Special Forces – The Green Beret

Special Forces (SF) was designed in 1953 by Major Herbert Brucker, a veteran of the OSS. First Lieutenant Roger Pezelle adopted it as the unofficial headgear for his A-team, Operational Detachment FA32. They wore it whenever they went to the field for prolonged exercises. Soon it spread throughout all of SF, although the Army refused to authorize its official use.

Special Forces Part IV: The Story Behind the Green Beret

Special Forces soldiers in Vietnam

Special Forces Part 4 – The Story Behind the Green Beret

Finally, in 1961, President John F. Kennedy planned to visit Fort Bragg. He sent word to the Special Warfare Center commander, Brigadier General William P. Yarborough, for all SF Soldiers to wear their berets for the event. President Kennedy felt that since they had a special mission, SF should have something to set them apart from the rest. Even before the presidential request, however, the Department of the Army had acquiesced and teletyped a message to the center authorizing the beret as a part of the SF uniform.

President Kennedy

When President Kennedy came to Fort Bragg Oct. 12, 1961, General Yarborough wore his Green Beret to greet the commander-in-chief. The president remarked, “Those are nice. How do you like the Green Beret?” General Yarborough replied, “They’re fine, Sir. We’ve wanted them a long time.”

A message from President Kennedy to General Yarborough later that day stated, “My congratulations to you personally for your part in the presentation today … The challenge of this old but new form of operations is a real one, and I know that you and the members of your command will carry on for us, and the free world in a manner which is both worthy and inspiring. I am sure that the Green Beret will be a mark of distinction in the trying times ahead.”

In an April 1962 White House memorandum for the U.S. Army, President Kennedy showed his continued support for SF, calling the Green Beret “a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom.”

Special Forces Article Series

Special Forces Part I: From Birth to Present Day

Special Forces Part 2: The Early Years  

Special Forces Part 3: Twelve Man Teams  

Special Forces Part 4: The Story Behind the Green Beret  [You’re Here]

Special Forces Part 5: Serving During the Vietnam War

Special Forces Part 6: Their Dangerous Missions


Jeff Daley MACV-Ord


These articles are brought to you by Jeff Daley – Vietnam Veteran


Interested in Special Forces you can find out more at their website.