"Green Berets On Trial"

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by RP578, Feb 4, 2010.

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  1. RP578

    RP578 LE Book Reviewer

    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:

    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?
  2. RP578

    RP578 LE Book Reviewer

    Thanks for that link babon6! That made a fascinating read. This little blurb has an enduring relevance.

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

  3. 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.


  4. RP578

    RP578 LE Book Reviewer


    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
  5. 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.
  6. 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


  7. 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.
  8. 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.


  10. RP578

    RP578 LE Book Reviewer

  12. RP578

    RP578 LE Book Reviewer

    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?
  13. 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.


  14. RP578

    RP578 LE Book Reviewer

    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;

    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?

    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.