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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

        by LTC Daniel Marvin, USASF (ret)
© 2003 Daniel Marvin

Part 20 –

Special Forces Association:
Good, Bad & Ugly

February 3, 2003

The Special Forces Association was formed in 1964 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina with the purpose of bringing together all men ever assigned to the US Army’s Special Forces. They publish a quarterly magazine, The Drop, which depicts the activities of certain of its thousands of members, chapters, and the Active, Reserve and National Guard Special Forces Units. It is a Good organization in that it brings together those special warriors who have earned the right to wear the Green Beret, that special headgear which President John F. Kennedy personally approved and called a “symbol of excellence, the mark of distinction, the badge of courage.”

Comprised of perhaps 6,000 Special Forces Officers, Warrant Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers, it represents those uniquely qualified, highly trained and exceptionally motivated men of courage. Common sense and wisdom drives these few, others wouldn’t dare tread in situations so fraught with danger that every assignment, every mission, every foray into danger is given only to those who volunteer.

If it were true that these experts in unconventional warfare, civic action, psychological operations were, in fact, uniquely capable of resisting all temptation that would have them take undue advantage of their power and prowess, this nation could readily put together a force of volunteers who could go anywhere, face any foe, accomplish any mission, meet any collateral need and emerge not only victorious, but with a record of fairness, integrity and justice that “Mr. Clean” would be blessed to call his own. Unfortunately each and every one of us who have worn or will ever be privileged to wear the Green Beret and placed in positions, places or circumstances of trust where we exercise great, if not absolute power over the situation and all those who are involved therein are not inherently strong enough to resist what the devil would have us to do.

Thus there is a need for constant effort on the part of SF personnel to keep one’s self straight, to advise and/or report fellow Special Forces personnel (officer or NCO) who are going “off course.” They need the courage and integrity to take immediate and appropriate action when a situation is out of control and is not only illegal, immoral or hurtful of the mission, but would bring discredit on the organization and even its in-country mission. Where the Special Forces Association is Bad and errs grievously, to the detriment of its members and its charter, is when it attempts to deter, sidetrack or deny the truth of evil or harmful behavior of those who wear the Green Beret for the sole purpose of “protecting” the “good name” of the association or Special Forces in general.

My book, Expendable Elite – One Soldier’s Journey into Covert Warfare, is a true account of my seven months as commander of Team A-424 and its independent operational mission in An Phu, South Vietnam from 27 December 1965 through 2 August 1966. With the exception of the incident involving a US helicopter crew’s machine-gun slaughter of innocent South Vietnamese peasants in a rice paddy near Rach Gia (Chapter 2) each and every significant action or happening in my book is corroborated by audio tapes and/or written and signed documents in file (at my office and 2 other unspecified locations to protect same) that were completed by members of my team, interpreters, my counterpart and the man who saved our lives from the wrath of the CIA, Lieutenant General Quang Van Dang. When Robert Logan, who owns the exclusive rights to produce a movie based on this book, had his attorney, Arthur H. Weed, write members of my team to determine who among them would be willing to participate in what had been planned at that time as a documentary film, he was to learn that, without exception, those contacted would not participate. Instead, Attorney Weed received a message on his answering machine identifying the caller as Jimmy Dean, “Secretary of the Special Forces Association” leaving two numbers to call him back at (910-485-5433 & 1041). Mr. Weed wrote his client, Robert Logan, “Specifically, [Jimmy Dean] said [Marvin’s] ‘book was fantasy’ and that the ‘camp never came under attack by the Viet Cong’ and that Col. Marvin never went to ‘assassin school’.” Attorney Weed continued, “Jimmy Dean also stated ‘there would be serious repercussions’ if [Bob Logan] went ahead with the project...”

The Ugly nature of SFA can best be related to telephone conversations I had with my former team members, each of which had previously provided corroboration to me in the form of audio tapes or typed/hand-written and signed letters by that individual. They expressed fear to me, one saying to me that his wife had been called by someone in the Pentagon and advised that her husband could lose his retirement pay if he kept in touch with me. That same man was asked by ‘someone’ in the SFA to be “loyal” to SFA and not to side with me. Another NCO from my team who I knew to have been highly courageous in battle told me that he had been called and told his son, who was either regular army or wanting to be, would have his career cut short if his dad supported me. Subsequent calls to these men went unanswered.

Another Ugly situation erupted when I provided British counselor William E. Pepper (attorney for the family of slain Dr. King) with evidence of illegal gun-running by Special Forces that I had personally discovered and stopped from moving any more than the 100 plus weapons (including .30 caliber sniper rifles) that had already been shipped to the United States. That evidence was in the form of a complete US Army Intelligence and Security Command investigation of Special Forces Officers LTC Robert Bartelt and CPT Ernest Buttler provided me on 8 February 1990. This investigation was based on my discoveries and request for investigation. The gun-running may have been tied in with the US military’s infiltration of Black Power organizations, which was my rationale for providing it to Mr. Pepper for use in the civil lawsuit that found our government complicit in the murder of Dr. King. I was stricken from the roles of the Special Forces Association and members who I have spoken with since that time have told me that they were advised not to have anything to do with me. All these ugly actions were taken against me because I told the truth. I will continue to strive to get the SFA to recognize how important it is to their organization and to our nation, a democracy that depends on these fine and exceptionally well-qualified and highly motivated Special Forces to help maintain freedom throughout the world, to take whatever action is necessary to identify evil within the ranks, investigate, and take action to punish those who are guilty. If not, we stand to lose a valuable source of courage, wisdom, tenacity and skills to maintain this democracy.

[Edited by Jeanne Calabretta]

Next, on 17-Feb-03, Part 21a — A Need for Courage at Home and on the Hill

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