Freedman, Lawrence N., SGM

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Last Rank
Sergeant Major
Last Service Branch
Special Forces
Last Primary MOS
18Z-Special Forces Senior Sergeant
Last MOS Group
Special Forces (Enlisted)
Primary Unit
1986-1990, US Army John F Kennedy Special Warfare Center & School (USAJFKSWCS)
Service Years
1965 - 1990
Official/Unofficial US Army Certificates
Cold War Certificate

Special Forces
Sergeant Major

Eight Service Stripes

Ten Overseas Service Bars

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

Home State
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by SGM Mike Vining to remember Freedman, Lawrence N. (Larry / SuperJew), SGM USA(Ret).

If you knew or served with this Soldier and have additional information or photos to support this Page, please leave a message for the Page Administrator(s) HERE.
Casualty Info
Home Town
Not Specified
Last Address

Casualty Date
Dec 22, 1992
Hostile, Died
Multiple Fragmentation Wounds
Combat and Noncombat Operations
Location of Interment
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Not Specified

 Official Badges 

Infantry Shoulder Cord US Army Retired (Pre-2007) US SOCOM Special Forces Group

USAE Special Operations Command Joint Forces

 Unofficial Badges 

Cold War Medal

 Military Association Memberships
Chapter I/XVIII - The Samuel S. Theriault/Aaron Bank Chapter
  1990, Special Forces Association, 1, Chapter I/XVIII - The Samuel S. Theriault/Aaron Bank Chapter (Executive Officer) (Fayetteville, North Carolina) - Chap. Page

 Additional Information
Last Known Activity

Larry Freedman

On 23 December 1992, CIA Paramilitary Officer Larry Freedman was the first casualty of the conflict in Somalia. Freedman was a former Army Delta Force operator and Special Forces soldier. Freedman served in Vietnam for two years and earned two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart and then served in every conflict that America was involved in both officially and unofficially.   Freedman was born into a devoutly Jewish home and nicknamed himself "SuperJew," a nickname also used by his colleagues in Delta Force. His sister even made him a Superman-like cape with the Hebrew letter for "S" that he wore at parties. He was deliberately over-the-top. A notorious flirt that tested all who came in contact with him, taking their measure and weeding out the squeamish.

He was only 5-foot-9, but armored with muscle from years of pumping iron, running five miles a day and keeping his survival skills sharp. When he wasn't on a mission he was often cruising down the highway on his Harley Davidson FXRT, 1340 cc, the fringe of his black leather jacket and chaps flying. To the outside world he might well have been mistaken for an aging truant, but many who got close enough to know him saw him as a man consumed by the military's ideals of duty and honor.

Freedman was killed while conducting special reconnaissance in advance of the entry of U.S. military forces into Somalia. His mission was completely voluntary, as it required entry into a very hostile area without any support. His actions provided US forces with crucial intelligence in order to plan their eventual amphibious landing. Freedman was awarded the Intelligence Star on 5 January 1993 for is heroic actions. Brigadier General Richard Potter gave the eulogy at Fort Bragg's John F. Kennedy Chapel and cited a passage from Isaiah.

Intelligence Star, medal 

GREENSBURG, Pennsylvania - Friends of the only American to be killed so far during the U.S. military relief mission to Somalia say the Fayetteville, North Carolina, man may have had covert responsibilities along with his civilian duties.

  Friends of former Green Beret Lawrence N. Freedman said Freedman had kept in touch with the Special Forces in the years since he left active duty to become a civilian employee of the Army, the Greensburg Tribune-Review reported Tuesday.

Freedman, 51, was buried Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia following a funeral service at the Army chapel at nearby Fort Meyer.

He was killed last Wednesday near Bardera when the vehicle he was riding struck an anti-tank mine. Three State Department officials were injured.

"He was a soldier's soldier," said longtime friend Arthur Lacey. "He had a lot of influence over a lot of men -- all positive." 

Some of those interviewed by the newspaper spoke only on the condition that they not be identified by name.

"He was always someplace where nobody knew where he was," a childhood friend told the newspaper. "He was always in the forefront of what was happening."

Freedman grew up in Philadelphia and at the time of his death lived near Fort Bragg, North Carolina, headquarters of Army special forces.

He enlisted in the Army on September 30, 1965, and served for 25 years, said Joyce Wiesner, a spokesman at the Army Reserve Personnel Center in St. Louis. A medical specialist, Freedman retired December 31, 1990, with the rank of sergeant major.

Freedman served in Vietnam for two years and earned two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart, Wiesner said.

After participating in six campaigns in Vietnam, Freedman was stationed for several years in Okinawa, Wiesner said.

Acquaintances said Freedman was involved in intelligence work in connection with the U.S. dispute with Libya and also during the Falklands war, in which the United States backed Great Britain's effort against Argentina.

They said Freedman was secretive about his military duties. They said they thought he was a member of the Delta Force, a rapid-deployment unit, and that he probably had covert responsibilities in Somalia.

State Department officials referred questions about Freedman to the Defense Department, which said such information could not be released without the permission of Freedman's family, the Tribune-Review said.

Sergeant Major Freedman was not a Department of Defense employee when he was killed in Somalia in 1992, but was in fact a CIA operative.  The Department of Defense job was just his cover while inside Somalia.  His nickname was "Superjew" and he relished the moniker.  A complete story of him is in Chapter 14 of The Book Of Honor by Ted Gup.

On a tip from a CIA employee, Prof. Gup knew only that the fallen CIA operator was the first American casualty in Somalia. He followed a trail of clues through newspaper clippings, obituaries, records at Arlington National Cemetery, Mr. Freedman?s family?s rabbi, and a list of survivors, who talked about the life of the man.

?I still had not confirmed that it was Larry Freedman until I contacted his widow and learned about his involvement in the agency,? says Prof. Gup.

From a 1997 article by Ted Gup:

In some ways, Lawrence N. Freedman was an unlikely candidate for the career he chose. Born into a devoutly Jewish home in Philadelphia, he brazenly declared himself "SuperJew," a nickname used by his colleagues in Delta Force, the elite counter-terrorist unit headquartered at Fort Bragg, N.C. His sister even made him a Superman-like cape with the Hebrew letter for "S" that he wore at parties. On Friday evenings he would sometimes say the blessing over the Sabbath candles, but he could also be as obscene and profane as anyone on base.

He was deliberately over-the-top. A notorious flirt and rogue, he tested all who came in contact with him, taking their measure and weeding out the squeamish. He was only 5-foot-9, but armored with muscle from years of pumping iron, running five miles a day and keeping his survival skills sharp. When he wasn't on a mission he was often cruising down the highway on his Harley Davidson FXRT, 1340 cc, the fringe of his black leather jacket and chaps flying. To the outside world he might well have been mistaken for an aging truant, but many who got close enough to know him saw him as a man consumed by the military's ideals of duty and honor. "He believed in everything we all believed in -- red, white and blue, John Wayne, apple pie," says former colleague Ron Franklin.

Freedman sought out risky assignments around the world. First it was as a Green Beret in Vietnam, where he married his first wife, a Vietnamese woman, and adopted her two children. Then it was Central America. He was there for Desert One, the aborted 1980 mission to rescue the U.S. hostages in Iran, a journey that took the lives of eight of his fellow soldiers. From 1986 until 1990, he helped train the Delta Force. Then he retired -- at least that was his cover story. In fact, he signed on with the CIA's Counter-Terrorism unit.

As a soldier, Freedman was many things -- a medic, a "bomber" trained to defuse explosive devices, an intelligence officer, an expert in hand-to-hand combat, and a communications, or "commo," man. But as a sniper he was nearly without peer. Once, remembers Gale McMillan, a maker of specialty weapons, the two of them were testing night scopes at Camp Perry. It was a night so dark it swallowed up the faces of their watches. Freedman lay down, steadied his arm on a sandbag, and fixed his scope at a target no larger than a quarter at a distance of 250 yards. He squeezed off five shots. When they examined the target they found a single ragged hole through which all five bullets had passed, McMillan says.

In 1992, Freedman sought an assignment in Operation Restore Hope, the campaign to deliver food to Somalia's famine-stricken population and to restrain the country's warring factions. He was a 51-year-old grandfather. Some 10 days before shipping out, he visited McMillan in Phoenix. The visit was part personal, part professional. Freedman appreciated weapons. He always carried a Colt .45, its grip customized to fit his hand, its works "tuned to combat" -- retooled so the clip would feed faster. In Phoenix, he bought a tactical scope for his .308 rifle, a 10-power built to click each time he adjusted his aim for distance. The day before Freedman left, he and McMillan had a long talk. "I was telling him," recalls McMillan, " `Look in the mirror and see the silver in your temples. That ought to tell you it's time to slow down and let the young guys take the risks and do the dirty work. You've already done everything expected of you.' He kind of laughed and said, `If there's any way I want to go, it's doing it.' "

His wife, Teresa, remembers the last phone call she got from him. "His voice was different. It was more like a real goodbye. It was more like this was a journey he was going on and he wasn't going to be returning. I sensed the fear that possibly this time he would not be back."

At 6 a.m. on December 23, 1992, Teresa's doorbell rang. It was the CIA's liaison officer at Fort Bragg. His message was stark, if incomplete: Larry had been killed the day before. Teresa screamed, then collapsed in his arms.

Only days and weeks later would she be given any details. She was told Freedman had driven over a Russian-built mine near the town of Bardera. His body had been helicoptered to the USS Tripoli, where a medical officer filled out the death certificate. The blast had caused severe head trauma, blown off his lower right leg and opened his chest. Death was "immediate." Three men with Freedman, all listed as "State Department Security Personnel," were also wounded. One of them died, she was later told.

A former CIA officer who worked with Freedman says that while the precise nature of his mission in Somalia was not known to him, it was essentially to perform a liaison role between the U.S. Embassy in Somalia and the U.S. military forces then arriving in the country. Freedman was part of a "pickup" team, an elite paramilitary unit whose job was to provide the agency and the resident ambassador with a stream of intelligence to guide specific military operations.

Freedman's funeral was held at Fort Myer Chapel in Arlington. Col. Sanford Dresin, then the senior-ranking Jewish chaplain in the armed forces, gathered Freedman's immediate family together to observe a time-honored ritual of grief -- the rending of the black cloth known as keriah. But they could find no black cloth, so Dresin improvised and used black paper. Such a field expediency would have been appreciated by Freedman, he remarked.

During the service, Dresin referred to the tradition of Jewish warriors, such as the Maccabees who two millenniums earlier had valiantly struggled with the Syrians. The service was attended by family and friends, among them beefy members of Delta Force and a cadre of dark-suited men behind mirrored sunglasses, some of whom arrived by limousine. In the days after, Teresa received many expressions of condolence. One of the callers was President George Bush, who telephoned from Camp David.

To the public, Freedman was identified as a civilian employee of the Defense  Department. On a Pentagon casualty list, his name was even misspelled and he was given the wrong middle initial. Hardly anyone recognized the error, much less the man.

On December 31, 1992, CIA Director Robert M. Gates awarded Freedman a posthumous Intelligence Star for exceptional service. The citation recognized his "superior performance under hazardous combat conditions with the Central Intelligence Agency."

It took three years for the agency to send Teresa the medal and citation. With it came a letter and a warning: "Those persons who may be told of these awards will be left to your judgment; however, please do not disclose the details on which the awards were based. In addition, please do not release or cooperate in the release of any publicity concerning these awards."

Following Freedman's death, contributions in his honor were made to a Fort Bragg museum dedicated to special warfare, supporting construction of the "Sergeant First Class Lawrence `SuperJew' Freedman Memorial Theater."

Teresa retains a photograph of two Belgian paratroopers standing at an American-built bridge in Somalia near where her husband fell. Stenciled in white paint on a steel plate at the entrance to the bridge is written "Lawrence R. Freedman Bridge." (Again the middle initial is wrong.) And at Fort Bragg, in the plaza that honors heroes of the Special Operations Command, Freedman's name appears on a plaque, listed as a State Department casualty.

Today Freedman's grave at Arlington National Cemetery, Section Eight, No. 10177, is marked by a jet-black tombstone. On it is the Star of David, the wings of a paratrooper, a Green Beret and an inscription: "The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living."

`The True Believers'

LN Freedman Gravesite PHOTO

The remembrance profile is maintained by Mike R. Vining, SGM USA (Retired).
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Operation Just Cause (Panama)
Start Year
End Year


On 17 December 1989 the national command authority (NCA) directed the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) to execute PLAN 90-2. JTFSO received the JCS execute order on 18 Dec with a D-Day and H-Hour of 20 Dec 0100 local. The operation was conducted as a campaign with limited military objectives. JTFSO objectives in PLAN 90-2 were to:

A. Protect U.S. lives and key sites and facilities.
B. Capture and deliver Noriega to competent authority.
C. Neutralize PDF forces.
D. Neutralize PDF command and control.
E. Support establishment of a U.S.-recognized government in Panama.
F. Restructure the PDF.

At Forts Bragg, Benning, and Stewart, D-Day forces were alerted, marshaled, and launched on a fleet of 148 aircraft. Units from the 75th Ranger Regiment and 82d Airborne Division conducted airborne assaults to strike key objectives at Rio Hato, and Torrijos/Tocumen airports.

On December 20, 1989, the 82d Airborne Division conducted their first combat jump since World War II onto Torrijos International Airport, Panama. The 1st Brigade task force made up of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, parachuted into combat for the first time since World War II. In Panama, the paratroopers were joined on the ground by 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment which was already in Panama. After the night combat jump and seizure of the airport, the 82nd conducted follow-on combat air assault missions in Panama City and the surrounding areas.

They were followed later by the 2d and 1st Bdes, 7th Inf Div (L), while the in-place forces comprised of the 3d Bde (-), 7th Inf Div (L); 193d Infantry Brigade (L) and 4-6 Inf, 5th Inf Div (M), assaulted objectives in both Panama City and on the Atlantic side of the Canal. By the first day, all D-Day objectives were secured. As initial forces moved to new objectives, follow-on forces from 7th Inf Div (L) moved into the western areas of Panama and into Panama City.

As the lead headquarters for SAC's tanker support, the Eighth Air Force tasked, executed, and directed 144 missions to refuel 229 receivers with over 12 million pounds of fuel. According to General Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Eighth’s "air refuelers did not just make a difference in this operation -- they made it possible." This mission introduced the F-117A Stealth Fighter to combat for the first time.

Air National Guard units participated in the operation because of their regularly scheduled presence in Panama for Operations CORONET COVE and VOLANT OAK. Only Pennsylvania's 193d Special Operations Group (SOG) was part of the integral planning process by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Air Staff for the invasion of Panama. The 105th Military Airlift Group (MAG) and the 172 MAG provided airlift support for the operation. They flew 35 missions, completed 138 sorties, moved 1,911 passengers and 1,404.7 tons of cargo which expended 434.6 flying hours. ANG VOLANT OAK C-130 aircrews flew 22 missions, completed 181 sorties, moved 3,107 passengers and 551.3 tons of cargo, which expended 140.1 flying hours. The ANG CORONET COVE units, the 114th TFG and the 18Oth TFG flew 34 missions, completed 34 sorties, expended 71.7 flying hours and expended 2,715 rounds of ordnance.

Urban terrain provides high potential for fratricide because of the likelihood of close quarters (high weapons density), recognition problems, and unfamiliar secondary effects of weapons. During Operation JUST CAUSE soldiers employed several ineffective and dangerous techniques to breach various fences, walls, and barred doors with grenades, rifle fire, and even anti-tank weapons. Direct fire support, even from just a block away, is very difficult to control. During JUST CAUSE mechanized forces providing fire support were told by brigade a light force had cleared a tall hotel building only to the second floor. In actual fact, it had cleared to the tenth floor and was fighting in a counter-sniper engagement. Seeing this fire and apparently some weapons protruding, the mechanized forces began to suppress. This drew return fire from the friendly light force for some seconds before coming under control. The extensive destruction of civilian housing seen by TV viewers around the world resulted rather from a style of fighting that is based on abundant firepower.

The high casualties and use of resources usually associated with all-out urban warfare did not occur. The United States suffered 23 KIA and 324 WIA, with estimated enemy casualties around 450. There were an estimated 200 to 300 Panamanian civilian fatalities. Some were killed by the PDF, others inadvertently by US troops. More civilians almost certainly would have been killed or wounded had it not been for the discipline of the American forces and their stringent rules of engagement (ROE). However, the United Nations (UN) put the civilian death toll at 500; the Central American Human Rights Defense Commission (CODEHUCA) and the Peace and Justice Service of Panama both claimed between 2,000 to 3000; the Panamanian National Human Rights Commission and an independent inquiry by former Attorney- General Ramsey Clark claimed over 4,000. Thousands were injured. As it turned out, the figure of Panamanian dead was large enough to stimulate debate over the need for the invasion to remove Noriega, but not large enough to generate a sense of outrage in Panama or abroad, or to turn the Panamanian people against the US intervention or the nation-building program that followed it.

The US troops involved in Operation Just Cause achieved their primary objectives quickly, and troop withdrawal began on December 27. Noreiga eventually surrendered to US authorities voluntarily. 

Operation JUST CAUSE was unique in the history of U.S. warfare for many reasons. As the largest single contingency operation since World War II, it focused on a combination of rapid deployment of critical combat power and precise utilization of forward deployed and in-country forces. Impressed by the smooth execution of JUST CAUSE, General Stiner later claimed that the operation was relatively error free, confining the Air-and Battle doctrine and validating the strategic direction of the military. He concluded, therefore, that while old lessons were confirmed, there were "no [new] lessons learned" during the campaign. Despite Stiner's assertions, Operation JUST CAUSE offers important insights into the role of force in the post Cold War period and the successful conduct of a peacetime contingency operation.


My Participation in This Battle or Operation
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