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The Quiet Professional

Major Richard J. Meadows of the U.S. Army Special Forces

Alan Hoe

Publication Year: 2011

Major Richard J. “Dick” Meadows is renowned in military circles as a key figure in the development of the U.S. Army Special Operations. A highly decorated war veteran of the engagements in Korea and Vietnam, Meadows was instrumental in the founding of the U.S. Delta Force and hostage rescue force. Although he officially retired in 1977, Meadows could never leave the army behind, and he went undercover in the clandestine operations to free American hostages from Iran in 1980. The Quiet Professional: Major Richard J. Meadows of the U.S. Army Special Forces is the only biography of this exemplary soldier’s life. Military historian Alan Hoe offers unique insight into Meadows, having served alongside him in 1960. The Quiet Professional is an insider’s account that gives a human face to U.S. military strategy during the cold war. Major Meadows often claimed that he never achieved anything significant; The Quiet Professional proves otherwise, showcasing one of the great military minds of twentieth-century America.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Series: American Warriors Series

Front cover

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pp. xi-xiii

Most of us share some level of admiration and respect for the great achievers whom we read about in history or otherwise observe from a distance during our lifetimes. Some of us have been fortunate enough to meet and get to know some extraordinary people of whom legends are made. For whatever reason, I have had the ...

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pp. xv-xvi

This book is not an authoritative history of military actions. It is the story of a man who described himself as “just a soldier.” However, Major Richard J. Meadows did not leave war behind when he retired from the U.S. Army—long afterward he continued to fight against the kidnap gangs and drug cartels of South America. He would have been the last man on earth ...

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Prologue: Changing the Course of the Vietnam War

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pp. 3-10

The gleaming body of the soldier ant moved confidently along the length of the suppressed Swedish K submachine gun. The predator’s head twitched incessantly from side to side, mandibles opening and closing, and with its antennae in constant searching motion for unseen threats. The ant showed no fear as it stepped from the cold woodwork of the weapon onto the warmer flesh of Master ...

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1. The Early Years: 1932–1947

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pp. 11-23

In the early 1930s America was still in the grip of the economic depression which was to last almost until the decision to enter World War II in December 1941. Nowhere was this worse than in the valleys, forests, and mountains of West Virginia. The state lagged well behind the national average in respect to personal income and overall development. One of the reasons for this is a freak of nature. ...

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2. The Young Soldier and Koria: 1947–1952

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pp. 25-35

On arrival at Fort Lee the three youngsters were put through a series of basic tests, but Jimmy and Dink didn’t make it. Meadows felt exposed and lonely at their departure. The isolation experienced during his childhood did not allow him to make friends easily, but nonetheless it was not too long before he found a kindred spirit and linked up with Floyd Payne, another West Virginian, and an easygoing man with a sharp sense of humor. ...

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3. Special Forces: 1952–1960

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pp. 37-43

Meadows’s first assignment back in the United States took him to Fort Pitman, California. SFC Julio Neguera and First Sergeant Joe Candy, whom he had also met at Jump School, were with him at this time, three buddies with friendship born of mutual experience in basic training and the shared hardships of combat. It was back to the old routine of clean the guns, disassemble the guns, pack the ...

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4. A Lighthearted Interlude with the Brits: 1960–1961

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pp. 45-59

Meadows, though delighted at the prospect of serving with another Special Forces unit, was conscious that he knew little about the British SAS. Indeed, there was not much available information on the organization at that time. (Right up until the relief of the Iranian embassy siege in London in May 1980, the SAS managed to keep a very low profile despite deep involvement in many successful actions around the world.) ...

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5. Laos and the Learning Curve: 1962

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pp. 61-68

In July 1959 the first U.S. Special Forces personnel were committed to Laos as USSF Mobile Training Teams. The United States had been providing the major part of the Laotian defense budget since about 1955, but overt military intervention or assistance was precluded by the 1954 Geneva Accord. Washington’s only viable method of giving physical help was to provide an “aid” program. This was done ...

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6. Panama and the Fun Years: 1962–1965

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pp. 69-81

The activities of Fidel Castro in Cuba created a new awareness in political and military circles that Central and South America were potential hotbeds of unrest which, particularly in the field of drug smuggling and possible military coups, could impact the United States. Simons had, therefore, been given the mission to move to Panama and set up a training base at which Delta Company, 7th ...

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7. Vietnam and RT Ohio: 1965

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pp. 83-96

After the mission described in the prologue of this book, Meadows was quietly satisfied with the results. He could not even begin to anticipate what far-reaching effects his irrefutable evidence of a large NVA presence in South Vietnam would have on the U.S. war effort and his own career. Neither did he know at the time that this mission was to earn him his first Silver Star.1 The film he had taken ...

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8. Vietnam Through an Officer's Eyes: 1966–1970

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pp. 97-106

For the next five months Meadows was in limbo. The transition to officer status was not instant; there were procedures to be followed. There was no way to predict how long the commissioning process would take, and Meadows could not be given any positive assignment that he could get his teeth into. A precedent had been set with ...

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9. They'll Know We Cared: Son Tay, 1970

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pp. 107-128

The regular “thwack-thwack” of the HH-53’s rotor blades was strangely hypnotic in the darkened interior of the helicopter; the assault force soldiers appeared to doze.1 Meadows looked at his watch for the umpteenth time. 0115 hours. About one hour to touchdown. “Touchdown”? He grinned. That was amusing because when ...

Photo insert

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10. The Rangers, Mr. Meadows, and Delta Force: 1970–1980

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pp. 129-139

The Son Tay raid was treated by much of the media in the expected fashion. There were accusations of military ineptitude and of President Nixon trying to find a means to escalate the Vietnam War after President Johnson had stopped the bombing in 1968. There was, however, no question in any soldier’s mind that the raid had been a clinical success, and in later years it became a model study for ...

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11. "Agent" Meadows in Tehran: 1980

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pp. 141-165

It all began in Iran on November 4, 1979, with a surprise action by disciples of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Brushing aside the U.S. Marine guards, fanatical followers of the Ayatollah occupied the sprawling U.S. embassy in Tehran and took nearly one hundred hostages comprised of Marines and male and female embassy staff. The action followed a student protest against the United States for having made ...

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12. Footloose: 1980–1984

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pp. 167-172

Meadows’s old friend Ross Perot gave him breathing space by hiring him for his proven analytical and planning talents. At first he was set to work organizing the security of Perot’s properties and family, but this soon became monotonous work to a man of Meadows’s character. Through Perot, who was chairman of the Texas War on Drugs at that time, he became interested in the overall drug ...

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13. Entrepreneur in Peru: 1984–1989

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pp. 173-187

Meadows called on his friend at the U.S. embassy in Lima and spoke to the few businessmen to whom he had been given introductions. The situation was much worse than he had imagined.1 Under President Fernando Belaunde corruption was rife. The cocaine trade was booming. The activities of the two principal guerrilla movements, the Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru (MRTA) and the Sendero Luminoso (SL), had grown to such a level of violence that rich ...

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14. The Golden Days in Peru: 1989–1991

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pp. 189-196

When the campaign ended and Fujimori took power, Meadows and Smith went back to providing security for the private sector. The energy of Meadows was truly remarkable. Smith mentioned that he was running a kidnap negotiation almost as an aside to all the other work. Meadows left Peru every sixty days or so for periods of up to one month to conform to tax and visa regulations, and ...

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15. The Bubble Bursts in Peru: 1991–1995

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pp. 197-209

Under similar threat conditions to Mobil, Newmont Gold had been persevering with their mining explorations right through the bad years of insurgency and terrorism in Peru. About 45 percent of Peru’s earnings came from mining, the predominant minerals being lead, zinc, silver, copper, bauxite, and gold. Around 30 percent of the mining companies had applied to the government for permission to ...

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16. A Special Forces Marriage:

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pp. 211-214

This is a good point at which to examine some of the pressures exerted on the Meadows family over the years of continual separation. Some of these strains they shared with many Special Forces comrades. How does a unit, even one as loving and close as the Meadows family, stay together as a cohesive, caring entity throughout the long periods of separation? Being a good husband and a father as a ...

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17. The Last Patrol

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pp. 215-221

On the morning of June 23, 1995, Meadows received a telephone call to say that three old friends were going to pay him a visit. Generals Wayne Downing and Pete Schoomaker and Paul Zeisman wanted to pay their respects. He had been relaxing and wearing a pair of cutoff blue jeans, his “crabbing gear,” but as soon as he heard the news he went off to dress himself in a fresh shirt and slacks. I was able to ...

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pp. 223-225

Dick Meadows went on his last patrol with dignity, the same dignity with which he had lived his full and adventurous life. But there was more than dignity in the makeup of this remarkable and complex man. He had immense pride and a rigid sense of honor insofar as his country, the military, and his family were concerned, but he also carried these characteristics into civilian life. He was unremitting ...

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pp. 227-228

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to many people for their assistance in putting this work together. Many did not wish to be named and I have respected that. Many people passed on anecdotes during reunions and conventions that I was privileged to attend, and I apologize for not remembering all their names. In keeping with the relaxed nature of the interviews and the informality of this book, I have dispensed with ranks. ...


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pp. 229-232


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pp. 233-238

Suggested Readings

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pp. 239


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pp. 241-253

E-ISBN-13: 9780813134000
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813133997

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 36 b&w photos, 2 maps
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: American Warriors Series

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Subject Headings

  • Meadows, Richard J., 1931-1995.
  • United States. Army -- Officers -- Biography.
  • United States. Army -- Commando troops -- Biography.
  • United States. Army -- Commando troops -- History.
  • Special forces (Military science) -- United States -- History.
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