Billy Waugh

William Waugh (born December 1, 1929) is a former United States Army Special Forces soldier and Central Intelligence Agency paramilitary operations officer who served more than 50 years between the U.S. Army's Green Berets and the CIA's Special Activities Division (renamed Special Activities Center in 2016[1]).

William Waugh
Nickname(s)"Billy", "Mustang"
Born (1929-12-01) December 1, 1929 (age 90)
Bastrop, Texas, U.S.
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1948–1972
RankArmy-U.S.-OR-09b.png Sergeant major
Paramilitary Operations Officer
Unit5th Special Forces Group
Studies and Observations Group
Special Activities Division
Battles/warsKorean War
Vietnam War
Operation Enduring Freedom - Afghanistan (OEF-A)
Operation Iraqi Freedom
AwardsSilver Star
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star (4)
Purple Heart (8)
Army Commendation Medal (4)
Air Medal
Other work Central Intelligence Agency

Early lifeEdit

Waugh was born in Bastrop, Texas, on December 1, 1929. In 1945, upon meeting two local Marines who returned from the fighting in World War II, the then 15-year-old Waugh was inspired to enlist in the Marine Corps. Knowing that it was unlikely that he would be admitted in Texas because of his young age, Waugh devised a plan to hitchhike to Los Angeles, where he believed a person had to only be 16 to enlist. He got as far as Las Cruces, New Mexico, before he was arrested for having no identification and refusing to give his name to a local police officer. He was later released after securing enough money for a bus ticket back to Bastrop. Now committed to serving in the military once he finished school, Waugh became an excellent student at Bastrop High School, graduating in 1947 with a 4.0 grade point average.[2]

Military careerEdit

Waugh enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1948, completing basic training at Fort Ord, California, in August of that year. He was accepted into the United States Army Airborne School and became airborne qualified in December 1948. In April 1951, Waugh was assigned to the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team (RCT) in Korea.

U.S. Army Special ForcesEdit

Shortly after the end of the Korean War, Waugh met two Special Forces members on a train in Germany, they informed him of openings for Platoon sergeants, shortly after he requested a transfer. [3] He began training for the Special Forces. He earned the Green Beret in 1954, joining the 10th Special Forces Group (SFG) in Bad Tölz, West Germany.

As U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War increased, the United States began deploying Special Forces "A-teams" (Operational Detachment Alpha, or ODA, teams) to Southeast Asia in support of counterinsurgency operations against the Viet Cong, North Vietnamese and other Communist forces. Waugh arrived in South Vietnam with his ODA in 1961, and began working alongside Civilian Irregular Defense Groups (CIDGs) there, as well as in Laos.

Special Forces sleeve insignia, with "Airborne" tab

In 1965, while participating in a commando raid with his CIDG unit on a North Vietnamese Army encampment near Bong Son, Binh Dinh province, Waugh's unit found itself engaged with much larger enemy force than anticipated. Expecting only a few hundred NVA, it was discovered that a force of Chinese regulars had joined the NVA Elite; combining for almost 4,000 soldiers. While he and his men attempted to retreat from the battle, Waugh received numerous severe wounds to his head and legs. Unconscious, he was taken for dead by NVA soldiers and left alone. Despite his injuries, with the assistance of his teammates Waugh was safely evacuated from the combat zone. He spent much of 1965 and 1966 recuperating at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., eventually returning to duty with 5th Special Forces Group in 1966. He received a Silver Star and a Purple Heart (His 6th) for the battle of Bong Son.

Special Forces Regimental Insignia

At this time Waugh joined the Military Assistance Command-Vietnam Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG). While working for SOG, Waugh helped train Vietnamese and Cambodian forces in unconventional warfare tactics primarily directed against the North Vietnamese Army operating along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Prior to retirement from U.S. Army Special Forces service, Waugh was senior NCO (non-commissioned officer) of MACV-SOG's Command & Control North (CCN) based at Marble Mountain on the South China Sea shore a few miles south of Da Nang, Vietnam. Waugh held this Command Sergeant Major role during the covert unit's transition and name change to Task Force One Advisory Element (TF1AE). SGM Waugh conducted the first combat High Altitude, Low Opening (HALO) jump,[4] a parachuting maneuver designed for rapid, undetected insertion into hostile territory. In October 1970, his team made a practice Combat Infiltration into the NVA owned War Zone D, in South Vietnam, for reassembly training, etc.[4] Waugh also led the last combat Special reconnaissance parachute insertion by American Army Special Forces HALO parachutists into denied territory which was occupied by communist North Vietnamese Army (NVA) troops on June 22, 1971.

Waugh retired from active military duty at the rank of Sergeant Major (E-9) on February 1, 1972.

CIA careerEdit

Prior to retirement, Waugh worked for the CIA's elite Special Activities Division, starting in 1961. After Waugh retired from the military, he worked for the United States Postal Service until he accepted an offer in 1977 from ex-CIA officer Edwin P. Wilson to work in Libya on a contract to train that country's special forces. This was not an Agency-endorsed assignment and Waugh might have found himself in trouble with U.S. authorities if it weren't for the fact that he was also approached by the CIA to work for the Agency while in Libya. The CIA tasked him with surveiling Libyan military installations and capabilities – this was of great interest to U.S. intelligence as Libya was receiving substantial military assistance from the Soviet Union at the time. This additional assignment quite possibly protected Waugh from prosecution after Wilson was later indicted and convicted in 1979 for illegally selling weapons to Libya.[5]

In the 1980s he was assigned to the Kwajalein Missile Range in the Marshall Islands to track Soviet small boat teams (Naval Spetsnaz: Dolfin) operating in the area and prevent them from stealing U.S. missile technology. Some of his more critical assignments took place in Khartoum, Sudan during the early 1990s, where he performed surveillance and intelligence gathering on terrorist leaders Carlos the Jackal and Osama bin Laden with Cofer Black.

At the age of 71, Waugh participated in Operation Enduring Freedom as a member of the CIA team led by Gary Schroen that went into Afghanistan to work with the Northern Alliance to topple the Taliban regime and Al Qaeda at the Battle of Tora Bora. Waugh was in-country from October to December 2001. Waugh spent many years being both a "Blue Badger" (employee) and a "Green Badger" (contractor). He continues to work as a "Green Badger". It is unknown how many missions Waugh was involved in during his career.


In 1985, Waugh was again requested by the CIA for clandestine work. Before he took the offer, he decided to further his education, earning bachelor's degrees in Business and Police Science from Wayland Baptist University in 1987. He also earned a master's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a specialization in criminal justice administration (MSCJA) in 1988 from Texas State University (formerly Southwest Texas State), in San Marcos, TX.


  • Hunting the Jackal[6] is a nonfiction book by Waugh, that details his exploits in covert operations. The title refers to his work in tracking international terrorist Carlos the Jackal. The book was first published by William Morrow in July 2004.
  • Jacobsen, Annie (May 2019). Surprise, Kill, Vanish; The Definitive History of Secret CIA Assassins, Armies, and Operations. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316441438. Retrieved 1 June 2019.[7]

Awards and decorations (partial list)Edit

  Combat Infantryman Badge (two awards)
  Special Forces Tab
  Master Parachutist Badge
  Military Freefall Jumpmaster Badge with gold combat jump star (5 or more combat jumps).
  Silver Star[8]
  Legion of Merit
Bronze Star with three oak leaf clusters
Purple Heart with seven oak leaf clusters
    Air Medal
Army Commendation Medal with valor device and three oak leaf clusters
Presidential Unit Citation (United States) with olc (one award in 2001, Studies and Observations Group)
  Good Conduct Medal (7 awards)
  Army of Occupation Medal
National Defense Service Medal with one bronze service star
Korean Service Medal with three campaign stars
  Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Vietnam Service Medal with Arrowhead device and six service stars
  Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation
  Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation
  Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Medal Unit Citation
  United Nations Service Medal (Korea)
  Vietnam Campaign Medal
  Republic of Korea War Service Medal

See alsoEdit

  • Studies and Observations Group
  • Licensed to Kill, Hired Guns in the War on Terror by Robert Young Pelton. In the book Pelton details his meeting with Waugh to discuss Billy's link between watching Osama Bin Laden in Khartoum to chasing him in Afghanistan. Billy details his time with the Special Activity Division as a contractor.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Waugh, Billy; Keown, Tim (2004). Hunting the Jackal. William Morrow. xix–xxii.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  3. ^ Surprise, Kill, Vanish by Annie Jacobsen
  4. ^ a b "IACSP_MAGAZINE_V11N3A_WAUGH.indd" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-03-26. Retrieved 2010-02-08.
  5. ^ Waugh 2004, pp. 133–154
  6. ^ Hunting the Jackal: A Special Forces and CIA Soldier's Fifty Years on the ... - Billy Waugh, Tim Keown - Google Books
  7. ^ Bird, Kai (24 May 2019). "Truly unbelievable tales of derring-do and gruesome escapades at the CIA" (Book review). Washington Post. Retrieved 1 June 2019.
  8. ^ Waugh 2004, p. xvi

External linksEdit