Hunting the Jackal
A Special Forces and CIA Ground Soldier's
Fifty-Year Career Hunting America's Enemies
by Billy Waugh and Tim Keown
 

Billy Waugh is a Special Forces and CIA legend, and in Hunting the Jackal he allows unprecedented access to the shadowy but vital world he has inhabited for more than fifty years.

From deep inside the suffocating jungles of Southeast Asia to the fetid streets of Khartoum to the freezing high desert of Afghanistan, Waugh chronicles U.S. Special Operations through the extraordinary experiences of his singular life. He has worked in more than sixty countries, hiding in the darkest shadows and most desolate corners to fight those who plot America's demise. Waugh made his mark in places few want to consider and fewer still would choose to inhabit. In remarkable detail he recounts his participation in some of the most important events in American Special Operations history, including his own pivotal role in the previously untold story of the CIA's involvement in the capture of the infamous Carlos the Jackal.

Waugh's work in helping the CIA bring down Carlos the Jackal provides a riveting and suspenseful account of the loneliness and adrenaline common to real-life espionage. He provides a point-by-point breakdown of the indefatigable work necessary to detain the world's first celebrity terrorist.

No synopsis can adequately describe Waugh's experiences. He spent seven and a half years in Vietnam, many of them behind enemy lines as part of SOG, a top secret group of elite commandos. He was tailed by Usama bin Laden's unfriendly bodyguards while jogging through the streets of Khartoum, Sudan, at 3 A.M. And, at the age of seventy-two, he marched through the frozen high plains of Afghanistan as one of a select number of CIA operatives who hit the ground as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Waugh came face-to-face with bin Laden in Khartoum in 1991 and again in 1992 as one of the first CIA operatives assigned to watch the al Qaeda leader. Waugh describes his daily surveillance routine with clear-eyed precision. Without fanfare, fear, or chance of detection, he could have killed the 9/11 mastermind on the dirty streets of Khartoum had he been given the authority to do so.

No man is more qualified to chronicle America's fight against its enemies - from communism to terrorism - over the past half-century. In Hunting the Jackal, Billy Waugh has emerged from the shadows and folds of history to write a memoir of an extraordinary life for extraordinary times.

BOOK REVIEW by Ray Calafell
5/15/04

All right, lads - the book you have been waiting for from the Sergeant Major is here (or will be here on June 15) and is worth every penny! Billy Waugh, who someone once said was the model for the modified, oft-engraved 23rd Psalm phrase, “ . . . and I shall fear no evil, because I am the meanest motherf--r in the valley,” is a modest autobiographer in this much-too-short book of his exciting life. But for the period in the late 70's and 80's when America’s military was a ghost of its once-mighty self, Billy has been on the sharp end of the spear which is our Nation’s defense.

Beginning with a brilliant Preface, beautifully written and succinctly evocative, Billy’s story (admittedly not all of it is here for our eyes) is perfectly suited for these turbulent times. Here is a man whose devotion to his country began at the tender age of twelve, when while working as a popcorn vendor in a west Texas movie theater hears that the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor and that war has come to his little town. This was the watershed moment in this man’s life, a life devoted to combat service to the Nation he loves and has served for over fifty years.

It would have been easy for Billy to have simply expanded upon some of the actions he participated in and which were detailed in previous books about SOG, but rather than be satisfied with a retelling, he devotes the first half of the book to several previously untold stories from his past. He introduces the reader to his scars obtained at a little place known as Bong Son, just off the South China Sea, and in straightforward style begins a tale of what it was like in the early years of the Vietnam War. These were the days of isolated A-camps and as-of-yet undiscovered large-scale NVA infiltrations into the south. The battle at Bong Son begins promisingly enough with a well-executed ambush of what appears to be a platoon size NVA element, fresh from the North, with surprisingly new and high quality equipment. It is the quality and amount of this equipment that foretells what is about to happen - and Billy’s force of ninety men is about to pay a dear price for their decimation of the sleeping NVA platoon. America, this is what you have to do to earn a Silver Star, much less one of eight Purple Hearts.

After an incredible tale of dogged determination to get back into the action (which I shall not disclose here, because it is a truly revealing story of the man), he returns to a little secret outfit which promises to give him all of the action he seeks: the Studies and Observation Group. His initial assignment to the Forward Operations Base at Khe Sahn, and his commander’s words of “encouragement” as he departs are classic old school U.S. Army Special Forces. A little hint here: the commander was Bull Simons.

What he accomplished at Khe Sahn, Phu Bai and Danang over the years has been previously outlined to a very small degree in John Plaster’s first SOG book, as a result of which the name of Billy Waugh was brought to the attention of civilian readers of military books in our country. Those in the U.S. Army Special Forces and the secret projects during those years have a bit more knowledge of the Sergeant Major - but those stories remain private, as they should.

Billy details for the first time a key mission at Ba Kev in Cambodia, during which SOG audaciously inserted right in the middle of NVA-controlled territory in order to disrupt the flow of materials down the Ho Chi Minh trail, but from the Western approaches. This little-known event demonstrated that even previously hard-core enemy sympathizers could be persuaded to help our cause when, abandoned by their NVA masters and suffering sickness and hunger, they were treated kindly and generously by our specialists. Billy and his team proceed to treat a dying warlord, feed his men and their families and begin the process of turning their allegiances away from the North Vietnamese and favorably to the United States. In a mission reminiscent of the successes now enjoyed by the Special Forces teams in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the Ba Kev story was an early glimpse of what a small team of dedicated SF men could accomplish, even in the deepest enemy-controlled territory.

The latter half of the book covers the period in Billy’s life when, disgusted with what he saw as the gutting of his beloved Special Forces, he decides to retire from active duty in 1972. A period of boredom while working for the Postal Service slowly evolves into his “second life” as an Independent Contractor for the Central Intelligence Agency. His initiation into the life of an IC was fraught with the danger that fed his need to serve - something that to the average American is unknown. This begins his education on the Muslim way of life, of death and philosophy of combat. Readers should pay heed, since Billy drops a few hints on the mind-set of the Arab soldier which our mild-mannered citizens might need to understand if they wish to live in a world free from terrorism.

His travels and assignments in that brown jewel of Africa, Khartoum, lets us see how very close we were to a tall fellow known as Usama bin Laden, and how a shackled intelligence service can do little except to photograph our Nation’s enemies. Fortunately, his solid tracking work and photography do the trick in catching up to, identifying and finally capturing Carlos the Jackal at the same little resort for terrorists known as Khartoum, or K-town. The reality of true intelligence work shines through in the details of how this murderer was caught, and it has little or nothing to do with the movies.

Billy’s last battles came at a place called Afghanistan, in the high mountains, and in the cold, cold climate which made his seasoned bones and old shrapnel hurt. Part of a Special Forces team named Romeo, Billy was admired by the young men on the team as much for his dedicated and long service to his beloved Army, as for his courage to be there at a place and time when men his age are home, fishing and tending their golf game.

War is ugly business, and terrorism is even uglier. That there are “rough men ready in the night” to protect us is a blessing for the kind-hearted souls that enjoy our Nation’s freedom without a clue as to its cost. The fact that Billy Waugh, at age 74 is still willing and able to do this is testament to a patriot to whom “Duty, Honor, Country” are not words, but a simple description of his life. Although he indicates that as he departed Afghanistan in January 2002 he saw that the “young and strong take the place of the old and weak,” I sense that deep inside this old warrior is still that young Green Beret who stands ready for when the Lord shall ask: “Who will go, who will fight for me?” And I know that there will stand Billy Waugh, and with a firm, proud voice say: “Here I am Lord. Send me.”