Arthur D. Simons

Arthur D. Simons
Arthur David Simons
Nickname "Bull"
Born June 28, 1918(1918-06-28)
New York City, New York
Died May 21, 1979(1979-05-21) (aged 60)
Red Bay, Florida
Place of burial Barrancas National Cemetery, Pensacola, Florida
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch Shoulder Patch U.S. Army Special Forces
Years of service 1941 — 1971
Rank Rank Insignia O-6/Colonel
Unit 7th Special Forces Group.svg 7th Special Forces Group
Battles/wars -World War II
-Vietnam War
Awards -Distinguished Service Cross (1971)
-Silver Star (1944)
-Bronze Star (1946)
-Legion of Merit (1970)
-Vietnam Service Medal

Colonel Arthur D. "Bull" Simons (United States Army, retired) (June 28, 1918 - May 21, 1979) was a US Army Special Forces officer, best known for leading the Son Tay raid, an attempted rescue of American prisoners of war from a North Vietnamese prison at Son Tay.


Early life

Arthur David Simons was born in New York City, moving to Missouri in his youth. He attended the University of Missouri-Columbia and majored in journalism, entering the ROTC program there in 1937. After graduation, he married his wife Lucille, eventually having two boys, Bruce and Harry. He remained married to Lucille for 37 years until her death on March 16, 1978.

Army service

Simons was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Field Artillery Branch in 1941, and was initially assigned to the 98th Field Artillery Battalion, a part of one of the Army's pack mule units (the 347 mules being used to carry the 75mm Pack Howitzer M1, the lightest American artillery piece in WWII). In his first assignment as a Platoon Leader, the new lieutenant was so quiet and reserved (he later said he wanted to learn from the sergeants that seemed to know their business well) that one of his sergeants came to believe that Simons was a mute. The unit was dispatched to Australia, but immediately diverted to New Guinea in the early stages of World War II, and Simons thrived in the harsh jungle environment. He was soon promoted to Captain and served as a Battery Commander in the battalion from 1942-43. The mules themselves did not prove suitable in the jungle, and the unit was dissolved in 1943. CPT Simons took his battery to the newly forming Ranger Battalion that would come out of the dissolution of his old unit. He soon became the commander of "B" (Baker) Company and later the Battalion Executive Officer (XO) of the 6th Ranger Battalion under LTC Henry Mucci. Simons participated in several hazardous landings with the Rangers in the Pacific. He led a team of engineers and Navy personnel tasked to de-mine the Leyte channel before the invasion of the island began in earnest. On Luzon in the Philippines, he participated in the Raid at Cabanatuan that rescued approximately 500 POWs who were mostly survivors of the Bataan Death March.[citation needed] (For his actions in the raid he was awarded the Silver Star.)[citation needed] He quickly rose to the rank of Major and continued to prove his worth as a combat leader. At the conclusion of the Second World War, Major Simons left the active Army for five years.

Simons was recalled to active duty in 1951 to serve as an infantry instructor and Ranger trainer in the Amphibious and Jungle Training camp at Eglin AFB, Florida. Other assignments included a year as a Public Information Officer (PIO, now "Public Affairs Officer" or PAO) at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, a job that he despised (he held a low opinion of the media, one that would prove itself in later years and assignments. "The press hasn't done very well for the American soldier," he would later remark.) Simons also completed tours with the Military Assistance Advisory Group, Turkey and XVIII Airborne Corps before joining the 77th Special Forces Group in 1958. In 1960 he served as Deputy Commander/Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army Special Warfare Center. Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1961, he commanded the 107-man Operation White Star Mobile Training Team in Laos from 1961 to 1962 and was the first commander of the 8th Special Forces Group, Panama from 1962 to 1964. From Panama, he was assigned to the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG), which conducted numerous behind-the-line missions in Southeast Asia.

In 1970, Simons was hand-picked to be the ground commander of Operation Ivory Coast, a joint special operations effort to rescue American prisoners of war from the Son Tay prison in North Vietnam. While the mission rescued no prisoners (due to an intelligence failure, the raiders were not notified that the prisoners had been moved a few months earlier), it did force North Vietnam to consolidate all of the prisoners into a few central compounds in Hanoi, resulting in a boost in the prisoners' morale and improved treatment. They were also heartened to know that a rescue effort had been attempted. While the mission did not accomplish its primary objective, the North Vietnamese were given pause at the ease in which Americans could invade so close to their capitol, and no American lives were lost in the operation (and only one minor injury, a sprained ankle). For his outstanding leadership, Simons was decorated by President Richard M. Nixon with the Distinguished Service Cross at the White House on November 25, 1970.

Simons' nickname "Bull" was taken from a physical training game called the "bull pit," whereby one Soldier climbs down into a pit in the ground, and other Soldiers engage in trying to pull the first Soldier from the pit. Simon's large physical stature and great strength (even in his fifties, he did 250 push-ups every day) made him a formidable challenge to remove from the pit, and the name "Bull" stuck.

In retirement

COL Simons retired from the Army on July 31, 1971, and moved with his wife to a small farm in Red Bay, Florida, engaging in livestock farming and doing amateur gunsmithing on the side. In late 1978, Simons was contacted by Texas businessman Ross Perot, who requested his direction and leadership to help free two employees of Electronic Data Systems that were arrested shortly before the Iranian Revolution. Simons organized a rescue mission and ultimately freed the two men from the Iranian prison. All involved returned safely to the United States. Three months later, while on vacation in Vail, Colorado, COL Simons died of heart complications at the age of 60. He is buried in the Barrancas National Cemetery in Pensacola, Florida.

Ross Perot and others founded a scholarship initiative for the children of the casualties from the Iranian hostage rescue attempt, and named the fund in honor of COL Simons' memory.

COL Simons' great contributions to the Army and the Special Forces community are honored with a 12-foot-tall (3.7 m) statue that stands in front of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (USAJFKSWCS) at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. He was also inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame.

The John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School presents an annual award called the "'Bull' Simons Award" to an outstanding special forces operator.


  • "Death is not that far away from me by other causes."
  • "Take only those losses that are unavoidable, if you can't smart your way out of it. Soldiers are entitled to leaders who can usually smart their way out of it."
  • "If history is any teacher, it teaches that when you get indifferent and you lose the will to fight, some other guy who has the will to fight will take you over."
  • "We are going to rescue 70 American prisoners of war, maybe more, from a camp called Son Tay. This is something American prisoners have a right to expect from their fellow Soldiers." (comments to the raiders just before Operation Kingpin)

Medals and decorations


  • 1941 – 44: B Battery, 98th Field Artillery Battalion
  • 1944 – 46: 6th Ranger Battalion (98th FA became the 6th Ranger Bn)
  • 1946 – 51: (Out of service)
  • 1951 – 54: Amphibious and Jungle Training Camp, Ranger Training Camp, Ft. Benning, GA
  • 1954 – 57: US Army Assistance Advisory Group, Ankara, Turkey
  • 1957 - 58: XVIII Airborne Corps and Ft. Bragg, NC
  • 1958 – 59: C Team, 77th SFG(A), Ft. Bragg, NC
  • 1959 – 61: 7th SFG(A) (Operation Hotfoot and White Star Mobile Training Team), Laos
  • 1962 – 63: JFK Center for Special Warfare Center
  • 1963 – 65: 8th SFG(A), Panama
  • 1965 – 66: SOG, MACV, Republic of Vietnam
  • 1966 – 68: XVIII Airborne Corps and Ft. Bragg, NC
  • 1969: Corps, Camp Red Cloud, Korea
  • 1970: Deputy Commander, Joint Contingency Task Group
  • 1970 - 1971: XVIII Airborne Corps and Ft Bragg, NC
  • Total Time in Service: 32 years
  • Total Active Service: 24 years
  • Total Foreign Service: 8 years (Turkey, USARPAC,USARCARIB, RVN, Korea)

External links

reference: Clancy, T. (2002). Shadow warriors: Inside the special forces.New York: Berkley.

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