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This true story of a Special Forces officer in Vietnam in the mid-sixties will acquaint you with the unique nature of Special Operations Forces and how covert operations are developed and often masked to permit — even sponsor — assassination, outright purposeful killing of innocents, illegal use of force and bizzare methods in combat operations.

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The Unconventional Warrior

A  R  C  H  I  V  E  S



The Unconventional Warrior, by LTC ‘Dangerous’ Dan Marvin

© 2002 Daniel Marvin

Part Two — Secret Orders & Compartmentalization

 August 9, 2002 

I asked to serve in what was described to me as an “unusual” airborne activity in France. I arrived at the US Army Aerial Support Center at St. Andre, a small town 60 miles southwest of Paris, on 16 May 1960, and assumed the duties of officer in charge of unconventional airborne logistical support. This assistance was for special operations conducted by units of the 10th Special Forces Group out of Bad Tolz, Germany and included storage and maintenance of parachute equipment and classified stocks (from guns & ammunition to c rations) of equipment and supplies necessary to support their cloak and dagger type operations throughout the European Theater.

The center was established at a former WWII German air base with substantial concrete runways that had been used to launch Luftwaffe raids against Great Britain in World War II and included a railroad siding built to service the base.

“The impossible just takes a little longer,” boasted the Green Beret Captain whom I met there during the summer of 1962, shortly after I was promoted to Captain. I would soon learn his boast was actually a true statement of his elite organization’s proven prowess. He’d brought two Special Forces (SF) “A” Teams to St. Andre to coordinate logistical support of a TOP SECRET [1]/COSMIC mission to arm, train and lead Polish patriots on the ground against the Russian occupiers. Those men in their Green Berets had done and would yet do what most others, with the notable exception of the US Navy SEALs, would consider unattainable.

The preparations for SF military assistance to Poland were directed by the headquarters of Special Operations Task Europe, (SOFTE) a super-secret organization. The mission would be to support Polish patriot forces in guerilla warfare against their Russian oppressors. Once the SF teams from the 10th SF Group were on site at St. Andre, we developed a [2] bundle code tailored to their projected on-the-ground operational needs.

When cleared for the operation, we would prepare and load the two A Teams with pre-rigged 500-pound bundles aboard C-130 aircraft that would arrive at St. Andre from Evreaux-Fauville Air Base on order of SOFTE headquarters. The bundles would carry weapons, ammunition and other supplies to equip a guerilla force of approximately 200 irregulars.

It was during this waiting period that the SF Captain briefed me on the concept of compartmentalization. Basically it is a way that covert operations are controlled in an environment of deniability. He commanded the force to be inserted and reported to a control unit at SOFTE rather than his own SF unit once his group was on the ground in the objective area. At St. Andre, I would be his only contact. He made that clear by reminding me that I was the only officer at St. Andre cleared for TOP SECRET/COSMIC, a matter that angered our Center Commander, LTC Edward J. Downing, when messages from SOTFE were marked for my eyes only.

It was an exciting time and I felt good knowing that I was playing a small part in helping the Poles get out from under Russian domination. Once in the air they would cruise at an altitude of 30,000 feet to a specified area where they would be guided by an Air Force homing device dropped in earlier. Polish guerilla forces would be there to meet the Green Berets who would drop in using the HALO method.

One hour prior to scheduled loading time I received a message from the White House through SOFTE, simply saying, “Mission aborted,” We were not told why. I wonder yet what happened to those brave Poles who waited in vain for the arrival of people and material to aid their struggle.

1. COSMIC: TOP SECRET (TS) security classification that permitted access to TS material in all of NATO to cleared individuals.
2. US Army FM 31-21 Sep 61, Appendix II.
Next Week — Part Three: Orders to Kill

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