As long ago as 1957, U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers were in the Republic of Vietnam, going about their business of training, advising, and assisting members of the Vietnamese Army. Despite the old Army witticism about never volunteering for anything, the Special Forces soldier is, in fact, a double volunteer, having first volunteered for airborne training and then again for Special Forces training. From a very meager beginning but sustained by a strong motivation and confidence in his mission, the Special Forces soldier has marched through the Vietnam struggle in superb fashion.
In 1957 some fifty-eight Vietnamese soldiers were given military training by Special Forces troops. Ten years later the Special Forces were advising and assisting over 40,000 paramilitary troops, along with another 40,000 Regional Forces and Popular Forces soldiers. This monograph traces the development and notes the progress, problems, successes, and failures of a unique program undertaken by the U.S. Army for the first time in its history. It is hoped that all the significant lessons learned have been recorded and the many pitfalls of such a program uncovered. I am indebted to Major James M. Scott, Corps of Engineers, for his assistance on the Engineer effort. I am responsible for the conclusions reached, yet my thought processes could not escape the influence of the many outstanding officers and men in the Special Forces who joined in the struggle. Particularly, I must take note of the contributions of the Special Forces noncommissioned officers, without question the most competent soldiers in the world.
With the withdrawal of the Special Forces from Vietnam in 1971, the Army could honestly lay claim to a new dimension in ground warfare—the organized employment of a paramilitary force in sustained combat against a determined enemy. I know I speak for my predecessors and successors in claiming that the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was the finest collection of professional soldiers ever assembled by the U.S. Army, anywhere, anytime.
FRANCIS JOHN KELLY
15 September 1972 Washington, D.C.