MD Helicopters, Inc. (MDHI) proudly participated in a special Son Tay Raid reenactment on the 50th anniversary of the fateful raid to free POWs in Vietnam that would inspire countless future successful operations. In partnership with the Silent Warrior Foundation, MDHI provided two MD 500 helicopters to transport surviving raiders and POWs from Scottsdale, Ariz., to the Dillon Aero range in Maricopa, where partial reproduction structures of Son Tay prison camp had been built for the occasion.
On Nov. 21, 1970, a special operations group of nearly 60 soldiers raided the Son Tay prison compound in North Vietnam just outside Hanoi in an attempt to rescue some 61 prisoners of war. Known as Operation Kingpin, the raid included a low and slow-flying C-130 airplane followed by six rescue helicopters, all radio silent with no lights. The coordinated attack aimed to take out the guard tower and communications while simultaneously freeing the POWs. Concurrently, the U.S. sent three Navy carriers as a distraction and to help suppress potential enemy air support. Unfortunately, the prisoners had been moved, leaving no one to rescue, but the mission otherwise went so well it became a basis for future raids and rescue missions.
The reenactment was filmed for the documentary Kingpin: 27 Minutes at Son Tay.
“The support MD Helicopters gave to our event commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Son Tay Raid was just incredible,” says David Hall, President of the Silent Warrior Foundation. “The three-ship formation of two MD 500s led by a Vietnam era UH-1 and loaded with Son Tay Raiders and former POWs was an amazing sight to behold when they arrived at the Dillon Aero Range. Seeing former POW Doug Burns flying an MD 500 was heartwarming.”