Richard J. Meadows
June 16, 1931 - July 29, 1995
Major Richard J. "Dick" Meadows' exploits were legendary. Joining the Army at the age of 15 in 1947, he was assigned to the 456th Field Artillery Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division. Volunteering for Korea, he subsequently deployed with the 674th Field Artillery Battalion, 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team. He returned, age 20, as the youngest master sergeant in the Korean War.
Following service in Korea, he volunteered for duty with Special Forces in 1953, and spent the rest of his career in Special Forces or Ranger units, helping to establish and develop many of the organizations and programs we know today. During his remarkable career in Special Operations, he would contribute to the creation of Army Special Forces, Military Free Fall Parachuting, the Son Tay raid, the establishment of SFOD-Delta, and the attempted rescue of hostages in Iran, to name just a few.
In 1960, he was selected as the first NCO to participate in an exchange program between the 7th Special Forces Group and the British 22nd Special Air Service Regiment. While there, he completed the SAS selection course, performed for 12 months as a Troop Commander (a position normally filled by a Captain), and participated in numerous training exercises and an actual operation in Oman against terrorists and gun-smugglers. So impressive was his performance, he became one of the first two foreigners ever to receive the British SAS wings.
During the Vietnam era, he teamed with Colonel "Bull" Simons on Operation WHITE STAR in Laos, and served with the Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Studies and Observation Group, better known as MACV-SOG, in Vietnam. During two combat tours, he led more than two dozen clandestine missions behind enemy lines into North Vietnam and Laos, calling in air strikes on the Ho Chi Minh trail, capturing North Vietnamese soldiers for interrogation, and engaging in close quarter combat during commando raids. And throughout it all he never lost a man. Because of his extraordinary combat record, he was awarded a battlefield commission directly to Captain.
Later, again teamed with "Bull" Simons, he subsequently helped organize and lead the attempt to rescue U.S. POWs from the Son Tay prison camp near Hanoi. Commanding the ground assault force, he deliberately crash-landing his helicopter-borne assault forces inside the camp compound, only to find that the flawlessly executed mission was too late to rescue the prisoners.
He retired from the Army in 1977 as the Training Officer/Deputy Commander, Jungle Phase, U.S. Army Ranger School, Camp Rudder, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. However, his career in Special Operations was far from over. As a civilian he was an advisor in the formation of the Delta Force, and his most daring exploit probably came while working as a consultant to the Iran hostage crisis of 1980. Working undercover in Iran to scout the American embassy where the hostages were being held, and arrange transportation for the rescue force within Tehran, he was stranded when the mission was aborted. Alone, and with little more than his wits and courage to draw on, he was forced to make a harrowing escape from Iran.
Continuing in later years to selflessly serve his country, he spent much of the remainder of his life working against the illegal drug trade. At a ceremony posthumously awarding him the Presidential Citizen's Medal for Distinguished Service, it was said of him that he "quite literally established standards by which we measure all special operators -- now and in the future."
His military awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star (w/oak leaf cluster), Legion of Merit, Bronze Star (with V device for valor), Air Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Commendation Medal, and the Army Commendation Medal (w/two oak leaf clusters). He was also the recipient of the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Master Parachutist Badge, Glider Badge, Ranger and Special Forces Tabs, and SCUBA badge.
Dick Meadows was a professional who dedicated his life to a service of God, country and home; devoted himself to his duty, his comrades and his family; and established a standard of professional excellence by which all who follow in his footsteps shall be measured. He was, and in memory will forever remain..,
Richard J. Meadows,
Special Forces Soldier!