"Forging Legends: The Early Years of the Green Beret"

In the annals of military history, a significant milestone stands tall: 9 April 1987, the birthdate of the Special Forces branch within the U.S. Army. Continuing our story on the birth and origins of the Green Beret with Richard Killblane and Jeremy Jones

April 9, 2024

 Continuing our story on the birth and origins of the Green Berets with (Capt) Richard Killblane USA ret. and Jeremy Jones.

In the annals of military history, a significant milestone stands tall: 9 April 1987, the birthdate of the Special Forces branch within the U.S. Army. This birth, however, is but a chapter in a grand narrative that stretches back to the crucible of World War II.It was during that global conflict that the seeds of the Special Forces were sown, drawing inspiration from the valorous exploits of units like the 1st Special Service Force and the daring Operational Groups of the OSS. These early warriors laid the groundwork for what would become a cornerstone of American military prowess.The 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) is one of the active duty Special Forces (SF) units of the United States Army. It was established during the early years of the Cold War and has since played a significant role in various conflicts and operations around the world.

The tale gains momentum on 11 June 1952, as the 10th Special Forces Group emerged at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, marking the formal genesis of specialized operations within the Army. This genesis found fertile ground in the tumultuous 1960s, amidst the crucible of the Vietnam War, witnessing a rapid expansion across the Regular Army, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard.Yet, it was the dawn of the 1980s that bestowed official recognition upon this elite cadre. 

The 10th Special Forces Group was officially activated on June 19, 1952, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It was originally designated as the 10th Special Forces Group (10th SFG) and was organized under the Psychological Warfare Center. Its formation was in response to the growing need for unconventional warfare capabilities during the Cold War. 

Aaron Bank organized and commanded the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne). 

The ranks of SF quickly filled up as soldiers began graduating from the Special Forces Qualification Course that year. Because of the clandestine mission to operate behind the lines in the Soviet Union, these men needed to blend in and speak the local languages fluently. Consequently, Special Forces had recruited heavily from displaced persons (DP) serving in the Army. These DPs had left their homelands during WWII and many enlisted in the US Army. Entire Operational Detachments A (ODA), better known as A teams, comprised men of Czech or Hungarian nationality. As American born soldiers joined the teams, the joke was that if your name didn’t end in “ski” and you didn’t speak fluent Czech, then you weren’t really Special Forces. Even former German Wehrmacht soldiers joined the early ranks of Special Forces however they would become upset as they could not wear their Iron Crosses (or any other German decoration) on their American uniforms. Germany and the United States were of course had been enemies when they earned them – even though Germany was then a NATO partner. Former Russian soldiers could were their ribbons and medals as Russia had been an ally of America during WWII when they had earned them. This led to a number of "jibings" during dress green inspections. 

With the ranks filled, 10th Group deployed 782 members to Flint Kaserne in Bad Tolz, Germany. The remainder of the men at Bragg formed the 77th Special Forces Group (Airborne), which would be redesignated as the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne). 

Probably the last former Wehrmacht veteran still serving in Special Forces in 1977 was Major Hermann Adler. These men became the early legends as Special Forces established its early unconventional reputation. 

On 9 April 1987, the Special Forces branch ascended to the ranks of the Army's fundamental branches, enshrining their mission to execute diverse operations spanning direct action, counterterrorism, special reconnaissance, foreign internal defense, and unconventional warfare. This milestone was etched in the annals of military protocol through Army General Order No. 35, dated 19 June 1987.Adorned with their iconic green berets and bearing the symbol of crossed arrows, the Special Forces epitomize not just combat prowess but also a commitment to humanitarian endeavors. Their motto, "De Oppresso Liber," echoes through the ages, embodying the ethos of liberation and the relentless pursuit of justice.As we reflect on this anniversary, we pay homage not only to a date but to the valor, sacrifice, and enduring legacy of the U.S. Army Special Forces—a testament to the indomitable spirit that defines the noblest traditions of military service.