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The Quiet Professional

The Quiet Professional: Major Richard J. Meadows of the U.S. Army Special Forces

Alan Hoe
Foreword by Peter J. Schoomaker
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    The Quiet Professional
    Book Description:

    Major Richard J. "Dick" Meadows is renowned in military circles as a key figure in the development of the U.S. Army Special Operations. A highly decorated war veteran of the engagements in Korea and Vietnam, Meadows was instrumental in the founding of the U.S. Delta Force and hostage rescue force. Although he officially retired in 1977, Meadows could never leave the army behind, and he went undercover in the clandestine operations to free American hostages from Iran in 1980.

    The Quiet Professional: Major Richard J. Meadows of the U.S. Army Special Forces is the only biography of this exemplary soldier's life. Military historian Alan Hoe offers unique insight into Meadows, having served alongside him in 1960. The Quiet Professional is an insider's account that gives a human face to U.S. military strategy during the cold war. Major Meadows often claimed that he never achieved anything significant; The Quiet Professional proves otherwise, showcasing one of the great military minds of twentieth-century America.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-3400-0
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Peter J. Schoomaker

    Most of us share some level of admiration and respect for the great achievers whom we read about in history or otherwise observe from a distance during our lifetimes. Some of us have been fortunate enough to meet and get to know some extraordinary people of whom legends are made. For whatever reason, I have had the honor and privilege of being surrounded by very special people for most of my adult professional life. Standing out … not really above (because he wouldn’t want it that way) … but alone, in the unique way that he lived and worked, was...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xv-2)
  5. Prologue: Changing the Course of the Vietnam War
    (pp. 3-10)

    The gleaming body of the soldier ant moved confidently along the length of the suppressed Swedish K submachine gun. The predator’s head twitched incessantly from side to side, mandibles opening and closing, and with its antennae in constant searching motion for unseen threats. The ant showed no fear as it stepped from the cold woodwork of the weapon onto the warmer flesh of Master Sergeant Dick Meadows’s hand. It hesitated as it encountered the fine human hairs, but sensing no threat it delicately picked its way through.

    Meadows’s cool blue eyes flicked back to the trail in front of him...

  6. 1 The Early Years, 1932–1947
    (pp. 11-24)

    In the early 1930s America was still in the grip of the economic depression which was to last almost until the decision to enter World War II in December 1941. Nowhere was this worse than in the valleys, forests, and mountains of West Virginia. The state lagged well behind the national average in respect to personal income and overall development. One of the reasons for this is a freak of nature. West Virginia is well-named the “Mountain State,” for almost the whole of it is part of the great Appalachian mountain range.

    The earthquakes that formed the Appalachians gave West...

  7. 2 The Young Soldier and Korea, 1947–1952
    (pp. 25-36)

    On arrival at Fort Lee the three youngsters were put through a series of basic tests, but Jimmy and Dink didn’t make it. Meadows felt exposed and lonely at their departure. The isolation experienced during his childhood did not allow him to make friends easily, but nonetheless it was not too long before he found a kindred spirit and linked up with Floyd Payne, another West Virginian, and an easygoing man with a sharp sense of humor. They became constant companions. Meadows wanted to be an infantryman in the best traditions of the Zane Grey characters, and when Payne stated...

  8. 3 Special Forces, 1952–1960
    (pp. 37-44)

    Meadows’s first assignment back in the United States took him to Fort Pitman, California. SFC Julio Neguera and First Sergeant Joe Candy, whom he had also met at Jump School, were with him at this time, three buddies with friendship born of mutual experience in basic training and the shared hardships of combat. It was back to the old routine of clean the guns, disassemble the guns, pack the guns, parachute with the guns, assemble the guns, fire the guns, and clean the guns again. Though Meadows was still taking a pride in his work, peacetime soldiering’s lack of pressure...

  9. 4 A Lighthearted Interlude with the Brits, 1960–1961
    (pp. 45-60)

    Meadows, though delighted at the prospect of serving with another Special Forces unit, was conscious that he knew little about the British SAS. Indeed, there was not much available information on the organization at that time. (Right up until the relief of the Iranian embassy siege in London in May 1980, the SAS managed to keep a very low profile despite deep involvement in many successful actions around the world.) Meadows researched the subject and found out that the SAS’s origins had been in the Western Desert of North Africa during World War II, and that they had subsequently fought...

  10. 5 Laos and the Learning Curve, 1962
    (pp. 61-68)

    In July 1959 the first U.S. Special Forces personnel were committed to Laos as USSF Mobile Training Teams. The United States had been providing the major part of the Laotian defense budget since about 1955, but overt military intervention or assistance was precluded by the 1954 Geneva Accord. Washington’s only viable method of giving physical help was to provide an “aid” program. This was done under the aegis of the Programs Evaluation Office that was initiated in the capital city of Vientiane. The role was a classic Special Forces mission. They were to train the disorganized remnants of the Forces...

  11. 6 Panama and the Fun Years, 1962–1965
    (pp. 69-82)

    The activities of Fidel Castro in Cuba created a new awareness in political and military circles that Central and South America were potential hotbeds of unrest which, particularly in the field of drug smuggling and possible military coups, could impact the United States. Simons had, therefore, been given the mission to move to Panama and set up a training base at which Delta Company, 7th SFG, would create the 8th SFG. He hand-picked his team from the contenders recommended by an examining board. Meadows was selected as one of only three from 150 candidates, and the advance party headed to...

  12. 7 Vietnam and RT Ohio, 1965
    (pp. 83-96)

    After the mission described in the prologue of this book, Meadows was quietly satisfied with the results. He could not even begin to anticipate what far-reaching effects his irrefutable evidence of a large NVA presence in South Vietnam would have on the U.S. war effort and his own career. Neither did he know at the time that this mission was to earn him his first Silver Star.¹ The film he had taken was rushed to the Pentagon for a top security–level screening and accepted as proof that the NVA was indeed moving into South Vietnam, and Meadows was required...

  13. 8 Vietnam Through an Officer’s Eyes, 1966–1970
    (pp. 97-106)

    For the next five months Meadows was in limbo. The transition to officer status was not instant; there were procedures to be followed. There was no way to predict how long the commissioning process would take, and Meadows could not be given any positive assignment that he could get his teeth into. A precedent had been set with a battlefield commission direct to the rank of captain, and terms and conditions of future service had to be devised from scratch. At this point Meadows received a great deal of help from two old friends, Lieutenant Colonel Bud Sydnor and Lieutenant...

  14. 9 They’ll Know We Cared: Son Tay, 1970
    (pp. 107-128)

    The regular “thwack-thwack” of the HH-53’s rotor blades was strangely hypnotic in the darkened interior of the helicopter; the assault force soldiers appeared to doze.¹ Meadows looked at his watch for the umpteenth time. 0115 hours. About one hour to touchdown. “Touchdown”? He grinned. That was amusing because when they hit the deck there would be none of the gentle landing of which the big bird was capable. They would be going in hard, probably harder than any pilot before had ever deliberately grounded his aircraft.

    This was the big one. The one he had dreamed about for years. Even...

  15. Photographs
    (pp. None)
  16. 10 The Rangers, Mr. Meadows, and Delta Force, 1970–1980
    (pp. 129-140)

    The Son Tay raid was treated by much of the media in the expected fashion. There were accusations of military ineptitude and of President Nixon trying to find a means to escalate the Vietnam War after President Johnson had stopped the bombing in 1968. There was, however, no question in any soldier’s mind that the raid had been a clinical success, and in later years it became a model study for the Special Forces of many countries. The Raiders were frustratingly sworn to secrecy and only scant details were released. Simons, Sydnor, and Meadows found themselves in demand to give...

  17. 11 “Agent” Meadows in Tehran, 1980
    (pp. 141-166)

    It all began in Iran on November 4, 1979, with a surprise action by disciples of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Brushing aside the U.S. Marine guards, fanatical followers of the Ayatollah occupied the sprawling U.S. embassy in Tehran and took nearly one hundred hostages comprised of Marines and male and female embassy staff. The action followed a student protest against the United States for having made the decision to allow the former Shah of Iran freedom of movement in America. The Shah had fled his country on January 16, 1979. The architect of the downfall of the “Peacock Throne,” the Ayatollah...

  18. 12 Footloose, 1980–1984
    (pp. 167-172)

    Meadows’s old friend Ross Perot gave him breathing space by hiring him for his proven analytical and planning talents. At first he was set to work organizing the security of Perot’s properties and family, but this soon became monotonous work to a man of Meadows’s character. Through Perot, who was chairman of the Texas War on Drugs at that time, he became interested in the overall drug problem of his country. In cooperation with U.S. Customs he put together some very innovative plans to take positive action against the narcotics traffickers. As part of his contribution he was quite prepared...

  19. 13 Entrepreneur in Peru, 1984–1989
    (pp. 173-188)

    Meadows called on his friend at the U.S. embassy in Lima and spoke to the few businessmen to whom he had been given introductions. The situation was much worse than he had imagined.¹ Under President Fernando Belaunde corruption was rife. The cocaine trade was booming. The activities of the two principal guerrilla movements, the Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru (MRTA) and the Sendero Luminoso (SL), had grown to such a level of violence that rich families were either living in cocoons of self-imposed security or fleeing the country. Often they left their affairs and estates in the hands of corrupt or...

  20. 14 The Golden Days in Peru, 1989–1991
    (pp. 189-196)

    The scope of the business was increasing fast. In early 1988 Meadows was invited to look at the security of a mine. For this he needed assistance, and his mind went back to Tom Smith,¹ who recalled:

    Dick gave me a welcome break to go back to Peru to help with a survey of an Andean mine which had just lost an engineer in an assassination by the SL. It was only a couple of weeks’ work, and the strongest memory is my first case of altitude sickness as we flew directly to 15,000 feet and began working.

    A year...

  21. 15 The Bubble Bursts in Peru, 1991–1995
    (pp. 197-210)

    The successes continued and the stream of business seemed to be never-ending. FORZA’s operations were expanding and they now had an efficient control center based in Lima.

    Under similar threat conditions to Mobil, Newmont Gold had been persevering with their mining explorations right through the bad years of insurgency and terrorism in Peru. About 45 percent of Peru’s earnings came from mining, the predominant minerals being lead, zinc, silver, copper, bauxite, and gold. Around 30 percent of the mining companies had applied to the government for permission to cease their efforts due to the SL attacks. Len Harris, a senior...

  22. 16 A Special Forces Marriage
    (pp. 211-214)

    This is a good point at which to examine some of the pressures exerted on the Meadows family over the years of continual separation. Some of these strains they shared with many Special Forces comrades. How does a unit, even one as loving and close as the Meadows family, stay together as a cohesive, caring entity throughout the long periods of separation? Being a good husband and a father as a serving Special Forces soldier is not easy. Family plans can be made which then have to be cancelled as military duties, undertaken often at a moment’s notice, disrupt the...

  23. 17 The Last Patrol
    (pp. 215-222)

    On the morning of June 23, 1995, Meadows received a telephone call to say that three old friends were going to pay him a visit. Generals Wayne Downing and Pete Schoomaker and Paul Zeisman wanted to pay their respects. He had been relaxing and wearing a pair of cutoff blue jeans, his “crabbing gear,” but as soon as he heard the news he went off to dress himself in a fresh shirt and slacks. I was able to watch a remarkable transformation. The rather tired man became alert and almost bouncy. He was determined not to show any signs of...

  24. Epilogue
    (pp. 223-226)

    Dick Meadows went on his last patrol with dignity, the same dignity with which he had lived his full and adventurous life. But there was more than dignity in the makeup of this remarkable and complex man. He had immense pride and a rigid sense of honor insofar as his country, the military, and his family were concerned, but he also carried these characteristics into civilian life. He was unremitting in his search for perfection, and this rubbed off onto all those who worked with him. Perfection in the profession of arms is impossible to achieve—there are too many...

  25. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 227-228)
  26. Appendix: Research Notes on the Use and Effects of Agent Orange
    (pp. 229-232)
  27. Notes
    (pp. 233-238)
  28. Suggested Readings
    (pp. 239-240)
  29. Index
    (pp. 241-254)