The Green Beret Affair: A Factual Review

Discussion in 'Defence & Strategic Issues' started by A.V., May 17, 2010.

  1. A.V.

    A.V. New Member

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    by Terry McIntosh
    Co D, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
    Det. A-414, Thanh Tri, Mekong Delta, South Vietnam 1968-1969











    After serving six months in country Vietnam with Special Forces C and B Teams, I was assigned to A-Team 414 operating in the Ken Tuong Province, Mekong Delta. The base camp sat a stone’s throw from the Cambodian border, and provided front line defense aimed at NVA and Viet Cong units based in the neighboring country. The team also hosted a top secret intelligence gathering operation “over the fence” inside of Cambodia. The Intel net was a part of Project Gamma, and was illegal in regards to agreements between the United States and Vietnam, and political restraints that forbade US incursions into Cambodia at that time. The site was valuable to Project Gamma due to its location. The B57 Intelligence Office assigned three men to operate the spy network. Their cover names were Capt. Martin, radio operator Scotty, and Case Manager Mike. Cover names were used so that they could disappear on a moment’s notice without being traceable. They were spies and not protected by the Geneva Convention.

    Martin’s real identity, Robert Marasco, is well known and a matter of record. I am not revealing any new information about him in this forum. Scotty’s and Mike’s true identities are not well known. Mike was like a big brother to me, and I want to respect his and Scotty’s privacy in this forum. Marasco has been featured on television and in print numerous times as the central figure in the affair. Although no records about the project have ever been released, it played a major role in Vietnam and the later incursion of Cambodia.

    Marasco networked with about 20 indigenous agents that spied out Parrot’s Beak, a VC stronghold in Cambodia, and also kept tabs on that nation’s Prince to know where he was at all times. My duty assignment included coding, decoding, sending and receiving intelligence reports. Although most of my time was spent at the border Forward Observation Base conducting combat patrols, I did assist Marasco’s team as needed when he and Scotty were off on covert missions into Cambodia.

    Enter double agent Thai Khac Chuyen. All of our translators had been killed or wounded, and Chuyen was loaned out to us occasionally as a translator from the Special Forces B Team 41 in Moc Hoa. He has since been identified as Chu Van Thai Khac. He was 31 years old and was born in North Vietnam. I am not certain which of the two names was legitimate. I knew him by the name Thai Khac Chuyen.

    Chuyen’s original position was that of S5 translator. His handler’s name was Sgt. Alvin Smith, a.k.a. Peter Sands. Smith was a former CIA operative then serving with Military Intelligence, and worked out of B-57 on field assignment to Moc Hoa B-41. Sands (Smith) was accountable to Marasco in the chain of command regarding Project Gamma.

    During Chuyen’s short stay on site, he was assigned to run ambush patrol with yours truly. Circa 19 Feb 69, he and I were on ambush with ten indigenous troops in anticipation of VC targets in the area. I didn’t know who originated the Intel report. I was just following orders. We sat up perimeter watch and I radioed our coordinates back to the Forward Observation Base. Sometime near dawn, I spotted VC movement along the tree line through the night scope. I couldn’t tell how many, but I saw them moving directionally toward Moc Hoa. I alerted Chuyen and the troops. They prepared for action and waited. I elected to use the M-79 Grenade Launcher and fired one round into the air toward the VC. It hit and exploded, and the troops laid down heavy fire in direction of the blast. Chuyen observed the action. The VC did not return fire. I grabbed the night scope and peeked through it again. I could see some of them running away and back toward the trees. I handed the scope off to Chuyen, and he looked through it. I remember that he smiled. I thought that was strange, but dismissed it.

    I tried to call back to the F.O.B. for mortar support, but couldn’t raise them. All I could get on the radio was dead air. I decided to go after “Charlie,” locked and loaded, and the troops followed in pursuit of a fleeing enemy. After running hard a short distance, we approached the tree line. I was proud of the troops. They lined up side by side, and we emptied our weapons into the tree line as we approached. We laid down a heavy barrage of firepower. Chuyen was on my left, and the others to my right, but I noticed that Chuyen wasn’t firing his weapon. He was fiddling with it, and later claimed that it jammed. I accepted his explanation without reservation.

    Back at the FOB, teammate Specialist Mesa could see that we had made contact because of the explosion and bullet tracers that lit up the sky. When he couldn’t raise me on the radio, he assumed that I was hurt or killed, and called back to base camp for instructions. About that time, the VC opened up on us in the field from within the tree line with heavy fire power. I had no option but to order a retreat and we ran some safe distance away from the action. We sat up another perimeter and waited the night out. Chuyen was very calm through it all. Mesa, in hopes of rescuing us, opened fire on last known co-ordinates and dropped several mortar rounds into the tree line. We watched the explosions from a distance and spent the rest of the night in ambush mode should any VC retreat our way.

    Next morning at the FOB, Mesa discovered that the radio had been tampered with, and the frequency had been switched to a wrong channel. I did not suspect Chuyen until later after he was exposed as a double agent. It now appears that he switched the frequency to prevent me calling in fire power, and that his weapon “jammed” just at the right time to avoid firing into the tree line at his buddies. He could have killed me at any moment during the ambush and gotten away with it, but he was using us at the time and not trying to eliminate one American soldier. Mike told me later that his informants said that we had jumped the lead element of a heavy weapons platoon enroute to attack Moc Hoa. There was some satisfaction in knowing that.
     
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  3. A.V.

    A.V. New Member

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    As it turned out, there would be much to the story that remains unresolved today. Chuyen was recruited as an agent for Project Gamma, and later identified as a double agent when a team captured film in Cambodia that showed him with NVA officers. He was subsequently killed by teammate Robert Marasco. Initial inquiry to CIA operatives fielded a slow response. One agent said that they could not sanction the execution, but it was the best remedy. It was also passed down from a high ranking CIA official that elimination was the preferable choice. That left Special Forces with impression that they were to exterminate Chuyen with extreme prejudice. A plan was made and Chuyen was whisked away to Nha Trang along with Marasco. Reports indicate that Chuyen was drugged, interrogated, and eventually killed.

    A cover story was created to explain Chuyen’s absence saying that he was sent out on a special recon mission and not returned. Meanwhile, Alvin Smith a.k.a. Peter Sands was upset that Chuyen had been killed and feared for his own life, according to reports. Someone said he described the team as crazed killers. He reported the assassination to the CIA, and the case went public. The CIA suddenly discovered a “Don’t Kill” memo. It was clear they were not going to take the blame. Marasco, Col. Rheault, and six other officers were charged with murder and complicity to commit murder. Smith was included and offered immunity.

    The Soviet Union ran wild with the story claiming that Green Berets are a group of mental degenerates ready to plunder, destroy, and trample on the rest of the world. Moscow radio alleged that Green Berets, as a rule, kill peasants without showing mercy to women, old people, or children. Since Russia was a real force behind North Vietnam’s communist government, they seized the moment to devalue a feared enemy, the American Special Forces.

    In fairness to Sgt. Smith, accused by some of betrayal, his story and perceptions are recounted in a Raider Publishing book entitled Faithful Devotion, by Smith’s widow, Lisa M. Smith. An in depth and unbiased investigation of the affair is found in a book penned by Jeff Stein entitled A MURDER IN WARTIME – The untold spy story that changed the course of the Vietnam war.

    Faithful Devotion includes Smiths recollections that touch on my experience. Smith relates that Chuyen collected information relating to mortar attacks on Moc Hoa. Since my ambush patrol was the only one to make contact with the VC enroute to Moc Hoa during that period of time, a Smith recollection at first appears to include the incident.

    Faithful Devotion, chapter 5, page 66:

    “At Moc Hoa, the camp frequently was hit by mortar or rocket attack by the Viet Cong (VC). These attacks rarely succeeded in causing serious damage. Because a similar barrage always precedes any major ground assault by the VC, the attacks did succeed in scaring me. One morning, following an attack, in which a Vietnamese girl and her baby daughter had been killed, I targeted Chuyen on the VC operating in the Moc Hoa area. By this time, I had recruited him as my Principal Agent (PA) and, although we were not supposed to effect any collection operations within Vietnam, I did not think this housecleaning chore would be out of line.

    As planned, Chuyen was to attempt to discover when, and from what area, the Viet Cong would launch their next attack on Moc Hoa. If the site of their attack were closer to Than Tri, Martin (Marasco) and some of the Green Berets from A414 would ambush them. If the site planned for their assault were closer to Moc Hoa, Chico and I with some Nungs, would take them. I explained the plan to Martin (Marasco) and he enthusiastically agreed. The plan, I thought, would take a number of “hunts” before it could be brought to fruition. As it turned out, shortly after receiving his target, Chuyen provided the time and coordinates of the next attack. The site was closer to Martin (Marasco) and, at the time Chuyen had specified, in the place he had described, the VC began preparing for their assault. Martin and his team killed them to a man. The next day, Martin (Marasco) visited Moc Hoa and ecstatically described the detail of his ambush to me and Chuyen.”

    As far as anyone knows, this account appears to be the same one I detailed, but there are some problems with it. I did not understand Smith saying that Martin (Marasco) described it to Smith and Chuyen next day. Marasco was not personally present during this particular ambush. He was not authorized to conduct unilateral combat operations without express authorization from both A-Team and B-Team commanders. According to Marasco, he never met with Smith and Chuyen regarding the incident, and that Chuyen should never have been allowed to go out with me before he was investigated. The ambush apparently occurred in the normal process of A-Team operations prior to Chuyen’s recruitment as agent, and Chuyen’s role was just that of interpreter. Smith’s recollections make it appear as having been one of his operations relating to Intel collected by Chuyen. It could be the single most important incident that persuaded Smith of Chuyen’s loyalty, and he later indicted Marasco as having been involved by reason of faulty memory or otherwise to dispel accusations that he recruited improperly.

    According to more of Smith’s recollections in Faithful Devotion, the incriminating picture of Chuyen with VC officers was already in hand when another report identified Chuyen as a spy. The report originated from my “big brother,” Mike. He was very troubled by the Chuyen situation, and he shared some concerns without revealing more than I was authorized to know. I did learn about Chuyen’s contact in Moc Hoa, a female agent, immediately after Mike had reported it.

    Smith writes in chapter 5, page 78,

    “The next morning, there was a conference with the detachment counterintelligence section. At the time of this conference, Major Crew, commanding Officer of Detachment B-57 reported news that Chuyen, Thai Khac was a VC agent. This report originated from Sgt. (left blank by yours truly), assistant case officer, who was running operation in Moc Hoa (from the “A” Detachment Intelligence net, which is separate from the B-57 net) while his superior was on leave. It stated that the interpreter for S5, is a VC agent who works with a woman in Moc Hoa.”

    A very similar report is recorded in the book A Murder in Wartime, and specifically identifies A-414 as the source of information.

    Mike’s report was generated when Marasco was off site on short leave. It was based on eyewitness testimony of trusted agents, as I understand it. I suppose this was the nail in the coffin for Chuyen. When Mike later confided that Chuyen was positively identified, I inquired as to how the situation would be handled. He told me that Chuyen would be alerted for a special mission, and then likely arrested. According to his wife and brother, Chuyen was summoned for questioning by interrogators as to why he had refused to go on a special mission for the Green Berets, although that was not the reality. He was agitated by it, and told his wife, Rhan Kim Lien, to check on him if he didn’t come home. He was last seen on June 13 when he returned for further questioning. This account doesn’t jive with other reports, although the time line is correct. I understand that Chuyen had applied for a more classified position, and submitted to questioning as he thought he could gain more trust from his handlers. Of course, it backfired.

    Once Chuyen was terminated, Smith began to suspect that he was a target for same fate. He was the only one who had objected to the killing, and also became suspicious that someone else other than the woman in Moc Hoa worked with Chuyen. His suspicions grew even greater once he imagined that members of the “inner circle” considered the possibility that he might turn on them, and after one of them had made a secretive dry run similar to the scenario that ended with Chuyen dead. According to Smith, Marasco a.k.a. Martin was the only one of the men that he trusted, but Martin had returned to A414, so he had no one to talk to. Smith requested asylum from CIA Headquarters in Nha Trang. He believed it was in his own best interest to report the facts, but never intended for it to go public. He wrote that he expected it to be handled internally, but the situation was further complicated when Col. Rheault lied to Gen. Abrams about the affair. Abrams was known to be a man of strong opinions, and rushed to shut them down.

    The officers denied that they plotted to kill Smith, but Smith claims that one of them affirmed that it had been discussed, and later voted on. The conclusion was not to kill him. Investigators concluded that the officers made no such plans at any time. Different stories, different perspectives.

    I have reconstructed the time line of events from my perspective with the aid of Stein’s book and Smith’s recollections.
     
  4. A.V.

    A.V. New Member

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    Timeline

    15 October 1968 - Alvin Smith a.k.a. Peter Sands assigned to B-41 base in Moc Hoa. According to Sands recollections, Chuyen arrived to Moc Hoa one week later. Chuyen applied for S5 job as interpreter when position posted, and the two of them became good friends.

    January 69 – Capt. Robert Marasco a.k.a Robert Martin assigned to A-414 camp in Thanh Tri as B-57 covert operative, Project Gamma. Radioman “Scotty” and Assistant Case Manager Sgt. “Mike” circa same date.

    February 69 – SGT. Terry McIntosh assigned to A-414 Thanh Tri. McIntosh leads an indigenous 12 man ambush patrol and engages enemy in firefight 19 Feb 69. Chuyen accompanied as interpreter. Chuyen did not return fire at enemy and radio contact was severed with support, thereby preventing McIntosh from calling in direct fire power. Sp/4 Mesa observed tracer bullets in Area of Operation from his position at F.O.B. Failure to raise McIntosh on radio led him to believe that McIntosh was either dead or wounded, and Mesa opened fire on last known co-ordinates. McIntosh and team escaped to safe area. Chuyen explained his failure to fire at VC with reasonable excuse, and McIntosh did not make official report. After action review discovers that radio had somehow been switched to a wrong channel. It was Sands (Smith) who lent Chuyen to Thanh Tri for a few days. Reasonable conclusion that this is same ambush Sands referred to in his recollections. It appears that Sands (Smith) attributes enemy troop movement to Intel gathered from Chuyen, and served as evidence of Chuyen’s loyalty to US. However, contradictions indicate that his report is embellished for whatever reason, whether faulty memory or otherwise. Marasco denies having known about it as Smith relates, and the mission appears to have been in the normal course of A-Team operations prior to Chuyen’s official recruitment as agent.

    03 March 69 - Sands requested name trace on Chu Yen Thai Khac. A few days later response “No Record.” Sands declared intent to recruit Chuyen to Det. B-57. Official approval extended.

    08 March 69 - Chuyen was fingerprinted, photographed, and registered as Agent No SF7-166. NOTE: Smith did not administer polygraph, nor conduct further research. Marasco was troubled by fact that Chuyen spoke fluent English, yet no records of his employment could be located.

    March 69, circa mid month - SSG Tom Powell and SGT. McIntosh engaged VC and friendlies on conflicted 3 way ambush operation during border patrol. No interpreter on mission due to fact that Chuyen was now under Marasco’s close supervision, and he would not send Chuyen out with team.

    April 69, mid month - Marasco transfers Sands to Nha Trang and puts Chuyen on ice into old job in the civil affairs shop in Moc Hoa. NOTE: Marasco’s suspicions about the pair would mean that Chuyen could not return to Thanh Tri without Marasco’s explicit knowledge and approval. Marasco was Chuyen’s paymaster and refused to keep him on as agent. Stein confirms that Marasco radioed Nha Trang seeking permission to reassign Sands.

    May 69 - Col. Robert Rheault assumes command of 5th SFGA.

    Unclear at what point Chuyen quit job in Moc Hoa. He returned to Saigon and family, but it appears to be after Sands was transferred to Nha Trang.

    10 May 69 – Sands (Smith) identifies Chuyen in photo.

    19 May 69 circa - Marasco on emergency leave stateside. Circa same date, Col. Rheault visits A-414. Mike submits report from local Thanh Tri informants separate from B-57 team. He reports that interpreter working in Thanh Tri was asking pointed questions about Special Forces personnel and duties. Rumors also that same interpreter was VC spy who had a female collaborator in Moc Hoa. NOTE: The “working in Thanh Tri’ had to be past tense because Chuyen was by then contained in Moc Hoa. Mike confirmed report to McIntosh.

    May 69 (circa last week) – Marasco (Martin) returns after emergency leave stateside. Confirms man in photo as Chuyen. B-57 failed to brief Marasco on Mike’s report about female collaborator.

    04 June 69 - Rheault finishes winging around Vietnam on inspection tour of A-teams. His visit to A-414 had been unrelated to Chuyen as originally considered, as Chuyen had not come to his attention before Rheault began his tour and subsequent visit to A414.

    09 June 69 - Plans made to bring Chuyen in for interrogation. Sands was ordered to bring Chuyen in under guise of new covert op. Mike’s report was cause for additional concern.
     
  5. A.V.

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    June 12 -17, 1969
    Interrogation begins.
    Chuyen fails polygraph.
    Chuyen identifies Phan as Marasco’s Principal Agent. [Major security breech]
    Chuyen affirms that Sands took him along on visits to A-414.
    Denies self image in photo.
    Denies female contact in Moc Hoa. Smith, however, wrote about the relationship Chuyen had with this particular female in his recollections.
    Chuyen confirms work in Thanh Tri as translator.
    Chuyen collapses in exhaustion, and curses “stupid” Americans. Says will lose war to NVA.
    Smith pleads for one more chance to “turn Chuyen around.”

    18 June 69 – Closed door session concocts plan to eliminate Chuyen. Smith objects.

    20 June 69 - Chuyen is executed.

    21 June 69 - CIA telex says killing is no solution, and high flap potential. B-41 team gave cover story that Chuyen was dispatched on mission inside Cambodia.

    29 June 69 – Smith fears he will be eliminated in similar fashion as Chuyen to insure silence.

    02 July 69 circa – Smith reports execution and requests asylum from CIA office in Nha Trang.

    14 July 69 – Marasco and B-57 team arrested along with Col. Rheault.

    Mid July 69 circa - Intel reported 500 NVA were enroute through AO at Thanh Tri. All available personnel, A-Team members and CIDG alerted to ambush. Did not materialize. Nights later, “Spookie” aircraft chewed up VC in AO. Team members watched action from roof at base camp.

    20 July 69 – Lt. Col. Ken Facy identifies Col. Rheault as man who gave order to eliminate Chuyen.

    20 July 69 circa – Mortar attack on base camp A-414 Thanh Tri. Thought to be in retaliation for Chuyen's disappearance.

    21 July 69 – Rheault, Marasco, and others transferred to Long Binh Jail (LBJ).

    23 July 69 – SFC Eddie Hamby escorts SGT. McIntosh to Moc Hoa by boat on first leg of stops heading stateside. Hamby advises McIntosh to disavow knowledge of covert operations. He signs papers stating no knowledge of covert operations and is released by Military Intelligence.

    26 July 69 circa – A second mortar attack on base camp. According to SFC Hamby, four CIDG soldiers, Papa San, and Diwi Diem were all KIA. Severe damage inflicted on camp and new structures later built.

    29 September 69 – The US Army drops all charges against the Special Forces team. The CIA will not testify and a fair trial is impossible. The White House acknowledges that President Nixon was involved in shaping the decision to drop murder charges.

    When Military Intelligence questioned me, I signed papers stating that I didn’t know anything about covert, illegal operations out of A414. At that point, I was not aware that Marasco and others had been arrested. I only knew that they had been pulled out of Thanh Tri. I did what they wanted me to do – go home and say nothing.

    All charges were eventually dropped in September 69 after President Nixon got involved, and the Green Beret Affair became history, and according to Daniel Ellsberg, the catalyst for release of the Pentagon Papers.* Marasco resigned his commission. Col. Rheault was forced into retirement. Other players were reassigned stateside.

    For the record, as tragic as it was for all parties, I salute Marasco and others who were charged. They were soldiers under orders. There were no good options for them. They acted to protect the lives of American soldiers and our allies. Nobody wanted to do it. The job fell to them. The moral issues are still unresolved, but those men made a difficult decision under orders to protect the lives of American soldiers and Vietnamese allies by eliminating one treacherous and dangerous enemy.

    War is never pleasant, and the Viet Cong were cruel oppressors. They used terror tactics that put the devil to shame. They would raid villages, rape the women, kill the men, and steal the children. This is the real enemy we faced in Vietnam, and we had to react harshly sometimes. Marasco is not the only military officer to be accused of war crimes, and won’t be the last. There are a million stories to tell that are just like this one, and another million just waiting to happen. As long as there is war, people are going to die, the soldier, the innocent civilian, and the enemy. If civilian agencies are going to send American troops into battle, they have to expect them to kill the enemy, and leave them to get the job done.

    In summation, war is bigger than the individual soldier, and I believe in accountability, but the soldier has to make real time decisions. Sometimes that means taking lives under less than perfect conditions. In spite of the flak over the Pentagon Papers, and although South Vietnam fell to the North after the United States withdrew, a lot of good was accomplished because of the US presence in country. Lives were saved, and no soldier who ever died fighting to defend the innocent and helpless ever died in vain. They gave all they had to protect the people around them. So goes the way of war, and I salute every American soldier past, present, and future. They are the point of spear in the struggle for freedom.

    References:
    • History Commons, Sept. 29, 1969

    • Profiles in Audacity 2006, Ref: Spymaster; my life in the CIA 2005, Secrets: a memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers by Daniel Ellsberg, A Question of Torture 2006 Holt Paperbacks, Those Gallant Men: On Trial in Vietnam 1984, A Murder in Wartime 1993, Faithful Devotion 2009.


    http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com/vietnam/articles/thegreenberetaffair.aspx
    Copyright © 2010 Terry McIntosh.
     
  6. A.V.

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    A preview to the green beret affair ---------- following post...
     
  7. A.V.

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    The "Green Beret Affair": A Brief Introduction
    by Bob Seals


    By the year 1969 United States involvement in South Vietnam was in its fourth year with no end in sight. Major U.S. ground combat forces, to include elite paratroops and marines, had been first committed in country during the spring of 1965. The fighting had increased in scale and intensity until by 1969 U.S. military strength stood at 536,000 on the ground. The Navy's 7th Fleet in the Tonkin Gulf, and Air Force strategic bombers flying from bases on Guam and Thailand provided major sea and air support for US forces on the ground. The South East Asia Treaty Organization nations of Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand and the Philippines would provide yet another 62,000 allied troops fighting against the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Communist forces.[1] The Vietnam War, and peace talks in Paris, continued to drag on in 1969 with little end in sight.

    The year of 1969 would also see one of the most interesting, controversial, and little understood events of the Vietnam War, the "Green Beret Affair." This affair, involving the identification and execution of a Communist Viet Cong double or triple agent by U.S. Army Special Forces working with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), is an illustrative example of the morally ambiguous nature of modern day unconventional warfare. Such issues are still being faced by our Special Operations Forces in the current Global War on Terror (GWOT). I will attempt in this article to examine the "Green Beret Affair" from 1969 and outline how similar issues are faced daily by our forces around the globe.

    In many respects the war in Southeast Asia was tailor made for the newest and most controversial force in the U.S. Army, the Special Forces (SF). Special Forces would be popularly know as the "Green Berets," much to the chagrin of the troopers themselves, who were quick to point out to outsiders that they were not a headgear but a highly trained and capable force of professionals. The beret itself, jungle green in color, was not that important or functional but was a highly emotional symbol, at least to the stiff necked conventional Army, of the attitude of the man who wore it; unconventional, more concerned with substance over form, and quite willing to defy conventions in order to accomplish a mission. The troops themselves were fascinating, a unique organization that attracted square pegs that often would not fit into the round holes of the spit and polish Conventional Army. Ranks were full of colorful nonconformists and extremely dedicated soldiers such as the Eastern European Lodge Act enlistees who volunteered for service in the American army and SF in the hopes of returning to their homeland with a victorious force. SF was probably the closest organization to the French Foreign Legion that the American Army had, and made many uncomfortable. Their willingness to defy convention, and discipline at times, would prove troublesome to many in the Army. Many generals could not hide their open disdain for Special Forces, with one Army Chief of Staff in the 1960's describing SF troops as "refugees from responsibility" and that they "tended to be nonconformists, couldn't quite get along in a straight military system…"[2] Note: this nonconformist trend has continued to the present day, the author is proud to report.

    Organized into small 12 man teams with specialists in weapons, engineering, demolitions, medicine, communications, operations and intelligence, the Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha, SFODA, or A Team, was, and is, a compact, highly trained small unit capable of building, healing and destroying. The Special Forces Operational Detachment Bravo, SFODB, or B Team, provided command and control for 6 A Teams and operated as the Company Headquarters. B Detachments in Vietnam would additionally run special projects or missions, often involving intelligence collection and reporting. SF soldiers were capable of operating independently behind enemy lines with little outside support and could train, organize and lead resistance forces against occupying powers. Unconventional warfare (UW), as a mission, would be the "bread and butter" for SF. Defined as a broad spectrum of military and paramilitary operations, unconventional warfare are normally of long duration, predominately conducted through, with, or by indigenous or surrogate forces that are organized, trained, equipped, supported and directed by an external source. UW includes guerrilla warfare, subversion, sabotage, intelligence activities and unconventional assisted recovery.[3] The troops adopted the Trojan horse from classical history as their distinctive unit insignia and the Latin phrase De Oppresso Liber, "To Liberate from Oppression," as their SF motto. President John F. Kennedy would visit the Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg for an orientation on Special Forces by then Brigadier General William P. Yarborough, wearing an unauthorized headgear, the Green Beret. Much to the chagrin of the Army and Department of Defense, JFK would come away so impressed with Special Forces that he would shortly authorize the wear of the controversial beret and call it "a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom."[4]

    Army Special Forces would forever be linked to JFK; members of SF served in the honor guard at his funeral in November of 1963, with one of the soldiers spontaneously placing his beret on the grave at the end of the ceremony as a mark of respect. President Kennedy's legacy would be further remembered when the Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, NC would be named the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.[5] The Special Forces in the Sixties would go through a period where they captured the public's imagination, beginning with the best selling book The Green Berets by Robin Moore in 1966. The paperback book became a best seller, followed by the surprise hit song Ballad of the Green Berets, by Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler, an SF soldier who had served in Vietnam and received the Purple Heart for wounds, which would ultimately become the number 1 single record in the US for 1966. GI Joes, bubble gum cards, comic books, and Mattel toys would all celebrate Army Special Forces during the craze. Finally, the ultimate honor would be accorded the force in 1968 when John Wayne would produce and star in the action film The Green Berets, with David Janssen and Jim Hutton.[6] The strongly anti-communist, and pro-South Vietnam film, was a labor of love by Mr. Wayne, a stanch supporter of the war, who was openly disgusted by the anti-war protest movement in the United States at the time. All of this would have a profound effect on many American youths coming of age, to include the author, who can remember receiving a miniature Green Beret one year as a Christmas present during that timeframe, a foretaste of things to come years later.
     
  8. A.V.

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    The "Green Beret Affair": A Brief Introduction
    by Bob Seals


    By the year 1969 United States involvement in South Vietnam was in its fourth year with no end in sight. Major U.S. ground combat forces, to include elite paratroops and marines, had been first committed in country during the spring of 1965. The fighting had increased in scale and intensity until by 1969 U.S. military strength stood at 536,000 on the ground. The Navy's 7th Fleet in the Tonkin Gulf, and Air Force strategic bombers flying from bases on Guam and Thailand provided major sea and air support for US forces on the ground. The South East Asia Treaty Organization nations of Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand and the Philippines would provide yet another 62,000 allied troops fighting against the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Communist forces.[1] The Vietnam War, and peace talks in Paris, continued to drag on in 1969 with little end in sight.

    The year of 1969 would also see one of the most interesting, controversial, and little understood events of the Vietnam War, the "Green Beret Affair." This affair, involving the identification and execution of a Communist Viet Cong double or triple agent by U.S. Army Special Forces working with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), is an illustrative example of the morally ambiguous nature of modern day unconventional warfare. Such issues are still being faced by our Special Operations Forces in the current Global War on Terror (GWOT). I will attempt in this article to examine the "Green Beret Affair" from 1969 and outline how similar issues are faced daily by our forces around the globe.

    In many respects the war in Southeast Asia was tailor made for the newest and most controversial force in the U.S. Army, the Special Forces (SF). Special Forces would be popularly know as the "Green Berets," much to the chagrin of the troopers themselves, who were quick to point out to outsiders that they were not a headgear but a highly trained and capable force of professionals. The beret itself, jungle green in color, was not that important or functional but was a highly emotional symbol, at least to the stiff necked conventional Army, of the attitude of the man who wore it; unconventional, more concerned with substance over form, and quite willing to defy conventions in order to accomplish a mission. The troops themselves were fascinating, a unique organization that attracted square pegs that often would not fit into the round holes of the spit and polish Conventional Army. Ranks were full of colorful nonconformists and extremely dedicated soldiers such as the Eastern European Lodge Act enlistees who volunteered for service in the American army and SF in the hopes of returning to their homeland with a victorious force. SF was probably the closest organization to the French Foreign Legion that the American Army had, and made many uncomfortable. Their willingness to defy convention, and discipline at times, would prove troublesome to many in the Army. Many generals could not hide their open disdain for Special Forces, with one Army Chief of Staff in the 1960's describing SF troops as "refugees from responsibility" and that they "tended to be nonconformists, couldn't quite get along in a straight military system…"[2] Note: this nonconformist trend has continued to the present day, the author is proud to report.

    Organized into small 12 man teams with specialists in weapons, engineering, demolitions, medicine, communications, operations and intelligence, the Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha, SFODA, or A Team, was, and is, a compact, highly trained small unit capable of building, healing and destroying. The Special Forces Operational Detachment Bravo, SFODB, or B Team, provided command and control for 6 A Teams and operated as the Company Headquarters. B Detachments in Vietnam would additionally run special projects or missions, often involving intelligence collection and reporting. SF soldiers were capable of operating independently behind enemy lines with little outside support and could train, organize and lead resistance forces against occupying powers. Unconventional warfare (UW), as a mission, would be the "bread and butter" for SF. Defined as a broad spectrum of military and paramilitary operations, unconventional warfare are normally of long duration, predominately conducted through, with, or by indigenous or surrogate forces that are organized, trained, equipped, supported and directed by an external source. UW includes guerrilla warfare, subversion, sabotage, intelligence activities and unconventional assisted recovery.[3] The troops adopted the Trojan horse from classical history as their distinctive unit insignia and the Latin phrase De Oppresso Liber, "To Liberate from Oppression," as their SF motto. President John F. Kennedy would visit the Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg for an orientation on Special Forces by then Brigadier General William P. Yarborough, wearing an unauthorized headgear, the Green Beret. Much to the chagrin of the Army and Department of Defense, JFK would come away so impressed with Special Forces that he would shortly authorize the wear of the controversial beret and call it "a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom."[4]

    Army Special Forces would forever be linked to JFK; members of SF served in the honor guard at his funeral in November of 1963, with one of the soldiers spontaneously placing his beret on the grave at the end of the ceremony as a mark of respect. President Kennedy's legacy would be further remembered when the Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, NC would be named the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.[5] The Special Forces in the Sixties would go through a period where they captured the public's imagination, beginning with the best selling book The Green Berets by Robin Moore in 1966. The paperback book became a best seller, followed by the surprise hit song Ballad of the Green Berets, by Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler, an SF soldier who had served in Vietnam and received the Purple Heart for wounds, which would ultimately become the number 1 single record in the US for 1966. GI Joes, bubble gum cards, comic books, and Mattel toys would all celebrate Army Special Forces during the craze. Finally, the ultimate honor would be accorded the force in 1968 when John Wayne would produce and star in the action film The Green Berets, with David Janssen and Jim Hutton.[6] The strongly anti-communist, and pro-South Vietnam film, was a labor of love by Mr. Wayne, a stanch supporter of the war, who was openly disgusted by the anti-war protest movement in the United States at the time. All of this would have a profound effect on many American youths coming of age, to include the author, who can remember receiving a miniature Green Beret one year as a Christmas present during that timeframe, a foretaste of things to come years later.
     
  9. A.V.

    A.V. New Member

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    cntd.....................

    Army Special Forces was born in 1952, the brainchild of World War II Office of Strategic Service (OSS), and Philippine Island Guerrilla veterans. These veterans, such as Colonels Russ Volkman, Aaron Bank and Wendell Fertig, had come out of the Second World War convinced of the effectiveness of unconventional warfare in an era of "pushbutton" warfare and atomic weapons. They had seen, first hand, the effectiveness of unconventional warfare against heavy handed occupying powers such as Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan. To use an example from both major theatres of war, accepted figures are that ultimately upwards to 200,000 were involved in the resistance in occupied France and some 250,000 fighting in the Philippines after Japanese occupation in 1942.[7] It is difficult to quantify exactly how effective the pro-Allied resistance movements were in Europe and Asia but General Eisenhower is said to have said that the forces of the resistance in Europe had done the work of some 15 divisions, and had shortened the Second World War by two months.[8] The Army was not particularly keen upon the unconventional warfare concept in general but saw the utility of using a group of misfits and foreigners in Europe against the expected Soviet led blitzkrieg from the east. Thus, the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) (10th SFGA) was formed in 1952 under the command of Colonel Aaron Bank, an OSS/SOE veteran and shipped to West Germany. The expected onslaught never occurred from the Soviets but SF trained hard throughout Europe and soon proved its worth to the Big Army. Additional SF forces were formed, to include the 77th SFGA at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and 1st SFGA in Japan. New roles and missions, in addition to UW and the familiar one of training potential guerrillas against expected communist invasions, emerged. One of these new missions included assisting friendly governments in the Foreign Internal Defense (FID) mode, mainly training allied armies to resist insurgencies. The gauntlet had been flung by Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev in 1961 who would pledge support for "wars of national liberation" throughout the world, a communist challenge to the free world that would not go unanswered.[9] SF would soon be one of the instruments of choice throughout the 1960's in resisting these "wars of national liberation."

    After the departure of the French from the states of Indochina, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, in the wake of the disastrous defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, a power vacuum existed in Southeast Asia. All French troops and trainers left the area leaving behind weak governments and armies attempting to combat unrest and communist led insurgencies. A limited program of assistance was begun by the US Government in support of these pro-western governments to include economic and military assistance. Enter institutions such as the CIA and SF. In 1956 Army Special Forces Detachments would be stood up in Japan and soon began training allied armies in Taiwan, Thailand and South Vietnam. In South Vietnam, SF teams, working with the CIA, was soon training indigenous cadres in unconventional warfare and long range Ranger type operations. It is interesting to note that the first SF soldier, CPT Harry Cramer, was killed in 1957 near Nha Trang, a foreshadowing of sacrifices to come.

    The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Special Forces were joined at the hip in Vietnam, both working and relying upon each other for better or worse. Both institutions were probably more similar than each wanted to admit as they represented the beau ideal of a Kennedy inspired muscular response to the Communist led challenge of the "Wars of National Liberation." Roles and missions for the CIA and SF would overlap and conflict at times, causing friction inherent in war. Both were involved in various counterinsurgency programs to include collecting intelligence on the communist enemy and training and advising our South Vietnamese allies. For SF the war in Vietnam would include various highly classified programs to include cross border operations into Laos and Cambodia; in addition to gathering intelligence and running agent networks in support of operations.

    Since the Bay of Pigs disaster in 1961, the CIA, or Agency, as many then and now refer to it, had moved away from such large scale military and paramilitary type operations to concentrate upon more traditional activities to include intelligence collection and analysis. The agency had been deeply involved in Southeast Asia just as long as Special Forces. Many of there intelligence oriented programs, with an appropriate code name, in South Vietnam would involve both the CIA and SF. The Phoenix program was one of these intelligence programs. The Phoenix program was born of the desperate need to identify and eliminate Communist Viet Cong infrastructure hidden deep within the South Vietnamese civilian population. The communist insurgency in the south was organized along classic Maoist cellular lines, with covert units responsible for everything from logistics and procurement to guerrillas and secret police. Phoenix, using Vietnamese agents "run," or controlled by Americans, quickly achieved results but became know as an infamous terror and assassination program. In each of the 44 provinces of South Vietnam CIA run interrogation centers were established to process suspects. And process they did as the numbers rolled in, 17,000 asking for amnesty, 28,000 captured, and 20,000 killed in action. Saigon and Washington were heartened by such numbers but others were not so sanguine. A State Department official who was an advisor to the South Vietnamese stated that "It was a unilateral American program, never recognized by the South Vietnamese government. CIA representatives recruited, organized, supplied and directly paid counter terror teams, whose function was to use Viet Cong techniques of terror—assassination, abuses, kidnappings and intimidation—against the Viet Cong leadership."[10] The numbers were impressive; however, one analyst would claim "They assassinated a lot of the wrong damn people."[11] Excesses were definitely committed and old scores settled as less than trustworthy informants pursued individual vendettas. All true, but one must remember that the individuals involved in intelligence and unconventional warfare often deal with unsavory characters. Eventually William Colby, CIA official in charge of all activities in Asia, himself an old OSS veteran of World War II, had to issue a reminder to all that torture and assassination were not part and parcel of the Phoenix program. Additionally he informed all involved with the program that if individuals found the Phoenix program so distasteful on moral grounds, due to the excesses committed by our allies, they could be immediately reassigned with no harm to their subsequent careers.[12] Soldiers to include Special Forces would not be given such an opportunity for reassignment. They would continue, then as now, to be bound by the laws of war and military justice system, no matter how imperfect.

    To the uninformed the concept of rules and regulations limiting warfare may seem strange; after all, is it not true that "all's fair in love and war," to use a somewhat hackney phrase. The laws of war, again, which all military personnel are bound by, tolerate no such grey areas as the Phoenix program or targeted assassinations, at least in theory. Attempts to modify or regulate behavior in warfare are as old as war itself, with numerous examples going back almost to the dawn of time. Alexander the Great, in 335 B.C., is said to have informed his troops before assaulting a besieged town that "Do not destroy today what will be yours tomorrow," a clear attempt to moderate the looting of a city after it had fallen, acceptable behavior in warfare during the classical period.[13]

    Plato, in the Republic, writing on war, attempted to establish the principle of burial for the dead and prohibition on despoiling the dead, after the heated fury of battle had passed. Later, in the Middle Ages, additional rules limiting warfare became established practice, at least in Europe, due to the efforts of the Roman Catholic Church. Restrictions on targets began to be codified, to include prohibiting the attacking of churches, religious buildings and priests or nuns by armies. In modern language, these were protected places or forbidden targets. Additionally the concept of non-combatants began to be understood with the sick, old, women and children no longer considered worthy opponents. Other influences toward moderating wartime behavior would include the formation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Switzerland in 1863 by Henri Dunant, and international agreements in the 20th century designed to control the impact of war both on participants and bystanders. The Hague Convention Number 4 of 1907 and the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949 would establish beyond a doubt the law of war.[14]

    Purposes of the law of war would be many but would mainly exist for three purposes; one, to protect both combatants and noncombatants from unnecessary suffering; two, to safeguard fundamental human rights of persons who fall into the hands of the enemy, particularly prisoners of war, the wounded and sick, and civilians not involved in the hostilities, and finally, to facilitate the restoration of peace. However, the communist nations of our globe would claim not to be bound by any such laws of war, and would infamously mistreat any prisoners who fell into their hands as "war criminals."[15]

    American soldiers, to include the Special Forces, would continue to be bound by such laws of war, even in the unconventional war going on in Vietnam. All U.S. Army Special Forces, in 1969, operated under the control of 5th Special Forces Group, headquartered at Nha Trang, on the southeast coast of South Vietnam. Colonel Robert B. "Bob" Rheault took command of 5th SFGA in Vietnam in May of 1969. Colonel Rheault was a 1946 graduate of the US Military Academy, who had missed the Second World War but would go on to win the Silver Star, our nation's third highest combat decoration fighting in Korea. Rheault was a unique officer in a unique force; additionally he was independently wealthy, coming from an old Boston family. He spoke French without a flaw, would be educated at Phillips Exeter Academy, West Point, and finally the University of Paris for a masters degree in international relations. No stranger to Special Forces, his initial tour was with the 10th SFGA in Germany during the late 1950's. Colonel Rheault would attend the SF Qualification course, the "Q" course, in 1961, and would command the 1st SFGA on Okinawa before being assigned to Vietnam to take command of the 5th SFGA. It would probably be no exaggeration to say Rheult was one of the most respected and beloved officers ever in SF, a "must promote" to General Officer rank if his command, and career, had not been ended prematurely by the Green Beret affair.[16]
     
  10. A.V.

    A.V. New Member

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    In 1969, Special Forces Detachments or A Teams were placed throughout the country in 80 or so isolated camps. The A Teams were the "point of the spear" working, living, advising, fighting and dieing with the locals. SF was uniquely positioned to gather and report intelligence. The Military Assistance Advisory Command Intelligence Officer, or J-2, at one point during the war estimated that some 50% or so of all intelligence gathered daily was from SF and its sources. Some camps had such a level of knowledge that they were able to successfully identify Viet Cong, by name, operating in their area, and then quietly go about eliminating same. In order to accomplish its intelligence gathering mission in Vietnam, a number of intelligence oriented special missions would be established and given code names, similar to the Phoenix program. One of these intelligence programs established by 5th SFGA in country was Project GAMMA, a unilateral, covert intelligence collection operation targeted against North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong base camps in Cambodia, to include the weak Cambodian government's aiding and abetting of the communists. In February of 1968 SF Detachment B-57 was transferred from Saigon to Nha Trang and officially designated as Project GAMMA headquarters, with responsibility for managing the entire program. The program itself had potential very serious international repercussions due to the then secret B-52 strategic bombing missions being flown at the time against those communist base camps across the border in Cambodia. If the classified program was discovered, political repercussions in the U.S. and elsewhere would be most serious, given the poisonous political atmosphere of the day.[17]

    Personnel working on Project GAMMA were given cover as civil affairs, CA, and psychological operations, PSYOPS, officers augmenting A Teams near the Cambodian border. Five collection teams were authorized and soon had some 13 nets established with 98 codename agents providing intelligence of some manner. In October of 1968 the top intelligence officer in Vietnam on General Abrams staff estimated that Project GAMMA was providing 65 per cent of the information known on North Vietnamese Army (NVA) strength and locations in Cambodia, and some 75 per cent of the same information known on NVA within South Vietnam. The Special Forces in Vietnam, and Detachment B-57 led by Major David Crew, had developed into arguably the most productive intelligence collection project the U.S. had throughout Southeast Asia.[18] It has been said that the reason that Project GAMMA was so successful was due to the fact that the South Vietnamese had been not "read on" to the program. As a successful 1968 turned into 1969 for Project GAMMA, it was noticed by Detachment B-57 that many extremely valuable intelligence nets and agents had began to disappear, and many feared the worse, that the highly classified operation had been compromised by a double agent.

    The S-3 or Operations Officer, Captain Budge Williams, for the project felt that Project GAMMA was in danger of going under from an unseen and unknown communist spy. Other intelligence and counter-intelligence officers, to include Captain Leland Brumley, Major Thomas Middleton, and Chief Warrant Officer Edward Boyle became convinced also there was a security leak somewhere in the organization. All began investigations but made little headway until the spring of 1969, but did discover the unpleasant truth that some of the South Vietnamese SF working for US forces were involved in selling weapons and medical supplies to the communists. Then, ironically enough, an SF reconnaissance team, in a classified area across the border where US troops officially did not operate, discovered documents and a roll of film in a communist base camp. When the film was developed one of the Viet Cong pictures on the roll was believed to be that of Project GAMMA Vietnamese agent Thai Khac Chuyen.[19] The leak has been discovered, or had it?

    After conferring with the Agency, the SF soldiers involved in the investigate were told that the best way of handling the problem would be to get rid of the double agent, but the CIA could not authorize the execution, somewhat disingenuously. The agent handler for Thai Khac Chuyen, Sergeant Alvin Smith, identified him from the captured photo. It is interesting to note that Sergeant Smith was not a Special Forces soldier but rather an intelligence specialist who had been assigned to Project GAMMA and Special Forces. Sergeant Smith's supervisor, Captain Robert Marasco, ordered that the agent in question be brought in for questioning to include a polygraph test; which ominously the agent had not been given when recruited for Project GAMMA. If standard operating procedure had followed, the test would have already been conducted during his recruitment. Other doubts existed about the Vietnamese agent to include the fact that he was originally from North Vietnam, still had family north of the border, his English language skills were uncommonly good, and he had gone from job to job working for US forces fighting in South Vietnam, with trouble always following his departure.[20]

    Eventually Mr. Chuyen would undergo some ten days of rigorous interrogation and solitary confinement to include the use of polygraph tests and sodium pentathol, commonly known as "truth serum." The bad news, at least for the agent, was the fact that the polygraph tests would indicate that Mr. Chuyen was not telling the truth when he denied having compromised any Project GAMMA security details and working for the Viet Cong. Additionally the possibility existed that Chuyen was also working for the South Vietnamese intelligence service on the side, a triple agent. For the SF officers of B-57 and Project GAMMA, the leak that everyone had been looking for had been found. It would be distasteful but they knew what must be done; if Chuyen was turned over to the South Vietnamese Army or National Police, there was the chance he might go free due to the actions of another communist plant, and cause further damage and loss of American lives.

    Thus, in June of 1969 three of the B-57 officers would drug Thai Khac Chuyen, put him on a boat and take him out into Nha Trang Bay, not far from the 5th SFGA headquarters. He was shot twice in the head, weighed down with chains and dumped into the dark shark-infested waters of the South China Sea. Without a doubt a killing but one could make the argument the time tested standard procedure for identifying and eliminating a known double agent during wartime. An appropriate cover story was developed to explain the now obvious absence of the agent, if questions were asked he was believed to have disappeared after being sent on a mission behind enemy lines to test his loyalty to the cause. The Group Commander, Colonel Rheault, knew of the execution and approved the execution and cover story as above.[21]

    It was then that control of the affair began to be lost, never to be regained. Sergeant Smith, Mr. Chuyen's handler, began to be concerned for his security and safety, and sought sanctuary with the CIA office in Nha Trang. It would not take long for that to get out, even in a war zone, and soon all eight officers and noncommissioned officers involved in the execution, to include Colonel Rheault, were arrested on charges of premeditated murder, an offense punishable under the UCMJ, and confined in the infamous in country military facility known as the Long Binh Jail, or "LBJ" for obvious reasons.[22] To make matters worse, if that was possible at the time, was the fact that Colonel Rheault had given a four star general, General Abrams, the cover story when asked about the agent's whereabouts.

    Unfortunately, at least for 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam, the commander of all U.S. Armed Forces in Vietnam that crucial year of 1969 was General Creighton W. Abrams. General Abrams, for better or worse, was perhaps one of the most forceful and dynamic leaders in the post-World War II Army. A graduate of the United States Military Academy, USMA, at West Point in 1936, Abrams has served in the old horse cavalry before the war, transitioning to tanks and armored forces during the war. Fighting in Europe, he soon proved himself to be one of the most capable young officers in the Army, serving in both the 1st and 4th Armored Divisions. Abrams became one of General George S. Patton, Junior's favorite officers. Patton reportedly said to a reporter during the war that "I'm supposed to be the best tank commander in the Army, but I have a peer—Abe Abrams."[23] High praise indeed. During the Battle of the Bulge, Abrams successfully led the tank and infantry task force that relieved the besieged 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne in Belgium. General Abrams came out of the war one of the most decorated officers, and was clearly a rising star in the Army's stable of combat hardened commanders. General Abrams would die in 1974 while serving as the Army Chief of Staff. The Army's high regard for him would be shown in the following decade by naming the newest and most modern tank, the M-1 tank, the Abrams.

    But along with all that capability, General Abrams was a man with strong opinions. His top intelligence officer in Vietnam, a classmate from USMA, has written that "This commonsensical, well-read, sophisticated man harbored some of the longest lasting, strangest, and most unusual prejudices. For one, he hated halfbacks, football halfbacks…Abrams held another unusual, and more serious, bias: he disliked paratroopers."[24] General Abrams had played sixth string football at the academy, fighting in the trenches of the line. This experience seems to have developed in him quite the distaste for "glamorous" half-backs, which at some point was transferred to airborne forces, to include Special Forces. In a profile piece on General Abrams in the New York Times from 1969, the writer claimed that the post-World War II Army was run by the "Airborne Club," which included the Special Forces, and that Abrams "as a square-shooting, traditional soldier, he was shocked when some of the ‘dirty tricks' customary in Green Beret activity became known to him forcefully," and believed that "battles should be fought with feet planted firmly on the ground and that making a fetish out of jumping out of airplanes is puerile."[25] It is probably not surprising that General Abrams never volunteered for or served a tour of duty with any airborne unit. I believe this is most unfortunate given the fact that he would have perhaps developed a better understanding of Airborne or Special Forces purposes and functions. Thus, when the Green Beret Affair would surface the Special Forces would most definitely not have a friend in court.

    The article 32 investigation held by the U.S. Army in Vietnam, before General Courts Martial against all eight, quickly became engulfed in a firestorm of publicity. Most of the American public, and the Special Forces, believed that Colonel Rheault and all involved had been made scapegoats for a matter that reflected poorly upon the Army. One former member of Special Forces in Vietnam commented to the author that "We were thunderstruck, and thought what did he [Colonel Rheault] do wrong?"[26] National newspapers and television picked up the story, most likely due to the involvement of the Special Forces, and the affair became another lighting rod for pro and anti-war feeling. The hearing in Vietnam became somewhat of a circus after one of the Army defense lawyers for the 8 soldiers, Judge Advocate General Captain John Stevens Berry, called General Abrams and CIA officials to the witness stand. Both declined to get involved in the proceedings and testify. Finally in September of 1969 the Secretary of the Army Stanley Resor announced to all that all charges would be dropped against the 8 soldiers charged since the CIA, in the interests of national security, had refused to make its personnel available as witnesses, therefore making any manner of a fair trial possible. Colonel Rheault requested immediate retirement from the Army and all others charged in the affair had their careers effectively ended, also leaving the service afterwards.[27]

    The affair continued to have unfortunate repercussions for Special Forces and the Army. General Abrams, after having Colonel Rheault arrested on murder charges, had one of his headquarters staff officers, Colonel Alexander Lemberes, assigned to take over command of the 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam. The obvious problem with the assignment was that this officer was neither a qualified parachutist nor Special Forces officer; a bit like having a United Methodist preacher assigned to a Roman Catholic Church, rather nonsensical at best. When Colonel Lemberes attempted to wear an unearned Green Beret in his new command, the 5th SFGA Command Sergeant Major told him in no uncertain terms to take the beret off. Eventually the Army Chief of Staff, General Westmoreland, no stranger to the airborne, would step in and assign a qualified officer to command Special Forces in Vietnam. By the end of 1969 the Green Beret affair would be over, but questions raised and issues involved would come back again years later.[28]

    The 1969 Green Beret Affair brought up issues that continue to resonate in our Global War on Terror with SF continuing to operate in that shadowy world of unconventional warfare. Occasionally these issues surface and come to the attention of the press and American public as per the 3rd SFGA Special Forces Detachment that faced recent charges of premeditated murder for shooting an "enemy combatant." Last year on 13 October 2006 at the small village of Ster Kalay near the Pakistan border, members of Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 372 of 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, positively identified and killed Nawab Buntangyar, an Afghan national on the approved Operation Enduring Freedom target list. Spotted outside a residential compound, dressed in civilian clothes, not wearing a uniform, or carrying a weapon, Buntangyar was shot in the head while speaking the local police from 100 yards away by a concealed SF sniper. The enemy target had been involved in suicide and roadside bombing attacks; thus, the "take down" of the target, an enemy combatant, was considered "a textbook example of a classified mission completed in accordance with the American rules of engagement."[29]

    But for reasons that still remain vague, murder charges were preferred against the SF Detachment Commander, a Captain, and the Operations Sergeant, a Master Sergeant. Once again, just as in 1969, an Article 32 hearing was held, as per the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), before a General Court-Martial. Both soldiers were charged with violating Article 118 of the UCMJ, premeditated murder. Once again, SF soldiers became the objects of national press attention to include two ends of the ideological spectrum, the New York Times and Fox Network and Bill O'Rilley. However, after the hearing the two star general in charge of all SF at Fort Bragg dismissed the charges, an outcome just as in 1969.[30] An isolated incident perhaps but an illustrative example of the rules of engagement that our soldiers operate under on a daily basis, where a split second decision made on the battlefield to shoot or not shoot, can be reviewed later in the cool comfort of the court room. This is a level of oversight that will continue, even in the shadowy world of SF and unconventional warfare. Army Special Forces will continue to work with the CIA, FBI, and other agencies; commonly referred to in today's lexicon as Other Government Agencies, or OGAs. One could say some of the OGAs at times may not be bound by laws and rules but our Armed Forces are, make no doubt. Rules of engagement, carefully drawn up by military lawyers, will continue to govern what our troops can or cannot do, with legal review from higher always a possibility.

    Conclusion

    In the end what would the "Green Beret Affair" signify? Was it, as one author has suggested, a sort of a "Caine Mutiny of the Vietnam War," raising complex issues of morality, murder and professional jealousy?[31] Was the execution of an identified double, or perhaps triple, agent murder, or simply standard operating procedure old as warfare itself? Did General Abrams and the Army leap upon the case in order to make a point and discredit and discipline an unruly child, Special Forces?

    The affair was ultimately a tragedy. Committed and capable officers found themselves on two sides of a chasm in warfare; on one side World War II era officers to whom events were black and white, right and wrong. The other side was a younger generation, less respectful of rules and regulations, perhaps, but completely committed to winning. Both main players in the affair, Colonel Rheault and General Abrams, were graduates of the Military Academy at West Point, separated in time by 10 years. That is were the similarities end. The affair became a clash of philosophies, world views and personalities.

    Ultimately we will never know whether or not the executed agent, Thai Khac Chuyen, was truly working for the Communist Viet Cong, the American Special Forces, the South Vietnamese government, or a combination of all three. Evidence suggests that he was guilty of at least attempting to conceal the truth, a dangerous game, and one that led to his execution in the summer of 1969. He became just another causality in unconventional warfare. As we have seen above, the 1969 Vietnam "Green Beret Affair," is not unique as our forces continue to face similar moral and legal issues daily in the current Global War on Terror. However, as seen above, all Americans can take comfort in the fact that even our "best and brightest" remain subject to the law of war and military justice. That is one certainty in an uncertain war that will not change.


    Copyright © 2007 Bob Seals.
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