From the memoirs of the Green Beret who became the bodyguard for Patrice Emery Lumumba and came to know the man. The story of the classified mission to save the lives of 239 people from certain death in the Congo.

The Congo, 1960. The United Nations grants the former colony independence from Belgium.
Patrice Lumumba becomes prime minister.
All hell breaks loose.


We dedicate this book to the children of Africa...

...of both the white and black tribes. It is our hope that among them now, are those men and women to be, who will be giants in character and that will hold the welfare and well-being of their people before their own interests.

Virtuous, decent and selfless people like Morgan Tsvangirai, Roy Bennet and Thomas Sankara. Despite some mis-direction of ideological beliefs, these men put their people’s well-being above their position of leadership even with the enormous temptations of power and wealth that were theirs for the taking.



…from Major General John K. Singlaub (USA Ret.)

I first met Sully deFontaine in 1961 in Germany when I was an adviser to the 10th Special Forces Group exercise being run out of the Bad Tolz headquarters in Germany. From his first salute to his always polite and low-key conversation, I knew without a doubt that Sully was a quiet professional and a seasoned leader.Little did I know at the time that as a young man in his late teens he had been through some of the same British paratrooper schools where I had trained in England. From balloons at Ringway near Manchester he practiced for making night jumps into the farmlands of France, his homeland, to use his skills and knowledge of the French underground to rescue downed American pilots.

My first encounter with Sully came a year after he had led a Special Forces team on a covert mission in the Congo to rescue missionaries and civilians who were at risk of being massacred by roving bands of militants spawned during that country’s independence revolt.

The gallant rescue by his three-man team reminded me of the time near the end of World War II when the Office of Strategic Services tasked me with leading a prisoner-of-war humanitarian team to liberate Allied POWs held by the Japanese on Hainan, a large island in the South China Sea between China and Vietnam.


Sully de Fontaine

Born in Belgium to French parents and trained in 1943 by the British Special Operations Executive and Special Air Service (British SAS), Sully has been awarded over 20 U.S. and International decorations and has recently been inducted into the Special Forces Hall of Fame. Sully is a retired U.S. Army colonel and lives with his wife in the southwest United States.

In March of 2018, Sully deFontaine was presented the United States Congressional Gold Medal in front of the leaders of the United States Congress. Sully earned this out of respect for his achievements and service as a 17-year-old Frenchman in service to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency.

In February of 2018 the Las Vegas Nevada Special Forces Association Chapter 51 was named the Las Vegas Nevada Sully H. deFontaine Special Forces Association Chapter 51.


Jack Lawson

Jack Lawson served in the United States Air Force as a missile electronics and nuclear weapons arming technician. He was later a member of a Foreign Legion counter insurgency unit during an anti-communist guerrilla war in Africa. Jack has authored two other books. He and his wife live in the southwest United States.


 5.0 out of 5 stars
Book Review
By John051 on August 4, 2015

This is an interesting book about how a few good men can make a difference. Not a lot of information about this time frame.

5.0 out of 5 stars
By Tim on May 30, 2015

Great book some amazing history.

5.0 out of 5 stars
Great Read
By Customer on April 22, 2014

Great bit of history that a younger generation may not know. The courage and valor that is shown by this group of men is amazing.

5.0 out of 5 stars
The Future through the Past
By Customer on December 28, 2014

Slaver’s Wheel by Jack Lawson and COL (R) Sully de Fontaine
COL (R) Sully de Fontaine is one of the legendary characters of the US Army Special Forces, he started as a member of the British Special Operations Executive jumping into Occupied France at seventeen, working with the French Underground ex-filtrating Allied Airmen back to England. After WWII he joined Special Forces and in 1960 led a small team into the Congo to rescue Americans and Europeans from the marauding tribesmen led by Patrice Lumumba, though they worked with the US Ambassador, there were not ID cards or dog tags, a covert mission conducted in an area that made our Wild West look like a Sunday School Picnic.

Slaver’s Wheel shows the problems caused by Soviet aggression, Lumumba being a devout communist, in nations emerging from centuries of colonialism. It also illustrates the ineffectiveness of the United Nations, and the problems caused by the liberals permeating the US State Department.

Slaver’s Wheel is not casual reading, once one becomes involved in the events, it reads like great historical fiction, but then one realizes that this is history, being told by the man who was there, who saw the events unfiltered by time and another’s interpretation.

If you change the names from African to Arab, you will see the problems of the Congo are much the same as Afghanistan, Crimea and Iraq. Any soldier or scholar who has served or studied world events since 9/11 will see that the world hasn’t changed only the names and locations.

One of the best books on covert operations in the early days of Special Forces. I give it five stars.
Jack Tobin COL (R) SF.

5.0 out of 5 stars
By Mark Clay Grove on October 25, 2014

I loved it. Exciting and interesting. Two trigger fingers up.

5.0 out of 5 stars
Utterly amazing
By Customer on July 9, 2014

An amazing read. That Special Forces Lieutenant De Fontaine survived this experience is remarkable in itself. That he saved hundreds of lives and cheated death at every turn is a testament to his will.

Where do people like this come from anymore? Do we still have them or has the current American education system ensured there will be no more? This man had titanium balls and never hesitated to put himself into danger where every turn could result in a bullet to the back of the head. Yet he survived it all.

5.0 out of 5 stars
By Brad on March 20, 2013

This is an incredible read. A fascinating historical account by a very knowledgeable writer. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in African History.

5.0 out of 5 stars
much more engaging than fiction
By John C. Maldaner III on April 24, 2014

The story takes a little while to unravel as a very detailed background of the main character is presented. Once the action starts, it is furious. This is a story that needed to be told. God bless these warriors.

5.0 out of 5 stars
Amazing (but unknown) history of a Special Forces legend
By Matthew Bracken on March 13, 2014

When I think about the history of the Special Forces, I tend to begin with JFK and the Vietnam War. This outstanding book greatly expanded my awareness about just how special some of the original Green Berets really were. By any measure, Sully DeFontaine was one of the standouts among a group with extremely high standards.

Sully's specops story begins at the age of 16 in 1943, when he escaped from France to Spain and then to England. There, he was picked up by the British SOE, trained as a commando, and parachuted back into Nazi-occupied France, where he led groups of downed Allied air crews to Spain and freedom. He had more adventures and near escapes as a teenager than most special operators have in a lifetime! Eventually he wound up in the U.S. Army Special Forces.

In July of 1960 he was stationed in Germany with the 10th SFG just when the Congo was exploding in violence. The Belgians had been forced out by UN mandates and national fatigue, leaving the giant mineral-rich country ripe for the communists to control and plunder. At the same time, hundreds of European missionaries, medical workers, and engineers were stranded with no way to escape. Congolese mobs had been inflamed with anti-Western and anti-white propaganda, as part of the communist plan to create conditions of total chaos, out of which their pre-selected leader Patrice Lumumba would emerge to become the Fidel Castro of Africa.

Enter Sully DeFontaine, sent under cover to the Congo with just a couple of hand-picked French-speaking Green Berets. They went under false names and in civilian clothes to organize the rescue of the stranded Europeans. The rest of the book, while completely true, reads like a Clancy, Ludlum or Fleming thriller. Sully's immediate mission, leading the rescue operations involving clandestine CIA and USAF bush planes and helicopters, was an incredible success story in itself.

But Sully far exceeded his original mandate, using his language and personal skills to slide between several false identities. In short order he actually become a confidant of Patrice Lumumba while pretending to be a Belgian communist! In this role he became the single key source of intelligence to the U.S. State Dept. and the CIA, eventually convincing them of Lumumba's fervent communist loyalties. This information helped to prevent the Congo, and likely the rest of central Africa, from going communist.

(As usual, the U.S. State Dept. believed Lumumba's overt pretense that he was simply a "progressive," but not a communist. Sully's information forced them to accept the truth.)

Slaver's Wheel also provides deep (and often politically incorrect in today's terms) insights into tradition African tribal thinking. This begins with the historical reference to the actual "slaver's wheel," which was taken from a Portuguese wagon after a slaving expedition was turned back and defeated centuries ago. The village that was the site of the slaver's wheel was the location of one of the countless examples of tribal massacres that accompanied the chaos of 1960.

If you are a fan of special operations histories, get this book. Sully DeFontaine's true-life adventures would put the fictional James Bond to shame. I'm grateful to Jack Lawson for finally getting Sully to sit down and recount the amazing history of his secret mission to the Congo in 1960.

5.0 out of 5 stars
By MARK BAYUK on January 17, 2014

I must start by saying I personally know and greatly admire Sully De Fontaine.

I first met Sully in 2004 while I was assigned to the U.S Consulate General in Hong Kong and at that time Sully was working in Macao. I quickly recognized Sully is a remarkable man and I sought out his friendship.

I knew of Sully's military service in Viet Nam, and as I had served there too in a minor role with the Marines, Viet Nam was a common topic of discussion for us.

And then Sully published The Slaver's Wheel. After reading this book, and then rereading certain passages of Slaver's Wheel, I now know more of only a part of the story of Sully's extraordinary military exploits. But I do know more of his intervention action saving the lives of 100's of civilians of all nations. These are actions he initiated (many times on the spur of the moment!) in the failed state of The Belgian Congo in the early 1960's.
This story is related just the way I could envision Sully relating it to me in person. It calmly narrates extraordinary incidents fraught with danger in a understated manner.

In person Sully speaks quietly without embellishment. He shows great courtesy and respect to whomever he is speaking with.
I think these natural gifts of quiet self confidence and courtesy to others (coupled with his tremendous courage!) enabled Sully to perform so remarkably with so many unstable and unpredictable leaders and rebels in the caldron of chaos and conflict that was The Belgian Congo in 1960.

For me one of the most poignant events in the narrative is an incident Sully relates that happened on July 17, 1960 outside of a remote Belgian Congo village called Gombe Matadi, deep in rebel territory.

Even I today, 54 years after the event, can remotely feel the frustration that Sully felt when he had to honor the free will decision of the Catholic nuns to stay behind with their parishioners in the face of the imminent rebel advance.

In summation, this is a story of a remarkably brave and valorous warrior who yet has a great deal of care and consideration for others.

This a tremendous story of a quietly brave man with great interpersonal skills of diplomacy and courtesy. It is remarkable to read how he repeatedly uses these skills with great success in many extremely dangerous situations. I hope you too read Sully's story.

5.0 out of 5 stars
By MIKE on May 9, 2013

A great book that I didn't want to put down.

Fast pace an a real look into the turbulent African continent. You always hear about other branches of service but it is rare when a former army green beret talks about one of there secret missions.

5.0 out of 5 stars
An amazing untold story!!
By Customer on April 24, 2013

I was not even aware of this operation until last year. What a story! Brave men risking it all to save lives in one of Africa's most perilous times!! This book reads like a fast paced novel but is all well documented as a real and life saving "Black Op" I can't recommend this book enough.

IF you like Rawles, Royce, Bracken then be sure to read Lawson's book. I also really enjoyed his book "A failure of Civility" A must read for the well prepared or even the armchair warrior. A big "thumbs up" for both.

John Parker AKA Mick Dog

5.0 out of 5 stars
A Truly Great Officer, Gentleman and Friend
By Cedarglen on April 2, 2015

While obtained from another source, I bought this book because Sully de Fontaine contributed much of the material that Lawson uses. Long retired now, Col. de Fontaine served his adopted nation, wearing the Army uniform for thirty-eight years. I had the personal honor to work for Col de Fontaine for a few years during the early 70s, a decade after the events detailed in this book. I have never met a finer officer, or one more fully committed to supporting his troops. During a 35+ year (non-military) professional career of my own, I have never encountered a finer leader or one as loyal to his own staff. To this day, If Col. Sully asked me to march into hell, I would ask only what he wanted done when I got there.

The book itself? It is stimulating reading and helps us to understand some of U.S. foreign policy in the early 60s. Potential readers are cautioned that this is not a novel or creative fiction; these events happened! I would love to see a follow-on book that covers the remainder of this remarkable soldier's career, but I know that Col. de Fontaine will not (and in some cases cannot) write it. Suffice it to say that Col. Sully was far more than a Green Beret! Thank you, sir. Working for you was one of life's great pleasures!

Addendum: 04152015: Just in case I for got to mention it <grins>, Sully Fontaine remains one of the most honorable fellows that I've ever met. As much as I'd, like to make a quick visit, he likely does not welcome visitors these days. (-Craig, PMI, 1AD, 'Goep'/Ansbach, '72-'74.

5.0 out of 5 stars
Slaver's Wheel
By Al Hendley on February 26, 2013

Great read! True American hero's that did not receive the recognition they should have because of a peace time action.
Colonel de Fontaine has been inducted as a Distinguished Member of the Special Forces Regiment an honor he truly deserves.

5.0 out of 5 stars
By CLIFF BRINK on February 20, 2013


5.0 out of 5 stars
Slaver's Wheel
By Tom on February 14, 2013

FANTASTIC reading! Colonel Sully DeFontaine is a true hero - he gives a soldier their greatest praise by giving all the credit to his fallen comrades and those he served alongside with. Jack Lawson did a wonderful job extracting information that very few knew about previously.

Slaver's Wheel is a true story that needed to be told, and the heroes appreciated by the free. Many people owe their life to these true unsung heroes, and Colonel Sully DeFontaine stands out as one of the few real heroes. A secret mission to the Congo by a select few, without Government support or back-up, during those extremely turbulent times?

WOW! What a read!

3.0 out of 5 stars
Well-told story
By Kent Price on November 12, 2014

Not really my style of book (war story), but it is well-told and an exciting read. Recommend for those interested in war stories or the history of the Belgium Congo's transition to independence in 1960.

4.0 out of 5 stars the time it needed to be done with great success due to his "get it done" focus
By DEpp on October 31, 2014

A story of a hero who does what needs to be done at the time it needed to be done with great success due to his "get it done" focus. It's not great literature but it is a great true story.

Read in conjunction with Larry Devlin's Chief of Station: Congo.

4.0 out of 5 stars
An Excellent Read About The Congo
By James S. Ford on May 23, 2014

I only gave this book a four star rating because they won't let me give it a 4.5. It suffers somewhat from improper editing that is a distraction, but it contains a treasury of inside information about the evolution of African nationalism. If Sully De Fontaine were not truly a living Special Forces hero, one would think this book was a fictional action thriller. His life story is one of legend, but his activities in the Belgium and French Congo in 1960 certainly deserve to be immortalized in film. Over a ten day period, his small group of volunteers snatched about 250 American and European missionaries out of the jaws of certain death in remote jungle areas of the Congo.

Using a hastily created short-wave radio net and a few small bush planes and tactical helicopters lent by the U.S. Army, De Fontaine's group would fly into villages under attack and rescued small groups of victims. In 1958, Belgium had implemented a ten year plan to train Congolese to take over positions of management of their country but was coerced by the U.N. to declare the Congo independent on July 1, 1960. Almost immediately the Congo erupted into anarchy with Lumumba promising his followers that all the riches of the whites were theirs for the taking. The police forces and army had been lead above the rank of NCO by white officers who no longer could exert any control. The troops rebelled, broke into armories, and went on a rampage of looting, raping, and killing.

Tribal rivalries that had been kept in check by the Belgium led forces broke out into renewed genocidal territorial wars. Once the immediate threat to American missionaries was resolved, De Fontaine was asked to remain in the Congo by U.S. Ambassador Timberlake to work secretly to determine if Lumumba was creating ties with the Soviet Union. The reader is given inside information about the power players that shaped the course of African nationalism and the policies that have led to the current chaos in Africa.

This is an excellent book to read if you want to know why Africa is important to the long-term security of the United States.

4.0 out of 5 stars
just ok
By Sam Carpenter on May 18, 2014

Little flat for me. Story line left me wondering Sat all time but just couldn't get into it. A bit flat.

4.0 out of 5 stars
Good Read
By Tundraboar on May 14, 2014

Lots of interesting information, written well, and provides valuable insights into African history for this period. Worth the time investment.

5.0 out of 5 stars
Untold story of an untold story
By Customer on May 4, 2014

When I started reading the story, I realized that I met old SF senior NCO's in 1965-66 who knew some of the characters in this story. Sadly we know very little of the story of the Congo being freed from Belgian control. They were woefully unready for their freedom as was most of Africa. Very interesting story.

2.0 out of 5 stars
strong political emphasis
By mfro on May 17, 2014

Main interests are heroism and anti-communism. The former is engaging, the latter rather annoying -- especially when they present Mobutu as a "savior."

4.0 out of 5 stars
Best Reads
By Kelsey L. Phelps on February 13, 2013

This is no doubt one of my best reads, and one I plan to hang on to. Slaver's Wheel is an amazing story of courage, overwhelming odds against, and a can-do attitude that left me shaking my head.
Who was this guy, and how on earth did he and his team accomplish so much, under such tough conditions?

Sully De Fontaine is a sterling example of the men who wear the Green Beret. Hats off to Lawson too, for a well written, riveting story.

I highly recommend this book!

Purchase SLAVER'S WHEEL here!