The decorated Special Forces veteran and CIA legend passed away on April 4, 2023, at the age of 93.
William "Billy" Waugh was a legend in the Special Forces community. Among the Green Berets and CIA covert warriors, he was known as "the Yoda of Special Forces." The decorated Special Forces veteran and CIA legend passed away on April 4, 2023, at the age of 93.
According to WFLA, the nation's top military commanders remembered his career, which spanned 50 years at MacDill Air Force Base. Many recalled his impact with Major General Pat Roberson, the Deputy Commanding Officer at US Special Operations Command, looking back at one night of combat for Waugh in In Bình Định province in 1965. "Throughout that night, combat, hand-to-hand combat, air strikes, gun fights, 19 hours of fighting," Roberson said.
According to PEOPLE, some of Waugh's incredible feats include the first HALO (High Altitude, Low Opening) combat jump into enemy territory in Vietnam. He was also the person who foiled Soviet attempts to steal sensitive missile technology. "There was no one like Billy," former colleague and close friend Enrique "Ric" Prado told the outlet. "What is there not to love about a national hero?"
Waugh also played a key role in gathering information that led to the arrest of Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, better known as Carlos the Jackal. "From Korea to Afghanistan and every conflict in between, I have fought whomever my country ordered me to fight," Waugh wrote in his 2004 memoir, "Hunting the Jackal," reports Military. "For 50 years in 64 countries, I have sought and destroyed my country's enemies -- whether they be called communists or terrorists -- wherever they hide."
Waugh even helped track one of the most notorious international terrorists in history; he spotted Osama bin Laden in Sudan long before the 9/11 attacks! He was a Special Forces soldier during the Vietnam War and then worked for the CIA, tracking Osama bin Laden in Sudan and fighting in Afghanistan after 9/11. The legend, who earned eight Purple Hearts over seven years of combat in Vietnam, also ended up fighting in Afghanistan after 9/11 while he was in his 70s, reports The New York Times.
The outlet once described him as a "former CIA paramilitary officer who seems to have cut quite a swashbuckling path through the 'back alleys,' as they say, of half the world." The US Army Green Berets legend was wounded in action eight times throughout his 50-year career. "He was just one of those guys who wanted to be on the edge of the empire, as far as he could get, living large and defending his country," Cofer Black, a former CIA counterterrorism chief who supervised Waugh, revealed.
“I’m a pioneer of the modern warfare era,” Waugh said in a 2005 interview with the Associated Press, according to The Washington Post. “If I’d been living in olden days, I would have been at the Alamo or across the Rockies.” In a book review in The Washington Post, historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Kai Bird highlighted a comment from former CIA director Richard Helms that explained the art of intelligence as doing a lot of listening. “Men like Waugh are not listeners,” Bird wrote.