Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Douglas Bonnot, who served as a cryptanalyst in the Army Security Agency during Vietnam.
After enlisting in the Army and going through boot camp, Douglas Bonnot joined a police company with the 1st Cavalry Division stationed near the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Police companies conduct anti-terrorism, area security and police intelligence operations. Bonnot then transferred to the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas, before taking on cryptanalyst training at the Army Security Agency Training Center and School at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. The Army Security Agency (ASA) was a key department that worked in signals intelligence and communication security establishments, both nationally and internationally.
After training, Bonnot served with the 265th Radio Research Company in the spring of 1970. His duties included oversight of the unit’s intelligence mission, personnel and distribution of tactical signal intelligence to the 101st Airborne Division, which was then in Vietnam. Bonnot worked closely with Staff Sgt. Ed Keith overseeing more than 200 troops of the RRC scattered around firebases and outposts in South Vietnam’s northernmost region. In December 1970, the 265th RRC learned that the North Vietnamese were moving large numbers of troops into positions just inside the Laotian border and around the town of Tchepone at the top of the Ho Chi Minh trail. The U.S. Army and South Vietnamese Army were planning an invasion of Laos, codenamed Operation Lam Son 719. The operation was meant to cut off Viet Cong access to the trail, which supplied VC efforts in South Vietnam. Bonnot’s company was unaware of the plan until a few days before it was to be carried out. The invasion was ultimately unsuccessful due to VC spy knowledge of the event.
Following his work in Vietnam, Bonnot worked with the National Security Agency (NSA), the Defense Special Missile and Astronautics Center and overseas assignments in Turkey and Okinawa. At the request of the U.S. State Department, he also taught intelligence-related subjects in overseas North Atlantic Treaty Organization Signal Schools. His final assignment was with the 400th ASA Special Operations Detachment, 5th Special Forces located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Bonnot retired from the army as a first sergeant in 1979. He received many awards, including a Legion of Merit, a Meritorious Service Medal and an Army Commendation Medal.
After his retirement, Bonnot joined a start-up company in Florida that designed electronic surveillance equipment. He eventually became the president and CEO and then retired from the company in 2006. Bonnot was active in many Veterans organizations, such as the VFW, Disabled American Veterans, the 82nd Airborne Division Association and the 101st Airborne Division Association. He also wrote “The Sentinel & the Shooter” about his experiences with the 265th RRC in Vietnam.
Bonnot passed away in November 2018 at age 78. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.
We honor his service.
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Writer: Sarah Concepcion
Editor: Katherine Berman, Michaela Yesis
Fact checker: Crystal Moore
Graphic artist: Kiki Kelley