Dear John/Green BeretsPublished 8:14pm Thursday, November 8, 2012
Who originated the Green Beret?
— Helen Eby, Dowagiac
Edson Raff, one of the first Special Forces officers, is credited with its rebirth.
I used to have the 1965 book by Robin Moore, listened on WLS in 1966 to “Ballad of the Green Berets” performed by Barry Sadler, a Vietnam veteran and Green Beret (the song was written by Sadler and Moore) and saw the 1968 film with John Wayne as Col. Kirby.
I even know one, Southwestern Michigan College President David Mathews.
The origins of the Green Beret, which Special Forces personnel wear, can be traced to Scotland during World War II.
U.S. Army Rangers and Office of Strategic Services (OSS) operatives who trained with British commandos were awarded green berets if they finished the grueling course, but that one was not authorized by the U.S. Army even among Rangers and OSS operatives who earned them.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy authorized them for use exclusively by U.S. Special Forces.
Preparing for an Oct. 12 visit to the Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, N.C., JFK sent word to the commander, Col. William P. Yarborough, for all Special Forces soldiers to don green berets as part of the event.
JFK felt that since they fulfilled a special mission, Special Forces should be set apart from the rest.
In 1962, President Kennedy called green berets “a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom.”
“It was President Kennedy who was responsible for the rebuilding of the Special Forces and giving us back our Green Beret,” said Forrest Lindley, a writer for the newspaper Stars and Stripes.
“People were sneaking around wearing it when conventional forces weren’t in the area, and it was sort of a cat-and-mouse game,” said Lindley, who served with Special Forces in Vietnam. “When Kennedy authorized the Green Beret as a mark of distinction, everybody had to scramble around to find berets that were really green. We were bringing them down from Canada. Some were handmade, with the dye coming out in the rain.”
Commemorating the 25th anniversary of JFK’s Nov. 22, 1963, assassination, Gen. Michael D. Healy, last Special Forces commander in Vietnam, spoke at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where I had chills when I visited.
I’ll never be a veteran, but I always go to Veterans Day programs and pay tribute to my dad, Wilson G. Eby, who served in World War II in Italy and North Africa. I treasure the journal he kept.