53 years ago, a top-secret mission was launched into North Vietnam to rescue American prisoners of war. Operation Kingpin, known as the Son Tay Raid, was the first ever highly classified joint service operation of its kind. Now, US Army veterans turned documentary producers Dan Smith (former Green Beret), John “Stan” Stanfield and Molly Huggins, along with award-winning director and producer Ehren Parks, have teamed up with the Global Special Operations Foundation and a dying breed of legendary American heroes to tell their incredible story, with an exclusive sneak peek community screening coming to Fort Liberty, NC as a part of Modern Warfare Week.
On November 21, 1970, U.S. Special Forces soldiers and U.S. Air Force airmen executed a swift and stunning raid of the Son Tay prison camp with zero American casualties. The Son Tay Raiders were 23 miles from Hanoi, within 5 miles of 112,000 N.V.A. regulars, and flying into the teeth of the most heavily defended airspace in the world. At the same time, Navy carriers executed the largest night carrier operation of the entire Vietnam conflict in rolling seas to suppress the enemy air defenses.
Not a single prisoner was found. Despite this, the raid stands as one of the most significant operations in modern military history. 27 Minutes at Son Tay is the true story of the raid the way the Raiders want it told; thoughtful, compelling first-person account of the planning and execution of a never before attempted rescue mission into the heart of enemy territory.
Director Ehren Parks, whose previous projects include the award-winning documentary My Life in China, was clear on the import of the film, echoing the vision of the mission ground commander COL Bull Simons. “The Son Tay Raid’s greatness lies in the fact that it brought together the separate branches for a greater purpose: to fulfill the pledge of ‘no man left behind.’”
27 Minutes at Son Tay interviewees include CSM (Ret) “Jake” Jakovenko, Ranger Hall of Fame member known for his prowess with the M-60 Machine Gun and often called the real-life Rambo; SGM (Ret) Tyrone Adderly, fellow Ranger Hall of Fame member and 2022 recipient of the U.S. Special Operations Command Bull Simons Award; Col (Ret) Lee Ellis, Hanoi Hilton resident; Col (Ret) Larry Ropka, master Air Force and CIA covert operations mission planner; Col (Ret) John Gargus, navigator and author of the definitive work on the mission, The Son Tay Raid: American POWS in Vietnam Were Not Forgotten, and RADM (Ret) Larry Chambers, the first African American to attain flag rank in the Navy. The film also features post-humous appearances from Col Bud Sydnor, Gen Leroy Manor, Col Frederic “Marty” Donohoe, and CSM Joe Lupyak.
The producers have partnered with the Global Special Operations Foundation to show a sneak peek community screening of the unreleased film as a part of the Modern Warfare Week, a joint event held for the Special Operations Forces (SOF) community to both educate and connect over the future of warfare from a SOF perspective. Members of the Raid as well as support and planning personnel will be in attendance. Former Green Beret and Executive Producer Dan Smith, whose connections provided the impetus for the film, highlighted what an honor it was to create this film as an educational tool for follow on generations, having served under the legacy of many of these legendary soldiers, sailors, and airmen. Additionally, according to Smith, “The value of the Son Tay Raid cannot be overstated. It is probably one of the most studied special operations since 1970. It has been used as a template to plan, train and conduct high risk missions by international as well as within the US. special operations community.”
The screening will be held Nov. 15th, 3 PM, at the Iron Mike Conference center, Fort Liberty. The event is free and open to the community, but attendees must register here.
The film is in final post-production, but current events has made raising money to complete the documentary a challenge. “Fundraising has been difficult during covid and the film industry labor strikes,” Parks noted, “But as we enter our final stretch to finish the film, we’re hoping the military community will join with us to get this story told the way the raiders want it told without outside influence.” Donations can be made via GoFundMe.
A trailer of the film, exclusive video shorts, and more information are available for preview at
27 Minutes at Son Tay is a production of Kingpin-27 Minutes at Son Tay Film, LLC; Long Tale; Veritas Art Pictures, producing socially relevant content surrounding current events; and Gepadeaux Media, a service-disabled veteran-owned small business specializing in film and video production and distribution. For media inquiries, please contact Producer Molly Huggins at email@example.com or