Sometime in 1965, James Hawes landed in the Congo with cash stuffed in his socks, morphine in his bag, and a basic understanding of his mission: recruit a mercenary navy and suppress the Soviet- and Chinese-backed rebels engaged in guerilla movements against a pro-Western government. He knew the United States must preserve deniability, so he would be abandoned in any life-threatening situation; he did not know that Che Guevara attempting to export his revolution a few miles away.
Cold War Navy SEAL gives unprecedented insight into a clandestine chapter in US history through the experiences of Hawes, a distinguished Navy frogman and later a CIA contractor. His journey began as an officer in the newly-formed SEAL Team 2, which then led him to Vietnam in 1964 to train hit-and-run boat teams who ran clandestine raids into North Vietnam. Those raids directly instigated the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. The CIA tapped Hawes to deploy to the Congo, where he would be tasked with creating and leading a paramilitary navy on Lake Tanganyika to disrupt guerilla action in the country. According to the US government, he did not, and could not, exist; he was on his own, 1400 miles from his closest allies, with only periodic letters via air-drop as communication. Hawes recalls recruiting and managing some of the most dangerous mercenaries in Africa, battling rebels with a crew of anti-Castro Cuban exiles, and learning what the rest of the intelligence world was dying to know: the location of Che Guevara.
In vivid detail that rivals any action movie, Hawes describes how he and his team discovered Guevara leading the communist rebels on the other side and eventually forced him from the country, accomplishing a seemingly impossible mission. Complete with never-before-seen photographs and interviews with fellow operatives in the Congo, Cold War Navy SEAL is an unblinking look at a portion of Cold War history never before told.
SubtitleMy Story of Che Guevara, War in the Congo, and the Communist Threat in Africa
AuthorBy James M. Hawes, By Mary Ann Koenig
Published3 April 2018
Dimensions6.00 x 9.00in.
About the author
James M. Hawes completed BUD/S in 1963 and received orders to the newly formed SEAL Team 2. Hawes subsequently volunteered for duty in Vietnam and became one of the first SEAL officers permanently assigned there as part of the government takeover of the CIA's OpPlan 34-A, governing covert operations into North Vietnam. That led to his clandestine CIA mission to build and command a mercenary navy in the Congo in 1965-66. After several years working for the Agency, he attended Harvard, receiving his MBA in 1971. He finally settled in Asia, living there for 34 years and pioneering a variety of business enterprises, including specialized shipping and commercial real estate. Hawes currently lives near San Antonio, Texas, and is a consultant for a variety of new venture companies.
Mary Ann Koenig is a writer and filmmaker with experience across a variety of media platforms. She's directed, written and produced the documentary, A Bond Unbroken The 'Why' of Minh, the story of Vietnam War-era Navy SEALs and a reunion with their combat interpreter 45 years later. She has written for the Los Angeles Times and KOST Radio in Los Angeles, and currently works as a journalist and correspondent for TCPalm Newsweekly (a regional USA Today publication) covering veterans stories, from Iwo Jima Marines and USS Intrepid sailors in the Pacific during WWII, to Iraq and Afghanistan ground troops. She has done numerous oral histories with veterans at the VA hospital in Bronx, New York, where she has served as a volunteer for over eight years, and has written for VAnguard Magazine, the VA's national publication.
James Hawes’ riveting story, now de-classified, describes in compelling detail his involvement with Che Guevara, the war in the Congo, and his role in building a clandestine mercenary navy with the objective of defeating the rebels and the Simba insurgency in Africa.
Hawes’ and his team’s highly successful paramilitary operation was credited for stemming the tide of communism and unravelling an international political mystery.
—Don D. Mann, New York Times bestselling author of Inside SEAL Team SIX
“A fascinating and vivid first-person account of a young Navy SEAL dispatched to the Congo in the Sixties to build a mercenary navy that defeated communist-back rebels. Boasts a rogues gallery of characters more colorful and frightening than those imagined by Ian Fleming – among them the notorious Che Guevara. A must-read for anyone interested in clandestine operations and Cold War history.” – Ralph Pezzullo, bestselling author of Jawbreaker, Left of Boom, and others
“Written by a true professional, Cold War Navy SEAL is a well-documented, fast-paced account of CIA operative Jim Hawes’ experiences setting up and running a naval interdiction force in Lake Tanganyika for the U.S.-supported Congo government. . . . This book provides unique, first-hand insight into the complicated political and military milieu in the Congo region of Africa during the mid-1960s, and is a must-read.”
— Captain Bob Gormly, USN (SEAL) retired, and author of Combat Swimmer
“Jim Hawes story of bravery and courage is a fine example of how the men of Naval Special Warfare have made an impact around the globe. Unsung heroes like Jim deserve to have their stories told and this book gives you a glimpse into their secret world.”
—Master Chief (ret.) Rick Kaiser, Director, National Navy SEAL Museum
“Jim Hawes attributes many of his youthful strengths to his training as a SEAL. Without disputing that self-assessment, it is evident that his achievements in the Congo were actually more due to innate quick intelligence, moral courage, and reliable rectitude that came from his birth and upbringing. He is an example to anyone who has to serve similarly, and his book is invaluable.”
—Rear Admiral Cathal “Irish” Flynn, USN (SEAL)
“Cold War Navy SEAL is a firsthand account of one of the Cold War secret operations conducted by the CIA in central Africa. Jim Hawes was the individual responsible for building, launching, and operating the Force Navale Congolaise, which was instrumental in breaking the back of the Simba insurgency and the culmination of mission success in the Congo. He had to deal with a vast array of cutthroat mercenaries daily; at times, he bluffed or glibly talked his way through life or death encounters. Jim’s account of navigating these nerve-racking situations, combined with his significant research into previously classified material, is what makes the Cold War Navy SEAL an incredible read.”—
Captain Maynard Weyers, USN (SEAL), retired
“To my knowledge, Jim has never boasted about the things he has done in life, and he has plenty to boast about. Only the insistence of his friends caused him to write this book, which is one that only he could write… James Hawes has “been there and done that.” He has “seen the elephant.” It’s time we learned about it.”—
Captain Larry Bailey, USN (SEAL), retired