"Green Berets On Trial"

RP578

LE
Book Reviewer
#1
I came across this 1969 article in Time magazine: Green Berets on trial and was initially interested because of the opening paragraph, especially the use of the words "terminate with extreme prejudice" which were of course made famous in a film a decade later:

IN the shadowy world of the intelligence agent, the phrase "to terminate with prejudice" means to blackball an agent administratively so that he cannot work again as an informer. When the phrase "to terminate with extreme prejudice" is used, it often becomes the cloak-and-dagger code for extermination. In June, just such an execution order reached a U.S. Special Forces outfit in a port city of South Viet Nam. Seven Green Beret officers and one enlisted man helped to carry it out. The upshot was their arrest and detention pending investigation. Last week, as the Army maintained total silence and a host of rumors swirled through offices and bars in Saigon, Washington and Green Beret headquarters at Fort Bragg, N.C., a bizarre tale of counterespionage began to unfold.
The whole case sounds bizarre i.e. the CIA using SF to assinate agents and the US Army charging them for it. From what I can glean from Wiki, the Sec of the Army dismissed the case. Does anyone know anymore about what happened?
 

RP578

LE
Book Reviewer
#3
Thanks for that link babon6! That made a fascinating read. This little blurb has an enduring relevance.

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. 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.
Not sure what the Paras would make out of this quote from Gen Abrams though,

battles should be fought with feet planted firmly on the ground and that making a fetish out of jumping out of airplanes is puerile
 
#4
Hi RPS

The Time magazine said

In June, just such an execution order reached a U.S. Special Forces outfit in a port city of South Viet Nam. Seven Green Beret officers and one enlisted man helped to carry it out.

This bit is not true. The MI people who murdered Thai Khac Chuyen, were not ordered to do so, they made the decision themselves. They were not ordered to do so.

While most of the ‘Greek Letter’ projects like Delta and Sigma were run in conjunction with the GVN. ‘PROJECT GAMMA’ was a unilateral US program. The US’s GVN allies knew nothing about it. Which is why the decision to do away with Thai Khac Chuyen, ended up being the only possible course of action.

Here’s the Wiki article on Project GAMMA.

It is wrong in this important respect. “Nothing on Project Gamma has been made available.” That is not true. There is some very important material on GAMMA that has been only recently released.

But first how the CIA and USSF operated together in Vietnam must be established before any of this makes sense.

The CIA station established in Vietnam was a constantly evolving thing. By the time of William Colby in the early 60’s it had developed separate political and military offices. After the ‘Bay of Pigs’ embarrassment, the CIA was ‘forced’ to hand over its role in small wars to the military.

Originally the Saigon Station was made up of CIA Staff and CIA contractors (Like David Nuttle) The USSF and in some few cases Australian Advisors and in one unique case a joint Malay/UK team were used as ‘auxiliaries’ in the military office, This was for the simple reason that the CIA didn’t have the numbers of people, with the necessary military skills, to staff all the projects.

The make up of Vietnam era ‘Green Berets’ was very close in nature to the make up of 22 SAS in the Malayan Emergency. Not all of them had passed any selection process, which would of course be the norm today. The ‘Green Berets’ involved in Project Gamma were Military Intelligence types transferred to 5th Special Forces Group Airborne (5SFGA) to fill out positions in various projects. The Airborne part in the unit title is a bit of a red herring because not all wearing the hat were so qualified. As happened to the UK in Malaya with 22 SAS, in the 1950’s, expediency was the rule of the day.

The partnership was necessary because USSF was given the responsibility for these special projects, including a series of teams covertly inserted into North Vietnam All of which failed dismally because they were bilateral programs and the ARVN was hopelessly penetrated by communist agents. This was the reason that GAMMA was ‘US’ eyes only. USSF were required to become engaged in Intelligence work that they were not designed to do.

The CIA on the other hand did not have the military resources necessary to staff military projects that they conceived but could not staff.

The project GAMMA ‘USSF ring ins’ were caught between a rock and a very hard place. They had ‘Thai Khac Chuyen’ dead to rights. There was no way that they could tell the GVN what was going on. They had established beyond doubt that Chuyen was dealing with North Vietnamese Intelligence. The only possible, rational decision was to get rid of him.

The USSF in GAMMA appealed to their CIA masters in the Saigon Station for assistance. No one got the memo and the phone calls weren’t answered, a critical CIA staff member was on holidays in Honkers. The project GAMMA fellows were appealing for a CIA ‘Hitman’ when one wasn’t forthcoming (Because the CIA didn’t have one) they did the job themselves.

The CIA is a big organisation. Big enough to have an official historian. Once upon a time it was Harold P Ford and all his stuff is well worth reading. The guy who did the CIA History of the Vietnam experience, and I stress that it was compiled for internal agency consumption only, was Thomas Ahearn Jnr.

Early last year the CIA released Ahearn’s work in the interests of transparency.

The ‘Green Beret Affair’ is covered from about page 90 of the volume ‘The CIA and the Generals’

Now that Ahearn’s original CIA publications have been declassified, he is free to release them commercially, which he has done. Ahearn’s new book ‘Vietnam-Declassified-Counterinsurgency’ is precisely the same as his original CIA sponsored volume titled “The CIA and Rural Pacification in Vietnam”. Save some pennies and read it on line.

Much tosh is written and generally believed about ‘CIA assassinations’ in Vietnam. The reality is that CIA staff wouldn’t have a bar of it. When the auxiliaries did engage in the practice, they generally ended up in strife. Google Project CHERRY and John McCarthy and you will find an almost identical set of circumstances as occurred in GAMMA.

The CIA and USSF were partners who muddled through Vietnam in much the same way the UK Intelligence agencies and the nascent SAS muddled through Malaya. Too much was asked of them. The initial defeat of the Taliban by the Northern Alliance aided and abetted by the CIA and USSF is the example that shows that the ‘negative’ lessons of Vietnam, might have been learned.

Regards

Mick
 

RP578

LE
Book Reviewer
#5
chippymick,

Fascinating stuff. Out of curiosity did the Australian or NZ SASR or AATTV take part in provincial reconnaissance unit type affairs?

Another retrospective, from the CIA no less: CIA COIN
 
#6
I don't know about NZSAS, but Aussi SAS worked very successfully along the Cambodian border, intercepting supply trains along the Ho Chi Minh trail.
 
#7
Hi RP

Phoenix is a bust.

The really important part and main thrust of Phoenix was ICEX. This was the centralisation of Intelligence that was the first thing Sir Robert Thompson told the US to do in 1962. It did take them more than five years to figure it out and implement it.

'Twas easy for Thompson to say, he had more than 20 years of counterinsurgency experience in Malaya against a 'softer' enemy and dealt with a more compliant 'advised government'

The normal functions of Intelligence are not sexy. 'Death squads' on the other hand are. The PRU's were only ever meant to provide product for the ICEX on Viet Cong Infrastructure. Their purpose was to capture cadre to interrogate them to discover who was who in the zoo.

While the Englishman Thompson was the principal champion of the main thrust of Phoenix - centralised Intelligence, it was an Australian, Ted Serong who strongly influenced what became Provincial Reconnaissance Units.

All Australian and Kiwi SAS posted to Vietnam, with the Regiment only ever served with the Task Force in Phuoc Tuy province. (With occasional forays into adjoining suburbs) Those Australians who worked with the 'National Police' or with PRU's were either CIA Contractors or AATTV.

Some, I think a minority, of those Australians who advised PRU's had also had previous or later service with Australian SAS, but it is important to note that their unit at the time while serving with PRU's was AATTV.

For example Ray Simpson VC was an original member of the Australian SAS. He did three tours (totalling four years) of Vietnam, all with AATTV and I'm told, and have not been able to verify, that he squeezed in another tour as a contractor working with PRU's.


Australians involved with the PRU's (I'm not aware of any Kiwi's that were) were there to train Vietnamese in the methods necessary to catch the bad guys, in order to have a chat. No different really to a trench raid of WW1, or indeed Korea.

In addition Australian Advisors were placed with PRU's to do exceptionally unsexy things like audit and report on Unit efficiency. Auditing was critical because of rampant corruption. Decidedly unsexy but critically important.

Some pretty ordinary things occurred under the Phoenix banner. They always occurred a long way away from adult supervision, at night, by scared people, who sometimes had an agenda of their own.


Hope that helps

Regards

Mick
 
#8
RP578 said:
]

Not sure what the Paras would make out of this quote from Gen Abrams though,

battles should be fought with feet planted firmly on the ground and that making a fetish out of jumping out of airplanes is puerile
Abrams hated the Airborne Mafia(which had been in charge at HQDA & USARV). He was armor branched, led the 37th Armor (4th Armored Division) in WWII. His unit relieved the 101st at Bastogne. Patton alledgedly considered Abrams the best armor commander of the war next to himself.

Abrams also made the boonie cap authorized for only Female Pers. as he hated the individuality of it. Yet encouraged all the trappings of Stetson hats and Spurs for Armor/Cav units, go figure.

He removed 5th SF Grp from Vietnam in the aftermath of the trial.
 
#9
Hi mnairb.

I think that is not quite correct

While the Australian Advisors attached to project DELTA, were top heavy with SAS types, some of whom had previous experience in crossing borders in CLARET Operations, there is no evidence that they actually crossed into Cambodia.

If you've got more, I'd love to hear it.

Regards

MIck
 

RP578

LE
Book Reviewer
#11
chippymick said:
Goldbricker said:
RP578 said:
]

He removed 5th SF Grp from Vietnam in the aftermath of the trial.
No he didn't.

Regards

Mick.
He did put a "Straight Leg" non-SF type in charge of it after Col Rheault's departure though.

Chippy, the reason I asked about Aus/NZ involvement with the PRUs is that IO recall the Aussie mini-series "Vietnam", starring a very young Nicole Kidman and which (on reflection was pretty gash actually) featured this scene

By the way, when you said Aus SAS types worked as 'contractors' do you mean in they worked as civilians or were still in the Army, but on secondment?
 
#12
RP578 said:
chippymick said:
Goldbricker said:
RP578 said:
]

He removed 5th SF Grp from Vietnam in the aftermath of the trial.
No he didn't.

Regards

Mick.
He did put a "Straight Leg" non-SF type in charge of it after Col Rheault' s departure though.

Chippy, the reason I asked about Aus/NZ involvement with the PRUs is that IO recall the Aussie mini-series "Vietnam", starring a very young Nicole Kidman and which (on reflection was pretty gash actually) featured this scene

By the way, when you said Aus SAS types worked as 'contractors' do you mean in they worked as civilians or were still in the Army, but on secondment?
Hi RP

Rheault really got the rough end of the pineapple. He'd only been there for ten minutes and this happened.

Nicole Kidman has never ever done a thing for me. I never ever got it.

I didn't say 'SAS types' worked as contractors, I merely gave an example of one who 'might have', even then he was still AATTV and NOT SAS.. A very important distinction. I've been told by a usually impeccable source that Simpson VC in the period when he resigned from the Oz Army in the mid sixties, and then joined back up again took up a contract as a PRU advisor in Vietnam. I've never seen it verified anywhere else. Simpson was awarded the Victoria Cross, on a tour, after his 'holiday'.


If true, as a contract PRU Advisor he would have had his wages paid by the CIA. It was a CIA project after all. He could have well been working alongside someone, doing the same job, who was 'still in' with AATTV and being paid by the Australian taxpayer.

The lines are very blurry.

At what point does someone become 'CIA'?

Is it when they are seconded to a project? Is it when they take a contract? Is it when they become permanently appointed, or is it just when they are a source?

It is important not to play fast and loose with this stuff, because it all gets lost in a rush of "Ohmygosh, it's CIA, it's SAS!"

There is an anachronistic trap involved here. In the 1960's the CIA were still regarded as the 'good guys' and SAS were merely regarded as 'specialised soldiers'. All that changed after Princess Gate and Hollywood got a hold of things.

Hollywood has a lot to answer for. Face facts. Nicole Kidman is a Gwar.


Regards

Mick
 

RP578

LE
Book Reviewer
#13
Sorry mate, I wasn't trying to play 'gotcha'. What I meant was, were the Australian advisors with the PRUs civilians for the duration of their stint or were they still in the military, and I'm guessing the latter. I asked because the word contractor in this day and age has the connotation of a Private Military Company type.

The whole 'working for the CIA' thing is a bit academic really and frankly superfluous. It does raise the question though, did the Australian Secret Intelligence Service ever conduct its own Ops?
 
#14
RP578 said:
Sorry mate, I wasn't trying to play 'gotcha'. What I meant was, were the Australian advisors with the PRUs civilians for the duration of their stint or were they still in the military, and I'm guessing the latter. I asked because the word contractor in this day and age has the connotation of a Private Military Company type.

The whole 'working for the CIA' thing is a bit academic really and frankly superfluous. It does raise the question though, did the Australian Secret Intelligence Service ever conduct its own Ops?
Hi RP

I didn't think you were playing 'gotcha'.

The Australians with the PRU's were definitely military. With the one possible exception I have mentioned. (Not counting National Police, which amounted to the same thing.)

I know nothing about modern military operations or how the term 'contractors'' might be applied today. I am a living anachronism :D I do however suspect that the Vietnam era CIA contractors were the model upon which they were based.


Disagree a bit on superfluous, it goes to the nub of the issue.


ASIS did nothing in Vietnam. We were in it for alliance management reasons and had no real strategic interest in the place. All eyes were on Indonesia.

Regards

Mick
 

RP578

LE
Book Reviewer
#15
chippymick, I am astoundingly impressed by the depth of your knowledge on this. You obviously lived the history, but for me it's really just the idle curiosity of an inherently nosey bugger.

A couple of things did stand out (and I realise that I'm getting way, ay off thread, but f*ck it) though;

chippymick said:
Disagree a bit on superfluous, it goes to the nub of the issue.
That one flew right over my head. Does it really matter if personnel were temporarily placed under the command of an agency, or were in fact paid members of of it, if the results are the same?



chippymick said:
ASIS did nothing in Vietnam. We were in it for alliance management reasons and had no real strategic interest in the place. All eyes were on Indonesia.
Now this is an interesting one! Correct me when I err here, but wasn't Australia initially very reluctant to deploy troops to Borneo (I realise that they had some on the Malay Peninsular throughout the Confrontation), doing so in 1964 after repeated British requests? The AATTV deploy to South Viet Nam in 1962 which would indicate a different set of priorities for the Australian Government.

I realise that Australia feared that the fighting in Borneo might have adverse effect on the Papua New Guinea border, but as with invasion of East Timor, it does seem as if successive governments in Canberra have preferred to avoid upsetting Jakarta.
 

RP578

LE
Book Reviewer
#16
I meant to add, in that clip I posted earlier, the Australians refer to the Viet Cong as "Nogs". Is that accurate? I never heard that before.

You'll also note that one of the SASR blokes gives the captive a tin of Budweiser. Now we all know it should a "VB"!
 
#17
RP578 said:
I meant to add, in that clip I posted earlier, the Australians refer to the Viet Cong as "Nogs". Is that accurate? I never heard that before.

You'll also note that one of the SASR blokes gives the captive a tin of Budweiser. Now we all know it should a "VB"!
I think the diggers always referred to the enemy as 'nogs' or 'the enemy'.

A very good book on this subject is Tiger Men by Barry Petersen, who was in this situation up to the eyeballs, and makes Col. Kurtz look naive! I'm not sure if Petersen was THEM, but he did the 'Code of Conduct' course (RTI) during his build up training, and only sneaky-beaky types did that sort of training in those days.

I really recommend Tiger Men, if only to wonder how much the author had to omit!
 
#18
Hi RP

Re: This bit.

That one flew right over my head. Does it really matter if personnel were temporarily placed under the command of an agency, or were in fact paid members of of it, if the results are the same?

I say yes it does, particularly given your first post which states:

The whole case sounds bizarre i.e. the CIA using SF to assinate agents and the US Army charging them for it. From what I can glean from Wiki, the Sec of the Army dismissed the case. Does anyone know anymore about what happened?

The point I was gently trying to make was that in Vietnam generally and in this case in particular, contrary to popular opinion, the CIA did not use SF or anyone else for that matter, to assassinate anybody. The CIA unfairly get the blame for the most famous Vietnam era assassination, that of the Ngo brothers in 1963, this came as a complete surprise to those who plotted the coup.

That the CIA ended up with the reputation as ruthless assassins as a result of their activities in Vietnam can be put down to journalists with a particular ideological bent. One of the most famous and flawed contributions to the oeuvre was Douglas Valentines “The Phoenix Program’. You can read it for free here, but that would deny you the opportunity to use the hard copy as toilet paper. A fate, which it so richly deserves.

Valentine, who already had an inbuilt bias, was utterly taken in by a brazen Walt named Elton Manzione. If nothing else, this episode shows the true benefits of the noble art of ‘Walt-hunting’ and the important contribution it makes to the way that history is recorded. :D


Now this is an interesting one! Correct me when I err here, but wasn't Australia initially very reluctant to deploy troops to Borneo (I realise that they had some on the Malay Peninsular throughout the Confrontation), doing so in 1964 after repeated British requests? The AATTV deploy to South Viet Nam in 1962 which would indicate a different set of priorities for the Australian Government.

I realise that Australia feared that the fighting in Borneo might have adverse effect on the Papua New Guinea border, but as with invasion of East Timor, it does seem as if successive governments in Canberra have preferred to avoid upsetting Jakarta.
[/i]

I am astoundingly impressed by the depth of your knowledge on this. :D You are dead right. It illustrates the point that Australia’s strategic interests and priorities were out of synch with the UK in the 1960’s. In 1961, Australia was very keen to commit the battalion with 28th Comm. Bde to intervene in Laos. The UK vetoed it in SEATO. The UK simply couldn’t afford it and it did not advance the UK’s strategic interests. Which at that time was to retain the favourable UK trading preference with its Asian ex-colonies.

Australia had to be pushed kicking and screaming into Borneo because it didn’t want to antagonise the Indonesians with whom we shared a long land border with in PNG. That all changed of course after Suharto’s ‘living dangerously’ speech. At which time Australia realised the seriousness of the situation and was prepared to commit one of its very few Infantry battalions to Borneo. In addition Australia felt insecure enough to want a bit of nuclear deterrence. Something the UK was generous enough to provide, with a flight of ‘V’ Bombers based out of Darwin.


I meant to add, in that clip I posted earlier, the Australians refer to the Viet Cong as "Nogs". Is that accurate? I never heard that before.
You'll also note that one of the SASR blokes gives the captive a tin of Budweiser. Now we all know it should a "VB"!


Australians often referred to all Vietnamese as ‘Nogs’, obviously a contraction of Nig-Nog so it was a derogatory and racist appellation that reflected typical attitudes of the time. VC/NVA enemy were referred to as Nigel Nog or simply Nigel, kind of similar to Terry Taliban or Terry. The more things change eh?

Regards

Mick
 
#19
mnairb said:
I don't know about NZSAS, but Aussi SAS worked very successfully along the Cambodian border, intercepting supply trains along the Ho Chi Minh trail.
There is absolutely no reference to any such activity in the books published so far on the Australian SAS. However, you may be thinking about the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV) units that worked with the Montagnards under CIA auspices in that area.

The AATTV is/was the most highly decorated unit in the Australian Armed Forces:
Victoria Cross (VC) 4
Distinguished Service Order (DSO) 2
Order of the British Empire (OBE) 3
Member of the British Empire (MBE) 6
Military Cross (MC) 6
Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) 20
Military Medal (MM) 16
British Empire Medal (BEM) 4
Mentioned in Dispatches (MID) 49
Queens Commendation 4

Over the ten year period of their existence there were about 1,000 members of the team in total.

There is an excellent book about the AATTV called "The Team" by Ian McNeil. Unfortunately it is out of print but it is the best one detailing their history.
 
#20
auscam said:
RP578 said:
I meant to add, in that clip I posted earlier, the Australians refer to the Viet Cong as "Nogs". Is that accurate? I never heard that before.

You'll also note that one of the SASR blokes gives the captive a tin of Budweiser. Now we all know it should a "VB"!
I think the diggers always referred to the enemy as 'nogs' or 'the enemy'.

A very good book on this subject is Tiger Men by Barry Petersen, who was in this situation up to the eyeballs, and makes Col. Kurtz look naive! I'm not sure if Petersen was THEM, but he did the 'Code of Conduct' course (RTI) during his build up training, and only sneaky-beaky types did that sort of training in those days.

I really recommend Tiger Men, if only to wonder how much the author had to omit!

Hi Auscam.

Petersen was never 'them', straight infantry he was.

Mind you the bloke he replaced was ex-UK 'them'.

The 'Code of conduct' course was not restricted to sneaky beaks. The course run at 'Phillip Island' always was. The finishing school was run by the UK out of Singapore. Not many did that one. Petersen's predecessor certainly did.

There is a lot that Petersen omits.

I simply chuckle when Petersen is tagged as the inspiration for 'Colonel Kurtz' The movie is a nonsense and he joins a long list of other 'inspirations' including Hackworth and the previously mentioned Rheault WTF?

Will the real inspiration please stand up?

While Petersen might have enjoyed the experience of 'going native', what military utility did his Truong Son Force achieve? You won't find that in Tiger Men. That is ultimately the most important bit he omits. What did they achieve?

Petersen probably achieved much more in terms of 'military utility' on his second tour with 2RAR in 70-71, when as a Company Commander he did quite well. He scored an MID for that one, at a time when even MID's were hard to come by.

Regards

Mick
 

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