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U.S. Army Releases a Video of Green Berets Training Alongside Taiwanese Forces in Taiwan
The U.S. Army’s 1st Special Forces Group has released rare footage of the famous Green Berets training on the island of Taiwan.
The government in Taipei is doing all that it can to distance itself from Beijing’s regime on the Chinese mainland, which has caused the Chinese to once again issue threats.
The U.S. Government has made it support of Taipei’s government noticeably transparent by sending aircraft and warships into the Taiwan Strait and approving significant arms sales to the military in Taiwan.
The short video, titled ‘Excellence,’ was released by the 1st Special Forces Group on its Facebook page on the 16th June 2020.
Toward the end of June, on the 29th, Lianhe Zaobao, the Chinese language newspaper in Singapore, said that the video reflected the Green Berets taking part in Balance Tamper, an operation in Taiwan alongside the Taiwanese Army’s special operations unit, the 101st Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion.
The men of the 101st are called the Sea Dragon Frogmen and are similar to the U.S. Navy Seals.
The video is still prominently displayed on the Facebook page. The video contains a segment showing the mock casevac by the Green Berets of an injured soldier by a UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter, immediately identifiable as belonging to the Taiwanese Army by its white and blue badge on the tail.
Another segment shows a person holding a Type 91 assault rifle, which s the standard issue rifle for the Taiwanese military.
Members of the US Army’s 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, Green Berets works with a member of the Royal Thai Armed Forces
The video contains audio that makes one think of the middle of the 20th Century’s television news, when the narrator says, “There are no Marquess of Queensberry rules in guerrilla warfare. It’s a simple matter of kill or be killed. Capture or be captured.”
While it is unclear for how long Balance Tamper exercises have been carried out, special forces from the U.S. Military have been deployed in one capacity or another since 2016.
Until 1979, the U.S. Military had a commanding presence in Taiwan that included a detachment of Army Special Forces in residence. Politics raised its head in 1979 as the U.S. officially recognized the government in Beijing as the official government in China.
At the same time, the U.S. passed the Taiwan Relations Act, which says the U.S. will continue to look after Taiwan’s defense until the island’s status is finally settled. Beijing sees Taiwan as Chinese territory.
Because of this dichotomy, both Taiwan and the U.S. are usually very tight-lipped about military deployments on the island. The only official acknowledgement of military personnel is 21 members representing all service branches.
The Marines on Taiwan are assigned to the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which operates along the lines of an American Embassy in Taiwan, even though it is privately run. They work like other embassies around the world and provide protection.
History of the Green Berets
Special Forces Major Herbert Brucker was behind the beginning of the green beret designation in the year 1953. Brucker began the designation which would later be realized by First Lieutenant Roger Pezelle who adopted it for his highly operative A-Team called the Operational Detachment FA-32. Rapidly, this little green beret would be seen on the members of the special forces units whenever these soldiers went out into the field. However, the US Army was not keen on making the green beret an authorized entity at that time.
Fort Bragg and President Kennedy changed all of that when in 1961 The President of the United States encouraged the General at the time, General Yarborough to inform all of the special forces to wear their green berets to the event. At the event, President Kennedy delivered a speech whereby he made the green beret a "mark of distinction in the trying times ahead." The Green Berets became a very real distinction of excellence among special forces at that very moment.
Every November 22nd, the date of the assassination of Kennedy, several of the green berets travel to his graveside and pay tribute to the man, the President that enabled this group of very special forces to earn the green beret distinction. The men honor President Kennedy by placing a wreath and a green beret on his tomb. If Kennedy were alive today, they would still honor him for making such a profound difference in the way the special forces are perceived by people all around the world.
Green Berets today are considered to be in a very elite group of special soldiers. They are highly skilled and trained in areas some soldiers would never be interested in pursuing. They are the "cut above" the rest in a group of like young soldiers who can endure the toughest of conditions and succeed. These soldiers are self-reliant in the most difficult of situations and they are highly regarded in the field.
President Kennedy enabled this group of soldiers the ability to stand out in a crowd of soldiers. And while doing so, the irony was ever-present. Kennedy allowed a group of young men to excel in doing what they were born to do which was lead in combat. And of course, President Kennedy was born to lead the United States. The history of the green berets holds a lot of irony in their historic beginning.
Harrowing Tale of Green Beret’s Vietnam Valor Drives Push for Medal of Honor
Capt. William Albracht received the Silver Star for actions in Vietnam 43 years after the war. Some are pushing for him to receive the Medal of Honor.
Courtesy of William Albracht
October 1, 2020
Capt. William Albracht did not want to go to Firebase Kate.
“There was nothing going on there, not a damn thing,” Albracht said.
But what unfolded on that lonely hilltop, within spitting distance of the Cambodian border, in October 1969 would become the stuff of Army lore — a young Green Beret dropped into a force of untested artillery soldiers and allied troops surrounded and outnumbered 40 to 1, with no one coming to save them.
Albracht was 21 years old. He’d just pinned on his captain’s bars after having proved himself in special forces training, but he’d never commanded troops in the field or even heard a shot fired in combat. Yet, he’d been assigned to the executive officer billet for Special Forces Team A-236.
Despite his disdain for the lack of action at the firebase, intelligence was predicting an impending attack at the SF camps along the border nearer to Bu Prang and Duc Lap. But Kate was just a few kilometers from a suspected North Vietnamese training camp just over the border in Cambodia.
The young captain told his boss’ boss, Lt. Col. Frank Simmons, that “my talents would be wasted on Kate.”
“I didn’t want to go out and sit on my ass,” he said.
Simmons said he understood, but the captain was still going to Kate. Maybe this seemingly quiet assignment was how the lieutenant colonel saw he could break in a new captain. Maybe.
The intense battle that would soon unfold there resulted in fellow officers being awarded valor medals, including the Silver Star, and though Albracht continued on, refusing evacuation despite his own wounds to stay and see the men through the attack, somehow the young captain didn’t get the write-up he deserved.
It took 43 years before he was recognized for what he did on that hilltop and the lives he saved. That award was a Silver Star, his third for valor in Vietnam.
Men who served alongside him or flew the skies above have written in support of a higher award for Albracht — the Medal of Honor. Political representatives in Congress and elsewhere have also advocated for a higher award, and one friend, Ken Moffett, continues to push for another review to correct what many see as an oversight.
The Army did grant a review, which was initially promising. A board unanimously recommended an upgrade, potentially the Distinguished Service Cross or the Medal of Honor. But that was shot down in a December 2019 letter, affirming the Silver Star as the “appropriate recognition” of his actions.
That hasn’t deterred advocates from pushing forward, including Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who has been in contact with the secretary of the Army about Albracht’s award.
“While the decision to award the Medal of Honor lies with the president, the senator continues to fight for her fellow veteran, Capt. Albracht, to be properly recognized for his heroic actions during the Vietnam War,” Ernst spokeswoman Kelsi Daniell told Army Times.
Interviewed by Army Times, Albracht did not wish to comment on his award nor efforts to have it upgraded. He instead shared his recollections of his time in Vietnam and at Firebase Kate.
Albracht arrived in Vietnam in the latter stages of the war. U.S. troop involvement had peaked in 1968, the year of the infamous Tet Offensive. Although it was a tactical failure, the offensive provided shocking proof that North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces could strike a coordinated blow under the noses of U.S. and South Vietnamese military units.
President Richard Nixon announced in June 1969 that 25,000 American troops would be withdrawn immediately. Nixon’s policy of “Vietnamization,” turning the war over to the South Vietnamese so the United States could exit the conflict, had begun.
That meant U.S. forces would continue to fight but were supposed to work in support of their South Vietnamese counterparts, letting them take the lead.
That larger policy would come to bear on Albracht and the men on Firebase Kate in a very real way.
What kind of base is this?
The soldiers of Firebase Kate were practicing a somewhat new tactic in artillery. Since World War I, artillery had primarily been back from the front lines, usually with generous support and facing in one prime direction, supporting infantry forward advances.
But with no real “front lines” in Vietnam, units took advantage of helicopter support tactics and began dotting the battlefield with firebases. Mostly they were supported by other firebases, with overlapping or interlocking fields of fire. They also supported infantry patrols in the area.
By 1969 this tactic had been employed thousands of times in Vietnam, but it still had vulnerabilities.
Without key, stable air support and backup fires from other locations, firebases were stand-alone outposts ripe for being surrounded and potentially overwhelmed. And often, they were easily spotted targets of attack for Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops in the dense jungles.
“When I first saw it, I thought, ‘Damn, this is great!’” said then-1st Lt. Mike Smith, who, at 25, was in charge of the artillery on Kate as the battery XO. “We could see everything. Kate was on a little hill out in the middle of lots of valleys.”
Firebase Kate was slightly smaller than a football field and sat atop a bald hill with tree cover and short grass. It was made of red, “hard-to-dig” dirt, soldiers who served there later recalled.
“Filling sandbags was filling dirt bags. From the air it looked like a guitar,” Smith said. “The firebase was on the big part of the guitar, then there was a neck and then a smaller knoll where the fret — the fingerboard — was.”
Two other firebases, Susan and Annie, were in the 360-degree interlocking fire support for Kate.
But Kate was nearly at the maximum range for Susan’s 155mm howitzers — approximately 14,000 meters. Projectiles don’t always land where planned, so if they called for a shot, it could fall short, hitting Kate.
“There were no U.S. or ARVN troops in the area,” said then-1st Lt. John Kerr, who flew into Kate on Sept. 20 to replace the previous fire direction control officer.
“We weren’t in direct support of an infantry division on the ground,” Kerr said. “Once or twice we shot for LRRPs, long-range recon patrols, and the LRRP guys were impressed with what we could do. But that was only once or twice. I’d been in Vietnam only a month when I got to Kate, and it was only my second firebase, so I didn’t really know why we were there, except that we were supposed to shoot for whoever asked us to shoot.”
But at times, no one was asking.
“We went days without firing our guns,” Smith said. “There was a lot of boredom. Day to day to day, we wondered what the hell we were doing there.”
A tall antenna in the middle of their camp was great for making radio contact, but also served as a marker for enemy eyes. Every few days the men burned their waste with diesel fuel, sending a plume of black smoke high over the mountainous skyline.
Across the Cambodian border, unknown to the men on Kate, thousands of North Vietnamese troops waited.
The 156 Montagnard militia troops who supported the firebase, and in turn, were to be supported by the 27 U.S. Army soldiers manning artillery pieces, initially made their reconnaissance patrols around the site. But they ran into little sign of the enemy.
After a couple of weeks, Smith said, those patrols became more like hunting expeditions.
“They shot a deer, and once I watched them cook a monkey, which looked like a little human,” he recalled.
On the base, security got lax.
“We didn’t do anything but party,” said Kenn Hopkins, a Charlie Battery ammunition handler. “We didn’t send out any patrols until Albracht came.”
The soldiers even set up a volleyball net between the gun pits. At times, 18 or more officers and enlisted would wedge into the FDC hooch for a poker game under electric lights.
The Montagnard infantry company that had been “patrolling” the area and at least knew the terrain from their hunting expeditions was replaced with a fresh, but unfamiliar unit on Oct. 28.
That same day, Albracht boarded a Huey helicopter at Bu Prang to fly fewer than 10 minutes to his new posting — Firebase Kate.
As he approached Kate, Albracht got his first glimpse of his new temporary home.
“Why in God’s name did they put a firebase here?” he thought.
A higher, forested ridge with cover to the southeast gave the enemy a perfect position to aim direct fire at the base, anything from small arms to rockets.
He got a quick tour of the base, noting the two 155mm howitzers and the 105mm artillery piece at his disposal. Cambodia lay in every direction but south. And Kate was within range of enemy weapons.
The new captain’s sleeping quarters would be a tiny hooch he was to share with an artillery sergeant. The hooch consisted of a single row of sandbags with plastic sheeting. That wouldn’t even stop a bullet, let alone the indirect fire that was sure to come if there was an attack.
Albracht investigated the perimeter, surrounding areas and fortification — and found all lacking.
Shocked by the lack of preparation, Albracht gathered his thoughts.
Kate had never been attacked, he reasoned, and these were artillery, not infantry, soldiers. They thought they were safe.
With a similar lack of activity at the other two firebases nearby, most of the soldiers seemed convinced that any enemy attack would be on the more valuable target, the main base of Bu Prang.
Although Albracht was reluctant to come to the firebase, fearing a boring posting, once he got a look at its position and vulnerabilities on the ground, he knew an attack would come.
He set the men to clearing out the area within the wire and prepped the Montagnard for a morning patrol to reconnoiter the area.
“No more volleyball. No more cards,” he said. “From here on out, we must prepare to be attacked.”
That was on the afternoon of Oct. 28, 1969. The next five days would put the artillerymen and Montagnard soldiers through some of the most trying moments of their lives.
Guns gone, air support saves them all
Shortly after midnight, most of the soldiers were awoken by the popping of small arms fire. Gun crews starting firing illumination rounds from their artillery pieces. Men from the Montagnard militia came rushing through a small gap in the concertina wire.
“Beaucoup VC, beaucoup VC!” they yelled.
However, a follow-on attack didn’t come, leading the men to believe the artillery had scared off any intruders. But the initial skirmish was just a probe.
The next morning, at around first light, the real fight began.
“The whole world came down on us,” Albracht later wrote.
“About 7 a.m., I awoke to this KAWOOMP! — which, it turned out, was a HEAT round going through the sandbags to get the first gun,” Smith said.
A barrage followed. Albracht got on the radio to call for air support. But the guns stopped, so he reported a damage assessment.
As Albracht reconfigured his men for a counterattack outside the wire, a pilot above hovered over the treetops, scouting the area.
“Get out of there, man! I see you, I see where you’re going, and they’re mounting a force to flank you, a whole shitload of guys coming — a lot more than you’ve got!” the pilot said.
Albracht’s point man was hit with small arms fire and went down in the tall grass. Albracht ran into the melee to recover the downed comrade and haul him back to the base.
Later, back at Kate, the men were pummeled with B-40 rockets, 82mm mortars, recoilless rifles, small arms and machine gun fire.
The attack knocked out the tires of one of their 105mm guns. The crew managed to budge it into place to fire at the ridge. The damaged gun was hit again.
The choppers weren’t alone in warding off danger. F-4 Phantom jets streaked across the sky as alternating AC-47 Spooky gunships, nicknamed “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” laid down heavy fire to keep enemy soldiers away. Albracht watched as silver teardrops of napalm canisters tumbled into the ravines below his position.
Early on, one of the fire control communicators mistook Albracht’s radio call sign for “Chicken Hawk.” It was actually “Chicken Wolf.” But names didn’t matter, suppressive fire did.
“You can call me Chicken Hawk, Chicken Wolf or Chicken Shit,” he told the pilot. “Just get me some air support in here now!”
Nearly all day and night that support would pour onto all sides of the lonely hilltop, eventually reaching danger close distances as the enemy grew bolder.
Mid-morning he called for a medevac to get critically wounded men off of Kate. Just seconds before the chopper landed a B-40 rocket came streaking at Albracht as he was directing the aircraft. Red-hot pain seared his left arm shortly after the rocket struck. Shrapnel had hit the underside of the helo and sprayed him.
“My arm was on fire, the worst pain I’d ever felt. Dark blood soaked my fatigue jacket as I ran to Kate’s makeshift aid station,” Albracht said.
The medic cleaned him up, the shrapnel made a clean entry and exit. He asked Albracht if he wanted to hop on the medevac chopper coming back.
“I hadn’t even thought about leaving. I shook my head,” he said. “I wasn’t going anywhere.”
No support, a man dies
As they were being surrounded, Albracht called not only to the air but back to headquarters, requesting back up from South Vietnamese units to the south that should have been supporting them.
The area bases were technically under South Vietnamese military control, the Americans were only there to support and advise.
Lacking the sophisticated guidance systems of today. Albracht would hop from spot to spot on the roughly 100-yard-long firebase, finding cover and firing tracer rounds from his CAR-15 to mark where he wanted pilots to strike.
After a few more enemy strikes, the rest of Kate’s artillery pieces were out of commission. Their only tools were air support and their mortars, crew-served machine guns, M16s and hand grenades.
Late that night, in between mortar barrages from enemy troops, Albracht and the men could hear North Vietnamese soldiers digging into their positions.
In a rare lull in shooting, he was hunkered down with 1st Lt. Ronald Ross. Albracht noticed he was wearing a wedding band. He asked about his family and learned that Ross was due for R&R to finally see his newborn son John for the first time.
As they talked, shooting picked back up. They were pinned down in a corner of the base and needed to get to the main bunker.
It was maybe 50 or 60 feet away. They ran. Albracht had nearly reached the bunker when he heard the distinctive scream of the B-40 rocket behind him. It was slow enough he could see it flying through the air.
The explosion threw Albracht into the doorway of the bunker, he turned to see Rosson the ground, bleeding, just behind him. He wasn’t breathing.
An hour later, Albracht zipped Ross into a body bag.
The men were low on ammo, hadn’t slept and were low on water. A rescue force had attempted a helicopter landing a short distance away but was repulsed by far more enemy soldiers than they could take on.
There wasn’t any help coming. It had been five days since he landed on Kate. But time seemed endless when sleep never came and rounds kept coming.
As danger mounted and the circumstances became more and more strained, the Montagnard soldiers let it be known that they were going to leave, with or without the Americans.
Not wanting to abandon the post without orders to do so, but fully aware how desperate the situation had become, Albracht negotiated with the Montagnard commander to wait until nightfall.
The enemy had zeroed in on every position on their small outpost. Fifteen of the 27 artillerymen he’d started this mission with days ago were wounded. Ross was dead.
He sent a message to headquarters asking to leave the position.
“Permission to abandon denied,” came the reply.
Albracht sent another message, essentially telling the command they were leaving. This time he wasn’t asking.
This time, he got the approval of headquarters, which instructed him to link up that night with supporting ground forces deep under the triple canopy jungle.
Albracht didn’t let it show, but the prospect of moving more than 180 men safely through the jungle to friendly lines when as many as 5,000 to 6,000 enemy soldiers were crawling around their position seemed unlikely to turn out well.
“I believed we were merely dead men walking,” Albracht later recalled.
But he reassured the men and prepared to step off.
The entire time, as evidenced by recorded radio traffic Army Times reviewed, Albracht whispers into his handset, talking with fire control and air support. He calls in spraying fire from the Spooky gunships just 100 meters in front of his own advancing patrol to clear the way.
He tells the ground link-up force to meet them just left of “ambush hill,” a prominent feature near Kate.
But the lead element took a wrong turn. Somewhat lost in the dark, Albracht peered through dim red flashlight onto his map, straining to get the men to their rendezvous point.
Off-track with a sky full of aircraft, one of the pilots started firing on what he thought was enemy forces.
“… he’s firing at me, he’s firing at me, what other aircraft is up there?” Albracht said, his whisper rising to a quasi-yell on the handset.
“Ok, all aircraft, attention all aircraft, cease fire, cease-fire, you’re firing on Chicken Hawk’s position,” Spooky 41 said.
Three hours into the movement, the moon came out, bright enough for the men to distinguish terrain features.
Finally, they reached what looked like the rendezvous point.
Two companies of friendly soldiers should be beyond that clearing, waiting to guide them home, Albracht thought, but he couldn’t be certain. That dense brush and jungle could be hiding as many or more enemy soldiers.
He called up Mike Force, the ground support companies on the radio, asking them to send someone to the clearing so they would know they were in the right spot.
Mike Force told him to send someone. A deadly game of red rover.
Before he left the tree line, Albracht radioed to tell them he was coming out. He was in the open, alone, and unsure if he was in the right spot.
“I am an American. Are you the Mike Force?” he called out as he walked.
Sgt. 1st Class Lowell Stevens grabbed his arm at the opposite tree line.
“Go back and get the rest of your men,” Stevens whispered. “And keep your voice down. There’s all kinds of pith helmets and AKs around here. Get your guys, and let’s get the hell out of here.”
He retrieved the men and marched with the Mike Force companies back to safety.
Some of the Montagnards and one missing artilleryman had been separated but made it back to base camp safely.
But Pfc. Michael R. Norton, a gunner, disappeared before the link-up. Norton remains listed on the Department of Defense POW/MIA unaccounted for list. He has been declared dead by the agency.
Albracht served on in Vietnam, earning two more Silver Stars. He later joined the Secret Service, protecting six U.S. presidents.
But those days on Kate remain with him still.
It’s been more than 50 years since the events of those days at the firebase. Albracht said he often reflects on them. He can almost hear the flying rockets and mortars, and smell the blood and death when he does.
“I never felt more needed than I was on Kate, nor have I ever felt more fear,” he wrote in his book.
Editor’s Note: Dialogue, accounts and retelling of events during the Vietnam combat action were reported through declassified Vietnam reports, recorded radio traffic transmissions, Army field manuals, interviews with William Albracht and co-author Marvin J. Wolf, along with excerpts from their book “Abandoned in Hell: The Fight for Vietnam’s Firebase Kate” and the subsequent documentary film “Escape From Firebase Kate.”
Article originally published on Military Times, our sister publication.
SOG’S FIERCEST WARRIOR: COLONEL ROBERT L. HOWARDBob Howard (the most decorated Green Beret) with his Medal of Honor.
By Maj. John L. Plaster, USA (Ret)
RECON COMPANY AT COMMAND AND CONTROL CENTRAL
In 1968, Robert L. Howard was a 30-year-old sergeant first class and the most physically fit man on our compound. Broad-chested, solid as a lumberjack and mentally tough, he cut an imposing presence. I was among the lucky few Army Special Forces soldiers to have served with Bob Howard in our 60-man Recon Company at Command and Control Central, a top secret Green Beret unit that ran covert missions behind enemy lines. As an element of the secretive Studies and Observations Group (SOG), we did our best to recon, raid, attack and disrupt the enemy’s Ho Chi Minh Trail network in Laos and Cambodia.
UP THERE WITH AMERICA’S GREATEST HEROES
Take all of John Wayne’s films—throw in Clint Eastwood’s, too—and these fictions could not measure up to the real Bob Howard. Officially he was awarded eight Purple Hearts, but he actually was wounded 14 times. Six of the wounds, he decided, weren’t severe enough to be worthy of the award. Keep in mind that for each time he was wounded, there probably were ten times that he was nearly wounded, and you get some idea of his combat service. He was right up there with America’s greatest heroes—Davy Crockett, Alvin York, Audie Murphy, the inspiring example we other Green Berets tried to live up to. “What would Bob Howard do?” many of us asked ourselves when surrounded and outnumbered, just a handful of men to fight off hordes of North Vietnamese.
To call him a legend is no exaggeration. Take the time he was in a chow line at an American base and a Vietnamese terrorist on a motorbike tossed a hand grenade at them. While others leaped for cover, Howard snatched an M-16 from a petrified security guard, dropped to one knee and expertly shot the driver, and then chased the passenger a half-mile and killed him, too.
One night his recon team laid beside an enemy highway in Laos as a convoy rolled past. Running alongside an enemy truck in pitch blackness, he spun an armed claymore mine over his head like a lasso, then threw it among enemy soldiers crammed in the back, detonated it, and ran away to fight another day.
Another time, he was riding in a Huey with Larry White and Robert Clough into Laos, when their pilot unknowingly landed beside two heavily camouflaged enemy helicopters. Fire erupted instantly, riddling their Huey and hitting White three times, knocking him to the ground. Firing back, Howard and Clough jumped out and grabbed White, and their Huey somehow limped back to South Vietnam.
CONSIDER THE RESCUE OF JOE WALKER
“Just knowing Bob Howard was ready to come and get you meant a lot to us,” said recon team leader Lloyd O’Daniels. Consider the rescue of Joe Walker. His recon team and an SOG platoon had been overrun near a major Laotian highway and, seriously wounded, Walker was hiding with a Montagnard soldier, unable to move. Howard inserted a good distance away with a dozen men and, because there were so many enemy present, waited for darkness to sneak into the area. Howard felt among bodies for heartbeats, and checked one figure’s lanky legs, then felt for Joe’s signature horn-rimmed glasses. “You sweet Son of a Gun,” Walker whispered, and Howard took him to safety.
What’s all the more remarkable is that not one of these incidents resulted in any award. Howard was just doing what had to be done, he thought.
“HOPELESS” WAS NOT IN HIS VOCABULARY
Unique in American military history, this Opelika, Alabama native was recommended for the Medal of Honor three times in 13 months for separate combat actions, witnessed by fellow Green Berets. The first came in November 1967. While a larger SOG element destroyed an enemy cache, Howard screened forward and confronted a large enemy force. He killed four enemy soldiers and took out an NVA sniper. Then, “pinned down…with a blazing machine gun only six inches above his head,” he shot and killed an entire NVA gun crew at point-blank range, and then destroyed another machine gun position with a grenade. He so demoralized the enemy force that they withdrew. This Medal of Honor recommendation was downgraded to a Silver Star.
The next incident came a year later. Again accompanying a larger SOG force, he performed magnificently, single-handedly knocking out a PT-76 tank. A day later he wiped out an anti-aircraft gun crew, and afterward rescued the crew of a downed Huey. Repeatedly wounded, he was bleeding from his arms, legs, back and face, but he refused to be evacuated. Again submitted for the Medal of Honor, his recommendation was downgraded, this time to the Distinguished Service Cross.
Just six weeks later, Howard volunteered to accompany a platoon going into Laos in search of a missing recon man, Robert Scherdin. Ambushed by a large enemy force, Howard was badly wounded, his M-16 blown to bits—yet he crawled to the aid of a wounded lieutenant, fought off NVA soldiers with a grenade, then a .45 pistol, and managed to drag the officer away. Having been burned and slashed by shrapnel, we thought we’d never see him again. But he went AWOL from the hospital and came back in pajamas to learn he’d been again submitted for the Medal of Honor. This time it went forward to Washington, with assurances that it would be approved.
Howard did not know the word, “hopeless.” Many years later he explained his mindset during the Medal of Honor operation: “I had one choice: to lay and wait, or keep fighting for my men. If I waited, I gambled that things would get better while I did nothing. If I kept fighting, no matter how painful, I could stack the odds that recovery for my men and a safe exodus were achievable.”
Although eventually sent home, he came back yet again, to spend with us the final months before his Medal of Honor ceremony. By then he had served more than 5 years in Vietnam. Why so much time in Vietnam? “I guess it’s because I want to help in any way I can,” Howard explained. “I may as well be here where I can use my training and besides, I have to do it – it’s the way I feel about my job.”
THE WARRIOR TRADITION
The warrior ethic came naturally to Bob Howard. His father and four uncles had all been paratroopers in World War Two. Of them, two died in combat and the other three succumbed to wounds after the war. To support his mother and maternal grandparents, he and his sister picked cotton. He also learned old-fashioned Southern civility, removing his hat for any lady and answering, “Yes, ma’am.”
He also possessed a deep sense of honor and justice, and lived by his unspoken warrior’s code, with the priorities mission, men, and his own interests coming last. He absolutely fit the bill as a leader you’d follow through hell’s gates – IF you could keep up with him. A hard-charging physical fitness advocate, he even had our Montagnard tribesmen running and doing calisthenics.
After draping the Medal of Honor around Howard’s neck, President Nixon asked him what he wanted to do the rest of that memorable day – lunch with the president, a tour of the White House, almost anything. Howard asked simply to be taken to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to share his thoughts with others who had gone before him. Tragically, the U.S. media, reflecting the anti-war sentiments of that period, said not one word about Howard or his valiant deeds, although by the time he received the Medal of Honor he was America’s most highly decorated serviceman.
HIS FRAME OF REFERENCE WAS SOG—HARD COMBAT
Despite the lack of recognition, Howard went on serving to the best of his ability. He was the training officer at the Army’s Airborne School, then he was a company commander in the 2nd Ranger Battalion at Ft. Lewis, Washington. He continued to excel at everything he did, making Distinguished Honor Graduate in his Officer Advance Course class.
As the officer-in-charge of Special Forces training at Camp Mackall, near Ft. Bragg, N.C., and later, commanding the Mountain Ranger Training Camp at Dahlonega, Georgia, he did his utmost to inspire young students. Howard’s frame of reference was SOG—hard combat, the toughest kind against terrible odds with impossible missions. He knew good men would die or fail in combat without martial skills, tactical knowledge and physical conditioning. He was famous for leading runs and long-distance rucksack marches— stronger than men half his age, usually he outran entire classes of students. A whole generation of Army Special Forces and Rangers earned their qualifications under his shining example, with some graduates among the senior leaders of today’s Special Forces and Ranger units.
His highest assignment was commander of Special Forces Detachment, Korea. He might have gone higher but he dared to publicly suggest that American POWs had been left in enemy hands, and was willing to testify to that before Congress in 1986. After he retired as a full colonel, he went through multiple surgeries to try to correct the many injuries he’d suffered over the years.
But he could not stop helping GIs. He spent another 20 years with the Department of Veterans Affairs, helping disabled vets. He had a reputation for rankling his superiors as an unapologetic advocate of veterans.
THIS HUMBLE KNIGHT BELONGS TO HISTORY
His spirit never waned. In 2004 I sat with Green Berets of the 1st Special Forces Group at Ft. Lewis, Wash., who laughed and cheered when he joked about still being tough enough to take on any two men in the audience—not one raised his hand. After retiring from the VA, Col. Howard often visited with American servicemen to speak about his combat experiences, making five trips to Iraq and Afghanistan. In the fall of 2009, he visited troops in Germany, Bosnia and Kosovo.
Despite increasing pain and sickness, on Veterans Day 2009 he kept his word to attend a memorial ceremony, but finally he had to seek help. He was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and given a few weeks to live.
In those final days old Special Forces and Ranger friends slipped past “No Visitors” signs to see him. When SOG vets Ben Lyons and Martin Bennett and a civilian friend, Chuck Hendricks, visited him, Howard climbed from his bed to model the uniform jacket he would be buried in, festooned with the Medal of Honor and rows upon rows of ribbons. A proud Master Parachutist and military skydiver, he showed them the polished jump boots he’d been working on, and asked Bennett to touch up the spit shine. Though his feet might not be visible in his coffin, he wanted that shine just right.
As they left, Col. Howard thanked Bennett, and then saluted him and held his hand crisply to his eyebrow until Bennett returned it. Bob Howard passed away two days before Christmas.
This great hero, a humble knight who was a paragon for all, belongs to history now. He is survived by his daughters Denicia, Melissa and Rosslyn an Airborne-Ranger son, Robert Jr., and four grandchildren.
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GREEN BERETS from the JFK Library
“A symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom.” -President Kennedy on the Green Berets, April 11, 1962
President John F. Kennedy was visionary in his efforts to increase the capability of the United States Department of Defense in the conduct of Counter Insurgency and Unconventional Warfare. He recognized the unique capabilities and value of US Army Special Forces -“Green Berets”- in the struggle against despotic insurgency, and ensured their predominance in his global initiatives for freedom.
On October 12, 1961 the president visited Fort Bragg and the US Army Special Warfare Center, home of Army Special Forces. In the course of their meeting, the President asked Brigadier General William P. Yarborough, “Those are nice. How do you like the Green Beret?” General Yarborough replied, “They’re fine, Sir. We’ve wanted them a long time.”
After an impressive capabilities demonstration by General Yarborough and his “Green Berets,” the Commander in Chief sent a message to the General which read in part:
: U.S. Army Photo CAPTION: William P. Yarborough, 93, a retired Army lieutenant general considered a master parachutist and early Special Forces commander who also oversaw a surveillance operation on thousands of American civilians during the late 1960s, died Dec. 6 at a hospital in Pinehurst, N.C.
The challenge of this old but new form of operations is a real one and I know that you and the members of your Command will carry on for us and the free world in a manner which is both worthy and inspiring. I am sure that the Green Beret will be a mark of distinction in the trying times ahead.
Soon after, the president authorized the “Green Beret” as the official headgear for all US Army Special Forces and these Unconventional Warriors were thereafter and ever known as “The Green Berets.”
The president further showed his unfailing support for Special Forces in publishing an official White House Memorandum to the US Army dated April 11, 1962, which stated in part that “The Green Beret is again becoming a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom.”
Within two years following the president’s fateful visit to Fort Bragg, the Green Berets would expand their ranks by four additional Groups on active duty and four new Groups in the National Guard and Army Reserve. Already active in several overseas locations, Green Berets were soon deployed to an even greater number of countries and in greater strength across the globe- from Europe to Asia, throughout Central and South America and into the continent of Africa.
But a dark cloud would descend upon the Special Forces and the United States on November 22, 1963. Within hours after the president’s untimely passing, close members of the Kennedy family requested that Green Berets participate in the Honor Guard for his funeral. The Special Warfare Center immediately published orders for forty-six Green Berets to travel to Washington, DC on the following day.
On the day of the president’s funeral, a leading member of that contingent, Command Sergeant Major Francis Ruddy, removed his own Green Beret and placed it solemnly upon the president’s grave. This green beret is now on permanent display in the Museum at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and is displayed in memory of President Kennedy and in memory of all Special Forces soldiers, especially those who gave their lives while in service to the country. Today, the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, serves as the Army’s special operations university.
For decades to follow, Green Berets would honor President Kennedy by laying a Green Beret wreath at his grave at Arlington National Cemetery, an honored tradition that continues to this day.
Finally, in 1961, President Kennedy planned to visit Fort Bragg. He sent word to the Special Warfare Center commander, Brigadier General William P. Yarborough, for all Special Forces soldiers to wear their berets for the event. President Kennedy felt that since they had a special mission, Special Forces should have something to set them apart from the rest.
Even before the presidential request, however, the Department of Army had acquiesced and teletyped a message to the Center authorizing the beret as a part of the Special Forces uniform.When President Kennedy came to Fort Bragg October 12, 1961, General Yarborough wore his green beret to greet the commander-in-chief.
The president remarked, “Those are nice. How do you like the green beret?” General Yarborough replied: “They’re fine, sir. We’ve wanted them a long time.”A message from President Kennedy to General Yarborough later that day stated, “My congratulations to you personally for your part in the presentation today …
The challenge of this old but new form of operations is a real one and I know that you and the members of your command will carry on for us and the free world in a manner which is both worthy and inspiring. I am sure that the green beret will be a mark of distinction in the trying times ahead.”
In an April 11, 1962, White House memorandum for the United States Army, President Kennedy showed his continued support for the Special Forces, calling the green beret “a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom.
“To honor his memory, Special Forces soldiers pay their respects to late President Kennedy by laying a wreath and green beret on his tomb every November twenty-second, the date of his assassination.
Lieutenant-General William Pelham Yarborough (born May 12, 1912 in Seattle, Washington) and died December 6, 2005, was a U.S. Army officer and a 1936 graduate of West Point.He is descended from the York County House of Yarborough which can trace its lines to the Battle of Hastings in 1066 under the founder of the house: Eustacius de Yerburgh.
William Yarborough is a distant cousin to such British noble figures as the Baron Deramore and Lord Alvingham.In 1941, Yarborough was a Captain when the Army began to experiment with Airborne forces. At that time, he designed the parachutist badge, also known as “jump wings”, proudly worn by airborne troops after 5 combat jumps.
During World War II, Yarborough planned the first combat airborne assault, Operation Torch, and also jumped in it with the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion. He later became commander of this unit during the Italian Campaign.Yarborough was later known as the “Father of the Green Berets”, as first commander of the Special Warfare Center, and a pioneer in special forces tactics. From 1 December 1966 to 15 July 1968, Yarborough, then a Major General, served as the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Headquarters, Department of the Army. He was later promoted to Lieutenant General.General Yarborough is a member of the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame.
After 35 years of dedicated service to the United States, General retired from the US Army in 1971.
t has been taught at Bragg for 26 years now. ‘Send in Special Forces who speak the language, know the terrain, to meet up with guerillas and take back their country.’ In Afghanistan, Karzai is running the country now. Mulholland led that operation.
”Yarborough’s farsightedness is recognized at last, he said.“The Army has published a poster with the old man’s picture on it,” he said. “It has the Yarborough knife, and the beret.
”Special operations started with direct presidential support during World War II, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a Democrat, picked a Republican — “Wild Bill” Donavan — to head the Office of Strategic Services, the OSS.“The old man worked through the White House, a special kind of thing,” Lee Yarborough said.
“Due to the president’s recognition, we got the Green Beret. Gen. Shachnow made the same connections — just like Donovan had to go to Roosevelt. So, in the same way, the old man went to JFK’s aide. That took a lot of chutzpah. At any turn in the road he could have been squashed. In the end, he believed he knew what he was doing, that it was the way to go.
”The nation needs highly trained, mature soldiers with judgment as well as skill for wars of this kind, Yarborough said.
“You have to have people who can do this,” he said. “It requires training and a special kind of a guy who understands other cultures. He put great emphasis on the role of the medic, actually more than a medic, more like a combat doctor.
His theory was: first you have to make em believe you mean business.”Behind Yarborough’s legendary toughness, behind his direct manner, were deeply ethical core beliefs, his son said.“He was a caring person who believed in the vision of liberating the oppressed,” Lee Yarborough said of his father. “In the old Army, there wasn’t all that much sweetness in field operations. When he would take charge of a regiment, he had to tell this guy, ‘I am your replacement.
From now on, we are going to do this.’ The old man believed in making you understand he meant business, and instructions followed.
He saw Ridgeway do this in Korea. In Italy, Ridgeway had relieved my old man. If troops aren’t moving, you are relieved.”Yarborough sought guidance from a general who would later be an educator, in command of The Citadel.
“He went back to his mentor, Mark Clark, a great, great soldier,” Lee Yarborough said.
“All those guys were picked by (Gen. George) Marshall. Every commander requires a different psychology. As a colonel, he (Marshall) kept a little black book, put all those names in there. He was known by everyone in the old Army.
”Yarborough, taking command of the early special forces, told his soldiers special forces had no room for irresponsibility.
That chat became known as “the talk in the woods.”“He was saying, ‘Look, SF is really important. We don’t want people who just fight. We also want you to be ethical.’ That was how he felt.” Lee Yarborough said. “Special Forces was a sort of religion to him. The old man thought in spiritual terms. Liberating the oppressed was his mission.”
Initially, those who joined the British Commandos kept their parent regimental headdress and cap badges. In 1941, No. 1 Commando had no fewer than 79 different cap badges and many different forms of headdress.  "Thus a motley collection of caps, Tam o' Shanters, bonnets, forage caps, caps 'fore and aft', berets, peaked KD caps, etc., appeared on the Commando parades," says Captain Oakley, "the forest being a veritable RSM’s nightmare!" 
No. 2 Commando and No. 9 Commando faced with the same problem had adopted the Tam o' Shanter, but, as a traditional Scottish headdress, this was not considered suitable for what was a British unit. After some discussion it was agreed that if No. 1 Commando was to adopt a uniformed headdress then the beret, which had been worn by the Tank Regiment since the First World War (and had recently been adopted by the Parachute Regiment), would meet the requirements: it had no British regional affinity, it was difficult to wear improperly, and it could be easily stowed away without damage (when for example tin hats were in use). 
Having decided on the headdress, the next question to be resolved was the colour. The shoulder insignia of No. 1 Commando had been designed by the Richmond Herald at the College of Arms. It incorporated three colours in its design of a green salamander going through fire: red, yellow and green. Green was chosen as the most suitable.  A Scottish firm of tam-o-shanter makers in Irvine (Ayrshire) was chosen to design and manufacture the beret. 
Once the design was agreed, Brigadier Robert Laycock was approached by No. 1 Commando to seek his permission to wear it. He had been pondering on what the commandos should use for their headdress, and welcomed the green beret as a chance to introduce it as standard for all commando formations, with No. 1 Commando being the first to don them. 
The proposal that the commandos should start wearing green beret as their official headdress was submitted to the Chief of Combined Operations and forwarded by Lord Mountbatten to the Under-Secretary of State for War. Approval was granted and in October 1942 the first green berets were issued to the Royal Marines. 
Australian Commando berets are known as being "Sherwood Green" in colour. The corps badge on the beret is a black background and a gold combat dagger with the motto "Foras Admonitio" meaning "Without Warning" across the dagger.  The green beret is only awarded to a soldier upon becoming qualified as a Commando in either of the below regiments.
Consisting of two battalions within the light brigade, only the 2nd Commando Battalion inherited the green beret along with other traditions from the 4th Troop of No.10 Commando.  These paracommandos are the only "green berets" that are no longer a special operations force, but are considered to be elite. However, the Belgian special forces usually only recruits from paracommandos.
The Special Forces of the Netherlands consist mainly of the KCT (Korps Commando Troepen). Their motto is "Nunc aut Nunquam" which is Latin for "Now or Never". The roots of the KCT go back to World War II. Under the name No. 2 (Dutch) Troop, the first Dutch commandos were trained in Achnacarry, Scotland, as part of No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando. The unit was formed on March 22, 1942, the birthday of the present KCT.
Members of the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps also receive upon completion of the Commando Course a green beret, but with the gold anchor on a red background.
The Commandos Marine are an elite special operations unit of the French Navy. Formed from Fusiliers Marins during the Second World War in Britain, they wear the same green berets, pulled right, as the British Commandos. They are called bérets verts (green berets).
The COMSUBIN are the elite special operations unit of the Italian Navy. The Royal Italian Navy's Naval Assault Divisions is considered to be the precursor of modern Naval Special Forces. They are called baschi verdi (green berets).
Green berets are worn by soldiers of Land Force.
The Mexican Army Special Forces nicknamed the COIFE, formerly the GAFE (Grupo Aeromóvil de Fuerzas Especiales), are a special operations unit of the Mexican Army. The COIFE adapted the green beret as their signature head gear, known as the boina verde (Spanish for green beret). The COIFE have received training from Israeli and American special forces. The COIFE have also played a key role against Mexican drug cartels during in the on-going Mexican drug war. They are the Mexican Army's equivalent to the U.S. Army Special Forces.
The Portuguese Paratroopers (Portuguese: Tropas Paraquedistas) are an elite infantry assault force, representing the bulk of the airborne forces of Portugal. They were created in 1956 as part of the Portuguese Air Force, being transferred to the Portuguese Army in 1993. Presently, most of the Paratroopers are part of the Portuguese Rapid Reaction Brigade which comprises all 3 special forces troops.
The Portuguese Paratroopers were usually nicknamed "Paras" or "Green Berets" (Boinas Verdes).
The unit members wear a moss/dry green beret and are the heir of the Special Hunters: the beret badge includes a hunting horn—a symbol of the Special Hunters and the unit is known as Rangers because the first instructors of the Special Hunters completed the Ranger Course and adapted the characteristics of that training to the Special Operations Course. This special forces unit has operated in Bosnia and Herzegovina, East-Timor, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
In the United Kingdom all Royal Marines who have passed the Commando Course wear the green beret. Personnel from the Royal Navy, British Army, and Royal Air Force volunteering for service with 3 Commando Brigade undertake the All Arms Commando Course, completion of which allows individuals to wear the headdress. Commando-qualified Royal Marines always wear the green beret, with the Globe and Laurel cap badge and commando-qualified personnel from other armed services wear the beret, with their own cap badge, when serving with commando units unless otherwise authorised.  The Special Boat Service (SBS) also wear the green Commando beret but with their own cap badge consisting of a sword with two blue waved lines with the words "by strength and guile"
The Commando Badge of a Fairbairn-Sykes  fighting knife on a triangular patch/badge is worn on the sleeve in perpetuity by all those who have passed the course. 
Army (Special Operations Command), Navy (Unidad de Operaciones Especiales) and Air Force of Spain have their own special operations units, all wearing green berets with the unit badges.
Personal attached to the MCOE (Mando Conjunto de Operacionais Especiales/Joint Special Opeations Command) wear a green beret with the badge of the joint three military branches.
In the U.S. armed forces, the green beret may be worn only by soldiers awarded the Special Forces Tab, signifying they have been qualified as Special Forces (SF) soldiers. The Special Forces beret is officially designated "beret, man's, wool, rifle green, army shade 297".
U.S. Special Forces wear the green beret as a distinction of excellence and uniqueness within the Army.
The 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) had many OSS World War II veterans in their ranks when it was formed in 1952. They began to unofficially wear a berets of varying colour while training. The color green became favored because it was reminiscent of the World War II British Commando-type beret.  The 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) deployed to Bad Tolz, Germany in September 1953. The remaining cadre at Fort Bragg formed the 77th Special Forces Group. Members of the 77th SFG began searching through their collections of berets and settled on the Rifle Green colour of the British Rifle Regiments (as opposed to the Lovat Green of the Commandos) from Captain Mike de la Pena's collection. Captain Frank Dallas had the new beret designed and produced in small numbers for the members of the Special Forces. 
Their new headdress was first worn at a retirement parade at Fort Bragg on 12 June 1955 for Lieutenant General Joseph P. Cleland, the now-former commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps. Onlookers thought that the commandos were a foreign delegation from NATO. 
In 1956 General Paul D. Adams, the post commander at Fort Bragg, banned its wear, even though it was worn surreptitiously when deployed overseas. This was reversed on 25 September 1961 by Department of the Army Message 578636, which designated the green beret as the exclusive headdress of the Army Special Forces. 
When visiting the Special Forces at Fort Bragg on 12 October 1961, President John F. Kennedy asked Brigadier General William P. Yarborough to make sure that the men under his command wore green berets for the visit. Later that day, Kennedy sent a memorandum which included the line: "I am sure that the green beret will be a mark of distinction in the trying times ahead".  By America's entry into the Vietnam War, the green beret had become a symbol of excellence throughout the US Army. On April 11, 1962 in a White House memorandum to the United States Army, President Kennedy reiterated his view: "The green beret is a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom".  To no avail, both Yarborough and Edson Raff had previously petitioned the Pentagon to allow wearing of the green beret. The President, however, did not fail them. 
In addition to being the headdress of the United States Army Special Forces, "Green Berets" is also a well known nickname of the organization.
“A Tribute To These Great American Heroes!”
Back in the late 1970’s when I was selected for the US Army Special Forces, then Maj Robert Howard, was the Camp Mackall Commandant of Special Forces Training held deep in the heart of Southern Pines & Pine Bluff, North Carolina. To have him as your commander meant only one thing it would be the toughest deal of my life.
Whenever Maj. Howard grinned with that clenched teeth face, we all knew that it was somebody’s ass in the wind.
Back then, we all were assigned Special F orces “Buddies” . My buddy was a 7 language speaking, Ph.D., with 2 Master Degrees and he was a sarcastic smartass from hell. He would sharpshoot the instructors one after the other during most of our course instructions. Needless to say, that every time he opened his mouth we were both in trouble and promptly called in front of the Instructor for discipline or in front of you guessed it, Maj. Bob Howard. The rule back then was that if one of us got in trouble both of you had to pay the price. A couple of years later I worked with Maj. Howard rebuilding the old obstacle course and replacing the wooden structures for metal out at Camp Mackall. This was an obstacle course from the imagination of Satan himself. Now a metal version of hell was being constructed . You had to know Bob Howard. Whenever he smirked or grinned with his teeth clinched together, you just knew that whatever or whoever was in his crosshairs at the time was dead meat. It was certainly an honor serving with Col. Robert Howard. He will be missed!
At the same time while Col Howard (Then Major) was out at Phase I & III, Col Ola Mize was the Commandant of all of Special Forces Schools on Smoke Bomb Hill. Talk about a “Double Whammy”. I had the dreaded “Pseudofolliculitis Barbae” (Shaving Bumps) while going through training and was forced to have “LIMITED” facial hair. On one of my unluckiest days, Col Mize decided to have a walk through the training area. This guy probably weighed 160 lbs. soaking wet but was hugely menacing all the same. Back in Viet Nam, when he ran out of ammunition fighting all night as his base camp was over run, he picked up and used an entrenching tool (a small shovel) to kill an additional 13 enemy combatants hand to hand throughout the remainder of the battle. This same battle was commemorated in his citation for which he was awarded the coveted “Medal Of Honor”. We nicknamed him “Entrenching Tool Mize”. Col Mize nicknamed me “Bluebeard” and it stuck for a while I was on Ft. Bragg. Needless to say, he read me the riot act about my beard but you could tell that he was proud that I made it as far as I did in the course back then. Few Blacks (African Americans) ever made it through Special Forces Training less known my dumb… with a full beard. I stood out in so many ways and that was not what anyone wanted while in training. I’d run in to the Col many times over the years and he was always as hardcore and disciplined as one could imagine. “Old School Military” was his middle name. He will be missed!
“Entrenching Tool” Mize (Col. Mize) was one of the greatest heroes of all Special Forces and a man with whom to be reckoned!
The following year, before I went to 7th Group, I had a chance to meet and get to know Col Roger Donlon at the Presidio of Monterey, California. We were both assigned to the same Defense Language Institute Spanish Class for a period of time. As a young buck sergeant, this full bird Colonel took a liking to me maybe because I was the only other Green Beret in our section. Everyday was an adventure. One day he would tell me stories that only God and he knew about and the next day he would bring in the explicit photos confirming the stories. This guy was the real deal. He was a Captain when he won his Medal of Honor and trust me when I tell you, “He deserved it”!
Col Donlon is a great American and the epitome of a Special Forces Soldier, Leader and Officer! His wisdom is that of true legends.
To sum up these encounters as briefly as I’ve done here really beckons for a longer version to be published at some later date in the future. I could easily and greatly expand on these brushes and encounters with “Greatness” and “Great Men” but I am saving the more detailed version for my auto-biography. Sometimes when I sit back and ponder the events of my life, I kind of feel like a “Smart” version of the Forrest Gump character. Is it fate, destiny or dumb luck? I have no clue. I really had no idea how lucky I was to have known these men for the brief time in our nation’s history when leaders and role models actually played a tremendous part in America’s greatness as a nation and catapulted us on to the world stage as a dominant global power.
Frankly, Bob Howard scared the shit out of me, Ola Mize’s mere presence taught me how not to be afraid of anything and Roger Donlon imparted the wisdom of all of them knowing that those tales he shared and my training would eventually save my life and that of others over the years. They all served a greater purpose not only for me but for most who came in contact with them. As I always say, “These men were all harder than ‘Wood Pecker’ lips”.
These men, among many others within The US Army’s Special Forces Groups, are legends and exceptional operators repetitively placed in extraordinary circumstances meeting and exceeding global challenges beyond the imagination of most! I am proud to have served with distinction in the US Army Special Forces.
De Oppresso Liber
(Special Forces Motto — “Free The Oppressed”)
Navy SEAL Creed
The SEAL Creed eloquently explains the type of fighter who becomes a Navy SEAL. The first sentence of the Creed encapsulates the person behind the face paint:
"We train for war and fight to win" is another quote within the Creed that explains the mindset of the Naval Special Warfare warrior.
Navy SEALs have the heritage of the men of the Underwater Demolition Teams involved in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. The SEALs were founded in 1963 to fight in the Vietnam War, mounting numerous successful Special Operations and guerrilla warfare in the jungle of South East Asia. The Creed also says:
The Navy SEAL Code is another written verse that includes words such as loyalty, team, and teammate. The underlying common denominator of Navy SEALs is the phrase, "Never quit."
Navy SEALs have the mindset to "earn your Trident every day."
Vietnam Green Beret Had 37 Wounds And Still Carried On Fighting – He Was Awarded The Medal of Honor
Master Sergeant Raul “Roy” Perez Benavidez was shot several times, suffered two grenade blasts, and got bayonetted while saving the lives of eight men. Despite this, it took him over a decade to get a Medal of Honor – and all because of bureaucratic red tape.
Born to a Mexican-American and a Yaqui Indian, orphaned at a young age, and having to drop out of school at 15 so he could work to eat, Benavidez didn’t exactly have a charmed life. So in 1952, he enlisted with the Texas National Guard at the age of 17. By 1965, Benavidez was an advisor to an infantry regiment of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), which was how he stepped on a landmine.
They sent him back to the US, but the diagnosis wasn’t correct. Doctors at Fort Sam Houston swore he’d never walk again, so they prepared to discharge him from the military. But how was a crippled minority, who was also a high-school dropout, going to support himself and his wife?
So Benavidez did the only thing he could. At night, when the doctors and nurses left, he tried to wiggle his toes till he felt them again. Then he would use his elbows and chin to crawl toward the wall next to his bed. Then he’d try to get off the bed by himself.
In July 1966, the man whom the medical experts said couldn’t possibly walk again did just that. Though his wounds still hurt, he was back in South Vietnam by January 1968… only to nearly die again some four months later.
It happened on 2 May 1968. Benavidez was at Loc Ninh in a Green Beret outpost near the Cambodian border, attending a prayer service. At 1:30 PM, a panicked voice shrieked out of their communications radio, demanding to be rescued.
Master Sergeant Raul “Roy” Perez Benavidez
It came from a 12-man team that was on patrol. There was Sergeant First Class Leroy Wright, Staff Sergeant Lloyd “Frenchie” Mousseau, Specialist Four Brian O’Connor, and nine Montagnard tribesmen. They had stumbled upon an entire infantry battalion of the Vietnam People’s Army (NVA) of perhaps 1,000 men.
Armed with only a knife and his medical bag, Benavidez rushed to a helicopter, leaving his gun behind. From the air, they spotted the team in a tight circle. Some 25 yards away was the enemy surrounding them on all sides.
The chopper tried to land, but enemy fire prevented that, so they had to move some 75 yards away. Benavidez jumped out and made his way toward the men, but got hit in his right leg by an AK-slug.
He stumbled and fell, but thought he’d only snagged himself on a thorn bush. So he kept running till a grenade blast slammed him to the ground, peppering his face with shrapnel. Incredibly, he got up again and staggered his way toward the circle of men that had split up into two groups.
Four were dead, so he got an AK off of one and redistributed their ammo among the rest. Ignoring enemy fire, he bound what wounds he could and injected morphine into those who were screaming the loudest.
Picking up his radio, he directed air strikes into the enemy, then directed another chopper toward his group. He was still asking for more air support when a second bullet got him in the right thigh.
The chopper landed, allowing Benavidez to drag the dead and wounded into it. But the enemy kept up their barrage, so he waved the chopper toward the second group as he tried to provide cover fire from the ground.
Benavidez receiving the Medal of Honor from President Ronald Reagan and US Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger
Benavidez spotted Wright near the second group. The man was dead, so he bent down to get the pouch containing their radio codes and call signs. He was stuffing them into his shirt when the third bullet hit him in the stomach. Then a grenade blasted him from behind. Then the pilot got shot and died, so naturally, the chopper crashed.
Staggering forward, Benavidez dragged the wounded out, and the group fought off the NVA as best they could when the extra air support finally reached them. Jets and helicopter gunships pounded the enemy, but they were so many of them to keep them at bay.
Benavidez was hit several more times, yet he still managed to direct the airstrikes, using his sense of hearing since he was blinded from all the blood streaming into his eyes. Then silence. The pilots thought he died, but a minute later, he was back on, directing even more strikes. He kept passing out from shock and blood loss, apparently, but never for long.
Operation Huecity 1967
A chopper finally landed for his group, but as he was shoving Mousseau aboard, an NVA rose up and clubbed him on the head with a rifle. Benavidez fell, rolled and tried to get up, just in time to see a bayonet heading his way.
He grabbed it, cutting his right hand open, but he pulled anyway. The Vietnamese fell forward, bayonetting the Mexican-Yaqui all the way through his left arm… just as Benavidez’s knife dug deep into enemy flesh.
Getting up, he dragged Mousseau in but saw two more NVA coming toward them. Grabbing an AK-47, he dealt with those two, then dove back into the circle to rescue a Montagnard. Only then did he get onboard to be whisked away.
En route to base, Benavidez tried to hold his intestines in, but that proved too much. He passed out. He woke up in the Medevac Hospital in an open body bag while a doctor pronounced him dead. Too exhausted to talk, but not wanting to be chucked into a freezer, Benavidez did the only thing he was able to do, he spat in the man’s face.
They wanted to give him a Congressional Medal of Honor, but weren’t sure he’d survive that long, so they settled on a Distinguished Service Cross, instead. That way, they could give it to living person.
Benavidez, however, was clearly not an easy man to kill. Realizing this, they put in the paperwork for the Medal of Honor. He finally got it on 24 February 1981.