11th Special Forces Group (Abn)
The Official History of the 11th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
Colonel Kenneth S. Bergquist, Commanding
Robert M. Doyle, Command Sergeant Major
Compiled by First Lieutenant John G. Heidenrich
S-2 Section, 11th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort George G. Meade, Maryland
12 September 1993
To the Members, Past and Present,
of the 11th Special Forces Group (Airborne).
Although their names and accomplishments are too numerous to list, the late Captain Dean K. Phillips,
Commander of the 11th Signal Company, was a fitting example. A tireless advocate for American war veterans like
himself, Captain Phillips was prematurely silenced by cancer in 1985. He relinquished command of his unit only
five days before he died. The Drop Zone on Fort Meade, Maryland, was renamed in his honor and the following
Washington Post article was placed in the Congressional Record by the Honorable Orrin Hatch, U.S. Senator from
The Bonding of War
On Monday morning, the Army, which he had served so valiantly, buried Dean K.
Phillips with the full panoply of military honors that was his due. This much-decorated
citizen soldier and fellow Vietnam veteran was laid to rest in his uniform, the ribbons on
his chest a solemn testament to the professionalism he brought to his calling in the now
distant rice paddies of an earlier and more troubled era. In the end, the ravages of cancer
was able to effect that which another formidable, though less insidious, enemy had been
unable to accomplish almost twenty years previously. Through it all, Dean's courage
served as a beacon to all of us who loved and admired him.
As his friends and family gathered at the grave site in a stand of pines beneath a slate
gray August sky in Arlington National Cemetery to pay their last respects, I reflected on
what his passing meant to me and on the special covenant that binds men who have
experienced the horrors of war. I had been to see him one last time shortly before he
died, not because we were particularly close, but because ours was a kinship forged in the
bloody crucible of Vietnam, and because I felt an urgent need to honor him for what he
had endured. He had by then become a shell of his former self, the cataclysmic virulence
of the cancer having almost run its course, but his handshake remained firm and his
He had been to see Rambo several weeks earlier, which he disliked for a number of
reasons, among them the facile way the picture treated death and the distortedly romantic
gloss it placed on combat. Dean knew better, and we discussed the new patriotism and
the so-called revisionist view of Vietnam at length. He had enlisted in the Army in the
mid-Sixties, despite having been granted a student deferment to attend law school, and he
had refused a commission out of a desire to serve in the ranks. Often at odds with the
Army as an institution, he nevertheless passionately loved its soldiers, and his service in
Vietnam earned him two silver stars, two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart. He told me
that he did not understand the cynical view of patriotism, and he was realistic enough to
know that no amount of revisionism could erase the obloquy returning veterans faced as
they attempted to enter the mainstream of society in the late Sixties and early Seventies.
He had devoted the remainder of his professional life to easing that transition by his
tireless work as an attorney on issues affecting veterans.
I spent several hours with Dean that sultry summer afternoon, and I watched him
mask his pain as he acted the good host and tended to the needs of his company. I could
see also by his conversation and demeanor that he was putting his house in order and
preparing himself for the last battle. As I readied myself to leave, he took my hand in
both of his and told me that he hoped he had been able to do some good for mankind in
the time he had been given. I do not know if his final words to me were a question or a
declaration, but I was only able to squeeze his hands by way of affirmation in what I now
regard as a woefully inadequate response.
Dean Phillips died at home with his family a month later, beaten but not bowed by an
enemy whose onslaughts he was powerless ultimately to turn aside. He was forty-two
years old and left behind grieving parents, a loving wife and daughter, and a two year old
son who will develop, at best, only a vicarious insight into his father's enormous stature.
He is gone now, joined at last with his beloved brothers whose names appear on the
Vietnam Memorial, most of whom died themselves in their teens and twenties well
before their time, like Dean, and I am yet unable to derive any meaning or take any
solace from his death. I know only that he touched my heart, and I am richer for having
shared his life.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE 11th GROUP LINEAGE AND FLASH ...............................................................................................................1
COMMANDERS OF THE 11TH GROUP...................................................................................................................3
IN THE BEGINNING..................................................................................................................................................5
The First Special Service Force................................................................................................................................5
The Establishment of Special Forces.........................................................................................................................6
The 316th Special Forces Detachment (Airborne) ....................................................................................................8
The 2nd Special Forces Group (Airborne) ................................................................................................................9
Tragedy in the Air ..................................................................................................................................................10
CREATION OF THE 11TH.......................................................................................................................................12
Major Exercises of the Sixties................................................................................................................................13
The Shadow of Vietnam.........................................................................................................................................17
The Battle of Grossman Hammock .........................................................................................................................18
Major Exercises of the Seventies............................................................................................................................19
Training in the Eighties ..........................................................................................................................................20
PUBLICATIONS OF THE 11TH GROUP.................................................................................................................23
HONORABLE MENTION ........................................................................................................................................29
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY .................................................................................................................................36
Since its inception over two centuries ago, the United States Army has established a rich heritage of
wartime victories and peacetime accomplishments around the world. This heritage is a source of pride for every
It falls to the military historian to capture the elements of detail that create the rich fabric of our history.
While the most recent combat deployments are always clearest in memory, nonetheless the US Army of today can
trace its roots backward through the Persian Gulf War, Panama, Grenada, Vietnam, the World Wars and so forth, to
the early Colonial militia companies. This heritage is, by rights, the property of every soldier and each unit must
contribute to the collection and presentation of it.
With this solemn responsibility in mind, I am pleased to introduce this official history of the 11th Special
Forces Group (Airborne). It provides a glimpse into our unit's past. It reminds us of how the 11th Group began,
how it progressed, and where it stands today. By understanding our past, we can better anticipate the future.
This is the first official history of the 11th Group. I hope that subsequent members of the Command will
add to this initial offering. Take pride in the heritage that is your due.
KENNETH S. BERGQUIST
COL, MI, USAR
THE 11th GROUP LINEAGE AND FLASH_____________________________
The 11th Special Forces Group (Airborne) actually has three different historical beginnings. Its official
lineage was established by formal administrative decree and dates back to the Second World War. The unofficial
lineage of the 11th Group is its actual history and evolution, beginning with the 316th Special Forces Detachment of
1959. The unofficial heritage of the 11th Group dates back to ancient times, to the earliest days of insurgency and
counterinsurgency warfare. This official unit history will examine all three paths, with an emphasis on the
unofficial lineage and the experiences of its members since 1959. These subjects are examined in subsequent
sections. According to the Office of the Chief, Military History, the official lineage and honors of the 11th Special
Forces Group (Airborne) are as follows:
Constituted 5 July 1942 in the Army of the United States as the 5th Company, 2nd
Battalion, First Regiment, First Special Service Force, a joint Canadian-American
organization. Activated 9 July 1942 at Fort William Henry Harrison, Montana.
Disbanded 6 January 1945 in France.
Reconstituted 15 April 1960 in the Regular Army and designated as Headquarters and
Headquarters Company, 11th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces.
Withdrawn 14 December 1960 from the Regular Army and allotted to the Army Reserve
(organic elements concurrently constituted). Group activated 1 March 1961 with
Headquarters at Boston, Massachusetts.
CAMPAIGN PARTICIPATION CREDIT:
World War II
Southern France (with Arrowhead)
Our current lineage and honors were established in 1986. Prior to that, all Special Forces units had a
lineage that included the famed Ranger Battalions of World War II. In the case of the 11th Group, this lineage went
back to Company B, 2nd Ranger Battalion. This connection credited the 11th SFGA with ten additional wartime
campaigns in Europe and the Pacific, along with four Presidential Unit Citations and the French Croix de Guerre
with Silver-Gilt Star. To provide official lineage to the current Army Ranger formations, this connection with the
earlier Rangers was formally withdrawn from all Special Forces in February 1986 . With this withdrawal, the
Special Forces Command was officially thanked for "preserving" the lineage and honors of the Rangers during the
pre-1986 period. The 2nd Ranger Battalion became the lineage of the current 75th Ranger Regiment.
In the early years of Special Forces, all Reserve Component Special Forces (RCSF) units had the same
flash of a blue field with a white border. With official permission, the 11th Group created its own distinctive red,
white, and blue flash in 1967. Accounts differ concerning why these particular colors were chosen. The colors
were not adopted from the American flag; until recently, the blue portion of the flash was light blue, not dark blue.
One account states that, to represent the then-nationwide expanse of the 11th's elements, the flash shows the eastern
sun (the red portion) setting upon the Pacific west coast (the blue portion), separated by the horizon (the white
stripe). A more likely explanation states that the 11th Group's flash is based upon the red, white, and black flash of
the 6th Special Forces Group (Airborne), an active unit that the 11th reportedly absorbed. The replacement of black
with blue denotes the merger of the 6th SFGA with the RCSF.
COMMANDERS OF THE 11TH GROUP_________________________________
Raymond J. Glaze
2nd SFGA 1962 -1964
2nd SFGA 1964 -1965
Major (Acting Commander)
Richard L. Clark
Charles E. Chambers
Richard L. Clark
James E. Willoughby
Carlton A. Mallory
Paul E. Lima
Kenneth S. Bergquist
IN THE BEGINNING________________________________________________
Special operations, the basic function of Special Forces, are as old as warfare itself. The oldest deep
reconnaissance mission ever recorded can be found in the Biblical Book of Numbers (13:1-2), in which God
directed Moses to "send men to spy out the land of Canaan." Moses sent out twelve men (the size of a standard
Special Forces A-team) with these instructions:
"Make your way up the Negeb, and go on into the hill-country. See what the land is
like, and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. See
whether it is easy or difficult country in which they live, and whether the cities in which
they live are weakly defended or well fortified; is the land fertile or barren, and does it
grow trees or not? Go boldly in and take some of its fruit."
Today, the objectives of a modern reconnaissance mission would not be much different. Some years after
this Biblical passage was written, the ancient Chinese warrior-philosopher Sun Tzu wrote his classic military
treatise, The Art of War. In it, he urged his students to adopt the unconventional methods inherent in Special
Forces, and to avoid the protracted conflict that Special Forces can wage:
"Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be
regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances...Water shapes its course according to
the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe
whom he is facing.
"(If) the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the
strain. When your weapons are dulled, your ardor dampened, your strength exhausted
and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your
extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must
ensue...There is no instance of a country that benefited from prolonged warfare."
The American experience with unconventional warfare dates back to Colonial times. In 1756, during the
French and Indian War, Major Robert Rogers raised nine militia companies that became the first Rangers. Since
that time, forerunners of Special Forces have played a role in every major American conflict, up to and including
the Korean War. Perhaps the most famous of these forerunners was Colonel Francis Marion (known as the Swamp
Fox) during the American Revolution, and later Confederate Colonel John Mosby during the American Civil War.
The First Special Service Force
All modern Special Forces, including the 11th SFGA, can trace their lineage back to the First Special
Service Force (FSSF) of World War II. The FSSF was the brainchild of Geoffrey Nathaniel Pyke, an eccentric
English scientist and armchair tactician. In 1942, with the blessing of Britain's Lord Louis Mountbatten and Prime
Minister Winston Churchill, he convinced the US War Department to form a joint Canadian-American brigade-size
force equipped with high-speed armored snowmobiles. The purpose, codenamed Project Plough, was to tie down
half-a-million German troops in the mountains of Norway, Romania, and Italy through guerrilla warfare.
Although the FSSF was raised and trained, the perceived difficulties in resupplying it kept the unit from
being sent to perform its intended mission. Indeed, the Force was almost disbanded soon after its creation. But its
first commander, American Colonel Robert Frederick, managed to save it by transforming the unit into an elite
shock force, capable of performing almost any combat mission anywhere.
Thus began a legendary unit. On the Allied beachhead at Anzio, Italy, the Force successfully defended a
perimeter twice the length held by the nearby American 3rd Infantry Division. After the Allied breakout, the FSSF
became the first Allied unit to enter Rome. Western correspondents wrote about the unit at length, frequently
noting the grudging respect the Germans displayed toward it. Sergeant Bill Murray, the famed GI cartoonist, based
several of his "Willie and Joe" depictions upon its actual experiences.
Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the First Special Service Force was its first combat engagement,
portrayed in the film The Devil's Brigade with William Holden as Colonel Frederick and Cliff Robertson as his
French-Canadian subordinate. In late 1943, the Germans in Italy had managed to block the progress of the entire
American Fifth Army by holding the commanding twin peaks of Monte la Defensa and Monte la Remetanea. For
weeks, the Fifth Army had repeatedly tried and failed to seize these heavily fortified peaks, with a cost of heavy
By scaling Monte la Defensa --a height of 1,000 meters, including a 70-meter cliff, up to ledges barely
wide enough to hold a single man, let alone several --the FSSF managed to sieze the first peak within hours.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower later wrote:
"In mountain passes the Germans constructed defenses almost impregnable to attack.
Yankee ingenuity and resourcefulness were tested to the limit. Shortly after the capture
of Monte Camino, I was taken to a spot where, in order to outflank on these mountain
strongpoints, a small detachment had put on a remarkable exhibition of mountain
climbing. With the aid of ropes, a few of them climbed steep cliffs of great height. I have
never understood how, encumbered by their equipment, they were able to do it. In fact, I
think that any Alpine climber would have examined the place doubtfully before
attempting to scale it. Nevertheless, the detachment reached the top and ferreted out the
German company headquarters. They entered and seized the captain, who ejaculated,
'You can't be here! It is impossible to come up those rocks!'"
Despite the surprise, the battle for Monte la Defensa was extremely fierce. Even after the summit was
cleared, the Force had to endure several days of German sniper and mortar fire. Amid this harrassment, however -
and only two days after La Defensa was taken --the FSSF's 1st Regiment (from which the 11th SFGA is descended)
was sent to clear out the saddle area between La Defensa and La Remetanea. It did so, despite being outnumbered
four-to-one. Hours later, the summit of Monte la Remetanea was conquered by the Force.
Of the 1,800 Forcemen who participated in the struggle for the twin peaks, over 500 became casualties.
Similar massive losses were suffered in the months that followed. At Monte Sammucro in early 1944, the 1st
Regiment overcame the mountain's German defenses within thirty minutes, but was virtually decimated in the
process. Yet after this and other engagements, the Force was reconstituted again and again. Wounded Forcemen
frequently left their hospital beds to rejoin their comrades. Colonel Frederick himself was wounded six times
during his command of the unit.
In December 1944, the First Special Service Force held a final parade at Villeneuve-Loubet in France.
Ironically, the Force was a victim of its own success. By late 1944, there were no more special missions to perform.
In recognition of its contribution against Nazi Germany, the colors of the Force received an honorary battle streamer
for "duty" in the German Rhineland. The Force was officially disbanded on January 6th, 1945.
The Establishment of Special Forces
With the end of World War II in 1945, the fate of the First Special Service Force was not unusual.
Virtually every American special operations organization was disbanded, including the Army Rangers and the
Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Even amid the first years of the Cold War, the United States failed to
reinvigorate its special operations capability until the late Nineteen Forties.
As fears of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe grew ever larger, the United States eventually organized
various resistance-oriented "stay-behind" forces in case the Soviets attacked. The fledgling Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA) also began to undertake various special operations. And on the Korean peninsula, in response to the
North Korean attack in 1950, special operations were mounted by the United Nations Partisan Forces Korea
On June 20th, 1952, the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was established at Fort Bragg, North
Carolina. The 10th SFGA was the US Army's first permanent unit skilled in unconventional warfare --and its
creation marked the advent of modern American Special Forces. Although all Special Forces take pride in the
creation of the 10th Group, members of the 11th SFGA can take particular pride since the 11th has enjoyed
particularly close ties with the 10th for many years. By 1961, there were four active Special Forces groups, with the
1st Special Forces as their regimental parent. Yet the number of personnel remained small --only about 3,000 -
until their military potential captured the interest of President John F. Kennedy.
President Kennedy had good reason to be interested. As a patrol boat skipper during World War II, he and
his surviving crew had been rescued by special operations personnel after his boat, PT-109, was sunk by a Japanese
destroyer in 1943. As President, Kennedy became an avid supporter of Special Forces and obviously a powerful
one. Among other actions, he approved the green beret for official wear, calling it "a symbol of excellence; a badge
of courage; a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom."
Upon his assassination, perhaps no element of the US Armed Forces felt his loss more deeply than did
Special Forces. The Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg was renamed in his honor. Members of Special Forces
served in his funeral Honor Guard. And there is a widely told story that one member of this Honor Guard removed
his own green beret and presented it as a posthumous gift.
What is not so widely known is the role played by Army reservists, specifically from a forerunner of the
11th SFGA, in the funeral of President John F. Kennedy. The following article from an Army publication of the
time tells the story:
"Reservists Serve As Honor Guard"
On the day following the assassination of President Kennedy, two Army Reservists
served as members of the Honor Guard stationed in the East Room of the White House,
where the remains of the late President were lying in state.
The family of the late President had requested that members of the Army's Special
Forces (SF) be included in the Guard of Honor. As no Active Army SF units were
stationed in the Washington area, and as it would be late evening before SF personnel
could be brought up to Washington from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, a call went out to
Major Richard S. Friedman, Executive Officer of Company B, 2nd Special Forces Group
(Airborne), 1st Special Forces, Fort Myer, Virginia.
As the result of the call, shortly after noon, Master Sergeant Arthur C. Gunther, Jr.,
and Specialist Four Harold B. Robinson, both of Washington, D.C., and both members of
Company B, reported to the Officer-in-Charge of the Honor Guard at the White House.
Both Reservists subsequently served in the Honor Guard until the arrival of the Active
Army SF Detachment from Fort Bragg late that evening.
Company B, 2nd SFGA, was absorbed by the 11th SFGA in 1966 and eventually became the 11th Group's
Headquarters and Headquarters Company at Fort Meade, Maryland. After the funeral of President Kennedy, the 3rd
Group at Fort Bragg expressed its thanks to Company B in a gracious Christmas card. Master Sergeant Gunther and
Specialist Four Robinson later received formal certificates of appreciation from Major General Philip C. Wehle,
Commanding General of the Military District of Washington.
The 316th Special Forces Detachment (Airborne)
During the Nineteen Fifties, as Special Forces gradually gained supporters within the Active Component, a
growing number of Special Forces Detachments (SFDs) were established within the Reserve Components. Among
these was the 316th Special Forces Detachment (Airborne), formed in 1959. Perhaps the man most responsible for
the creation of the 316th was then-Captain Richard S. Friedman.
An intelligence officer by branch, Friedman had served with the OSS during World War II. While in
German-occupied territory, he once strolled past a Gestapo police headquarters disguised as a peddler pushing a cart
of apples. Someone even photographed the spectacle. Not surprisingly, he found peacetime to be much less
exciting, especially in the Army Reserve. By the late Fifties, Friedman was drilling at a USAR school and anxious
to find something new. On May 20th, 1959, he sent a letter to his Area Command, which included units in and
around Washington, DC:
"Approximately three and one-half years ago, the undersigned reserve officer,
together with a number of other reserve officers and enlisted men, were rendered surplus
from troop-basis units then in existance in the area. It had been learned from a DA
publication --'The Army Reservist' --that Special Forces Detachments were being
activated in the Reserve Components. Request was made for allocation of such a unit to
the District of Columbia Military District..."
This request was never carried out, but Friedman was persistent. He mentioned that, in early 1959, a staff
officer in the Pentagon's Office of the Chief, Special Warfare (UW), had told him that an SFD could be established
in the Washington area. After further inquiries, Friedman ultimately spoke to the Second Army's Reserve
Operations Officer at Fort Meade, Maryland, who
"...suggested that the undersigned officer undertake to determine if there were
sufficiently interested personnel in the area in number adequate to form, at least, a
training unit with the idea that --if a successful training unit could be activated --then
later consideration could be requested for TOE status.
"...The list of names of these persons is attached hereto."
One month later, in June 1959, the 316th Special Forces Detachment (Airborne) was activated at USAR
Center Number 1, in Louisanna Hall, Fort Myer, Virginia. Its first commander was Lieutenant Colonel Erven E.
Boettner of Silver Spring, Maryland. Captain Friedman became the Detachment S-1 and recruited the unit's first
personnel. Within a few months, the unit produced this press release:
Since its activation in mid-1959, the 316th has grown from one man to an almost full
strength of thirty. A tough and realistic training program has included work with the
Navy's submarines, the Air Force troop carriers, and the firing facilities of the Marine
Corps School at Quantico. Under the direction of Colonel Boettner, the 316th Special
Forces Detachment represented the Army Reserve at the Armed Forces Day display at
Andrews Air Force Base, receiving four commendations in the process. In recent
months, the unit established its own radio station in Louisana Hall for additional
Members of the 316th with more than usual experience in the field include a former
wartime OSS member who served behind the lines in France and Italy; a wartime
member of the Polish underground; and an officer, fluent (in) Chinese, who served as an
advisor to the Nationalist Government on Formosa. Many members of the unit saw
combat in World War II or Korea with airborne or infantry divisions.
Several skills to be mastered in the coming year (of 1960) include horseback riding,
skiing, snowshoeing, and skin-diving.
The initial organization of the 316th bore little resemblence to a current Special Forces detachment. At
that time, the designation "team" referred to different units at several levels. In December 1959, the first edition of
Bravo Bugle (the 316th's newsletter) showed the 316th as having a senior headquarters, known as the FD, in
Columbus, Ohio. This element was described as having "engaged in some good survival training" at the Strategic
Air Command's survival school at Lockbourne Air Force Base. Its training had even been broadcast by a local
Columbus television station. Beneath the FD headquarters were three FC teams, known as FC-1, FC-2, and FC-3.
The 316th Special Forces Detachment was FC-3. The locations of FC-1 and FC-2 were unpublished. Beneath each
FC was a single FA team, which later became the "A-team" of more contemporary doctrine.
"A-team" is one of the few organizational terms that has remained with Special Forces up through the
present day. By 1960, the average Special Forces detachment consisted of much more than a single A-team. Back
then, four A-teams comprised a B-team commanded by a major. Three or four B-teams comprised a C-team, which
was typically the entire detachment. The C-team/detachment was typically commanded by a lieutenant colonel.
The terms "B-team" and "C-term" soon fell out of vogue, however, replaced by the more traditional terms of
"company" and "battalion" (or "group" in the case of a separate battalion-size unit). The term "detachment" became
synomous with "A-team" and the 316th SFD soon reflected this change. In late 1961, the unit was redesignated as
Company B, 2nd Special Forces Group (Airborne).
The 2nd Special Forces Group (Airborne)
Established in November 1961, the 2nd Special Forces Group (Airborne) was headquartered at Fort Hayes,
Ohio, near the city of Columbus. It controlled units throughout the northeast and mid-Atlantic states. The 11th
SFGA absorbed the 2nd Group in early 1966. Up until then, however, the 2nd SFGA was a full-fledged Reserve
Component Special Forces (RCSF) group in its own right and had little to do with the 11th.
Training opportunities during this period were very limited, a reflection of the general lack of support
given to the Reserve Components. This problem was especially acute in Special Forces, since even its active
component was neglected until the Kennedy Administration. If a new reservist wanted to become Special Forces
Qualified, he normally had to wait several months or even years before a slot became available to attend Airborne
School. There was no opportunity for the reservist to attend the active Special Forces Qualification course at Fort
Bragg. Instead, he was expected to learn his craft through correspondence courses. Once he felt confident enough
of his skills, he was tested in the field by Regular Army evaluators during a two-week Annual Training period. If
he met with their satisfaction, and they were reportedly quite honest in their assessment, then the reservist became
"SFQ" and was allowed to wear the coveted tab. Throughout this period, however, he and everyone else in his unit
was allowed to wear the green beret.
Since training was essential, albeit not well funded, reservists in Special Forces went to great lengths to
employ what Special Forces have become famous (or infamous) for: taking initiative. In 1963, at the 2nd Group's
Company B had little more than a dilapidated building in Maryland's Upper Marlboro County (which the unit had
relocated into, not out of); some obsolescent field gear (including aging M-1 Carbine rifles); and a small collection
of World War II-vintage small arms for display and familiarization purposes. But the unit was also located near
Andrews Air Force Base. Bravo Company persuaded the Air Force to let the unit conduct weekend parachute
jumps and other air-land exercises. This was good initiative, and Bravo Company wanted to advertise it.
Photographs were taken, after-action reports were written, and a fairly elaborate summary was produced. One
junior officer then took the very bold initiative of personally dropping off this proud summary at the Pentagon --in
the Office of the Secretary of the Army. He was later telephoned by a senior officer who praised the officer's desire
to please, but informed him that Bravo Company's training was not quite in accordance with standard Special Forces
Tragedy in the Air
On April 18th, 1964, about thirty members of the 2nd SFGA boarded nine C-119 "Flying Boxcar"
transport planes in preparation for an early-evening jump. Among them was the group commander, Lieutenant
Colonel Ray J. Glaze. An airborne officer during World War II, Colonel Glaze had undertaken several missions
behind enemy lines in Europe and the Far East. As a reservist, he had struggled to build the new 2nd SFGA into an
effective Special Forces unit. As the senior officer present, he boarded the first plane. The nine C-119s took off at
about 2040 hours, amid a dark and threatening sky. The paratroopers hoped to make their jump before an
approaching rain storm denied them the opportunity.
It was not to be. Aboard the second plane was Sergeant First Class William H. Kremer, Jr., the aircraft
jumpmaster. His frequent checks of the weather outside always yielded the same result: rain. The C-119s made
three passes over the drop zone. Three times, the weather proved prohibitive. The jump was cancelled. Staff
Sergeant William L. Zugelder, riding on the same plane as Kremer, took a cockpit seat behind the pilot and started
to gaze out a side window as the storm gradually passed.
Looking out that window, Zugelder saw something that paralyzed him with fear. He tried to shout a
warning but no words came out. Suddenly a loud crash thundered through the aircraft. Kremer stared in disbelief
as the troop compartment separated itself from him and started disintegrating. Two C-119s had collided in mid-air
and Kremer was in one of them!
But only for an instant. A row of overhead lights above him suddenly vanished, and the roar of aircraft
engines and twisting metal was quickly replaced by silence. Kremer felt himself falling through a black void with
wind slipping across his body. Realizing what had happened, he instinctively reached for the handle on his reserve
chute --but he could not grab it! It was blocked by his rucksack, lifted by the rushing air from its place fastened
below his reserve chute. Pushing away the rucksack for dear life, he managed to grip and pull the elusive handle.
Moments later (or an eternity later, depending upon your point of view), the chute opened.
As he descended at a much slower speed than before, Kremer noticed several metal fragments falling
nearby. Suddenly, a giant ball of flame shot past him and exploded upon the ground. "I made it!" It took a
moment for Kremer to realize that he had just heard his own voice. After a further pause, he remarked, "I hope you
guys made it..."
Kremer landed in a country field, wet with mud. After releasing himself, he cried out, "Hey! This is
Kremer! I'm okay! Let me know where you're at and I can help you!" No one answered. Kremer rolled up his
chute and left it with his unopened main chute. His rucksack had remained with him throughout his descent. He
slung it over his shoulder and ran toward a distant white canopy near the blazing wreakage. The mud was ankle-
deep and a barbed wire fence slowed his pace even more. But he reached the chute and found a badly injured
captain moaning beneath some metal debris.
Kremer used his sleeping bag to comfort the officer and then shouted for help. Six civilians from a nearby
farmhouse soon arrived and took the captain away. Despite the help, the captain later died. Kremer continued to
search for survivors --and passed three corpses before he found one. It was Staff Sergeant Zugelder, almost
unconscious with pain.
The collision had apparently knocked Zugelder through the roof of the C-119, injuring his shoulders and
chest. It also snagged his static line, which miraculously opened his parachute. "I guess we're lucky guys," Kremer
said, more to himself than to Zugelder. "Neither one of us had his seat belt fastened!"
In all, the collusion --the Army's worst mid-air collusion ever --killed seventeen men, including
Lieutenant Colonel Glaze. Exactly one year later, in April 1965, the 2nd SFGA held a memorial service for those
who died. William Kremer, meanwhile, continued to jump. Indeed, only one month after his rather unorthodox exit
from a disintegrating C-119, he made a more routine jump from another C-119 --his fourteenth. Kremer, whose
32nd birthday began on the night of the collision in 1964, ultimately lived to be 59 years old. He died on August
29th, 1991, at the rank of Sergeant Major. Members of the 2nd Battalion (the former 2nd Group) participated in his
funeral, twenty-seven years after he failed to fasten his seat belts aboard an ill-fated C-119.
CREATION OF THE 11TH____________________________________________
The 11th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was among the first Reserve Component Special Forces groups
to be established. It was created gradually, beginning on April 15th, 1960. To provide it with some official lineage,
the 5th Company of the First Special Service Force's 1st Regiment was administratively reconstituted and
consolidated with Company B, 2nd Ranger Battalion. (This lineage with the Rangers was removed two decades
later.) The new unit was designated the Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC), 11th Special Forces
Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces. Eight months later, on December 14th, 1960, the HHC was withdrawn from
the Regular Army and allocated to the Army Reserve.
Despite the name of its HHC, the 11th Group itself did not officially exist for another two months. On
March 1st, 1961, the 11th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was formally activated with its HHC located in Boston,
Massachusetts. Yet even this action did not establish its operational elements. These were added as Reserve SF
detachments were gradually consolidated around the country.
On March 1st, 1966, the 2nd SFGA was formally absorbed by the 11th and became its 2nd Battalion. The
2nd Battalion is still headquartered near Columbus, Ohio. Its Bravo Company, the former 316th Special Forces
Detachment, was by this time commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Richard Friedman, whose personal initiative had
helped establish the 316th years before. The following excerpts are from a unit press release dated January 31st,
1966. It describes a drill weekend from that era and mentions the company's forthcoming incorporation into the
Regular Army and Army Reserve Special Forces personnel battled their way through
an avalanche of snow and ice at Fort Meade this weekend to complete a scheduled two-
day MOS training session that ended much on the order of an Arctic maneuver.
Receiving the snowy benefits of the training were the members of Company B, 2nd
Special Forces Group (Airborne), an Army Reserve unit commanded by Lieutenant
Colonel Richard S. Friedman. Detachments of Company B train throughout the year at
US Army Reserve training centers located in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania,
Delaware, and the District of Columbia...
The actual MOS training for the Army Reserve Special Forces got underway
Saturday morning at Fort Meade's Education Center Annex. The snow that had fallen the
night before had little effect on the conduct of the training exercise and the scheduled
instruction in light and heavy weapons, demolitions, operations and intelligence,
comunications, medical, supply, and administrative operations. Saturday afternoon, the
Special Forces troopers even braved the cold and snow to practice fire automatic
weapons on Meade's weapons range. Saturday night, the snowfall buried the post under a
14-inch blanket of white --and still the men with the Green Berets continued their
Their Sunday morning and afternoon training schedule called for the firing of
demolition charges and the additional firing of weapons. These operations, however,
were cancelled when the snow drifts on the roads to the ranges stalled the motor trucks
transporting the equipment.
Now that the hectic weekend training exercise is completed, the four-state Special
Forces Army Reserve Company B will be reorganized into two units. The two newly
formed units will be designated as Company B and Company C of the 11th Special
Forces Group, with Company B composed of Special Forces detachments in Delaware,
Pennsylvania, and Maryland. Company C will be formed from detachments in Virginia
and the District of Columbia.
The reorganization of the Special Forces unit will create some 90 officer and enlisted
vacancies...(An) applicant must be over 20 years of age; be able to swim 200 yards; be
able to pass the Airborne Physical Training Test and the Special Forces Selective Battery
On March 31st, 1973, Company B was redesignated as the present Headquarters and Headquarters
Company, 11th Special Forces Group (Airborne) located at Fort Meade, Maryland. 'Not a bad fate for a unit of
such humble beginnings.
Major Exercises of the Sixties
During one night jump in 1966, an A-team was ordered to parachute onto a site identified by an "inverted-
L" pattern, illuminated by flare pots that were extinguished once the jumpers exited their plane. At the appointed
time and place, however, the plane overflew the site without depositing any jumpers. Ground personnel radioed the
pilot, only to discover that the A-team had jumped much earlier. With visions of twisted bodies in mind, the ground
people began to get worried. Were the jumpers hurt? Were they alive? Search parties combed the area for days,
calling with bullhorns for the team leader by name. No one was found. As the exercise drew to close, it was hoped
that the A-team or what remained of it might appear at a prearranged spot where helicopters waited to collect the
team. If the A-team failed to show itself there, the worst was feared.
Sure enough, an unhurt and highly motivated A-team emerged as planned, awaiting their return
transportation. The proud team leader reported that his men had accomplished all their assigned missions without a
hitch. When asked why he and his team had failed to show themselves after numerous search parties had called for
him by name, he replied, "Oh, I thought that was your psyop," refering to a psychological operations ploy. "I wasn't
about to fall for that stuff!" No one ever discovered what illuminated phenomenon the A-team had mistaken for
their jump site.
Throughout the middle and late Nineteen Sixties, the 11th SFGA conducted several large training exercises
in the Allegheny, Monongahela and White Mountain National Forests. During a typical two-week annual training
period, A-teams were airdropped into "enemy-occupied" forests where they recruited, trained, and commanded
"guerrillas" from the local population. The enemy forces, known as the Circle Trigon Party (and played by 11th
Group personnel), actively pursued the teams and encouraged local civilians to do the same. These exercises
usually received front page coverage by the local newspapers. Sometimes these exercises were the only stories on
the local front page. The following excerpts describe one such exercise, known as Operation Cold Sweat, which
took place in the autumn of 1967:
"Green Berets Launch Exercise"
--The Times-Mirror and Observer (September 29th, 1967)
(Warren Country, Pennsylvania) Allegheny National Forest has been occupied as the
first phase of a US Army Special Forces field exercise got underway in sections of five
counties in the area. The exercise was launched Monday when forces of the Circle
Trigon Party moved in strong reconnaissance parties.
The Army issued a special warning to people in the areas about the use of firearms.
There will be considerable shooting from time to time, with some minor explosions and
flares. All firing, however, is done with blank ammunition. The Army expressed
concern that citizens, many of whom own rifles and shotguns, might believe the mock
firing is real and, seeing armed men, might shoot back.
The tactical situation is based on the supposition the eastern United States has been
overrun and subdued by the Circle Trigon Party. The partisans are asking the US Army
-supposedly fighting a conventional war somewhere west of the Mississippi --to send in
a party of Special Forces to organize, train, and lead them in acts of sabotage and war
against occupation troops.
Once entrenched, (the Green Berets) will organize schools and hospitals, as well as
supply depots in the forest, train the partisans and lead them in raids against strategic
points. They will live in the woods, finding what shelter they can and carrying their
ammunition and food. They will be resupplied at least once by airdrop during the
Green Berets will also contact actual citizens in an attempt to get food and shelter
along with information. Meanwhile, the Circle Trigon group will be asking citizens to
provide information on the movements of the Green Berets and their allies. Posters have
already begun circulating warnings against the danger of helping these men.
"Loyal American citizens of Warren and Sheffield --If you come in contact with a
member of the Green Berets, give him all the help, food, shelter and cooperation at your
disposal. They are your friends. The Special Forces are fighting on the side of the
citizens of the Forest. This is your war as well as ours, and we strongly and sincerely
urge those individuals who are, or have been involved in guerrilla operations, to join the
Green Beret liberators."
--Typical 11th SFGA leaflet
"Area Patriots, Green Berets Win Daring Battle on Tionesta Bridge"
--The Derrick (October 3rd, 1967)
(Forest County, Pennsylvania) What was undoubtedly the shortest war in history
ended in victory early Wednesday morning as the Green Berets successfully blew up the
Tionesta Bridge, completely overpowering the Aggressor troops.
The Aggressor troops went on watch at the bridge --just as if they were guarding it
during wartime --at about 10 p.m. on Tuesday. A spokesman for the Aggressors told
The Derrick that they were expecting an attack for the purpose of blowing up the bridge
sometime before 3 a.m.
The night was cold and foggy in Tionesta --and quiet until 1:30 a.m., when two
youths walked along Elm Street, turned left and began to saunter over the bridge. They
were followed by the Forest County Civil Defense Mobile, resembling a miniature tank,
carrying a group of armed Green Berets.
For approximately an hour, Tionesta was turned into a virtual battleground with
intense fighting between the two factions. The dark night was lit with the fire from rifle
shots and flares, and the stillness which had prevailed was invaded by loud yelling and
incessant rifle blasts.
The enemy forces fought valiantly --at one time pushing the Green Berets' mobile off
the bridge with one of their large trucks and pinning it in between two of their trucks at
the end of bridge. However, the Green Berets rose to the occasion and accomplished
their objective --blowing up the bridge and overpowering the enemy.
Needless to say, the episode must have thrown a bit of a scare into several
unsuspecting motorists who turned to go over the bridge --only to back up rather quickly
when they saw two large trucks and the Civil Defense tank battling in the middle of the
"Patriotic Guerrillas and US Special Forces Victorious"
--The Forest Press (October 5th, 1967)
(Tionesta, Pennsylvania) Tionesta residents had survived the initial attack of the
Circle Trigon troops three years ago, fortunately with little damage. And in the ensuing
years, the area had seen little action. It seemed that its residents had almost accepted the
rule of the tyrants.
When the Special Forces (Green Berets) were called in to rout the enemy, they found
the heaviest concentrations in the Kellettville, Duhring and Sheffield areas. Within a
short period of time, with the aid of a quickly-recruited band of Forest County guerrillas,
the enemy was routed. And on Monday of this week, the enemy was in full retreat. This
was not an easy task: the enemy guerrillas were well-entrenched. Through psychological
warfare and well-planned guerrilla attacks on the enemy encampments, they were
However, two vital transportation arteries remained in the western part of the county.
Tionesta provided a means of regrouping and escape for the enemy --the railroad and the
bridge across the Allegheny River. By capturing these vital points, the Special Forces
could be assured of complete control of the area until arrival of the Regular Army forces
from the west.
On Monday, residents read with interest posters that had appeared mysteriously on
electric poles and in store windows; a special edition of The Forest Press appeared
throughout the county proclaiming victory over the enemy Circle Trigon forces.
By Tuesday, many "strange" faces, in non-military attire, appeared along the streets
and by-ways. Hopes began to rise that these were the liberation forces. In secret
meetings, borough officials and prominent citizens were assured that the time for
liberation had arrived. They were asked to break all ties with Circle Trigon personnel
and to volunteer their services for guerrilla tactics which would be necessary if the entire
operation was to be successful.
Several houses were shuttered against the outside and there was considerable activity
in that neighborhood --there was constant coming and going of unfamiliar faces.
Increased traffic appeared as vehicles bearing the despised circle and triangle, and
soldiers wearing the red-fested helmet, made appearances in surprising numbers.
For the first time since the invasion, Circle Trigon guards appeared on the bridge and
along the railroad. Enemy patrols were sent into the hills in search of the liberating
By 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, October 4, Tionesta was restlessly quiet and the streets
were unusually devoid of traffic. Suddenly a loud speaker broke the silence, telling the
enemy to lay down their arms as they were surrounded. This was accompanied by rifle
and mortar fire from all directions. Civilian guerrillas crept onto the bridge and disarmed
the guards. A blast upstream indicated the railroad had been blown; still another was
heard further downstream. Rifle and mortar fire persisted.
Within one-half hour, it was done. The enemy had been forced to surrender.
Tionesta and Forest County had been liberated. News flashed across the country; all
enemy troops were reported in frenzied retreat.
Throughout the night, there were celebrations in the street. On Wednesday morning,
the victorious troops marched into town amid the cheers and tears of its citizens. School
children lined the streets, running out to touch their heroes. Bands trumpeted a loud
acclaim! After a glorious march to the Court House steps, citations and honors were
bestowed on soldiers and citizens alike for their part in this glorious victory.
The game was over. Some 700 members of the Reserves would now return to their
homes having completed the required summer training program. These men left their
families to spend these grueling days in the cold and rain, living off the land,
participating in strenuous maneuvers, and in constant battle with the elements, that they
might be better trained to serve you.
Yes, this was a game. But for many of these boys, the next time it will be for keeps -
in Vietnam, or wherever in the world they are called on to fight for their country and the
cause of freedom.
The Shadow of Vietnam
Like virtually all Army Reserve Component units, the 11th SFGA was not mobilized for duty in Southeast
Asia. Years before, during the reserve mobilizations for the Berlin and Cuban Missile Crises, many mobilized
reservists in other units had complained to their Congressmen. Then as now, the military proficiency of reservists
was also questioned. Even short tours by reservists in Southeast Asia were discouraged for fear of the domestic
political consequences if any "weekend warriors" were killed. In the case of the 11th SFGA, the unit also had a
different geographic orientation than Southeast Asia and its basic mission was unconventional warfare, not
Nonetheless, the 11th Special Forces Group (Airborne) felt the influence of the Vietnam War in certain
ways. During the early years of the conflict, when the war was still considered "limited" and the big American
buildup had not yet taken place, some reservists actually joined the 11th in the belief that the unit would be
mobilized (since active Special Forces were already in-country) and they wanted to go with it. That mobilization
never took place, of course, but contingency plans were drawn up to use the 11th Group to "back-fill" (free up)
elements of the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) stationed in Japan. The plans were never implimented.
As the years passed and American military participation in the war increased, a growing number of new
members joined the 11th Group with experience from Southeast Asia. This experience gradually reflected itself in
the unit's training, especially in lessons concerning "booby traps" and small unit operations. Yet the basic mission
of the 11th remained unconventional warfare, not counterinsurgency.
As the war became unpopular, various members joined the unit to avoid being sent to Southeast Asia. For
many, their induction reflected a race of sorts between the recruiting process and the draft board. Prospective
members had to score well on the Armed Forces Battery Test and pass a subsequent mental aptitude test to
forSpecial Forces. If they succeeded and their candidacy was approved at higher levels, and they still had not been
drafted, they were formally inducted into the 11th Special Forces Group (AIrborne) and henceforth were never
required to go to Vietnam. They did, however, spend almost as much time on active duty as did regular draftees.
The combination of basic training, military specialty training, airborne school, and any other SF-related training
(including, perhaps, the SF Qualification course) often exceeded eighteen months or more. This length of time was
so long, many new members actually qualified for the educational benefits of the GI Bill. It was not unusual for a
new member to enlist as a private and complete his active-duty-for-training as a specialist or even a sergeant.
Roughly two dozen members of the 11th Group volunteered for duty in Vietnam. In doing so, they
forfeited their right to any guaranteed civilian reemployment upon their return. Of those who went, approximately a
handful were killed. Among them was Specialist Kieth Cambell, one of the 11th Group's few fully-trained medics
at that time. A former Regular Army soldier, Cambell served with the 11th until late 1967, when he volunteered
again for active duty. In January 1968, as a medic with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, he was killed on his first
combat campaign. He received a number of postumous awards, including the Distinguished Service Cross and a
South Vietnamese medal.
The experience of three members who went to Vietnam is especially noteworthy. In 1966, Henry L. Koren
joined the 11th Group after dropping out of the US Military Academy. Although leaving West Point in disgrace
was not the best way to begin a military career, Koren joined an A-team and subsequently attended Airborne
School, Pathfinder School, Ranger School, and the Special Forces Qualifcation Course. Among Sergeant Koren's
friends at the 11th Group was Specialist Kevin Burke, known widely as "Burke the Clerk." Burke was an unusual
individual. Once, while watching medics perform an actual suturing operation, hedeliberately cut his own leg and
began to suture himself. Horrified by this unique display of initiative, the medics brought Burke to a physician
who, equally horrified, nonetheless noted that Burke had done a good job at suturing himself. Koren also knew a
platoon leader named First Lieutenant Wolf Detrick Cutter. Cutter was an ROTC graduate who left active duty in
1965. Due to a clash of tactical and leadership styles, the relationship between Sergeant Koren and Lieutenant
Cutter was rather strained.
Koren applied for and received a direct commission and went to Vietnam. One day in 1967, now First
Lieutenant Koren and his rifle platoon found themselves in a very desperate combat situation. Koren radioed for
help. Fortunately, an artillery spotter plane soon arrived and directed fire accordingly, saving the platoon. That
airplane was flown by Chief Warrant Officer Kevin Burke, who had left the 11th to receive a warrant appointment,
attended flight school, and went to Vietnam. Sometime after this unexpected reunion, First Lieutenant Koren
became an acting company commander. With the completion of his combat tour, he experienced a more unpleasant
reunion as he transferred command to now-Captain Wolf Detrick Cutter, who had also gone to Vietnam.
All three men survived the war and continued their military careers. Kevin Burke received a commission
and ultimately progressed through the officer ranks in the Indiana National Guard. Wolf Detrick Cutter changed his
name to Wolf-Dietric Cutter, stayed in the Regular Army and retired as a full colonel. His assignments included a
battalion command with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and brigade command in the 10th Infantry
Division (Mountain). After various Special Forces assignments, Henry Koren later became Deputy Commander of
the 75th Ranger Infantry Regiment and served in Operation Just Cause in Panama. He later became a brigade
The Battle of Grossman Hammock
On a dark night in early December 1974, a young game warden in the Florida everglades conducted his
usual motorized patrol along the Grossman Hammock State Park. His route included an obscure radio navigation
tower owned by the Federal Aviation Administration. It was usually deserted, but on this particular night it was
surrounded by vehicles and a handful of men. Curious, the game warden stopped his car and got out to investigate.
Within moments, the men dived into the underbrush and, according to the game warden, began shooting at
him --with machine guns! Flares were thrown. Tear gas was thrown. The terrified warden radioed frantically for
help. Were these Cuban exiles undergoing paramilitary training? Were they terrorists preparing to blow up the
radio tower? Whoever they were, the game warden aimed his 12-gauge shotgun in their general direction and fired
three live bursts into the air. The machine guns ceased.
Soon the beleaguered game warden was reinforced by some twenty-three sheriff's deputies armed with
shotguns and the sheriff's helicopter overhead. For thirty tense minutes, the deputies and the mysterious handful of
men stalked each other. Neither side fired a shot. Eventually a police lieutenant took out his bullhorn and, after
identifying himself and his deputies, demanded to know who his opponents were.
From out of the underbrush, Captain Ron Mongole of Miami's 3rd Battalion, 11th SFGA, identified
himself and his four men as Army reservists on a routine training exercise. They had been ordered to "defend" the
radio tower and, accustomed to being vastly outnumbered and attacked by helicopters, thought the police were part
of the exercise. The reservists had attacked the game warden with blank ammunition.
Both sides subsequently retreated, equally dumbfounded and annoyed. Thus ended the Battle of Grossman
Hammock State Park. The incident was widely covered in the newspapers, including the Miami Herald. An
account by United Press International even appeared in the respected (although now defunct) Washington Star.
According to Captain Mongole, it was the game warden who fired first. "We fired back and I gave the order to pull
back to the tower," said Mongole. "I guess the warden got mad when we fired back at him and he called the Metro
Police for help."
Everyone knew, of course, that the situation could have proven very deadly for the unsuspecting reservists.
Prior to the exercise, the 11th SFGA had notified the authorities by letter that an exercise was planned for that
evening. Somehow the letter either got lost or forgotten. But the authorities did not forget the Battle of Grossman
Hammock. Thereafter, all reservist exercises required their prior notification in person.
Major Exercises of the Seventies
As in the Nineteen Sixties, the 11th SFGA continued to conduct exercises in America's national forests,
albeit less frequently and with less civilian participation. Nonetheless, the exercises were large and complex,
especially for a reserve unit in the later Seventies, when defense spending was extremely limited.
One such exercise, Operation Cabana Strike, was conducted in June 1977 in northcentral Florida's Ocala
National Forest. Cabana Strike involved the entire 11th SFGA --from the Group Headquarters, down to the
operational detachments --as well as numerous units from the Army Reserve, the National Guard, the active Air
Force, and the active Army. Fort Rucker, Fort Benning and Fort Stewart were all used as staging areas. The area of
operations encompassed some 1,000 square miles, most of it jungle and swamp. Daily temperatures rose well over
100 degrees Fahrenheit (once as high as 138 degrees), with humidity to match. In addition to tropical insects like
mosquitos, the participants had to contend with rattlesnakes, cottonmouth, coral snakes, scorpions, and alligators.
There was some civilian participation in Cabana Strike, although not as much as in years past. Residents
served as guides and provided their homes as temporary safehouses. A few joined up as guerrillas. Most of the
guerrillas, however, were played by active Army personnel from Fort Benning's 193rd Infantry Brigade and by
junior ROTC cadets from local high schools. Civil Affairs personnel played the roles of civilian mayors and minor
officials forced to contend with the foreign occupation. Instead of the Circle Trigon Party, the enemy troops were
simply known as Aggressors from a foreign power called the Aggressor Nation.
Operation Cascade Laurel was held in July 1979 in the Susquehannock State Forest in northcentral
Pennsylvania. The enemy troops were now called Opposing Forces, although the acronym OPFOR had not yet
been coined. Cascade Laurel was smaller than Cabana Strike, but still fairly large. Six Pennsylvania counties
participated, with an enthusiasm in stark contrast to the generally anti-military attitudes that pervailed nationwide.
Local newspapers and radio stations publicized "appeals" from both the guerrillas and the enemy occupiers.
Statements by unit leaders and "prisoner confessions" were given front page coverage. Some newspapers even took
editorial positions supporting one side or the other.
The general population treated both sides with helpful courtesy. Some civilians were recruited as pro-
guerrilla spies, but none were recruited as guerrillas themselves. Instead, A-teams trained reservists from non-SF
units and some midshipmen from the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The energy crisis was especially
acute in mid-1979 and was even mentioned in connection with Cascade Laurel:
"Army Reserve Special Forces In Area to Stage Mock Battle"
--The Potter Enterprise (July 11th, 1979)
(Coudersport, Pennsylvania) Leading the troops participating in Cascade Laurel is
Lieutenant Colonel Charles E. Chambers, Commander of the 11th Special Forces Group.
According to Lieutenant Colonel Chambers, Cascade Laurel is similar to operations held
annually by US Army Reserve Special Forces. Since 1973, three exercises have been
conducted in Pennsylvania, including one in the Allegheny National Forest in 1976.
Chambers emphasized that there would be no interference with traffic or tourists in
more populated areas. Fuel for the exercise is from Army stocks at Fort Indiantown Gap
near Harrisburg, and civilian allocations for the six-county area will not be affected.
Training in the Eighties
With the advent of the Nineteen Eighties, the US Army placed an increasing emphasis upon its Reserve
Components and the concept of the "Total Army" ceased to be a mere slogan. The 11th SFGA experienced this
change with the assignment of an actual wartime mission, with specific targets, to be accomplished in Europe if a
conflict ever erupted between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. With this assignment came a more focused training
agenda. The US Army's European Command (EUCOM) and Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC)
required the 11th to determine what training and skills were necessary to accomplish its missions per target.
EUCOM and TRADOC then expected the 11th to prepare its A-teams accordingly. Cold weather operations were
emphasized and, in 1982, elements of the 2nd Battalion were sent to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. Many personnel had
not received cold weather training in ten years. This was permanently remedied as Fort McCoy and other "winter
wonderlands" became familiar places for unit training throughout the Eighties.
Exercise Golden Glacier involved the 1st and 3rd Battalions in two weeks of winter warfare training in
early March 1985. In their quest for arctic conditions at New York's Fort Drum and Vermont's Camp Ethan Allen,
the units were not disappointed. Evening temperatures dropped to minus-seventeen degrees Fahrenheit. The
weather changed from mild and sunny, to rain, then freezing rain, followed by heavy wet snow, culminating in sleet.
Some areas received six hours or more of freezing rain, followed by eighteen inches of heavy wet snow. Not only
did the snow pose a barrier itself, but it also concealed forest brush, stumps, small streams, and manmade obstacles.
Mobility was almost halted. At one point, the water storage trailers ("waterbuffalos") broke down and the cooks
had to cut holes in Lake Meachem to draw water. The A-teams slept in frigid two-man tents.
Yet the participants persevered. They practiced cross-country skiing and learned to build survival shelters,
snow caves, and lean-to windbreaks. They learned downhill skiing and how to transport equipment on an ahkio (a
sled pulled by two men, anchored by a third behind). They learned that, with good physical conditioning, suitable
equipment and proper training, soldiers can become adequately proficient in winter warfare within a few hours.
More importantly, they learned how to turn arctic conditions to their advantage. They used snow to enhance their
speed and exploited the vulnerability that snow places upon conventional units. Once minor roads become
impassable, conventional units are forced to rely upon a mere handful of cleared main routes.
By the end of Golden Glacier, the particpants had learned to appreciate relative degrees of frigid cold. One
participant noted, "Some people recommend bringing a candle into the two-man mountain tent, but it causes the tent
to sweat and freeze up. The best idea, if you don't have a stove, is to do without it." Other cold weather lessons
became increasingly ingrained as the 11th SFGA conducted arctic exercises on an annual basis.
The weekend drills also became more intensive and received some very senior-level interest. The
following article appeared in the Fall 1987 edition of The Beret, the 11th SFGA's quarterly newsletter:
"2nd Battalion Mobilization Training"
In spite of glasnost, the Bad Guys are continuing to improve their combat readiness
and, for all their openness, seem as anxious as ever to use military force as a primary tool
of their foreign policy. With this threat in mind, the task of mobilizing a Special Forces
battalion is always a very high priority --perhaps the most important task we have. Can
a Reserve Special Forces battalion deploy from four widely dispersed locations and
conduct an airborne assault within fourteen hours of the initial assembly of personnel?
That was the task which 2nd Battalion, 11th SFGA, attempted during its October drill.
Operation Cold Harbor was primarily a mobilization exercise to test the ability of the
unit to assemble its personnel and then plan and conduct a simulated combat mission:
Secure an airfield for use by a follow-on friendly airmobile force. The operation was
conducted at unit home stations, at departure airfields, and at Fort AP Hill, Virginia on
23-25 October 1987. The conventional nature of the mission was for simplicity only,
since the main training objective was battalion mobilization.
Unit assembly occured at 1900 hours on 23 October at each company's home station.
Orders, equipment, and weapons were issued according to unit SOPs. Jumpmaster
briefings and mission rehearsals were conducted to ensure that sub-units and personnel
understood what was required of them. Following successful rehearsals to standard, the
soldiers were given a brief rest period. By 0400 hours, 2nd Battalion was enroute to the
airhead from three departure airfields: Youngstown, Wright-Patterson, and Andrews Air
Company B dropped in first at Fort AP Hill on 24 October at 0725 hours, followed by
HHD, Company A and Company C. Company B, fleshed out by the follow-on units,
secured the most likely avenues of approach to the airfield and other key terrain on the
airhead. Command Sergeant Major Julian Gates, the Sergeant Major of the Army, was
on the Drop Zone observing the operation and was pleased by how well it was conducted
except for those who landed in the trees, which CSM Gates explained as "operator error."
The mission ended at 1015 hours.
After the airborne insertion, the battalion conducted individual weapons qualification and live-fire
exercises with mortars and light antitank weapons. Once completed, the various elements parachuted into drop
zones at their respective home stations. In all, eleven separate aircraft missions were conducted by the battalion
within a 36-hour period, including four separate airborne operations involving 250 paratroopers jumping from C130 and C-141 aircraft. All this, within one weekend drill.
Much of the foreign training conducted by the 11th SFGA, either in foreign countries or in the United
States with foreign counterparts, remains classified. It can be revealed, however, that the 11th Group has conducted
joint training with counterpart elements from throughout Western Europe and North America. The following
excerpts from the Fall-Winter 1990-91 edition of The Beret provide a sample. They describe an exercise with
reserve elements of the British Special Air Service (SAS). Among American Special Forces personnel, the British
SAS enjoys the distinction of being considered an equal, if not superior, in professional quality and elan. As these
excerpts show, this admiration is mutual:
The SAS exchange was a resurrected version of a program that was ongoing during
the late 1970s through the mid-1980s...Due in large measure to the efforts of Lieutenant
Colonel Earl C. Howell, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 11th SFGA, this small unit
exchange program is once again alive and in-place, with its worth being demonstrated by
the enthusiasm of the soldiers.
"The purpose of the SAS exchange is to facilitate an exchange of ideas, tactics,
viewpoints, and training methodology that will facilitate a more dynamic training
environment for all of the soldiers involved in the effort," cited LTC Howell. (He) made
it very clear that the selection of the American personnel in his command for this training
opportunity would be very tough. "Therefore, physical conditioning, mental toughness,
and dedication to a common goal should be paramount in every man's mind. There
should not be one instance of an individual not being ready due to the lack of any of these
The exchange was a two-part exercise, with training being conducted in the United
States and the United Kingdom simultaneously. (The American-based portion) was
Honey Gift. It was conducted in the Miami/Ocala National Forest and the Orlando area.
The exercise conducted by the SAS for the 11th SFGA soldiers was called Pirate Bell
and was located in the London, Bramley, and Stanford areas.
High energy and professional pride was evident from our counterparts from England.
This spirit permeated the entire FTX for both (organizations). A medical specialist from
the SAS expressed it best: "This type of training with the Yanks just couldn't be better.
It's tough, realistic, and very useful. If we work together in a real-world scenario, it will
be as a team because of this training."
(Training for oceanside operations) was conducted by the USAF Air-Sea Survival
Facility at Homstead Air Force Base, Florida...(Later training included rapelling, a
parachute jump, tactical) house-clearing operations, entries, an obstacle course, and
immediate action drills along "jungle lanes." The live fire portion included day and night
In his farewell address to the 11th SFGA soldiers, the SAS Regimental Commander
summed up his feelings by saying, "All of us from England were made to feel at home
here in every aspect of the training."
PUBLICATIONS OF THE 11TH GROUP __________________________________________
The first publications produced by the 11th SFGA began to appear in the Nineteen Seventies. This was
before "desktop publishing" existed, when each publication had to be typed on a manual typewriter (with its
characteristic lettering) and then mass-produced on a simple printing press. Later on, the publications became more
sophisicated and glossy --and popular. By the late Eighties, it was not unusual for a publication by the 11th Group
to have a worldwide audience, encompassing active and retired Special Forces personnel, intelligence experts,
senior military officers, and thousands of rank-and-file soldiers without any connection to Special Forces, but who
relied upon a publication from the 11th Group for the valuable information it contained. The following are samples:
The 11th Special Forces Group News
The Group Headquarters produced a few editions of The 11th Special Forces Group News. This
newsletter, which had some photographs, was originally printed on poster-size paper and folded into regular-size
pages. The reader had to unfold the newsletter to read the entire text. In later editions, the pages were separated,
but there were no staples to hold them together. The newsletter mostly contained drill-related information and
advice for aspiring NCOs. It did, however, touch upon some less serious subjects. This excerpt was published in
AT-74...did provide a number of social functions. Each morning the officers and men
engaged in a game of volley ball. The efforts of the officers seemed futile, as each
morning the enlisted personnel thrashed the officers without pity. Even with additional
training, the officers "just could not get it together."
There were two social functions for the officers during summer training: an Officers
Call and a dinner party. The Officers' Call initially went slow, but as the day wore on
and Go-Go dancers appeared, things began to develop. The dinner party held at the Fort
Meade Officers Club proved to be an enjoyable and educating evening. Early in the
evening, the officers watched a drill and ceremony demonstration by the "Green Beret
Drill Team," a local youth group. The officers were fortunate enough to have Major
General Samuel Wilson as the guest speaker for the evening.
As for the troops, they had a unit-sponsored party on 13 June, when the steak and
beer was free. It turned out to be a typical SF party. The TET team also provided, most
evenings, beer and movies for the men during AT-74.
The Seventies also witnessed greater opportunities for women in Army. The News reflected this change in
its own way:
"Dina Has Made It!"
Dina Laue, who completed Jump School earlier this year (1974), has completed
Rigger School this summer. She is not only a credit to herself, but to the 11th as well.
Dina, who has been a member of the Army Reserve for the past two years, joined the
11th during January this year and has really gone far. In March, she went to Fort
Benning in borrowed fatigues and the SF patch on her shoulder --times are changing.
Dina became the first female Army Reservist to complete Airborne School at Fort
Benning; she also became the first female reserve parachute rigger. For Dina's efforts
and being the first there, she was awarded the Army Commendation Medal while at
All of us within the 11th extend our congratulations for a job well done and a "thank
you" for bringing credit to the 11th Special Forces.
One of the most interesting publications of the Seventies was The Apex. Started in 1971 by B Company,
1st Battalion, this newsletter contained training schedules, military-related articles from newspapers, cartoons, and
an occasional sexy photograph. One photo showed a scantly-dressed Rachel Welch with a caption that advised unit
members to maintain their physical fitness and a healthy weight since she obviously did. The entire publication was
compiled, edited, and produced by Sergeant First Class James Santos. This is how he described The Apex in 1973:
"I usually print up about four or five pages by first starting off making zinc plates
and then finally running them off on my multilith press. This is an internal-type
newsletter and is solely used for our own personnel, which number about eighty-five."
Santos produced The Apex on his own time and at his own expense. Nonetheless, questions were
eventually raised as to whether this small newsletter constituted an "official" publication. The formal term was
official indicia. Although the matter may seem trival, the controversy actually reached First Army Headquarters,
the then-parent unit of the 11th SFGA. First Army "resolved" the matter with a memo that contained various "clearas-mud" statements like this:
"The use of the official indicia to distribute The Apex is governed by paragraph
5a(7), AR 340-3 and paragraph 2-19, AR 360-81. Basically, the requirements involve
unsolicited requests from recipients of the publication and such requests must be
renewed annually, as well as retained on file for the duration of distribution period to
Right. Despite this and other publishing problems, The Apex remained in print until September 1975. In
his last edition, Santos explained that he could no longer afford to produce it. According to his own calculations, its
ninety-one issues since 1971 had consumed a total of 2,184 hours of his time (equivalent to 273 days) and $ 3,675
of his own money.
How do you errect a slant wire antenna in the field? How do you conceal that antenna in the midst of
several well-watched buildings? How do you operate a PRC-70 radio, not to be confused with the older PRC-77
radio? What frequency range does the PRC-70 encompass? How long does a BB-542/U battery last on average?
How do you encrypt and decypher radio messages in the field?
Questions like these represent the heart and soul of Special Forces communications. Without
communications (or "commo" in semi-official slang), an A-team operates in a deadly void. Yet there was a time
when finding an answer to these and similar questions forced an SF commo sergeant to wade through a daunting
mountain of field manuals, technical journals, and school notes to find a kernal of wisdom. The situation was so
frustrating that then-Staff Sergeant First Class Michael R. Ryan finally put an end to it in 1984.
A member of the 11th Group's 2nd Battalion, "Ranger Ryan" earned his nickname after attending US Army
Ranger School, only to graduate without the coveted tab because he failed to accumulate enough points. He later
joked about the experience and with good reason, because he later earned a Special Forces tab and an honored place
in the Special Forces communications community. After collecting the most important pieces of SF commo wisdom
into a short handy booklet, he published it as "Ranger Ryan's Concise Guide to Special Forces Electronic
Communications." Its introduction read:
This manual is not meant to turn you into a fully qualified 18E40; only years of hard
study and practical experience by a human possessed of high intellect, phenomenal
patience, and true grit can forge a real commo man. But, armed with this text, the
individual should be able to initiate, secure, and sustain basic electronic communications
between his detachment and the Base Station.
I make few pretensions toward literary originality; I pimped, plagiarized and
purloined with my usual vulgar gusto, and I acknowledge the many sources plundered
and utilized. My sins will weigh a bit less oppressive if I see this assembled knowledge
progressively applied by my compatriots.
By 1990, Ranger Ryan's guide was in its fourth edition and it remains in great demand in both active and
reserve Special Forces groups around the world. Copies have even been distributed to communications students at
the US Army Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg, although the booklet remains only semi-official. Ranger Ryan
himself, now a Master Sergeant, has become a living legend of sorts. Frequently recognized whenever and
wherever he travels on Special Forces business, he even has a mini-fan club. In exchange for five dollars (cash), he
will provide an eight-by-ten inch glossy photograph of himself in uniform holding a Soviet-made AK-47 assault
rifle and displaying a Patton-like "war face." For seven dollars (cash), he will autograph it with this inscription:
From one real man to another. 'Love and kisses...
First published in the spring of 1985, The Beret remains a quarterly publication of the Group S-5 Section
(Civil-Military Affairs). In many respects, it is a successor to the 11th Special Forces Group News of the early
Seventies. Unlike the News, however, The Beret has a much more professional appearance with the introduction of
desk-top publishing. It contains bulletins and annoucements, advice to unit members concerning their professional
development, reviews of past training and exercises, and other matters of interest to the Group at large. On
occasion, however, The Beret will print something rather unique and different. The following piece appeared in the
Spring 1987 edition. It was submitted by then-First Lieutenant Chuck Cosenza from C Company, 1st Battalion:
The Lord spoke forth unto the Heavens and said, "Let there be Airborne."
And the Earth did tremble and quake. And the Waters did reach up. And the Clouds did
And there came forth, a multitude of Paratroopers that filled the Sky.
God looked down and saw that this was good --and they were good.
They were Airborne.
And God then spoke forth unto the Land and said, "Let there be Rangers."
And, all at once, the Day turned to darkness. And the Winds did howl. Mountains
crumbled into the Sea, and the Great Rocks did part.
And there came forth, a horde of methistopheles disciples wearing Ranger tabs and
carrying all sorts of deadly weapons.
God looked down and saw that this was bad --and they were bad.
They were Rangers.
And God spoke forth thrice --unto the Sky, the Earth, and the Sea --and said, "Let there
be Special Forces."
Lightning did flash. And Thunder echoed across the Sky. Mountains spewed molten
rock and rained ripe upon the Land. Tidal waves surged against the shore.
Despair, disorder and turmoil did prevail.
Forthwith, there did appear a Band of Twelve Extraordinary Men...
A Few came from beneath the Waves;
Others jumped from the Sky;
And More still silently stalked from the dense forests.
Each One was in Camouflage Battle Dress, wearing a Randall Knife; a Star Sapphire
Ring; a Rolex Watch; and a Green Beret.
Working together, They brought Peace unto the Land.
God looked down and saw that this was amazing --and they were amazing.
They were Special Forces.
Beside Himself, God now spoke forth again and commanded, "Let all Ye that be Weak in
Mind and Body --Arise and Go Forth."
And lo, from the Abyss, They crawled forward with Indecision and Limped meekly upon
God looked down and shook His head,
For this was pathetic --and they were pathetic.
They were Legs.
Among the variety of publications produced by the 11th Group, The Readings is truly unique. It usually
contains very little if any information about the 11th SFGA itself. Instead, it presents a monthly collection of
articles and essays drawn from various newspapers and magazines concerning current events of interest. During the
Eighties, it frequently examined the threat of Soviet Special Purpose (SPETSNAZ) forces and the subject of low
intensity conflict. By the late Eighties, its focus had shifted to the progress of glasnost and perestroika in the Soviet
Union. By the early Nineties, the publication had given substantial attention to the use of Special Forces in
Operations Just Cause, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and Provide Comfort. In recent months, it has given ongoing
attention to the turmoil in the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, to American military efforts in Somalia, and to
the downsizing of the US Armed Forces after the Cold War. It has also examined the controversial issues of
homosexuals in the military and to whether women should serve in combat roles.
The variety of subjects addressed by The Readings has made it a popular publication among major
American military commands around the world. The publication has thus given exposure to the 11th SFGA in
places and organizations that, otherwise, might have very little contact with the unit. Perhaps more importantly,
every edition routinely reminds these organizations that Army Reservists do exist in the Army's force structure and
that they have an important role to play. This fact is often forgotten. Fortunately, a little bit of advertising can go a
The Field Order of Battle Handbook
In early August 1990, Iraqi troops invaded the tiny Emirate of Kuwait and threatened to press on into Saudi
Arabia. To prevent this possibility, and to ultimately expel the Iraqis from Kuwait, hundreds of thousands of
soldiers from nearly thirty nations deployed to the Saudi Kingdom. And they waited. For almost six months, the
largely American troops of Operation Desert Shield were forced to wait and wonder about what kind of enemy they
faced across the border.
Two booklets were circulated to provide some answers. The first was How They Fight: The Desert Shield
Order of Battle Handbook, published in September 1990. The second booklet was a more concise updated version
of the first, entitled, Identifying the Iraqi Threat and How They Fight, published in December. The two booklets
described Iraqi tactics and Iraqi unit structures; displayed pictures of the Soviet-made weapons, vehicles, and
aircraft in the Iraqi inventory; displayed Iraqi rank insignia for officers and enlisted; explained first-aid procedures
for heat injuries, bites from poisonous snakes and scorpions, and chemical warfare casualties; and provided phonetic
pronunciations of common Arab words and phrases.
These two booklets were officially published by the US Army Intelligence Agency, with assistance from
the US Defense Intelligence Agency and the private Jane's Defense Group. All were noted accordingly. What
countless readers of these booklets were not told is that the basic idea behind the booklets, as well as preliminary
work on them, actually came from an obscure Army Reserve unit that was never mobilized for Desert Shield or
Desert Storm. That unit was the 11th Special Forces Group (Airborne).
In 1985, the Group S-2 Section (Intelligence and Security) produced a handbook on the Soviet Armed
Forces for use by the Group's A-teams. Like the concise communications guide of Ranger Ryan, the Field Order of
Battle Handbook compiled important pieces of information from a variety of sources into a portable reference
guide. Like Ranger Ryan's commo guide, it was produced internally because no one in the entire United States
Army had addressed the problem or seemed likely to anytime soon. In addition to Soviet tactics, unit structures, and
equipment recognition data, as well as extensive first-aid data, the handbook provided elaborate lists of phonetic
Russian, German, and Spanish words and phrases. It described basic survival techniques and in-field food
preparation. It described basic insurgency doctrine, small unit tactics, targets for guerrillas, basic interrogation
techniques, and a wide variety of other Special Forces-related subjects.
Like Ranger Ryan's commo guide, the Field Order of Battle Handbook became a military sensation.
Hundreds of requests for copies poured in from military intelligence entities around the world, from field units and
staff units, Army units and Marine units, the Regular Component and the Reserve Components. Requests have even
come from the elite British Special Air Service (SAS). Copies have since been distributed to students by the US
Army Intelligence School. Yet the requests for copies continue to arrive at the Group S-2 Section. With the
abundance of Soviet-made equipment in the world, not even the collapse of the Soviet Union has stemmed this tide
In mid-1990, after Kuwait was invaded and Desert Shield was in its early stages, the Group S-2 Section
contacted Army Intelligence and asked whether a similar handbook oriented toward Iraqi forces would be helpful.
The answer was an enthusiastic yes and preliminary work began. When the booklet was ultimately published by the
Army Intelligence Agency in September, however, no credit was given to the 11th Group. Nor was any credit
given in the December version. Special Forces are accustomed to secrecy, but this was ridiculous.
Ironically, the 11th SFGA was thanked by those American intelligence personnel who brought copies of
the Soviet-oriented handbook to the Gulf. The equipment recognition data was largely identical and, although the
Iraqi-oriented booklets had some unique data, the Soviet handbook addressed a much wider variety of subjects with
relevance to any conflict. The Group S-2 Section would have preferred some wider appreciation, but the gratitude
shown by these few veterans was tremendously valuable and, in some respects, perhaps more meaningful.
Anyone who has ever served honorably in the 11th Special Forces Group (Airborne) deserves to be
mentioned here. Leaders who look after their people with the love of a father. Veterans who wear hard-earned
patches on their right shoulder, and yet treat their fellow non-veteran members with decency and respect. Privates,
specialists, and corporals whose monthly commutes may involve tremendous distances, sometimes in excess of one
hundred miles in each direction, and yet receive meager paychecks that barely cover their expenses. All these
reservists deserve honorable mention, but the limitations of space preclude their names.
Many members have undergone and completed the most demanding military training available in the
United States, if not in the world. They have served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, and the
Persian Gulf. They have received every award, decoration, and medal their nation can bestow. Some have died in
the service of their country. From drug-interdiction efforts in Latin America to humanitarian relief efforts in Iraq
and elsewhere, to assignments throughout the former Soviet Union, members of the 11th Group have been involved.
All these people deserve honorable mention.
Some names must remain secret; members who, in their civilian capacities, have either served or continue
to serve in extremely sensitive positions of authority and trust. Their employers include Presidential
administrations, the Congress, the Central Intelligence Agency, the State Department, the Justice Department, and
the most sensitive agencies of the Department of Defense. The 11th Special Forces Group is probably the most
well-represented Army Reserve unit in the highest levels of government.
Some members have made history without any secrecy. The Honorable Martin Hoffman, Secretary of the
Army in the mid-Seventies, was once Operations Officer of the 316th Special Forces Detachment. Colonel Kenneth
Bergquist, the current Group Commander and a former Assistant Secretary of the Army for Readiness was, in 1987,
recommended to become the first Assistant Secretary of Defense for Low Intensity Conflict. The Honorable
Timothy Connolly, currently the Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations, served in
several positions in the 11th Group. Lesser known members have also made history. In 1963, Master Sergeant
Arthur C. Gunther, Jr., and Specialist-Four Harold B. Robinson became the first Special Forces personnel and the
only reservists to stand watch at President John F. Kennedy's State Funeral. In 1973, Second Lieutenant Ross
Crossland became the top graduate of his Reserve Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning. He captured every
trophy available and was featured in Army Reserve Magazine. In 1974, Specialist Dina Daue became the first
female reservist to complete Airborne School and Rigger School. In 1983, Sergeant First Class Bobby Parker
became the first reservist to join the Army's elite Golden Knights Parachute Demonstration Team. In a unit as
diverse as the 11th Group, there are obviously other history-making members who deserve mention. Their omission
here is not for lack of worthiness.
Yet there is someone whose name and story occupy a special place in the history of the 11th Special Forces
Group (Airborne). In 1971, on an obscure hill in Southeast Asia, this future member of the 11th performed acts of
heroism that earned him the nation's highest award: the Congressional Medal of Honor. The military historian,
Shelby Stanton, briefly related this member's story in his book, Green Berets at War:
The "Task Force 1 Advisory Element" was forced from the Hickory Hill radio relay
site in early June 1971. The Hickory post had existed on strategic "Hill 953" in
northwest Quang Tri Province at the edge of the Demilitarized Zone since June 1968. On
3 June 1971, heavy North Vietnamese artillery began battering the bunkered Hickory
defenses. On 4 June, five wounded Special Forces and ten indigenous commandos were
medically evacuated, leaving Staff Sergeant Jon R. Cavaiani and Sergeant John R. Jones
with twenty-three commandos defending the mountaintop. An NVA (North Vietnamese
Army) battalion stormed the summit and captured Hickory Hill on 5 June 1971. Cavaiani
led a spirited defense but was captured as the last positions fell, while Jones was declared
missing in action.
Jon R. Cavainai remained a prisoner of the North Vietnamese for twenty-two months, until his release in
April 1973. He served as the full-time Operations Sergeant of the 11th Special Forces Group (Airborne) from 1984
A Farm Boy enters the Army
Jon Cavaiani was born in England, moved to America as an infant with his parents, and grew up in Ballico,
California. He worked with his step-father on the family farm until college, when he earned a bachelor's degree in
pomology, the science of fruit trees. Then, at age 26, he enlisted in the Army.
"Joining the Army was something I always wanted to do," he later recalled. His entrance scores were so
high that every military specialty was open to him. "I said 'Infantry' and they thought I was crazy." Most people
would have; the Vietnam War was raging harder than ever at that time, and it was increasingly unpopular. The
question of a military specialty was left open until Cavaiani finished basic training and Airborne School. At that
time, Cavaiani repeated his desire to become an infantryman.
"We have enough infantry soldiers," a colonel told him. "By your GT scores, we think you should become
"I don't want to be no medic."
But the colonel revealed that a medic slot was available with the famed 82nd Airborne Division.
Cavaiani's initial refusal turned into an active interest...
"Aw, I'd love to become a medic!"
After completing his medical training, Cavaianai attended the Special Forces' heavy and light weapons
course. In late 1969, he began his combat tour in the Republic of Vietnam. Upon his arrival, a personnel specialist
reviewed his records. It took only two questions to establish his first assignment:
"Special Forces medic?"
"Yep," Cavaiani replied.
"Farm boy, right?"
"Well," the personnel specialist announced, "you're now the agricultural advisor for Military Region I,
The Farm Boy in Vietnam
Military Region I was the operational area of the US Army First Corps ("I Corps"), located on the southern
side of the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Vietnam. As ordered, Cavaiani became the region's
agricultural advisor/veterinarian. In his own words:
"We had pig projects and chicken projects. We taught them how to raise more rice
on an acre and how to use fertilizers. I didn't know a damn thing about chickens or pigs
or cattle. I mean NOTHING. But I learned out of manuals and didn't have any major
"I used to go into the villages to treat their water buffalo and then turn right around
and treat their children. I was naive as far as the war went. I just didn't see much of it.
Oh, once in a while I would get a message like, 'Help! My pig's got holes in it!' So I
would go out and dig out the shrapnel, do a little minor surgery, and put the pig back
"I delivered children. I even started an orphanage while I was a veterinarian -
which was ultimately the reason why I ended up getting out of the agricultural advisory
To the Vietnamese, Cavaiani became known as Bocsi Jon --bocsi meaning "medic." Cavaiani learned that
an orphanage was needed near the village of Nong Son, in an area where the Communists (nicknamed "Charlie")
were active. Since Cavaiani himself had travelled in that area quite frequently, he started one.
"I had Bodi monks and nuns run my orphanage. And I had thirty orphans being
cared for until Charlie came in and killed all my kids and all the monks except one, who
they left alive with a warning: 'Bocsi Jon --Stay Out of Our Area!'
"Like I said, I was relatively naive about the war."
A Prolonged Second Tour
After the orphanage incident, Cavaiani spent a year attached to a reconnaissance unit. After that, he was
assigned to a radio relay site at a place called Hickory Hill. Jointly operated by a platoon of Americans and South
Vietnamese, the site was located near the village of Dong Tri, overlooking Kagsahn Airfield.
On June 4th, 1971, North Vietnamese troops attacked this remote outpost with an intensive barrage of rifle
fire, automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortar rounds. The site's casualties were heavy. Staff
Sergeant Cavaiani took command. Disregarding his own safety, he repeatedly exposed himself to incoming fire as
he moved about the beleaguered perimeter, directing his platoon's fire and rallying his men.
The North Vietnamese stormed the site, but Cavaiani and his men managed to hold them off with a variety
of weapons. Nonetheless, the situation was deteriorating. Helicopters were called in to evacuate the platoon.
Despite the enemy fire, Cavaiani managed to direct three of the helicopters into the perimeter, where they collected
most of the platoon. As the remainder of his men struggled to improve their battered defenses, Cavaiani remained
behind as well and calmly helped them do so.
The morning of June 5th began with a heavy fog --an advantage the North Vietnamese quickly exploited.
Advancing in two ranks, over eight hundred North Vietnamese troops advanced upon the site. The first oncoming
rank fired rifles, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades. The second rank threw a steady barrage of hand
grenades at the tiny American and South Vietnamese force. Cavaiani and his men returned fire and threw their own
grenades, but to little effect. This time, the North Vietnamese were determined to win.
With the site's defenses nearing collapse, Cavaiani ordered his men to flee while he provided cover fire.
They fled. With one last courageous stand, Cavaiani stood up with a machine gun and --completely exposing
himself to the incoming fire --sprayed the two enemy ranks closing in on him.
He survived --and managed to escape.
"I was shot up and burnt pretty badly. I had steel in my face from shrapnel, was shot
in the back, had burns on my face and hands, and shrapnel in the legs."
Despite his wounds, Cavaiani trekked some forty-two kilometers to another American camp named Fuller.
"I was crazy," he later explained, "and just didn't want to get caught." It was dark by the time he arrived. To keep
from being shot by his own people, he waited outside the camp until past dawn, until about 0800 hours --"After
everyone should have been awake..."
Someone was, but not an American. As Cavaiani started to move, an elderly Vietcong guerrilla promptly
captured him. Years later, Cavaiani would laugh about the incident:
"I got captured by a guy about 80 years old! 'With a Russian bolt action rifle about
as equally old! He was as scared as I was! But he had the weapon."
The Journey into Prison
Cavaiani was dragged back to Hickory Hill and tied up. Only his face and hands were given medical
attention; nothing else. "They would only treat those parts of my body that you could see. This was in case we
were spotted by a plane and photographed." Thus, the Communists could claim that their prisoner had been
Cavaiani was taken to an NVA camp whose commander had just lost his son in the attack upon Cavaiani's
outpost. The commander wanted revenge --and his men had to literally tie him to a tree to keep the distraught
commander from extracting it from Cavaiani himself. Cavaiani was quickly moved out. After passing through a
series of other NVA camps, he was brought to one just south of the Benhai River, still inside South Vietnam. This
camp had an interrogator, one whom Cavaiani would later recall with a touch of dry humor:
"This guy was not a very good interrogator. (He) had three Montagnards (mountain
people) executed because I wouldn't talk. The interrogator shot them, each in the head,
right in front of me.
"He then proceeded to work on me --and did a pretty good job. He busted my ribs on
my left hand side. And when they cut me down, they fractured three vertebrae in my
upper back and three in my lower back. I didn't come to for a couple of days after they
busted my ribs."
Cavaiani was moved to still more NVA camps, until a North Vietnamese political officer finally took
charge of him. The political officer made him wear a US Air Force flight suit and helmet, making him look like a
downed American pilot. The officer and some guards then took Cavaiani into a South Vietnamese village which
had been bombed only days before. The political officer announced to everyone that this captured "pilot" had
bombed their village and that they should extract their revenge accordingly. The infuriated villagers prepared to do
just that. Unbeknownst to the political officer, however, Cavaiani had delivered four babies at that very same
village sometime before. After the officer removed his helmet, revealing Cavaiani's face, an old women stepped
forward to get a better look at this "pilot" they were about to beat up...
"Well, this little 'old grandma got right up in my face and, all of the sudden, she let
out with 'Bocsi Jon! Bocsi Jon!' She, of course, had recognized me.
"Well, it caused the political officer to lose face. (He and his men then) got the hell
'out of there because, by now, the villagers were not beating on me --they were beating
on the North Vietnamese soldiers and this political officer! The Vietnamese people don't
believe in lying.
"So they took me to another village and this time they were going to be smart --they
were going to leave the helmet on so I wouldn't be recognized. Well, they had all the
villagers out with their canes...
"But, unfortunately for my captors, a runner from the first village had run ahead and
told these villagers the truth! So, just about the time this political officer was about to
start this political thing, THESE villagers started to beat him and his men! So we had to
race out of that village too!"
Interrogation by Torture
Cavaiani was eventually moved by train to Hanoi, to a place called "Plantation Gardens." ("They always
had nice names for crappy places.") Eventually, his captors learned that he was allergic to certain bugs, which they
used upon him when their usual methods of interrogation failed.
"Beating did nothing because I had already ended a couple of interrogations
at other small camps this way. I would piss them off, just so they would knock me out.
And, if they knocked me out, I won. I had traded time for a little bit of pain."
Unfortunately, the pain got much worse in Hanoi. There, at a special center nicknamed "The Zoo,"
Cavaiani was tortured by the chief interrogator of Hanoi, an Oxford-educated man whom the prisoners called
"A very, very good interrogator. I ended up getting worked over real bad there.
They hooked a wire to my ear and put a nail down my privates and then generated
electricity. 'Screws you up real bad."
Camp Regulations and Survival
Cavaiani was returned to "The Plantation," where about one hundred other prisoners were held. Most of
his time was spent in isolation for breaking camp regulations. Do not communicate. Do not make obscene gestures
at the guards. Do not look out the door peep-holes. Do not fight. Show respect towards the guards. Sleep during
sleeping hours. Listen to the camp radio. The regulations were endless.
A typical day began with wakeup at 0700 hours. Breakfast ("half a loaf of French bread and what they
called tea --which was water they had waved a tea bag over...") was provided at 0830. Prisoner uniforms were then
folded up, in a specified way. At 1030 hours, lunch (composed of whatever vegetable was in season, along with a
tiny piece of fat and some more French bread) was eatten. Dinner (with the same menu as lunch) was provided at
1530. Whatever vegetable was in season was the only vegetable ever served until that season passed.
Conditions improved somewhat after the American rescue attempt at the Son Tay Prison Camp in
November 1970. Although no American prisoners were freed at Son Tay, the operation scared the North
Vietnamese leadership. Hanoi centralized its control over all prisoners in North Vietnam and thus curbed the abuses
of local political officers. Cavaiani noticed a marked decline in beatings. The North Vietnamese also played
movies for the prisoners, about once or twice a month. Most were Soviet-made films with an anti-American
For their supposed "enjoyment," all the prisoners were required to listen to Communist propaganda on the
camp radio. This propaganda consisted of news from the United States and elsewhere, distorted into half-truths or
presented out of context. "(This) was difficult to listen to," he recalled. Therefore, to pass the time, the prisoners
improvised their own entertainment:
"(At) night, we would 'tell' movies. After dinner you would get up and say, 'Tonight's
movie is...' and then tell the director, the cast, and anything else you could recall, but
mainly just about the movie. We also would occasionally be given decks of cards. We
used to cut the decks in half in order to make the deck last twice as long.
"We celebrated every holiday, ours and theirs. We were given pork and a bottle of
beer. We celebrated every holiday but one --Thanksgiving. They said we had nothing to
be thankful for. And you know what? They were right!"
The Approach of Freedom
Despite the strict rules, Cavaiani became the secret chief of communications for the prisoners throughout
the camp. This duty became especially difficult after Cavaiani and his comrades were moved to the infamous
"We were there about two weeks when I overheard one of the guards and a cook
talking about the peace talks in Paris --that the papers were signed, that the war was
over, and that soon we would be going home!
"The Vietnamese didn't know that I spoke their language, so they didn't suspect that I
knew this information. Unfortunately, I had been in so much previous trouble that a
North Vietnamese general had promised that, the next time I broke a camp regulation, I
would be executed. Even so, I thought: 'This has got to go out anyway...'
"So my job was to get communications around the camp that the war was over -
without people reading a message and then starting to yell and scream with me standing
right outside their window!"
Cavaiani and the other prisoners remained at the "Hanoi Hilton" until April 23rd, 1973. Finally, twenty-
two months after his capture, his freedom was at hand:
"We all wanted to be released, but we wanted to come out with our heads held high.
This is something which all of us felt --not just a few.
"I can remember when they took me out to the airplane at the Hanoi Airport. We
walked up and saluted the Vietnamese general, who then turned you over to a colonel in
the US Air Force. They called out your name and, thump, the American would check
your name off.
"I started walking out to the airplane and...aw, man, I was trying to walk upright and
really proud. And this American captain grabbed me by the arm and said, 'You're all
right now, Sarge. I've got you.'
"My knees just turned to rubber. Seeing that big C-141 landing with the American
flag on the tail --there's nothing like it!
"I came back with a hell of a lot deeper pride in America."
________, "Army Reserve Special Forces In Area to Stage Mock Battle,"The Potter Enterprise (11 July
1979), p. 6.
________, "Clean Sweep," Army Reserve (September 1973), p. 2.
________, "GIs, Sheriff's Deputies Exchange Fire," The Atlanta Journal (12 December 1974), p. 7-P.
________, "Green Berets Launch Exercise,"The Times-Mirror and Observer (29 September 1967),
________, "History of the 11th," Dispatch (22 July 1981), p. 7.
________, "History of the 11th SFG(A)," The Beret (Summer 1988), p. 5.
________, "Hook Up With The Airborne: 316th Special Forces," Bravo Bugle (December 1959), p. 1.
________, "Special Forces in First Army," The Army Reservist (May 1961), p. 15.
________, "Troop Talk: How do you view winter training at McCoy?" Triad (26 February 1982), p. 2.
________, "War Game Comes Alive," Washington Star-News (11 December 1974), p. 3.
________, "11th Special Forces Group (ABN)," 1st SF, The Beret (Summer 1986), p. 4.
________, 11th Special Forces Group News (September 1974).
________, The New English Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970)
Bob Baldi, "POW, MIA Day: Captured, Tortured, He Returned With Pride," Soundoff! (19 July 1984), pp.
Geoffrey T. Baker, A Concise History of US Army Special Operations Forces with Lineage and Insignia
Fayetteville: Anglo-American Publishing Company, 1988)
R.W. Berger, "Publishing 'The Apex'," First Army Headquarters Memo (Dated 15 January 1973).
Clint Blase, "Operation CABANA STRIKE: 11th Special Forces Group Defends The Sunshine State,"
(Magazine name unidentified; probably either The Trident or Voice of the First Army, c. August
1977), pp. 5-7.
Donna Bolinger, "Local Reservist selected to Golden Knights," (Newspaper name unavailable but
probably associated with the 97th ARCOM, Fort Meade, Maryland, c. 1983).
Gary Brohawn, "Winter Warfare," The Beret (Spring 1985), pp. 4-5.
Gary Brohawn, "Captain Dean K. Phillips Remembered," The Beret (Summer 1985), pp. 2-4.
Phillip D. Clark, "Hero's Medal Goes to USAR Life Saver," The Beret (Summer 1990), p. 3.
R.C. Clever, "Patriotic Guerrillas and US Special Forces Victorious," The Forest Press (5 October 1967),
Dick Crossland, "Green Bereters' Exercise Victors," Voice of the First Army (31 August 1979), p. 8.
Chuck Cosenza, "The Creator," The Beret (Spring 1987), p. 6.
Don Cotner, "Second Battalion Mobilization Training," The Beret (Fall 1987), p. 1.
Bill Francois, "Paratrooper Who Survived the Army's Worst Mid-Air Plane Collision," (Magazine name
illegible; probably Army Reserve, c. 1964)
Bob Hayner, "11th SFG(A) Trains With British Special Air Service (Volunteers)," The Beret (Fall/Winter `
1990/1991), pp. 2-3
Walter Henderson (Col., USAR, ret.), Interview (4 August 1993)
Office of the Command Historian, "Staff Sergeant Jon R. Cavaiani," The Special Forces Regimental
History Calendar: 1993 (Fort Bragg, US Army Special Operations Command, 1992),
Peter McDermet (CW3), Interview (3 August 1993)
Memo, "History of the 11th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st SF," not dated, US Army Military History
Institute, Carlisle Barracks, PA.
Memo, "303d to Group HQ's, 11th Special Forces Group (Abn) -LTC Joseph M. McCrane Jr." not dated,
US Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, PA.
Memo, "Company D, 11th Special Forces Group (Airborne)," not dated, US Army Military History
Institute, Carlisle Barracks, PA.
Memo, "Supplement to Unit History," 20 March 1966, Op. Det. B(2), Company B, 11th Special Forces
Group, Captain Sebatian C. Pugliese Jr., US Army Military History Institute, Carlisle
Memo, "Supplement to Unit History," 20 March 1966, Op. Det. A(5), Company B, 11th Special Forces
Group, Captain Sebastian C. Pugliese Jr., US Army Military History Institute, Carlisle
Memo, "Supplement to Unit History," 20 March 1966, Op. Det. A(6), Company B, 11th Special Forces
Group, Captain Sebastian C. Pugliese Jr., US Army Military History Institute, Carlisle
Memo, "Unit History," 20 March 1966, Op. Det. A(7), Company B, 11th Special Forces Group, Captain
Sebastian C. Pugliese Jr., US Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, PA.
Memo, "Supplemental Unit Histories," 28 March 1967, Op. Det. B(2), Company B, 11th Special Forces
Group, First Lieutenant Lee E. Fischer, US Army Military History Institute, Carlisle
Memo, "Annual Unit History Supplement 1969," 31 August 1970, Company B, 11th Special Forces
Group (Abn) 1st SF, Major Lewis Meyers, US Army Military History Institute, Carlisle
Memo, "Annual Unit History," 18 March 1970, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 11th Special
Forces Group, Captain Charles F.W. Maurer, US Army Military History Institute, Carlisle
Memo, "Unit History," 19 October 1970, Company G (Signal), 11th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st
Special Forces, US Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, PA.
Press Release, "316th Special Forces Detachment (Airborne)," (c. 1959; also known as a "capsule history"
of the 316th.)
James Santos, "Apex Operations Summary," The Apex (3 September 1975), p. 3.
James Santos, "When You Eat..." The Apex (November 1973), p. 7.
Donna Shreve, "Area Patriots, Green Berets Win Daring Battle on Tionesta Bridge, "The Derrick (3
October 1967), page available.
Shelby L. Stanton, Green Berets at War (New York: Presidio Press, 1985)
Sun Tzu, "The Art of War," Roots of Strategy (Harrisburg: Stackpole Books, 1985)
Posted by David Reynolds
May 30 2006 05:47:02:000PM