had -- you know, I wasn't a nice boy. On the other hand, the fact that draftees had to come into the military and had to serve for usually two years, I think was wonderful because it got a more -- a better representation of our society in the military services rather than what has become now more of a -- almost a -- not mercenary, but Spartan-type military where everybody is professional. It's more mercenary than it was. It's -- it does not represent the population at large. And I think that's a big loss.

Al Ellis:

Okay. Thank you. You came back from Germany, went to Fort Bragg special forces school and then started some special operations with a Detachment-Delta. Take us through that part of your career then, if you will.

Logan D. Fitch:

I went back to Fort Bragg from Germany. This would have been in 1976. And I went to the FAO course, Foreign Area Operations -- Foreign Area Officers course. It was a six-month course at Fort Bragg designed to -- that's where the -- the attachés, the Defense attachés, the Army attachés, and so on are trained. And so I spent six months in that school. And then, since I'd just come back from overseas, they wouldn't let me go to a -- to a military attaché assignment, so I was assigned to the special forces school which did the training. And I was in charge of all the weapons training for special forces. And I did that for about six months or so. That was my boss, who was the director of the school, was named Charlie Beckwith, Colonel Charlie Beckwith. And I had some -- a bunch of friends, of course, that I've known through the years in the school as well. And I became aware that Charlie Beckwith was trying to form this so-called special unit. And so I regularly reminded him that I'd like to be a part of it and so on. And as it turned out, I guess -- I'm trying to think of my dates now. I think it was in October of 1977 -- is that right? Yes. 1977 that the unit was formed -- officially formed, and I joined them a couple of months later and went through all the selection and so on. The reason the unit was formed -- and it's -- it's far, far more than that now. I was out there a couple of months ago at Fort Bragg and --

Al Ellis:

Let me interrupt you.

Logan D. Fitch:

Yeah.

Al Ellis:

The unit is called what?

Logan D. Fitch:

Officially, it's the First Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta. It's commonly known as Delta Force, which at the time was put together as a hostage rescue force. That's all -- that was our charter is to free -- I'm trying to remember it exactly -- free hostages from armed captors through the use of force. They used to be top secret, but not any more. And so we trained. We took two years to recruit and train. I think at the end of -- by the end of that time we had slightly less than a hundred people that had gone through the selection course, had gone through the training course and were actually assigned to operational squadrons. Our first stand-up was a -- was a squadron commanded by a friend of mine. I was the executive officer or the second in command. And then when we got enough people together to form a second squadron known -- it became known as B Squadron, I was the squadron commander and commanded that squadron for the rest of my time there.

Al Ellis:

How many in a squadron, about?

Logan D. Fitch:

I don't know. I'm not sure.

Al Ellis:

How many people expressed a desire to become part of Delta Force, wanted to go through the course, got screened, and how many actually made it into the final Delta Squadron? What percent?

Logan D. Fitch:

Oh, infinitesimal.

Al Ellis:

Small.

Logan D. Fitch:

We looked at 14,000 people, and we got about a hundred -- less -- little less than a hundred. Now, all of them didn't come in and go through the course, but we did some very serious records screening and so on and so on. And some of them said, No, I don't want any part of that. Some of them -- a lot of them came in and I would guess that maybe, again, 10 percent of those who actually arrived to begin the -- the assessment and selection courses made it through. Some of them didn't make it through the psychological part, and they were booted. But out of -- I remember the number 14,000 and we had less than a hundred. I don't know what that percentage is. It's not very big.

Al Ellis:

To become part of the Delta Force squadron, was there addition combat training over and above the special forces Ranger training that you guys might have had?

Logan D. Fitch:

Yeah. Let me -- let me tell you. That may help you understand where Delta comes from.

Al Ellis:

We've got plenty of time.

Logan D. Fitch:

In 1976 you may recall -- probably don't recall -- but there was a hostage terrorist incident where some Middle Eastern terrorists took -- highjacked a Lufthansa 737 and they had a planeload of hostages. And they wound up in Somalia, in Mogadishu, which has a lot of resonance with some people, as well. The Germans, unbeknownst to anybody, had formed after -- after the Munich massacre they had formed a counterterror force. And so this was the first time that Germany had operated outside the boundaries of Germany proper. And they went to Somalia and attacked -- assaulted the aircraft, killed the terrorists -- they might -- I'm not sure they killed all of them. I think that one girl survived. But they freed the hostages. Oh, it was a wonderful thing. And President Carter, from what I'm told, turned to his military people and said, Can we do that? Sure. Anybody can do that. Well, of course they couldn't. It's highly, highly specialized. So, as it happens, this guy Charlie Beckwith, Colonel Beckwith, my boss, had been trying for years and years and years to get an American unit formed along the lines of the British Special Air Service Regiment, in which Colonel Beckwith had served as an exchange officer back in the '60s. And, of course, once the military geniuses had said, Yeah, we can do that, they said, Well, we'd better figure out how to get it done. And so that's what happened. That's where Delta came from, as a result of that mission or that operation in Somalia -- in Mogadishu, Somalia. So again, we trained for two years. The kind of training we did was extensive, intensive firearms training. There are no better shooters in the world than Delta people. I mean they are phenomenal. I must have fired -- if anybody's a pretty serious shooter -- in fact, if I tell you that I probably fired a million rounds in that three-year period... It's just incredible. We fired more ammunition in a month than the 82nd Airborne Division fired in a year. That's true. So we were -- we were highly proficient in firearms. We studied explosives. We studied breaching. We had -- very, very dependent on intelligence. We had an intelligence cell, had liaison officers from some of the other Government agencies, CIA, FBI, Secret Service, and so on. And I -- and -- and I mean I had people -- I'd send them off to learn how to drive a semi truck. I would send them to certain places to learn how to refuel airplanes, some of them -- you may have seen it -- handling baggage because that's one way to get close to a hijacked airplane is to refuel it, to be on the crew that refuels and that sort of thing. And so we trained for two years. And at the end of that period, would have been around the end of October 1979, we -- the Government said, We've spent a lot of money. We've given you two years. So they made up this little assessment test to see whether we could -- we could actually perform the kinds of missions that we were supposed to be given. And we did that at -- down at the -- by Savannah, Georgia. We did a little scenario with two hostage situations. I was one of the squadron commanders. The other one was a guy named Pete Schoomaker, who recently retired as Chief of Staff of the Army, a four-star general. So I think Pete had the very best people.

Al Ellis:

What -- what rank were you as the squadron commander?

Logan D. Fitch:

Major.

Al Ellis:

All right. I -- I'm looking at the audience. I see some gray beards, and so they probably remember the Iran hostage -- hostage crisis. I see lot of young people who probably never heard of it in their life. Why don't you first tell us what was the Iran hostage crisis, and then we'll get into Operation Eagle Claw.

Logan D. Fitch:

Okay. The shah of Iran was a very big friend of the United States, mainly because we gave him a lot of money, and we gave him all kinds of neat toys: fighter -- fighter planes and tanks and all this kind of stuff. He was -- he was somewhat of a despot. He was not well liked in his country. And particularly around this time, Islam became -- began to become resurgent. And you may have heard of a gentleman named Ayatollah Khomeini, who was in exile in Paris, France, having been exiled from the shah's country. Well, the shah got sick, got cancer and he wanted to come to the United States for cancer treatment. And Carter and his people said, No, that's not a good idea. And so they kept putting it off. Finally, I think he did finally come to the United States for some medical treatment for a very short period of time. But he had -- but the bottom line is: He had left Iran. I think he was in Panama for a period of time. It doesn't -- doesn't really matter. When he left or after he left, Khomeini came back in and, of course, was received by the Iranian people as the savior and all this sort of thing. Well, the embassy in Tehran, which is the capital of Iran, was invaded I guess you'd say or assaulted or overrun by, supposedly, a bunch of students who were rebelling against the American imperialists. And they wanted to tear down the bed of spies and so on and so on and so on. So they actually occupied the American embassy, which was a violation of every international law that's ever been written, and they took everyone in there hostage, all the Americans. There were 60-some of them as I recall. Some of them were later released, some of the women and the black soldiers -- the black Marines and the black people that were there, they were released. But -- and so they kept 53 hostages inside the embassy, plus there were three more people -- I can't remember his name now. In the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he was the chargé of -- I know his name; I know him, but I can't think of his name. I'm sorry. So we had -- we, the American government, had 56 people inside a hostile place, and they were being held hostage by students, militants, whatever you want to call them, one of whom was what's his name, Mahmoud?

Al Ellis:

Ahmadinejad?

Logan D. Fitch:

Achmed -- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I actually worked with a guy named Mark Bowden, who's written a number of things, wrote Blackhawk Down and so on. And Mark went to Iran and interviewed a lot of the people who were hostage holders, and he -- he could not get to interview Ahmadinejad, but he -- he had pictures. And he said he was -- he was one of the guys. Let's see.

Al Ellis:

So what was Operation Eagle Claw?

Logan D. Fitch:

All right. This happened on -- I believe on the 4th of November. We actually concluded our assessment and evaluation exercise the night before.

Al Ellis:

What year are we talking about?

Logan D. Fitch:

We're talking about 1979.

Al Ellis:

Okay.

Logan D. Fitch:

We'd been in existence two years. We had -- we'd been evaluated by everybody in the world, literally. And we were relaxing. And S-2, the intelligence officer, the Delta intelligence officer, came in and said, The Iranians just captured our embassy in Tehran. So I mean we hadn't even been validated for one day yet. Well, I personally, and, in fact, most of us did not think that that would be a mission for Delta. Why? Because Delta's mission was at the time to go into a country with a government that would either, you know, support us or at least look the other way; a permissive environment, in other words, is what we called it. Well, Iran was not a permissive environment. It was a -- a city of millions and millions -- I don't know -- 6 or 7 million people, way the hell out in the middle of Iran and miles and miles from anything close, anything friendly. So I actually had programmed or planned for some winter warfare training for my squadron. And as soon as the evaluation was over, we bent to Breckenridge, Colorado and went skiing. That was winter warfare training. And -- and I got a call, said, We've got an aircraft on the way to pick you up. And this -- this sneaky -- it was one of our other Government agencies picked me up and took me through Iraq line, and all this stuff and went to the training facility in Virginia, and we began planning -- and later my squadron came back, too -- we began planning to go into Iran to rescue those hostages simply because there was no one else, nothing. Unless you're prepared, you know, to put an airborne division and several armored divisions in there, there's nothing else. So we began working up a plan to eliminate -- you know, to get in there and free those hostages.

Al Ellis:

Tell us about the plan and the training you did to try to get the job done.

Logan D. Fitch:

The -- the crux of the problem was this -- it was very simple: In hostage rescue situations you have to surprise; you have to have surprise. But surprise is counted in seconds. In other words, if we're being held hostage in this room by someone, if someone's going to rescue us, they need to be immediately adjacent to this room, maybe outside the door, so that when they get in here with a great deal of violence, they can eliminate the threat to us. And that's seconds. Now, if you're talking about surprise in World War II when we were going to do D-Day, invade the continent of Europe, I mean, surprise there was measured in days and even weeks and months because there was a -- there was a different -- different deal. So we needed to get from where -- whatever point we left from to a position outside where we thought the hostages were being held inside that embassy compound. And that was easier said than done. I'll talk about the compound itself in a minute. But the logistics of getting us from here to there were -- were horrible because at the time we did not have any aircraft, any fixed -- any helicopters that could launch from anywhere to get us there. We wanted to go over ground out of Turkey. Turks wouldn't let us use their place. And again, the bottom line is: The helicopters did not have the range or the legs to get from the launch site to the embassy compound or near -- somewhere near the city of Tehran. So what we finally devised was that we would have this thing called Desert One. Desert One was a desolate place out in the middle of nowhere in the Iranian desert. And we had sent a guy in there, flown in by the CIA in a Twin Otter that had -- that had landed, actually landed at night and spent several hours there taking soil samples and so on to see whether we could land large aircraft there. C-130s is what we -- what we wound up landing. And so the plan, then, was that that would be a fuelling site. We would all assemble at Desert One. Helicopters would come off a carrier in the gulf, the Persian Gulf, and land there. The -- those -- those C-130's, those fixed-wing aircraft, would refuel the helicopters. We would load on the helicopters. We would fly up to a place about 50 miles or so east-northeast of the city of Tehran, which was a pretty rough place, where we could hide out for the rest of the night and then the following day. And then the following night we would drive -- literally drive into the city of Tehran. Now, how are we going to do that? We'd asked the CIA to get us some people in -- in-country, some assets. They didn't have anybody in-country. Well, that's not true. They had three guys, and they were all captives; they were all hostages in -- in Tehran. So the CIA wasn't a whole lot of help. We finally sent a retired Army officer in, named Dick Meadows, who's now dead, now deceased, a wonderful man. And he went in undercover, bought some trucks, rented a warehouse, all the stuff that -- that we were supposed to use to get in. So the plan then would be that we would on that second night load up these trucks, drive up to the compound. Now, the compound itself was 28 acres, a big place. It had -- gosh, I don't know -- all kinds of buildings, quite a few buildings in it. There was a chancellery building, which was where the work of the embassy is done. There were guest quarters. There were quarters for the deputy chief of mission. There were barracks. There was a motor pool. It was a big place. We would -- we would drive up -- right alongside the compound. We would -- there was -- we knew there was a sentry there. And I was in the lead truck, and I was going to take that sentry out with a little silenced machine gun, submachine gun and throw it away because it wasn't very good. Then we were going to climb over that eight-foot fence and disperse to our -- our projected rally points or -- or release points. And then my squadron had been tagged to assault the chancellery building itself. Bear in mind we didn't know where -- where the hostages where, so we had to be prepared to search every building on that compound. Right across the street was a huge soccer field, so we had another element of -- of the unit that went across there to secure that soccer field. And on signal, on call, those helicopters would take off from what we were calling Desert Two, that place up in the -- that desolate place up in the mountains. They would fly one ship at a time into that soccer field, and we would, after having released the hostages, move across that street, load them up, and take them to an airfield, which you hear about now called Qom. It's spelled Q-O-M. And they've got a nuclear development facility now, but it used to be and it probably still is the holy city of -- of Iran. A Ranger -- a reinforced Ranger company was going to go in and secure that airfield, Manzariyeh. Yeah, that's right; Manzariyeh was the name of the airfield. And then the helicopters would shuttle us down there. We'd get on -- we'd destroy the helicopters, load on C-141s and fly out. That's --

Al Ellis:

Let me interrupt you.

Logan D. Fitch:

-- the plan.

Al Ellis:

That's the plan. How many times did you guys, the Delta Force, the squadrons, practice this plan, get ready for it?

Logan D. Fitch:

Hundreds, hundreds. We would -- we had sev -- as I recall, we had seven full-blown rehearsals where everybody involved went through what they were doing. We -- I spent so many hours on a C-130 I should have been drawing flight pay. But we would fly to either Nevada or in some cases Arizona out in the desert out there, the Nevada test site and so on, and practice in those desolate desert environments. And we rehearsed and we rehearsed and we rehearsed.

Al Ellis:

What period of time was the rehearsing taking place before you guys actually started out on the mission?

Logan D. Fitch:

Okay. Somewhere in December of 1977, I remember we briefed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, an Air Force general, David Jones. And at that time we had -- we told him we had an emergency assault plan prepared. And it was -- it was really to salvage a bad situation. It was not -- not -- not something I wanted to do. But from that point the JCS started, you know, loosening stuff up. We began to get other things, and we developed this plan that I described earlier. And along about March, I would say, felt pretty confident. And finally, we were given the go in middle April and executed on the 24th-5th of April, 1980.

Al Ellis:

Yeah. You said December of '77. I think you meant '79?

Logan D. Fitch:

Yeah, I said '77? I'm sorry, '79.

Al Ellis:

That's okay. All right. So you're ready to go. What happened?

Logan D. Fitch:

Everything went as planned. We flew to Egypt. We stayed in that old Mig base there at Wadi Kena. We flew the assault force from Egypt to an island off of the Oman called Masirah, which is in use today by the Brits and by our country, our people. And from there we loaded onto C-130s. One -- the 130 I was on -- Colonel Beckwith and I were on this lead bird. We took off from Masirah shortly before dark, and by the time we got to the coastline of Iran, it was -- it was already dark. So we got feet -- what they call "feet dry," go from water to land, after dark. Somewhere along that time there was a carrier -- I'm not -- they've changed it once. I don't remember the name of it. But we launched eight helicopters, CH-53s -- RH-53s to be -- to be exact, off that helicopter -- off that carrier. And they were to fly to Desert One and -- and be refuelled. So I remember we landed. And it -- and things -- you know, Murphy went to work right away. This was supposed to be a desolate part of Iran that hardly had anybody ever come through it. Well, that wasn't true because there was a big fuel truck coming up behind where we landed. And -- and I told you when that team went in to assess or to make an assessment of the landing area, they'd implanted some beacons, which were interrogated by the C-130, a Combat Talon, that we flew in on. And they turned the beacons on, and they landed. Everything was cool. There was a fuel truck coming up. And we had Rangers that had -- that were going into -- we had, I think, five of them that were -- that were with us that were there for security. And they came off the aircraft first, went down there and tried to stop that truck. Well, the truck wouldn't stop, so what Rangers do is they kill them. Now, they didn't kill anybody, but they blew up the truck. And so here we are on this clandestine mission into a hostile country, and we've got a fuel truck. It looked like, you know, the 4th of July out there.

Al Ellis:

That kind of eliminates surprise; is that what you're telling me?

Logan D. Fitch:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. But not really. I'll try to -- remind me. I'll come to that. But anyway, we -- obviously, in your planning you try to -- you try to prepare for anything that can happen. And we -- we did. We had said, Look, if somebody happens upon us -- we know it's remote, but if they do, then here's what we're going to do. And the -- and the Rangers did perfectly what they expected -- they were supposed to do. Also, by that time I'm coming off the aircraft, and there's this bus there. It's a big, modern Mercedes bus, lights on. What in the hell is this? And it was -- it was -- this is around midnight or so. And you have to understand the C-130 is a four-engine turboprop, big airplane. And we're in the desert, and it's throwing up sand and stuff, and I'm trying to find my way across through the sand and out of that prop wash, and there's this bus. Well, there were 43 Iranian peasants on there -- well, two -- a driver, assistant driver, and 41 passengers. And they just happened to be driving from one place to another; it was an overnight deal. So, again, the Rangers had stopped the bus so my people took -- my squadron took control of those guys. And so that was another "friction" as -- "friction" as they -- as they say in the fog of war. But we handled it. I mean we did good. We did real good. We -- we had them -- and our thought was: We're going to go ahead with this mission and we will take these Iranians out with us or with the aircraft when they -- when they fly back to the Oman. We'll keep them overnight, and then when those -- when the Rangers come in the following night, we'll bring them with us and just set them free. We'll shoot up the bus and make it look like bandits -- bandits did something and so on, which -- which was entirely plausible. And also the -- we never, never heard anything from those -- from the drivers of that fuel truck, so we figured that they were black market-type guys, anyway. Nobody ever heard a word out of them. So on schedule here comes the next C-130 and the next C-130. I think we had six of them on the ground at various times. Everything is perfect. We've got all the fuel birds. They had -- they had C-130s with 9,000-gallon fuel bladders laid out in the cargo compartment, and that was to refuel the helicopters. But we didn't have any helicopters, so we waited and we waited and we waited. No helicopters. We had radio silence so we didn't have radio communications with them. I think it was about -- and -- and in this sort of thing, you have what they call an opsched, an operation schedule. And you say, Well, this time is critical time; Helicopters need to be there by what we call the drop-dead time. And if they're not there, then the mission's over. Well, we disregarded that. We stayed 45 minutes after drop-dead time for the helicopters to arrive. Two of them came on, landed. I went over to them. I happened to be the senior officer that was right where they landed. And I started talking to them. I said, Where's the -- where are the rest of the guys? You know, we launched eight helicopters. He says, I don't know. We got lost and we just now got here. And you don't know what we've been through. I said, I don't want this crap. I don't want to hear it. I didn't want to hear it. I said, What's the status of your aircraft and what's the status of your crew? He said, Well, you know, we've had a pretty rough time getting here. And I didn't know about this big dust storm that they'd flown through at the time, and, frankly, it -- it should not have mattered. But this is a critical point. One of those helicopter pilots told me that he had had a hydraulic failure in his rotor system, but he said, It's not a big deal because there's a backup system, and it's not uncommon; it happens very often. So I'm ready to go if we can get -- but we had to have six helicopters. So far we've got two. Well, two more came in, and I got another sob story. And then two more came in. And on that sixth helicopter was the commander, a Marine lieutenant colonel of the helicopter unit. And I -- I said, We're late as hell. We've got to get moving here. I briefed him on his other two ships -- other four ships, two flights of two. And I said, Here's what you've got. And he just said, Well, you know, okay. I'm going to wander around and take a look. Come on. We've got to move. So we're -- we're loading on the helicopters getting ready to fly to Desert Two and -- when my executive officer comes to me and says, We're aborting the mission. We're supposed to get off the helicopter and go get on a 130 to be evacuated. I said, What are you -- I don't know what you're talking about. He said, Colonel Beckwith said. I said, You -- you keep the squadron on the airplane right here. I'm going to go find Colonel Beckwith. I'll talk to him and then we'll -- we'll see. So I went to talk to Colonel Beckwith. I said, What's going on? What's changed? And he said, Well, the skipper -- which they called the Marine guy -- said he only -- only has five mission-capable aircraft, and we can't make it. And we knew that beforehand. Again, it's on the drop-dead deal; it's one of those things that if -- if we don't have six helicopters -- we needed that much to lift the rescue force -- then we have to cancel; we have to abort. And so he said, Do you think we can go with five? I said, Sir, we've been through this. You know, we've -- we've -- we've scrubbed this thing backwards and forwards in the -- in the calm light of day, and we can't go forward without six helicopters. He said, Okay. We'll abort. So I went back and got my squadron off the helicopters, went over to a C-130, which was what we called the fuel bird -- fuel bird -- it has a fuel bladder on it. And he was running low on fuel himself and wanted to get out of there, so I loaded my squadron on there and closed the doors. And on a C-130 with, let's say, the cockpit's up here. There's a troop door -- a troop door which the paratroopers go out of, and then there's the ramp; it's got a ramp that drops in the back. So I'm standing at that left-hand troop door with the crew chief of the -- the Air Force crew chief, and we've been on the ground for, I don't know, two or three hours and, I mean, we're tired. We've been out there -- there's -- there's all these helicopters and all these big C-130s, four-engine things. And it's been noisy and loud and dusty. And we're horribly disappointed, but we're on the airplane. We think maybe we can get out of here and -- and check intel and if we're not compromised, we can come back maybe. That was the thinking. Well, directly behind that C-130 was -- were two of the helicopters who had been parked behind it to get refuelled. And in order for that C-130 to take off, we had to get those helicopters out of the way so that the prop wash wouldn't -- wouldn't mess them up. Well, in the act of moving the -- the helicopter on the port or left side of the C-130 was moving, trying to move his helicopter out of the way of the C-130. And then when he did it, he threw up a bunch of dust, got vertigo, and crashed into the C-130. And the main rotors on the helicopter must have struck somewhere around the crew compartment, the pilots' flight deck. Well, I thought that we were probably under attack because I felt this, you know, thump-thump-thump. I said, Heck, we're taking fire. We need to get off this damn thing. So we threw that door open, the crew chief and I. And it's just a wall of flame out there, so we shut that. We opened the ramp -- or he opened the ramp. Flame was coming around behind. The only way out was this door over here (indicating). And so my sergeant major and I, particularly my sergeant major, started orchestrating the evacuation of that aircraft. And I could look up to the front of the aircraft and see this -- see all these sparks and flames and stuff just working its way down the fuselage. It was -- and I said, Logan, if you're going to make it, you need to get out of here now. My thought was I'd stay and make sure that everybody got off the deck. I didn't think there was going to be time. So I -- I bailed out, got out of the aircraft and ran off about 30, 40 yards away from it toward the -- to the right rear. And again, I'm still thinking we're under fire from somewhere over on the left side; we're under attack. And then when I got away far enough to look, you could see that that helicopter was basically parked on top of the C-130, and I knew what had happened. At that point I did not think that all of my guys had made it off the -- off the -- off the C-130. I didn't see how they could. But I -- I stopped. There was another C-130 that was trying to taxi away from it. And I ran up and beat on the door, and he opened up. And I said, You've got to get some of my guys on here. And he said, We're already full. I said, You've got to get some people on here. We're going to be tough getting -- getting enough, you know, enough aircraft to get people out. So we loaded a bunch on there, and they took off; did it again on another C-130. And I was pretty calm through all of this, believe it or not. But I remember that I couldn't see anybody else out there. But there was a helicopter that was sitting there with the rotors turning, and I went up and stood right in front of it. And I was looking out, making sure there wasn't anybody else left out there, and then I was going to get on that helicopter. I thought all the fixed-wing aircraft, the C-130s, had already -- had already gone, so I was going to go to the helicopter and fly back to the carrier. Well, as it happened, there was a -- one of the security guys had a Jeep. And he'd been back over there somewhere and he came up running by and said, What are you doing? I said, Well, I'm standing here on this helicopter so he doesn't take off. And as soon as I'm sure that everybody is on an aircraft, I'm going to get on it and -- and fly out. I said, You'd better come with me. And -- and he said, Look up there. And so I looked up there and there wasn't anybody in the damn helicopter; the crew had abandoned their helicopter and went over to get on a C-130. Fortunately, there was another C-130, and I managed to get on it and was the last one or two guys on it. And we evacuated to -- back to the Oman, to Masirah. And we had a lot of burns. Had five of the aircraft -- Air Force crewmen were killed on the flight deck: the pilot, co-pilot, navigator and so on, flight engineer. And three of the Marine crew members on the helicopter were killed. So we had eight people killed there in that thing.

Al Ellis:

Did you lose any of your men?

Logan D. Fitch:

No, no. I had people burned up a little bit and -- not burned up but -- but burned and injured.

Al Ellis:

What -- what was the aftermath of the failed operation?

Logan D. Fitch:

Yeah. We're running out of time --

Al Ellis:

Right.

Logan D. Fitch:

-- so I'm going to skip ahead here. Of course, in the way the Pentagon -- the way the Pentagon works, we had to figure out who shot John and see who to blame for the -- for the -- for the fiasco as it was called and still is called, for that matter. The bottom line out of this whole thing is: They formed a commission called the Holloway Commission. Admiral Holloway was a retired Chief of Naval Operations. That's the highest ranking sailor in the United States military. They had Admiral Holloway; they had -- oh, I'm getting old. I can't remember names. There was a three-star Air Force guy who had been involved in special ops. They had General Sam Wilson who was an Army general. They had a two-star Marine named Gray. They formed the Holloway Commission and they went around and investigated, trying to figure out what went wrong and how we can fix it. And without going into a lot of detail, the bottom line is: What we have today -- literally, what we have today is a result of -- of that operation and that commission. In my opinion -- this is not the official party line, but in my opinion there were three things that went wrong, one of which was the people. There was a helicopter problem. There was not a helicopter failure. We needed six helicopters. Two of them just decided they didn't want to go and turned back and went to the carrier. Well, one of them sat down and then the other picked him up and they went back to the carrier. They didn't finish -- they didn't even try to get to Desert Two. But we had six helicopters on the ground. They were all mission capable. So we had a -- a maintenance problem, not a -- not a failure. We had a people problem. People in that -- I can tell you that the Air Force who had been in special operations for years and years and years in Vietnam and even before were magnificent. We had the rescue force, which is the Army component; we had some Rangers and so on. No problems. Everybody did what they were supposed to do. When we briefed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- and I briefed him -- he -- we were on a first-name basis, as they say: He called me "Logan" and I called him "sir." We -- we had -- we had briefed him. And I walked out of this little place where we were, and he walked out. It was just dusk. I can picture him today wearing a brown suede bomber jacket, a Madras shirt and blue trousers. And he put his arm around me and said, Logan, looks like y'all got at least the rudiments here. Now we have to get the other services involved. Think about that. What that means is, oh, gosh, there might be some glory here, and since I'm the -- I'm in charge of all the military, I've got to make sure that the Air Force gets its part, the Marines, Navy, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Well, the bottom line, the people problem as I have talked about, was the fact that we had people flying those helicopters who really didn't want to be there. Not that they were cowards or anything else. I often use the analogy that, if you take a Greyhound bus driver who's been driving a bus for 40 years, who's got millions of miles, never had an accident, greatest bus driver that ever lived; you put him behind the wheel of an Indianapolis race car, an Indy car, he'd kill himself and a bunch of other people, probably. So I think that the -- the people that they put piloting the helicopters, which were a critical part of that mission, were -- were not the right people. Not bad people, not cowardly people, just not the right people. They didn't want to be there in the first place, and when -- when a plausible excuse presented itself, they said, Hey, you know, we've got -- we've got an honorable way out and we're going to take it. And, of course, the collision ensued and -- and, you know, unintended consequences. The third fail-- failure in my opinion was chain of command. Doctrine at the time was that when we had a specialized mission to do, you would form a joint -- or a task force, in this case a joint task force, and you would pick some officer to command it. Well, General Jim Vaught, who was a two-star general at the time, happened to be between assignments. And so they said, Okay. Hey, come here. You run this thing. So we had the Army component, the rescue force; we had the Air Force people; we had Marines; we had Navy; and then we had this guy who didn't know any of us. Now, we'd worked a lot with the Air Force and we were very comfortable with them, but basically, what you said -- and I call it a "Hey, you" mission": Hey, you. You come over here and fly the helicopters. You, you do this. You do that. It doesn't matter that you don't know each other, that you haven't met each other, that you don't know what this person can do or you can do. And -- and so it didn't work. What came out of that initially was an outfit called the Joint Special Operations Command, JSOC, which is notorious and famous right now. But the thing was, they appointed or they -- they appointed an Army brigadier at the time, and -- and now I think it's commanded by a three-star -- that would be in charge of all special operations forces -- that would be the SEALs; that would be the Air Force special ops; that would be Delta; that would be Green Berets; that would be Rangers -- and he would be in charge of training them and tailoring them to conduct missions in the future. So they solved -- and in that way they solved the command and control problems. They recognized that you can't perform these kinds of missions with people on a -- on an ad hoc or "Hey, you" basis, and so they formed an outfit called the 160th Special Operations Air Regiment, which flew the Blackhawks in Somalia, and magnificent people, all -- mostly Army. And, of course, special operations across the board got increased funding, increased emphasis. And today I was at Fort Bragg in a -- and got a briefing. And I -- I told them after the briefing, I said, You guys are millions and millions and millions of years -- miles ahead of where we ever thought we'd be. And so I can't even begin to tell you how wonderful and how skilled and how well equipped -- I mean, they've got toys you wouldn't believe. Our special operations forces are today -- that includes all of them: the SEALs, the Rangers, Green Berets, Delta, and on and on and on, they're just -- they're just -- we have without a doubt the finest special operations capabilities in the world. And nobody's even close.

Al Ellis:

Let me -- let me ask you --

Logan D. Fitch:

And may I --

Al Ellis:

Go ahead.

Logan D. Fitch:

-- say one last statement? And -- and in my vanity I think that it all sprung from that failed mission that I was a part of.

Al Ellis:

If -- if the mission hadn't failed in the way that it did, do you think that the plan and the way you were going to carry out the plan would have been successful?

Logan D. Fitch:

I do. I do. I -- I know there would have been some casualties and some probably dead people and some wounded and so on, but -- but based on what I know now, which I know some things I didn't know then, yeah. There's no doubt in my mind it would have succeeded. By the way, Mark Bowden, as I mentioned, who wrote Blackhawk Down and a book that I helped him with, Guest of the Ayatollah, went to Iran, I think two or three times and talked to people. And he said -- I said, Well, Mark, you've seen it from their side and our side and everything else. Do you think the mission would have succeeded? He said, There is no doubt that it would have succeeded, and the Iranians knew it. And they were -- you know, they were very grateful that -- in fact, they think that Allah intervened and caused all those problems.

Al Ellis:

When did you retire from the service, sir?

Logan D. Fitch:

I retired in 1982, December 1982.

Al Ellis:

So the total years in the service were what?

Logan D. Fitch:

21 and some change.

Al Ellis:

And what rank were you when you retired?

Logan D. Fitch:

Major.

Al Ellis:

Why did you choose to retire?

Logan D. Fitch:

Oh, I'd been selected for lieutenant colonel, for promotion; I'd been selected for command of general staff college; I was in ROTC down at Steven F. Austin in Nacogdoches. And it was mainly for family. These kinds of units are so hard on families and so hard on wives. We had two small children and we just decided to go a different way.

Al Ellis:

I'm looking at a gentleman that started off as a troubled young man, turned into a man, turned into an officer in the regular Army and commanded probably one of the most important Delta Force missions, I think, that the Army had to begin with. If you were to tell this audience what you -- whether you would do it all over again if you had the chance and whether or not this is what you would have done for the last -- that 21 years you were in, what would you tell them?

Logan D. Fitch:

Oh, I just wish I'd have started in the combat arms earlier. I loved every minute of it -- that's not true. I loved most of it, and I would definitely do it again. Yes, there are some things I would do differently, but not too much. I am very proud of my service. I'm very proud of the men that I served with. And they are -- they are -- they make you want to cry, they're such wonderful Americans. They -- they are great.

Al Ellis:

Sir, thank you for your service. Thank you for what you've done for this country. And thank you for being here today.

Logan D. Fitch:

Thank you.

Al Ellis:

Appreciate it.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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