During the Vietnam War, there was a small group of special operations troops who took the fight to the enemy. Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) was a highly secret outfit comprised of Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and Air Commandos who conducted covert cross-border operations deep into Cambodia, Laos, and North Vietnam.
SOG recon teams consisted of a few Special Forces operators and their indigenous troops, or “little people,” as the Americans affectionally called them.
Khanh “Cowboy” Doan, a South Vietnamese commando, was one of them.
In the early 1960s, Cowboy’s father saw that America would have a bigger role in Vietnam’s affairs, and so prompted his son to learn English. And so Cowboy became an interpreter. As American involvement in the Southeast Asian country grew, Cowboy began working for the American forces and soon ended up in SOG.
During his career in SOG, Cowboy participated in scores of missions. He was part of the relief column that went into Lang Vei, a Special Forces A camp that had been overrun by NVA tanks and troops in the early stages of the Siege of Khe Sanh. He also took part in a mission where his nine-man team squared off against 10,000 NVA troops.
While in SOG, Cowboy narrowly escaped death numerous times. In one instance, he didn’t go out with his team for some reason, and the team (ST Alaska) ended up being wiped out save one man who escaped and evaded for two days before getting picked up.
Related: MACV-SOG: The covert special operations unit you’ve never heard of
In 1972, after operating in SOG for six years, Cowboy lost his leg during a mission across the fence.
At the end of his career, he had served in numerous recon teams, including ST Alaska, Virginia, Idaho, and Alabama.
After Saigon fell in 1975, Cowboy thought that the cleverest thing to do in order to avoid the wrath of the North Vietnamese was to go North, where they wouldn’t be expecting him. After 11 years and 14 failed escape attempts from the country, he managed to reach the Philippines in 1986 and from there the US.
Related: ST Idaho: The Special Forces team that vanished in the jungle
Recently, Cowboy contracted COVID-19 and had to be hospitalized with serious symptoms. What’s worse, his entire family was also infected, including his wife, son, and grandson. As a consequence, they are hard put to make ends meet. Cowboy was released from the hospital and is back in his home, but he still has to go through dialysis twice a day, totaling nine to ten hours of treatment. The good news, however, is that he is improving by the day.
Some of Cowboy’s SOG buddies, including Special Forces legend John Stryker “Tilt” Meyer, who has written extensively about America’s secret war in Vietnam, have set up a GoFundMe campaign to support their brother-in-arms and his family.
The GoFundMe campaign (you can visit the page by following this link) aims at helping Cowboy and his family during this difficult time. Donations will help pay rent, cover medical expenses not covered by his insurance, and buy food and medicine for Cowboy and his entire family.
So far, hundreds of people have donated.
“Please thank every person who donated to help me [and] my family. I can’t believe it. We [are] amazed. Please tell every person: ‘You have rescued my life,’” Cowboy told Meyer.
Men like Cowboy fought for their country against the Communist tide. But they also fought for their American brothers, with whom they share a bond that only war and adversity can forge.
“Cowboy is a clearly a legend but also very humble,” Meyer told Sandboxx News.
Read more from Sandboxx News:
- The most prolific pilot in the Vietnam War probably didn’t actually exist
- The Men with the Green Faces: The Birth of the Navy SEALs in Vietnam
- How a Green Beret achieved immortality during one of the fiercest battles of the Vietnam War
- How a SEAL earned a Medal of Honor saving another SEAL with a Medal of Honor
- James Stockdale: ‘Hanoi Hilton’ survivor and SERE example
This article was originally published 12/17/2020
Very much appreciated. Thank you for this excellent article. Keep posting!
Plastic Surgery Corpus Christi
It was a stupid and unnecessary war. Vietnamese didn’t want communism
They wanted foreign troops out of their country be they French Japanese or American . 2 million Indochinese men women and kids had to die to save them from an ism.
Thank you very much for this article. I know that this (very sadly) is a moot point, but someone like Cowboy should be set for the rest of his damn life and so should his family. The fact that they have to rely on a gofundme campaign is ridiculous. He’s a goddamn hero and he deserves to be treated as such. Just goes to show how brainless and lacking of balls our politicians are and how they don’t even try to understand the sacrifices those men made. God Bless our Veterans.
Sugar land Stump grinding says
An amazing story. Such courage. I enjoyed reading about him in some SOG books, Amazing stories.
THAT PODCAST WAS AMAZING. The SOG missions were insane. Jocko was inspired to help launch the SOGcast which is a great new podcast about the SOG missions “across the fence” into Laos to disrupt the supply chain. Unbelievable history.
David Johns says
I am a veteran of 32 years in the British army And have recently been medically discharged for PTSD .sog where absolute legends Cowboy what a man to have on your team a true warrior .
I have joined a reenactment group I am focusing on everything sog more John Stryker Meyer another ultimate warrior I could spend hours talking to him having read all 3 of his books and listened to the listened podcasts absolutely awesome.
Arthur Headd says
Cowboy was never on a recon team,but he sure as hell DID save a BUNCH of recon teams in his time as a South Vietnamese Helicopter pilot attached to SOG.
To say this man had stones is a massive understatement.
I saw him many times during my own SOG tour,and even rode in and out of missions in his helicopter a few times. He once took it upon himself to fly into Laos where the recon team I was on was surrounded and being overran when he was out flying around and heard the US Army lead helicopter pilot say he was refusing to land to try to pick us up because it was too dangerous. Cowboy came up on the radio and said “No sweat! I come get you.”,and that is exactly what he did,with no support at all other than the A1E’s straffing and bombing around us to try to keep the NVA at bay,and his co-pilot leaning out the the window of the Kingbee firing his 45,and the door gunner firing his 30 cal out the other side.
I,and many,many other SF vets might not be here today if it weren’t for the courage of this brave man.
Bobby Gentle says
I am too young to serve during the war but I did a lot of reading.
The cowboy of Kingbee is a different man than Doan Khanh mentioned here. I have the honor to speak with a Kingbee pilot and he said That Cowboy died in the war.
and learn that Cowboy died in the war
Thank you to all the brave sog warriors. You men are my hero’s and i feel honored to be friends with many of you.
John Stryker Meyer says
Thank you Stavros Atlamazoglou and SANDBOXX for publishing a story about a South Vietnamese soldier who fought communism in his homeland for more than six years, until enemy gunfire resulted in him losing his leg. “Cowboy” is the epitome of many courageous and fearless South Vietnamese the American media and most historians completely ignore. In today’s climate of rising socialism Americans should talk to Cowboy about the reality of living under the thumb of socialist/communist dictatorships. Thank you again.
Loula Snell says
Stavros, as always, you bring to our attention the stories that need to be told.