Monday, September 25, 1961: Green Berets

From www.military.com: During World War II, U.S. Army Special Forces personnel wore a variety of headgear during their operations as members of special operations units. Those who served with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in Europe often adopted whatever headgear their French or Belgian Resistance compatriots wore. This was often a beret, since many of the OSS teams served in France. The beret, worn in a variety of styles and colors, even showed up on OSS personnel in the Far East. Many of the first members of the U.S. Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), formed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in June 1952, were veterans of the OSS. Berets of various types and colors began being worn unofficially as early as 1954 on the unit's field exercises in Germany and at Fort Bragg and Camp Mackall, North Carolina. The color green was favored because it was reminiscent of the World War II British Commando-type beret that had been adopted by the Commandos on 24 October 1942. After testing in 1955, the 77th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg specified, still unofficially that its soldiers wear a beret of Canadian Army design in rifle green. Special Forces personnel in Europe in the 10th Special Forces Group (A) simultaneously adopted a green beret, even wearing it publicly with the Army Class A uniform, despite the lack of official approval. Special Forces troopers first wore the green beret publicly at Fort Bragg during a retirement parade in 1955. In 1957, however, the Fort Bragg post commander banned the wearing of the beret. This ban was reversed on 25 September 1961 by DA (Department of the Army) Message 578636, which authorized the green beret as the official Army headgear to be worn by Special Forces. The first official wearing of the newly authorized green beret was at a Special Forces demonstration staged for President John F. Kennedy at Fort Bragg on 12 October 1961.

From www.specialoperations.com: (Kennedy) 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, hoever, the Department of the Army had acquiesced and teletyped a message to the Center authorizing the beret as a part of the Special Forces uniform. ... Gen. 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."

* "A Short History of the Use of Berets in the U.S. Army" (from www.army.mil): @
* "Distinctive Beret Uniform History of U.S. Armed Services" (by retired Air Force Master Sergeant John Cassidy): @
* Special Operations Forces history (from www.soc.mil): @
* "Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia" (Department of the Army): @
* "Special Forces Qualification Course" (from www.baseops.net): @
* Airborne & Special Operations Museum (Fayetteville, North Carolina): @

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