Our latest interview is with Jim Bolen, who's life as a brawler, soldier, mercenary, bounty hunter, bodyguard, businessman and all-round nice guy makes most peoples life seem very dull. Jim was the 1-0 with RT Auger. Please note this article contains some graphic images of war.
Modern Forces: Can you describe your childhood in Dayton Ohio?
Jim Bolen: I was very lucky to grow up in the 50’s and 60’s; I think these were America’s greatest times. Movies, when you got a chance to see them, were much more motivational. The Hollywood set was pro-American and the movies displayed that. Drugs and open sex were never a problem. People showed respect about things that now are not important. There was a more innocence feeling about life. I grew up poor but did not really know it. My family had a lot of love and that was what made us happy. I really feel sorry for kids growing up in these times.
Modern Forces: What made you join the military and then choose Special Forces?
Jim Bolen: I think the biggest influence for me to join the military was the movies. I loved the war flicks with Audy Murphy and John Wayne. The true feeling of fighting for the country you love and finding out what kind of man you are is something I wanted. The reason I wanted to join the Special Forces was I always liked to task myself to be the best I could at things. When I found out about The Green Berets I knew that was for me. I always found it easier to be around motivated people who liked what they were doing. That was the Special Forces.
Modern Forces: How did you end up with SOG and did you know what it was before you joined?
Jim Bolen: The way I got to Viet Nam and into SOG is a long story which I detail in my book. I will give you a brief description. I was in the Special Forces Reserves in Dayton Ohio. I had completed all my Special Forces training and I was fully qualified. When the war heated up I decided that being a Green Beret it was my responsibility to go and fight for my country. I put in for a transfer to Viet Nam and it came back. I put in another transfer and it came back also. This was all over a period of a year or so. I finally decided to take my 201 file and fly to the Pentagon and see Mrs. Alexander. She was in charge of all Special Forces movement. I walked into her office and laid down my 201 file and asked her if I was Special Forces qualified. She said yes more so than most Special Forces on active duty now, why do you ask? I told her my story about trying to get to Viet Nam. She said no problem and within 2 weeks I was being processed thru Fort Knox in Kentucky and 2 weeks after that I was in Special Forces Headquarters in Nah Trang. Again I like to task myself and asked what is the most dangerous, toughest unit in Viet Nam. I was told first that I was crazy then they told me about SOG. They said I had to go through an interview process and that usually they don’t take men that have not had at least one year already in combat. I must have impressed them because I was allowed to become part of this exclusive club.
Modern Forces: Can you describe your introduction to what SOG was?
Jim Bolen: I did not get much of an introduction all I was told is that it is very dangerous and that was enough for me. Again it is hard to explain but the way I was brought up if I worked for someone I always wanted the hardest job not the easiest so at the end of the day It made me feel more satisfied about my accomplishments.
Modern Forces: Can you describe your roles with SOG and what team you ran with?
Jim Bolen: The roll of a SOG team is to infiltrate behind the enemy lines in a classified country and bring back as much intelligence information as possible. Intelligence information can be anything from ground conditions, vegetation, movement on trails all the way to POW snatches. A normal recon team consists or 2 American and 4 Indigenous personnel. I started as an assistant team leader out of Kontum for 2 missions then I was given my own team, Recon Team Auger. We were then moved to Ban Me Thuot, CCS. I had over 40 missions as a team leader and came out under fire more than 30 times.
Modern Forces: SOG had great leeway in choosing equipment, can you describe some key items of your uniform, weapons and equipment?
Jim Bolen: We were very lucky to get the best of everything in my opinion. Just about anything we asked for we got. We also got the best in the way of support for infiltrations or extractions. The team leader on the ground could call in air support without any hesitation. We could not get artillery because of our location too far away from artillery bases. Our weapons were modified for silencers, depending on the mission. Our uniforms were all sterile without American markings. We had the best medical pill kit including Morphine.
Modern Forces: Can you share any memorable missions with our readers?
Jim Bolen: I will copy and paste one of my many missions that are in my book:
American Bronze Star Medal And Vietnamese award, Gallantry Cross with Palm Leaf
On 28 June 1968, my team was inserted into Cambodia for a reconnaissance mission deep behind enemy lines. Read my following military citations for a brief description of my actions. On the first day, moving through the jungle, I started noticing that every third or fourth tree had been cut off at ground level. The NVA did that so that the overhead canopy cover would not be unduly disturbed and noticeable from the air. That was the first time I had ever seen anything like that. Even my point man did not notice this. I knew that the enemy must be building something large close by. We started moving more slowly, expecting to come across an enemy compound close by. Within an hour, we spotted two large buildings under the canopy located on a high-speed trail. Both buildings were under roof, but the sides were left open. The buildings were only about 20 feet apart. We sat there and watched the compound for about an hour to make sure there wasn’t any enemy troop movement. We moved into the compound and found that one of the buildings was housing a huge cache of enemy weapons, the largest found in enemy held territory. The other building was empty. We took pictures of the weapons and moved out of the compound. During our next scheduled radio check, I reported to FAC what we had found. I requested that they support me with another team with demolitions to destroy the weapons. They contacted me and said they would start putting a team together right away. I moved out of the area for about a day in order to stay as far away from the enemy compound as possible and looked for a safe LZ to bring in the supporting team. The next day the second team was inserted and we spent that day preparing and going over where the demolitions would be placed.
On 30 June 1968, we headed back through the jungle to the enemy compound. Everyone, including our Commander at FOB 2 base camp, was worried if I could find my way back to the enemy compound without being detected. I have a good sense of direction and have always been good with maps, even the old French maps that we were using. We hit the compound dead center. To my dismay, when we got there, there was a small enemy unit cleaning the cache of weapons. I radioed back our predicament and our Commander said to abort the mission. I declined and said that we were going to try and wait the enemy out. We laid outside the compound for a couple of hours, and, sure enough, the enemy moved out. We immediately went into the enemy compound and placed our explosives. We selected certain of the enemy weapons to take back with us for intelligence purposes. (See picture of me with the captured weapons below the citations.) We moved back towards our original LZ. I had pulled the wire that was connected to the explosives along with me as we moved away from the buildings and hooked it up to the detonating device. Once my team was at a safe distance, I detonated the explosives, destroying the building and, hopefully, most of the weapons. Each team, along with the addition of the captured weapons, was border line overweight. Once we got to the LZ, I had the two recon teams with the captured enemy weapons get extracted with the first two choppers and I stayed behind by myself and waited for the third chopper.
This operation was extremely successful and important, so much so that they sent the three other Americans on the teams and me to Saigon to brief General Abrams. (See radio text message below). It was about a month later that we Americans on the two teams were alerted that the Commander of the Fifth Special Forces Group at Nah Trang was coming to give us our awards for this mission personally. We found out that the Bronze Stars that we would be receiving were for Achievement, not Valor. We were really pissed and almost decided not to accept them. His reasoning for this, the Commander of the Fifth Special Forces Group, was due to the fact that there were not shots fired by the enemy or us. So I guess that when you are behind the enemy lines and sneak into their compound while they are having lunch and blow up hundreds of weapons that were going to be used to kill Americans with about 80 pounds of C4 plastic explosives and get out unscathed, that is not considered as a valorous deed??????? We did, begrudgingly, accept the awards but, as you can see, it still bothers me to this day.
Modern Forces: You must have made some great friends while in Special Forces, can you share any moments that stand out?
Jim Bolen: Friends that you make in combat are unlike any other friends you will make in your lifetime. There is not a day that goes by forty plus years later that at least one of these guys doesn’t come to my mind for one reason or another. Every mission you saw your friends leave on you wonder if you will ever see them again. After a mission was finished when a team returns everyone in camp would go to the chopper and greet the team, usually with beers in hand.
Modern Forces: What did you do after Vietnam, how did you keep the adrenaline high going?
Jim Bolen: I will answer this questions in the following questions.
Modern Forces: Can you describe how you ended up as bodyguard of Larry Flynt, publisher of the famous Hustler magazine?
Jim Bolen: Larry Flynt was from the same town I was, Dayton Ohio. We each were in the night club business so we became acquainted that way. I always enjoyed fighting and started in high school. My friends at that time were 5 to 10 years older than I was so I was exposed to a much rougher crowd. I would get into 2 or 3 fights a week and became very well known in the area. Larry knew about my military background plus my ability to take care of myself so when he became successful he offered me a very good job. It was very interesting for awhile but soon became boring. Although I flew on the Concord and lived in bungalows at The Beverly Hills Hotel, private jets, Hugh Hefner’s and Hollywood parties, standing around as a bodyguard just got old.
Modern Forces: You next assignment couldn't have been further from the 5-Star life with Larry Flynt and took you to Africa, can you describe this adventure?
Jim Bolen: I really loved Africa. Between South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) I met the greatest people. The towns were spotless and extremely modern. I had just left working for Larry in Cannes France weeks before arriving in Africa and I could not believe the people in Africa were in better shape and better dressed than in France. Most of the work I did was called range detective (bounty hunter) working along the Mozambique border killing terrorist crossing over into Rhodesia at night. We were paid by the kill.
Modern Forces: You have had a few run ins with the law, do you mind sharing a few of this encounters?
Jim Bolen: Most of the run ins with the law were because of the night club business. Every drunk thinks he’s a tough guy until you straighten him out then he runs to the law. With my past reputation, according to the judge, it was always my fault. There could be five guys fighting me but it was my fault. Never could understand that. Later after my Africa adventures the ATF organized a plan to get a friend of mine involved in a gun sale plot, which they spent millions implementing, knowing I had contacts overseas. He got me involved and the next thing I knew I was facing 35 years in prison. They said if I gave them my overseas contacts they would release me. I told then that I have been running so hard that the 35 years in prison would do me good, I needed the rest. After about 6 months in prison they finally released me on probation for 5 years.
Modern Forces: You have also been a succesful businessman, do you think your no-nonsense approach to life was key in these ventures.
Jim Bolen: People would ask me if I was bored to death in business. I told them when you start a business with $2000.00 in a small garage, you and your wife work 70 hours a week and turn it into a multi-million dollar enterprise almost overnight it is almost as exciting as combat. I think my Military training helped me in the organization of my business. I was always pretty well organized but the Military made everything dress right dress. Another thing I think helped is I always liked to work and accomplish things and my wife is the same way. We were together 24 hours a day for 30 plus years and I love her more now than ever. When you have a life partner it makes unbelievable tasks much easier. By the way I meant my wife when I got home from Africa.
Modern Forces: Your family is a key part of your life, can you describe what they mean to you?
Jim Bolen: First my Mother, Father and Sister always let me know I was loved. That feeling I carried with me even now. I remember the night in Viet Nam when I was hanging beneath a Huey on a 200 foot rope after being drug threw a NVA camp and severely wounded believing I was going to die. The ride back to the border was 2 or 3 hours and my snap link holding me onto the 200 foot rope was damaged. All I could do is hang there and wait for the fall into the jungle from 2000 feet. I just relaxed and thought of my family while I was waiting to die. It was very calming. Now today I have turned 71 I am thankful for my wife Gail who has been with me for over 30 years. I have 3 successful children, Kirk a retired business man, Stephanie a top make up artist and Brock a professional football player in the NFL.
Modern Forces: And finally is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Jim Bolen: Any thing else about my life is in my book. There are things that I could not put into my book of course for obvious reasons. They were the really exciting missions.
You can buy Jim's book No Guts, No Glory from www.amazon.com
All images copyright Jim Bolen