8. Tactical Success Undone by Major Intelligence Mistake
Operation Ivory was a brilliant tactical success. It accomplished its objective of seizing control of the camp within minutes of touching down, with the attackers sustaining only two injuries: one shot in the leg, while another broke an ankle. The absence of prisoners to rescue, however, made that tactical success meaningless. As it turned out, the mission was based on outdated intelligence. Months earlier, the POWs had been moved from Son Tay, which was adjacent to a river that was prone to flooding, and relocated to another prison camp. Within 26 minutes of landing, the Green Berets were airborne again, headed back to base.
So notwithstanding that the assault had succeeded tactically, the mission was an abject failure. The blame fell squarely on the shoulders of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and the other entities involved in the gathering and dissemination of the information upon which the raid was planned. In Operation Ivory’s aftermath, criticism of the intelligence mistakes that led to a risky operation to rescue prisoners from a prison camp that held no prisoners, led to an extensive overhaul and restructuring of the intelligence apparatus.