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

Special Forces Heroes:
Colonel James (Nick) Rowe

Colonel James (Nick) Rowe

Perhaps the most familiar training site in the Special Forces community is a compound at remote Camp Mackall in the North Carolina Sandhills. There, some 40 miles from Fort Bragg's main post area, the Special Forces selection program and qualification courses are conducted. Named in 1990 the Col. James N. (Nick) Rowe Special Operations Training Facility, the compound is a memorial to a man whose life exemplified the determination and selflessness that have become the hallmark of Special Forces.

Rowe died April 21, 1989, when he was shot and killed on his way to work at the U.S. embassy in the Philippines. As ground forces director of the U.S. military advisory group there, he was the enemy target of communist rebels, who later claimed responsibility for the assassination.

A West Point graduate, Rowe was taken prisoner in 1963 only months after he arrived in Vietnam. He was confined for five years and suffered daily mental and physical torture. One day before Rowe was to be executed, he made a daring escape and was rescued by American soldiers who almost fired on him; they at first had mistaken Rowe for the enemy.

After resigning his commission in 1974, Rowe was recalled to active duty in 1981 and would leave behind a tremendous legacy at Fort Bragg: a course based on his prisoner-of-war experience. Called SERE - Survival Evasion Resistance Escape - the course today is considered by many as the most important advanced training in the special operations field. Taught at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, SERE trains soldiers to avoid capture, but if caught, to survive and return home with honor. Much of the SERE course is conducted at the Rowe compound.

Rowe spent more than half of his life as a Special Forces officer. In his own words from an oral history interview conducted before he left the Special Warfare Center and School for his assignment in the Philippines, Rowe recounts: "I took a different route from most and came into Special Forces... I had made a decision then that, as far as I was concerned, I had found what I wanted in the military, and I simply had to find a way to stay with it."

Hundreds of mourners crowded in and outside Fort Bragg's JFK Chapel for a memorial service a week after Rowe was killed. Brig. Gen. David J. Baratto, then the Special Warfare Center and School commander, said in a eulogy that Rowe "died in service to his country and gave all that mortality could give - his strength, his loyalty, his wisdom and his love. He died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in his heart, and hope in the last words he wrote: the hope that Right would prevail and that the oppressed would be liberated."

 - Back to Special Forces Heroes


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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