Echanis, Michael D, SP 4

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Specialist 4
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1970-1970, 11B10, C Company, 75th Infantry (Ranger)
Service Years
1969 - 1970
Specialist 4

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This Military Service Page was created/owned by SP 4 Robert Craft to remember Echanis, Michael D, SP 4.

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Home Town
Ontario, Oregon
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Not Specified

Date of Passing
Sep 08, 1978
Location of Interment
Sunset Cemetery - Ontario, Oregon
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Not Specified

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IMO SP4 MICHAEL D ECHANIS posted by IN Welsh, Joey, 1SG 491
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  1969, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Training Brigade (Fort Ord, CA), D
 Unit Assignments
C Company, 75th Infantry (Ranger)
  1969-1969, Basic Airborne Course (BAC)
  1970-1970, 11B10, C Company, 75th Infantry (Ranger)
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  Books by Michael D Echanis3
  Hand to Hand Combat Training4
  St Johns Catholic Cemetary, Ontario, Oregon3
  Oct 05, 2016, General Photos1
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Area man pursued interesting military life
By Sean Hart
Argus Observer
Saturday, November 7, 2009 10:17 PM PST

ONTARIO — Michael Echanis, a local Vietnam War hero, has a story like something out of Hollywood.

And the background of George Clooney’s new movie bears striking similarities.

“The Men Who Stare At Goats,” a comedic film that opened Friday, took its name from the nonfiction book by Jon Ronson — the book containing the facts upon which the satiric movie is loosely based.

In the book, Ronson interviews retired U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Glenn Wheaton, who claims he was a member of a top-secret Army program that attempted to train soldiers to kill goats using only the power of their minds — and Wheaton also claims he actually saw one person perform the paranormal act: a Special Forces soldier named Michael Echanis.

The book goes on to describe how Echanis had 29 confirmed kills in two months in Vietnam before being wounded and sent back to the United States and how he later died as a mercenary in Nicaragua — without ever mentioning Echanis’ small hometown of Ontario.    

“Echanis was born Nov. 16, 1950, at Nampa and grew up in Ontario. He attended schools here, graduating from Ontario High School in 1969. He excelled in track and basketball in high school,” his obituary in the Sept. 14, 1978, Daily Argus Observer reads. “He enlisted in the service and was wounded in Vietnam where he earned the ‘Bronze Star for Valor’ in his valiant efforts to save his unit. He was a student of the martial arts and was teaching self defense to counter-insurgency Nicaraguan National Guard at the time of his death.”

Whether or not Echanis killed a goat with his mind, the true American soldier certainly earned a list of accolades in his short 27 years. According to a Sept. 11, 1978, Argus article, Echanis’ parents, Frank and Pat Echanis, Ontario, said he was “in Nicaragua training troops in guerrilla or hand-to-hand combat” at the time of his death in an aviation incident with “sketchy” details. Echanis, the article continues, was a former member of the Army Special Forces, or Green Berets.

“Echanis distinguished himself by valorous actions when the truck in which he was a passenger was ambushed. Spc. Four Echanis immediately opened fire on the enemy ... wounded in the left foot, he disregarded the pain, reloaded his weapon and continued to fire on the enemy ... he was hit in the head by fragmentation from a small arms round,” a February, 1971, Argus article detailing how Echanis earned his medal in Vietnam reads: “Still undaunted, he moved to the rear of the truck to engage the enemy. Although in pain and partially blinded by his head wound, he saw the blurred figure of an approaching NVA ... he remained exposed to the intense enemy fire and silenced the foe. He then lay down in the truck to reload his weapon and was wounded a third time. Wounded again, he continued to fight until the beleaguered truck was relieved.”

After being sent back to the United States because of his war wounds, Echanis, who was “not a very big guy” when he enlisted in the service, grew substantially, according to a childhood friend from Ontario, Ben Plaza.

“He did a lot of rehab and built himself up. His foot was pretty badly injured, but he did a lot of rehab and bulked up and really got into the martial arts,” Plaza said. “But then he got into some mystical things too — I mean like Carlos Castaneda books. He was into a lot of mystical things, a lot of mind control things. Like trying to stop a clock — I heard about it, but I never saw him try it — which I guess is in the same vein as the whole movie thing.”Although the Argus article from 1978 does not comment on mysticism or goats, it does mention Echanis “earned a black belt in Korean ‘Hwarangdo’ ” and “was a contributor to a number of military publications,” including three books on self-defense. Echanis’ mother said, in the 1978 article, she had spoken to her son the week before his death, and he told her he was concerned about the spread of communism and that people in the United States don’t realize how good they “have it.” She said he also told her he still gets tears in his eyes when he sees “the Stars and Stripes flying.” The patriotic Vietnam veteran was laid to rest in Sunset Cemetery in Ontario, Sept. 16, 1978, and insight into the Army’s alleged top-secret goat program may have been buried with him. Nevertheless, the Green Beret, martial arts master and Bronze Star recipient from Ontario certainly earned a reputation as an eccentric soldier.

“I never heard anything about goats, but ... he was very impressive and imposing in a way that was — you could tell his mind was very controlled and strong. It was all the disciplinary things that he was studying,” Plaza said. “He was imposing that way — and intimidating.”
Other Comments:



Michael Echanis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Michael Dick Echanis (November 16, 1950 – September 8, 1978) was a former enlisted soldier who served in "C" Company, 75th Ranger Infantry in Vietnam.[1] Echanis was an accomplished mixed martial artist, writer and editor. He died while working as a private security contractor in Nicaragua at the behest of the Nicaraguan National Guard. This account was first reported by Soldier of Fortune Magazine(SOF). SOF published the article after Echanis' death. Echanis had been the magazine's martial arts editor from 1974 - 1976.

Early life

Echanis was born in Nampa, Idaho. He enlisted in the US Army in 1969 upon graduation from Ontario High School, choosing to skip the traditional ceremony and enter the service. According to the Echanis family those stories offering he enlisted in lieu of going to jail are false. Echanis had long been interested in the military and came from a family where his father, Frank, and his uncles had all served during World War II. His cousin, Joseph Y Echanis (United States Air Force) had gone missing in 1969 while on a mission in Laos and Echanis hoped he might be able to learn something of his fate if he could get to Vietnam.

Military service

Echanis attended basic training at Fort Ord, California and went on to Airborne training at Fort Benning, Georgia. In 1970 he volunteered for duty in Vietnam where he served with Company C (Rgr), 75th Infantry, FFV/USARPAC as a scout-observer(DD 2-1, Echanis, Michael D, Record of Assignments, FOIA/Greg Walker).

Echanis received the Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB), Purple Heart and Bronze Star with "V" device for his heroic actions during a company size NVA ambush in which he is credited with saving the lives of six of his comrades. He was also awarded the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry (Information Releasable Under the Freedom of Information Act, National Archives and Records Administration, Michael Dick Echanis, Decorations and Awards, The Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross w/ Palm Device, FOIA/Greg Walker). Although severely wounded to include a head wound SP4 Echanis was the only Ranger capable of fighting back until help arrived in the form of U.S. helicopters. The closing paragraph of the Army's award narrative states:

"Spec 4 Echanis' aggressive spirit and undaunted courage were decisive in preventing the anhilation (sic) of the truck and its personnel. His actions, at the risk of his own life, were in the highest traditions of the military and reflect upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army."

Those wounded in the ambush with Echanis were SSG Eddie L Roberts, Alfred L Carr, Robert W Ladeaux, Mark E Laughton (Company C, 75th Rangers). Echanis' head wound would partially blind him during the ambush due to blood running from his forehead into both of his eyes. He would offer afterward to his family that the enemy was close enough for him to reach out and touch when the helicopters arrived to rescue the men.

His service in the Army was a total of 15 months. He was evacuated stateside to the military hospital in San Francisco where he made a his recovery over a seven month period of time.

Echanis' military record shows during his short military career he did not attend/graduate Ranger School and although he participated in Phase One of the Special Forces Qualification Course he did not, for administrative reasons, progress further than this.

Martial arts

After his medical discharge in December 1970, Echanis returned home to Ontario where he discussed plans to attend the University of Oregon the following fall. He renewed his study of Judo and began learnng about the Art of Ninjitsu under Toshiro Nagato. According to a family member Echanis trained for a short time as a boxer during this period. This was under Al Barros, who lived and trained fighters in Boise, Idaho (Michael L Echanis/Greg Walker 2012). Echanis fought several times as a boxer in the heavyweight class but left boxing to continue his study of the Eastern martial arts.

In October of 2013 a complete documentation packet of Echanis' official selection by the United States Army's Special Forces ("Green Berets") and United States Navy's SEAL Team 2 as these elite organizations' senior civilian H2H instructor was provided to Nagato Shihan in Japan by Echanis historian and retired "Green Beret" Greg Walker. Included was Echanis' unique programs of instruction for his military application of Ninjitsu training. Echanis Sensei's body of work is now safely and appropriately honored in the traditional birthplace, study and practice of Ninjitsu with his friend and fellow martial artist from their early days together in Ontario, Oregon, Toshiro Nagato.

Echanis had become known as a colorful hand-to-hand combat instructor for the Special Forces, SEALs, and other military groups. He and Chuck Sanders were childhood friends and Sanders was a qualified "Green Beret" and assigned to ODA 594 with the 5th SFG(A). Echanis was given a high-ranking black sash in Hwa Rang Do and was the ascribed author of three military-oriented hand-to-hand combat books based on this Korean martial art. Echanis' rank as a "Sulsa", or the Hwa Rang Do equivalent of a Ninja, was given to him by Hwa Rang Do founder Joo Bang Lee. According to Master Randy Wanner Joo Bang Lee allowed (Wanner) could teach anything Echanis wished whenever he came through southern California.

Echanis developed a three-week hand-to-hand Instructor combat course sponsored by the United States Army John F. Kennedy Center for Military Assistance at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The program was authorized in December 1975 and Echanis was formally appointed the "Senior Instructor and Advisor to the USAJFCENMA Hand to Hand Combat/Special Weapons School for Instructors" in a Memorandum For Record signed by Major Jerry C. Williams, then Chief, PSD, at the JFK Center. Six courses were presented in 1976. Echanis' combatives program was titled the "Hwarangdo Hand to Hand and Special Weapons Program".

The USAJFKMA, then commanded by Major General Robert C. Kingston, issued formal Certificates of Participation in the "Hwarang Do/Hand to Hand Combat School" to include the Instructor Course the participant attended. Both MG Kingston and Colonel Timothy G Cannon, Chief of Staff, signed the certificates. Grandmaster Joo Bang Lee, founder and then leader of the International Hwarang Do Federation affixed his personal seal to each certificate which conferred Black Belt ranking on the participant.

Echanis then moved on to Little Creek, Virginia and A.P. Hill where, courtesy of Richard Marcinko, then the commanding officer of SEAL Team 2, he taught three 2-week H2H courses for the SEALs. These courses, titled "SEAL TEAM TWO Hwarang Do Hand to Hand Combat/Special Weapons and Special Tactics School for Instructors" were attested to in a memorandum signed by LT Commander Bruce Van Heertum, United States Navy. Van Heertum took over command of SEAL Team TWO upon Marcinko moving to his next assignment in Washington DC. Van Heertum designated Echanis as being appointed "...the permanent senior advisor and head instructor for the SEAL Team TWO Hand to Hand Combat/Special Weapons/Tactics School for Instructors."

Grand Master Joo Bang Lee would attend Echanis' funeral services in Ontario, Oregon, as an honorary pall bearer. One week later he would host a traditional Buddhist memorial ceremony for Michael Echanis in Downey, California, which the family attended.


Echanis wrote three books about hand-to-hand combat:

The text and techniques content of this series were former Hwa Rang Do black belt Randy Wanner's composition with Echanis and Chuck Sanders posing for the pictures. Echanis was given authorial credit. The book series stemmed from Echanis losing a hoped for Saudi Arabian training contract due precisely to his lack of both a written program of instruction (POI) and his unknown status as a para military instructor. He was also motivated to author the series in 1976 by the Army's Special Forces Command for which he was training H2H instructors. There were meant to be 9 books in the series. Wanner captioned each photo sequence as it was being filmed. While in Nicaragua Echanis finished the manuscripts for the remaining 6 books per the Echanis Estate. Titles were to be "Throwing and Choking for Combat", "Joint Breaks, Arm Bars, Come Alongs for Combat", 'Punches and Kicks for Combat", "Ninja Techniques, 3-part series, for Combat", "Medical Procedures for Combat, 2-part, (author, Chuck Sanders), "Mind Control and Hypnosis for Combat,2 part series".

The importance of the book series for Echanis' career was reinforced in a formal letter from Major Juan A Montes, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne). Mike Echanis sent a copy home for his records. It was written on Department of the Army - John F Kennedy Center for Military Assistance, Fort Bragg, NC, letterhead and addressed to Mr. Han Kim, then publisher of Rainbow Publications dated February 1, 1977. "We anticipate more than substantial marketing potential for Mr. Echanis' programs of instruction because this is a virtually untouched market, due to the fact that the military has yet to develop a new program since the O'Neal System was enacted in 1945," he wrote. "Mr. Echanis' training programs exceed any close-quarter combatives manuals, books or training programs that I have viewed up to this time."

Major Montes went on to offer the following. "The possibility of marketing the foreign militaries is potentially high, due to the fact that these underdeveloped countries are usually in the process of developing strong defense programs. With the availability of translation, the prospect of a foreign market is again very substantial...We are sincerely looking forward to the opportunity of advancement made possible by your publishing of this unique HAND TO HAND COMBAT SPECIAL WEAPONS SERIES. In the meantime, if I can be of any assistance to you in any way please do not hesitate to call."

Han Kim would likewise visit with Echanis at EEBI in Managua where he received a tour of the training area used by Echanis. He would meet with President Aanastasio Somoza in February 1978. During the short meeting Echanis gave the president a copy of his now legendary "black book", dedicated to General Somoza and his son, Major Somoza and "to their endless cause and struggle of combating the spread of communism through the utilization of terrorism and subversion in this free world" (Black Belt Magazine, September 1978, "Rainbow Publisher Visits Nicaragua", Page 13).

When asked if Echanis' high profile in U.S. books and magazines was a concern for President Somoza in conjunction with the work Echanis was doing at his behest, Ray Molina, who was the actual contracting representative for Somoza and for whom Echanis worked for directly, stated "Regarding Mike's coverage in the Media, we never gave that any attention. Not relevant at all." (Ray Molina with Greg Walker, September 2013).


Echanis was historically a free style fighter and after his wounding and recovery he traveled both the west and east coasts challenging and successfully fighting a number of black belt ranked studio owners/operators in their own backyards. Echanis served as the Martial Arts Editor of Soldier of Fortune magazine from 1974 to 1976. Echanis was vetted by now deceased San Francisco martial arts instructor SiGung Art Gitlin. This at the request of Soldier of Fortune publisher andeditor Robert K. Brown well before the 1978 printing of the SOF paid for book series. According to Gitlin he was to "smoke out" whether Echanis was just one many "ninjas" then coming on to SOF in the hopes of coverage or self promotion. SiGung Gitlin was very impressed by Echanis' martial arts abilities to include intense sparring and fighting. He commented in a phone interview years later with Fighting Knives and Full Contact editor and retired Special Forces NCO Greg Walker that he (Gitlin) was "most impressed by Echanis' heartfelt desire to discuss, train and then test martial arts theory and technique. If it didn't work Echanis wanted to know why" (Interview Sifu Art Gitlin / Greg Walker, Fighting Knives Magazine).

Warrior knife

Although efforts have been made to capitilize on Echanis' name with respect to the Wanner/Taylor Warrior knife project this attribution is in error per published accounts from noted cutlery and martial arts writers/authors Michael Janich and Greg Walker.

According to the Echanis estate Michael Echanis had contacted Gerber Legendary Blades in Portland, Oregon. Echanis was very familiar with Gerber's cutlery products to include the much favored Gerber MK II fighting knife he trained with and carried. Echanis also favored the Gerber Mark I boot knife. In an interview with Greg Walker, Echanis historian, with Master Chief Bob Nissley, a close friend and mentor to Echanis at Fort Bragg, Nissley was given a Mark I by Echanis with the admonition that "This is all you need to kill a man!" (Interview, MCPO Bob Nissley (Ret.), August 2013).

In an article written after Echanis' death by Randy Wanner and titled (Circle of Stealth - Echanis' Revolutionary Sentry Removal Technique (Soldier of Fortune, October 1980, Pgs 37-39) Wanner, playing the role of the attacker, is seen using one of the prototype Warriors he'd had made for himself. Interestingly enough the "sentry" is outfitted with a Gerber MK2 fighting-utility knife, Echanis' blade of choice. Wanner refers to the knife he uses in this article as the "Echanis warrior knife" (SOF, October 80, Pg 39, Photo/Caption 2). This reference perhaps lending to the mistaken belief Echanis was a contributing designer. An effort was made after Echanis' death on behalf of Randy Wanner and Bob Taylor to see the Warrior knife become an Echanis memorial project the Echanis Family declined. Wanner would partner with Bob Taylor to refine the knife's design and it would be produced in several different patterns by Al Mar Knives, Round Eye Knife and Tool and Spyderco Knives.

The Gerber MK 1 and MK 2 fighting knives became Echanis' most recognized personal weapon and signature trademark.

Nicaraguan military service

Historical inferences and allegations that Echanis and members of his team in Nicaragua were working for the CIA are in error. Although former Green Beret and Echanis' best friend Chuck Sanders had applied for a position with the intelligence agency he was advised by formal letter in March 1977 that no vacancies were available for him. Sanders later made a second unilateral contact with a self-identified recruiter for the CIA at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, regarding possible opportunities to assist the intelligence agency (,5472900), however Echanis scolded Sanders after the fact and rebuked then Master Sergeant Luke Thompson's several efforts to contact him to assist the CIA as being inappropriate and uninvited. The Deputy Charge of Mission (DCM) at the U.S. embassy told the extended staff to include Echanis and his team they would never be permitted to be used in such a capacity and the issue was settled in-house (

Echanis did enjoy a friendly relationship with then CIA liaison Tom Hewett who was stationed at the JFK Center on Smoke Bomb Hill at Fort Bragg at the time. According to retired Master Chief Bob Nissley, then the senior naval advisor for special warfare at the Center, Echanis would often visit with Hewett either while at Bragg training or while traveling through Bragg to either Colorado (Boulder) or Los Angeles.

Echanis' perceived rank as a major is described by Somoza in his 1980 book co-written with Jack Cox, Nicaragua Betrayed. Echanis would sometimes wear a green beret with 5th Special Forces Group "flash" and a major's rank. The beret was one he wore while working with Special Forces students and cadre during Robin Sage exercises,the last phase of the SF qualification course. This beret was gifted to Echanis historian and retired "Green Beret" Greg Walker in 2012 by the Echanis Family. Describing the Sandinista take-over of the Nicaraguan Congress in August 1978 by the FSLN Somoza describes "General Jose Ivan Allegrett and Major Mike Echanis stormed out of my office in anger. They wanted to lead the charge. These military men were afraid of nothing. With twelve to fourteen men they were going to take the Palace and, you know, they would have done it...". Clearly then President Somoza did not know or care regarding Echanis' use of a major's rank to both intimidate or impress.

President Somoza would not sign off on such a fate for the estimated 1200 hostages the FSLN held at the Palace. Somoza's first cousin, Luis Pallais Debayle, was being held and had been wounded in the head when the 25 FSLN guerrillas assaulted the palace. He was on the phone with the US ambassador when Pastora's unit seized the Congress chamber. Also held was Jose Somoza Abrego, son of General Jose Somoza and nephew to the President. Somoza knew many of those at the palace and he knew their families. He knew the vast majority were everyday office workers and administrators. In his book he states the projected time of the assault itself - 18–20 minutes in duration - killed any further consideration of Echanis' plan. He would not have the blood of "300-400" people on his hands over a flawed military operation. In the end 59 convicted FSLN prisoners were released by the government and a half million dollar ransom was paid to the FSLN.

Echanis' anger was in part based on the FSLN's successful repulsion of he and his commandos at the onset of the take-over. Arriving at the front of the palace Echanis' truck-borne commandos on their way to a firing range were effectively engaged by FSLN guerrillas with one of Echanis' captains in the lead vehicle was killed outright. FSLN Commander Eden Pastora, a hero of the Sandinista revolution, advised President Somoza by telephone that if the counter attack continued he would begin killing hostages. "Echanis, in communication with the Bunker by radio, wanted to assault the palace before the guerrillas could get organized, but he was ordered to pull back". Echanis did not know the FSLN had already captured and confined the Congress and were ready to kill all of them had he not obeyed the orders coming from the Bunker.

The "Bunker" where President Somoza preferred to conduct his business from was roughly one mile south of the National Palace. It was not actually a bunker but an above ground complex. The National Palace housed the Congress (50 members) and the ministries of finance and the interior. Rage and emotion were driving Echanis' thought processes not clear, objective military thinking and planning. Eden Pastora's hand picked assault team were dressed in the distinct uniform and headgear of Echanis' "Black Berets". On August 22, 1978, Pastora's team gathered in the capital.

The National Palace incident was over o at 10:00 AM on August 24, 1978. On August 28th, a coup in the making was discovered by President Somoza and the plotters arrested. Echanis would give his final interview to Tom Fenton at AP ten days later. During the interview Echanis claimed elements within the National Guard were planning to kill Alegrett and him because of their growing intelligence operations. Echanis insisted the interview not be published unless he was killed. This interview, one of three over a period of several weeks, was incendiary in its content and embarrassing to the United States Government as well as to President Somoza.


On September 8, 1978, at 1300 Hours, Major Echanis/Chuck Sanders/Nguyen "Bobby" van Nguyen and General Alegrett would die in a tragic aircraft accident at the mouth of the Sapoa River near the Nicaragua/Costa Rican border. Michael Echanis and Nguyen "Bobby" Van Nguyen are buried at St. Johns Catholic Cemetery (a.k.a. Sunset Cemetery) in Ontario, Oregon. Bobby Nguyen, a highly decorated Vietnamese Airborne officer and MACV-SOG recon operator (Combat and Control North).

Jon Ronson, author of The Men Who Stare At Goats, cites associates of Echanis who contend the explosion in the aircraft was from an attempt to bomb a Sandanista camp with hand grenades by throwing them from an opened window in the plane and that the recovered aircraft showed evidence of a hand grenade going off inside the cockpit. However Ronson's account is not documented.

Randy Wanner said that when he heard of the team being killed, he was advised to go underground as no one in those early hours knew who was responsible or what else they might do. Wanner offered during one interview that notification of Echanis and the others being killed came from an official U.S. Government source and by phone. He took the warning seriously as did those other Americans working for the Somoza government in Nicaragua - all of whom left the country for the United States as soon as possible.

Note: Retired Navy SEAL Joseph "Joe" Camp, would disappear in Managua in the spring of 1978. Camp, a Vietnam veteran of the SEAL Teams, is described as being the team's Military Intelligence instructor. His car was found abandoned on a Managua street one morning. A joint investigation of his disappearnce was conducted however his body has never been found and he is presumed dead. Master Chief Bob Nissley assisted in the unofficial investigation of Camp's disappearance by flying to Managua himself with a close friend of Camp's. They interviewed Echanis, Sanders and senior officers of the National Guard but learned little. ABC Evening News aired a 3:10 minute investigative report on October 28, 1981, covering in part Echanis' as well as Joe Camp's deaths ( It is believed Camp was killed by Sandinistas working in the city. In this same program Echanis is seen wearing his "Robin Sage" green beret.

The 5th Special Forces Group (A), which Chuck Sanders had served in, provided pall bearers and full military honors. The military pall bearers included MSG Vladimir Jakovenko, SSG James Lally, SFC Thomas Powell and SSG Roger Bascomb, were all from the A-Team Chuck Sanders served on while with the 5th SFG(A).

In the late afternoon of September 8, 1978, US Ambassador Maurico Solaun sent a telegram from the embassy in Managua to the then Secretary of State in Washington, DC. The SUBJECT line read "Alleged U.S. CIT Mercenaries Reportedly Dead" (Department of State, Incoming TELEGRAM, AMEMBASSY MANAGUA to SECSTATE WASHDC NIACT IMMEDIATE 7741. SOURCE: Jimmy Carter Library, Atlanta, GA, October 28, 2013).

In his telegram to SECSTATE AMB Solaun identifies President Somoza personally notifying the ambassador of the plane crash and advising him that "three US CITS aboard are dead". Solaun also credits reports from "other sources in the GN [Guardia National] with confirming this information. These would include the EEBI GN patrol which was the first to arrive at the crash site, SubLT Mendieta who recognized the bodies of Echanis and Sanders at the military morgue in Managua and called LTC Somoza Portecarro at the EEBI with the news and LTC Somoza Portecarro who then notified his father the president and the U.S. Embassy.

By 1700 the same day the remains of Americans and South Vietnamese Bobby Nguyen would be undergoing medical preparation by Nicaraguan physicians at the Hospital General De La Guardia Nacional De Nicaragua to be swiftly returned to the United States.

The U.S. Embassy in Managua did, per reviewed official documents, ensure all three bodies were properly prepared and documented for return to the United States. Echanis historian Greg Walker located the official Nicarguan/U.S. Embassy documents pertaining to the efforts of the two governments to properly care for and return the remains. These include the formal autopsy reports and death certificates for Echanis, Saunders and Bobby "Gigoyen". These provided by Master Chief Bob Nissley who was at the time coordinating the return of the remains and funeral arrangements in Ontario, Oregon for all involved (Source: Greg Walker/Master Chief Bob Nissley, Interview December 2012, Tampa, Florida).

Upon learning of their deaths President Somoza ordered all necessary preparations and arrangements of the remains, to include professional embalming, and then directed a TACA Airlines aircraft to fly all three caskets to the United States. After a 72-hour delay in Fort Launderdale, Florida, where the plane initially landed after being denied landing rights at Miami International, President Somoza again directed TACA Air to transport the caskets to Boise, Idaho (Official Letter, Jefatura Sprema De Las Fuerzas Armadas, Guardia Nacional De Nicaragua, September 12, 1978, Addressed to "Senores, Lineas Aereas de Nicaragua, Managua, D.N., signed for the President of Nicaragua by Coronel (INF), GN. Rafael.Adonis Porras L, Primer Ayudante Del Senor Presidente).

Why President Somoza paid for all pre-funeral arrangements to include caskets as well as air transportation from Managua to Boise, Idaho, was answered by former U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua Mauricio Solaun in a November 2012 interview with Echanis historian Greg Walker. "I presume," offered Ambassador Solaun, "that the responsibility taken by Somoza to see that any dead mercenary be repatriated to the U.S. with dignity obeyed to the Hispanic sense of chivalry that he had toward his employees."

On September 4, 1978, close presidential advisor Ray Molina speaking on behalf of President Somoza announced the Somoza government and military was in open warfare with those domestic opponents attempting to overthrow it (,4365104). Molina, a Cuban-American and veteran of the Bay of Pigs invasion who was captured and held prisoner by the Castro government for two years before being released, knew Echanis, Sanders and Nguyen very well. They lived at his secure compound in Managua while working directly for President Somoza (Interview, Ray Molina and Greg Walker, September 2013). In a communique from the U.S. embassy to Molina of a large group of Sandinista fighters crossing over the border from Costa Rica on September 8 from the village of Las Majones, General Alegrett responded to a call from President Somoza to advise him on the situation. Alegrett offered to fly a recon of the area and called the three counter-terrorism specialists (Echanis, Sanders and Nguyen) and asked if they would join him. They agreed. It was during this flight disaster struck.

A source on scene at the time of the air crash offers the hand grenades had been primed and placed in glass jars so they would detonate upon impact / the glass breaking. It was determined, more than likely, one of the jars broke inside the aircraft with the predictable result. Soldier of Fortune Magazine published an article in which an alleged former Nicaraguan intelligence officer claimed President Somoza and General Samual Genie and himself planned to kill Alegrett using an altimeter bomb. Soldier of Fortune could not confirm the veracity of its source's recollections. This account is based on SOF's source claiming Somoza feared a coup being led by Alegrett. However, although a military/civilian coup was discovered on August 25, 1978, in the aftermath of the National Palace take-over by the FMLN, coup leaders were arrested on August 28 to include General Larios, the seniormost military officer involved (,6163217). General Alegrett, one of the most trusted senior officers serving under Somoza, was not involved.

Still another version of the plane crash that killed all four onboard offers bad weather and poor piloting skills (Alegrett was a self taught pilot and not instrument rated) contributed to the crash.

Echanis was known to throughly check the general's plane for altimeter devices every time the general and he flew together. Ray Molina, a close confidant and advisor to President Somoza for many years, offers it is absurd to believe Somoza would have ordered Alegrett to be killed, much less Mike Echanis.

It was reported almost immediately in Managua upon word of the aircraft exploding that hand grenades onboard were involved. Again, according to Skip Crane, "They [Alegrett and Company] were apparently checking out known Sandinista positions in a built up area near Sapoa (in southern Nicaragua) when the crash occurred. The word we started getting almost immediately in Managua [at the U.S. Embassy] was there were hand grenades being thrown from the plane involved." That a fragmentation grenade had exploded inside the plane's cockpit and caused the crash was also known to Colonel Anastacio Portocarrero, who ordered the families of those killed to be notified (

Echanis historian Greg Walker, in the August/September issue of Black Belt Magazine, offers his personal belief the aviation crash was caused by General Alegrett dropping grenades from the plane that day. Known by the nickname "El Loco" for doing just this kind of thing Walker asserts in Black Belt the general was responsible. "I believe Alegrett was dropping live grenades from his plane when the explosion took place." ("Hwa Rang Do's Immortal Warrior",Black Belt, August/September, 2013, Page 54).

In contrast, Master Chief Bob Nissley and Raymond Molina, close friends of Echanis' at Fort Bragg and in Managua at the time, believe poor weather and Alegrett's lack of professional training as a pilot were the cause (Interviews with Bob Nissley and Raymond Molina, September 2013, Greg Walker).

It is likely no evidential cause for the crash will ever be known.

The bodies of Echanis, Sanders and Bobby Ngyuen were initially taken to Managua's El Retiro Hospital where they were placed in the morgue (La EEBI y Michael Echanis, Monimbo, Edition 569, Oscar Mendieta). Here they were discovered and identified by then LT Mendieta. Mendieta contacted Colonel Somoza at EEBI who in turn contacted his father, the president, and the US Embassy. From the morgue the remains were moved to a staging area at the Managua International airport. U.S. eye-witness identification was made from two matching Hwa Rang Do tattoos on Echanis' inner forearms and another on his shoulder, according to retired Navy SEAL Skip Crane in a recent interview with Echanis historian Greg Walker. Crane was a close friend of Echanis' and was working at the U.S. Embassy in Managua as the Naval Attache at the time he helped properly identify the body.

Once the remains of all three arrived in Ontario, Oregon Master Chief Bob Nissley (Retired), on scene and helping coordinate the services/funerals with the families, reaffirmed the identities of Echanis, Sanders and Nguyen per the request of Mike Echanis' father, Frank. Nissley offers he did not see wounds that in his professional opinion appeared to have been caused by hand grenade fragmentation but that wounds, which had been attended to by the embalming process, were clearly evident (Interview with Master Chief Nissley / Greg Walker, August 2013). Also identifying the bodies was Jim Sanders, Chuck Sanders' brother. Jim had helped Echanis and Sanders teach at Fort Bragg in 1976 and is seen in several pictures assisting Echanis in Black Belt Magazine's August/September issue 2013 (Pages 52 and 53).

President Jimmy Carter sent the Echanis Family a Presidential Certificate honoring their son's service to the country several months after his death. A copy of this certificate appears in the August/September 2013 issue of Black Belt Magazine ("Hwa Rang Do's Immortal Warrior", author Greg Walker).

On October 8, 2013, in lieu of a fully documented recommendation packet sent to Black Belt Magazine, Michael D. Echanis was designated as Black Belt Magazine's 2013 Weapons Instructor of the Year. Announcement of his formal induction into the Hall of Fame is presented in the December 2013 / January 2014 issue of the publication (Confirmation of Induction, Robert Young, Editor, Black Belt Magazine to Greg Walker, Echanis historian, October 8, 2013).

Michael Echanis Headstone

Michael Echanis Footstone

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