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U.S. Army Special Forces
"The Green Berets"

Statement on the 50th Anniversary of the U.S. Army Special Forces by Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez


Mr. Speaker, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

I rise in support of H. Con. Res. 364, introduced by the gentleman from Orange County, California (Mr. Cox) which recognizes the 50th anniversary of the United States Army Special Forces. The United States Army Special Forces was created on June 20, 1952, when the original 10th with Special Forces Group commanded by Colonel Aaron Bank was activated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. From this a permanent force of unconventional soldiers serving in small-scale conflicts behind enemy lines was formed.

The success of this group, to be known as the Green Berets, acted as a catalyst for the creation of similar special operations units within our Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. Colonel Aaron Bank, an OSS operative who remained in the military after the war, worked tirelessly to convince the Army to adopt its own conventional guerilla-style force. Bank and Volckmann convinced the Army chiefs that there were areas in the world not susceptible to conventional warfare, but that would make ideal targets for the unconventional harassment and guerilla fighting.

Special operations as envisioned by Bank were a force multiplier where you had a small number of soldiers who could sow a disproportionately large amount of trouble for the enemy. Confusion would reign among enemy ranks, and the objectives would be accomplished with an extreme economy of manpower. It was a bold idea, one that went against the grain of traditional concepts.

In the spring of 1952, Bank went to Fort Bragg to choose a suitable location for a psychological warfare/Special Forces center. He then went about assembling a group of soldiers who would serve as the foundation of the new unit. Bank did not want raw recruits. He wanted the best troops in the Army, and he got them. They were a group of men who were looking for new challenges to conquer. They were all volunteers willing to work behind enemy lines in civilian clothes if necessary.

And that last item was of no small matter. If caught operating in civilian clothes, a soldier was no longer protected by the Geneva Convention and would more than likely be shot on site if captured. These first volunteers were extremely brave, and they did not worry about these risks, and after months of intense preparation, Bank's unit was finally activated on June 19 of 1952 at Fort Bragg. It was designated the 10th Special Forces Group, with Bank as the commander, and on the day of activation, the total strength of the group was 10 soldiers: Bank, 1 warrant officer, and 8 enlisted men.

That was soon to change, however. Bank began training his troops in the most advanced techniques of unconventional warfare, and as defined by the Army, the main mission of Bank's unit was to infiltrate by land, sea, or air deep into enemy-occupied territory and organize the resistance/guerilla potential to conduct Special Forces operations with an emphasis on guerilla warfare.

But there were also secondary missions. They included deep-penetration raids, intelligence missions and counterinsurgency operations. It was a tall order, one which demanded a commitment to professionalism and excellence perhaps unparalleled in our American military history. But Bank's men were up to that challenge, and by 1958 the basic operational unit of Special Forces had emerged as a 12-man team known as the detachment, or the "A-Team". 

Each member of the A-detachment, two officers, two operations and intelligence sergeants, two weapons sergeants, two communications sergeants, two medics, and two engineers, were trained in unconventional warfare and cross-trained in each other's specialties, and they spoke, each of them, at least one foreign language. This composition allowed each detachment to operate if necessary in two six-man teams or basically split the A-team.

On November 23, Colonel Bank will be 100 years old, and throughout his life he has demonstrated unwavering loyalty and willingness to take on the most dangerous assignments to achieve the goal of his mission.

During World War II, he served at the Office of Strategic Services. Under that capacity, he was called on to organize a team of German-speaking Americans and French soldiers to dress and train as German SS soldiers with the mission to assassinate Hitler. Although the mission was terminated on the eve of its deployment, Colonel Bank and his soldiers risked certain death by agreeing to serve on this incredibly dangerous mission.

He was the commander of the 107th Airborne Infantry Regimental Combat Team during the Korean War. He has a rich past. He is respected by many military and world leaders. And even recently, leaders of the Special Forces contacted Colonel Bank for his advice on military strategy. In 1997, I spoke and kicked off the Operation Bank to Bank, the Walk Across America, which brought the retired members of the Special Forces Association who started in Newport Beach, California, to walk across America covering eight States and 2,640 miles honoring the Green Berets and raising money for a Special Forces museum.

It was my pleasure on that day when I met Colonel Aaron Bank. Today it is my pleasure to call him the Father of the Special Forces on the 50th anniversary of his contribution to our Nation's efforts to preserve democracy and freedom.

Given their contribution to the war on terrorism, it is even more appropriate that we honor the tens of thousands Special Forces alum and the more than 8,000 men and women currently serving as Special Forces soldiers in defense of America.


This page is an unofficial document and does not represent information endorsed by the United States Government, the United States Special Operations Command or the United States Army Special Operations Command. However, most information is derived from those sources and has been checked for accuracy. For comments, questions, and suggestions, please go to the Communications Center.

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