WARRIOR WEDNESDAY: Master Sergeant Jerry "Mad Dog" Shriver
If you ask any man who served with MSG Jerry “Mad Dog” Shriver, they’ll tell you he was more of a warrior than a Soldier: a man wholly dedicated to warfare and violence. He was the distilled essence of war in its most primal, basic nature. He was the best ally to have, and the most dangerous enemy to face. The men who fought and served alongside Shriver could describe him best. Medal of Honor recipient Jim Fleming, described Shriver as, "the quintessential warrior-loner, anti-social, possessed by what he was doing, the best teammate, always training, constantly training.” On another occasion Fleming stated “Shriver convinced me that for the rest of my life I would not go into a bar and cross someone I didn't know."
Like many legendary figures of history, Shriver’s backstory is confusing as he just seemed to just appear one day. He was born on September 24, 1941, in De Funiak Springs, in Florida. Little is known about Shriver’s life, but what we do know is that he attended Airborne school, spent a short stint in the 101st and also attained his Green Beret at a very young age but then he disappeared from history again.
In 1966 he appeared in Military history again as a Staff Sergeant in the legendary MACV-SOG. MACV-SOG was an asymmetrical warfare task force assigned to carry out top-secret missions throughout the South-East Asian theater during the Vietnam war. During his time in Vietnam he earned his Nickname “Mad Dog” from his enemies. Radio Hanoi, a NVA propaganda radio station, announced a $10,000 bounty for his head. That’s approximately $70,000 nowadays adjusted for inflation.
He was a platoon sergeant of one of the secretive “Hatchet Force” units. The units usually consisted of three American MACV-SOG members and twenty to thirty handpicked locals who were trained in the science of unconventional warfare. Every man in that unit was a dedicated, battle hardened warrior and could only be led by the best. The Hatchet Force’s mission statement is as follows: “probe the border areas and look for a fight”. In other words Shriver would lead his men behind enemy lines and kill or capture all that they could find. In one engagement where his small team was encircled by waves of NVA soldiers Shriver contacted his leadership with what would become one of the most famous radio transmissions of the war: “No, no...I've got 'em right where I want 'em - surrounded from the inside."
Shriver, the definition of a warrior, cared little for pomp and circumstance. He'd been awarded a Silver Star for an engagement where he volunteered to hold off waves of enemy soldiers with disciplined small arms fire and accurate calls for Close Air Support while his team was hoisted up through the jungle canopy one by one. He only evacuated once every single man was rescued. He was also awarded the Soldier’s medal for Heroism, Bronze Star with two oak leaf clusters, Bronze star with 4 Valor devices, Air Medal, Army commendation medal with OLC, Army Commendation Medal with Valor device and Purple Heart with two OLC. MSG Shriver also earned the Combat Infantryman’s Badge among many others. However, he didn’t care about medals or awards as colored bits of fabric any shiny metal meant nothing to him.
What he did care about were his men: he Montagnards. His Montagnards. The Montagnards were a group of fiercely independent tribes of people who lived in the Vietnamese highlands. They were known for their dogged tenacity, bravery in battle and almost supernatural tracking abilities. They were an ethnic group of some of the best jungle scouts and reconnaissance soldiers to ever exist. Shriver respected and cared deeply about his Montagnards, and they in turn came to revere him. Shriver didn’t care about money. Except for what he spent on essentials and food, nearly all his money he earned during his deployments were spent on his men and their families. He'd collect food, clothes, and other donations from soldiers to give to the Montagnards’ villages who so bravely supported him. While he had some American friends, he spent most of his time with his Montagnards. He was the only American at CCS (Command and Control, South) who lived in the Montagnard barracks. He’d routinely eat with them and drink from the communal pot of Rượu cần, a type of alcoholic fermented wine.
Shriver was eccentric. When he wasn’t training or fighting he would often be seen walking around CCS in a blue velvet smoking jacket and derby hat. Not surprisingly, he was also always armed. It wasn’t unusual to see him with four to six pistols or revolvers on his person. Shriver was also often seen with his dog, a large German shepherd named Klaus, who he adopted at some point during an adventure in Taiwan. When he wasn’t on mission, he was seen walking about the base with Klaus at his side.
One night, while Shriver was away on yet another killing excursion, some recon men, in a mood for a cruel prank, force-fed his dog a bunch of beer in the NCO club. Klaus unfortunately became sick and defecated on the floor. The Recon men then rubbed poor Klaus’s nose in his excrement before kicking him out of the club. When Shriver heard how these men abused his companion, He walked into the NCO club. He grabbed a beer, chugged it, removed his smoking jacket, pulled out one of his .38 special revolvers and placed it on a table. He then dropped his pants and took a shit on the floor of the NCO club. He then faced the crowd of Recon soldiers and said "If you want to rub my nose in this, come on over."
Not a single man came forward.
Shriver was a walking arsenal. On top of the multiple pistols he carried on his person, during missions he was rarely seen without his sawed off shotgun, suppressed M3 grease gun or a Thompson, and satchels of hand grenades or other explosives. Once he was asked If he’d rather have a CAR-15 or M16 instead and he responded “No sir, them long guns will get you in trouble and besides, if I need more than these, I got troubles anyhow."
He started his deployment in 1966, and for almost 3 and a half years he kept extending his deployment. He spent over 1,000 days in country. In some sense, I don’t think he knew how to shut it off. He became War Eternal. Instead of debriefing and relaxing after a mission, Shriver would sneak out and tag along with another team for another patrol. Shriver once took leave to get some R&R... that’s what he told his superiors anyway. Instead he quietly traveled to Plei Djerang Special Forces camp to hook up with another Special Forces team to fight with them for a couple weeks.
In 1968 he was forced back state-side for a mandatory R&R period. His comrade, Green Beret Larry White hung out with Shriver. White stated that Shriver shopped around to find a Marlin Lever action rifle chambered in the powerful .444 Marlin Cartridge. Just so you guys understand, a .444 Marlin throws a 240 gr .44 projectile downrange at around 2,400 FPS. For reference, a .44 Magnum revolver usually pushes a 240 gr pill at around 1,200 FPS. At 200 yards away a .444 Marlin hits harder than a 4 inch .44 magnum at point blank range. People fucking hunt Grizzly and Polar Bears with .444 Marlin. Shriver had his .444 Marlin shipped back to MACV-SOG headquarters at CCS. He jokingly said he used it to “bust bunkers” but he liked how the massive exit wounds would strike fear in his enemies.
Though he kept up a tough exterior, Shriver was still human, and three years of non-stop war was getting to him. He had too many brushes with death. Every day he went out was another flirtation with the Grim Reaper. But he also felt a responsibility to his men, he couldn’t just quit on them. He confided to his close friends that he did fear death and he felt that his luck had run out. He wanted to quit but didn’t know how. He wasn’t wired that way. It made him what he was, the relentless warrior, the legendary soldier, the revered leader. He was a warrior to the bone and it was his fundamental philosophy to fight. It had brought him to this jungle and would take him to whatever death, kind or cruel, that the fates had in store for him. It's heartbreakingly sad in its own way. Shriver would remain true to himself until death claimed him.
On the morning of 24 April 1969,the SOG raider company lined up beside the airfield at Quan Loi, South Vietnam, 20 miles from the secret lair of the Central Office of South Vietnam. The COSVN was the North Vietnamese political and military headquarters inside South Vietnam. But it wasn’t a hard structure like the US pentagon. The COSVN constantly took form in villages all across south Vietnam. It was an ephemeral target. Because of the secretive nature of their mission, Shriver’s unit was denied most of their Aerial assets by the US State Department. Right before he got into his chopper Shriver turned to his friend who was seeing him off and said “Take care of my boy” referring to Klaus. As the SOG raider unit took off, the first helicopter was turned around because of mechanical problems, so Shriver’s 1st platoon and 2nd platoon continued on alone.
As soon as they landed, they were subjected to vicious arcs of emplaced machine gun fire. Overlapping fields of fire from heavily reinforced concrete bunkers stitched across the LZ. From the back of the LZ, Mad Dog Shriver radioed that a machine gun bunker to his left-front had his men pinned and asked if anyone could suppress it to relieve the pressure. Taking shelter in a crater, Capt. Cahill, 1st Lt. Marcantel and a medic, Sergeant Ernest Jamison, radioed that they were pinned, too. Then Jamison dashed out to retrieve a wounded man. Tragically, he was targeted by machine gun fire and killed.
No one else could engage the machine gun that trapped COSVN Raiders. It was up to Mad Dog and his Montagnards. Shriver radioed that he was going to try and flank the MG positions. His half-smirk steeled the resolve of his fighting Montagnards. Then they were on their feet charging. Shriver was his old self again, fear replaced by confidence. He aggressively moved to enemy gunfire, 5 of his handpicked mountain men running with him as they dashed through the flying bullets, into the treeline, into the very mouth of the COSVN.
Mad Dog Shriver was never seen again.
At the other end of the LZ, the battle raged on. Sergeant Jamison's body lay just past where Capt. Cahill and 1LT Marcantel took shelter from a torrent of MG fire. When Cahill lifted his head, a round hit him in the mouth, deflected up and blinded him in his right eye and left him unconscious and bleeding from his wounds. In a nearby crater, 2nd Platoon's Lt. Greg Harrigan directed helicopter gunships who's rockets and mini-guns were trying to suppress the aggressive NVA. Harrigan reported, more than half his platoon were killed or wounded. For 45 minutes the Green Beret lieutenant kept the enemy at bay with accurate gun run requests before he too was hit and killed.
Hours dragged by. Wounded men laid untreated, bleeding out in the sun. Several times, the Hueys tried to MEDEVAC their wounded but each time heavy fire drove them off. Finally a passing Australian twin-jet bomber from No. 2 Squadron at Phan Rang heard the SOG Raider Company’s desperate calls for help on the emergency radio frequency, and broke off from it’s flight plan. Ignoring the fact that the request came from within the supposedly “neutral” Cambodian border, the Australian crew dropped a payload on the enemy positions. By that point, only 1LT Marcantel was still directing calls for CAS, eventually calling in danger close missions so close that they wounded himself and his surviving nine Montagnards. After 8 hours of intense battle, three Hueys raced in. Of the 18 members of the Hatchet platoon, two were confirmed dead, ten were wounded and six, including Shriver, were listed as MIA.
The US Army and ARVN forces hit the COSVN location hard and in force a week later. While they found and neutralized a large logistics base with nearly 200 storage bunkers containing over 1,200 individual weapons, around 200 crew-served weapons, 30 tons of food,and vast amounts of ammunition and explosives, the ever elusive C2 node of the COSVN disappeared again.
In the weeks that followed, Radio Hanoi repeated propaganda pieces of how they captured and Killed Shriver, but they never showed any proof. One year after the COSVN raid, the NSA intercepted enemy messages warning of impending SOG operations which could only have come from a mole within the SOG headquarters. It was long after the war ended that it became known that the North Vietnamese had penetrated SOG, inserting at least one spy in SOG whose treachery killed many Americans, including the COSVN raiders.
Shriver was less than three weeks away from finishing his third tour of duty. He was just 27 years old when he was officially listed as MIA (Missing In Action). He left behind Klaus, a little over a dollar in his account, and his prized smoking jacket which would hold a prominent place of honor in the camp's club. The following inscription was displayed underneath the silk smoking jacket:
“In Memory of Sergeant First Class Jerry M. Shriver
Missing in Action 24 April 1969.”
In 1974, the then Secretary of the Army gave Shriver a ‘Presumptive Finding of Death,’ and his file was permanently closed even though his body was never found. He was posthumously awarded a second Silver Star and promoted to Master Sergeant.
However there remains a myth among SOG veterans and Shriver’s brave Montagnards that any day now, “Mad Dog” Shriver will walk out of the Jungle as he has hundreds of times before and bellow out “Hey, Where’d everybody go?”
Because as we all know, Legends never die.
About the author: Andy, is a US Army Infantryman and your local Friendly Neighborhood Rooftop Korean. When he's not burning through his savings at the range, you can find him online sharing memes, playing video games, and sharing stories about the baddest warriors throughout history. You can follow all of Andy's NSFW content at @call_me_ak on Instagram.