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10th Special Forces Group (Airborne)

The 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was activated on 19 June 1952 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with Colonel Aaron Bank in command. Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) had been previously activated on 19 May 1952. The activation of the group was the culmination of efforts to maintain a permanent unit whose wartime mission was to conduct unconventional warfare. This was an outgrowth of unconventional warfare elements that had existing during the Second World War, such as the combined US-Canadian 1st Special Service Force and deployable elements of the Office of Strategic Services (commonly referred to as "Jedburgh teams," though this applied only to teams deployed to France; teams in Central Europe and the Balkans were referred to as "OG Teams"), a predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency.

The US Army created the 10th Special Forces Group to conduct partisan warfare behind Red Army lines in the event of a Soviet invasion of Europe. From the very start, the Army planned to employ the Group in Europe. Based on the unit mission and the identities of the soldiers, an aura of secrecy surrounded the 10th Special Forces Group in the early days. A certain breed of men stayed, and subsequently attracted more of their own kind. One group of men who found places in Special Forces that suited their temperaments and special abilities were the so-called "Lodge Bill" troops. The Lodge Bill (or Lodge Act) , passed in 1951, authorized the recruitment of foreign nationals into the US military. Many of the "Lodge Bill" men still had families behind the Iron Curtain. It was even hoped initially that half of the new unit would be staffed by European natives. A few of the more notable Lodge Bill soldiers were Sergeant Paul Ettman, a refugee from Poland; Stefan Mazak, a Czech and veteran of the Marquis (French partisans during World War II) and the French Foreign Legion; Henry "Frenchy" Szarck, a Pole and a veteran of 4 armies; Peter Astalos, served in the Romanian and German Armies during World War II; and Martin Urich, who participated in the largest tank battle of the war: Kursk.

The first class of the Special Forces Course graduated in 1952 and the 10th Special Forces Group grew to an aggregate strength of 1,700 personnel over the next year. The 1953 Berlin/East German crisis prompted a rapid move of the entire unit to Germany. In September 1953, following intensive individual and team training, 782 members of the Group, deployed to Germany and established the 10th Special Forces Group headquarters at Lengries in Bavaria. Other graduates went to Korea to form the 8240th Army Unit, which conducted unconventional warfare operations and training, or remained at Fort Bragg, North Carolina to form the nucleus of 77th Special Forces Group (Airborne). On 10 November 1953, the 10th Special Forces Group was split in half between Bad Tölz and Lenggries in Germany. Bad Tölz became most associated with the unit.

The original Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (A Detachment or A Team) was called an FA Team and consisted of 15 men. Each FA Team was designed to advise and support a regiment of up to 1,500 partisans. An FB Team (equivalent to the subsequent Special Forces Operational Detachment Bravo, also known as a B Detachment of B Team) commanded 2 or more FA Teams. An FC Team (equivalent to the subsequent Special Forces Operational Detachment Charlie, also known as a C Detachment or C Team) was designed to command and control FA and FB teams including Guerrilla Warfare (GW) area commands operating in a single country. The Group Headquarters, called the FD Team, was designed to command and control the entire Group when employed in 2 or more countries. The fact that this original organization changed very little over the many years was indeed a tribute to those who devised the first Tables of Organization and Equipment, which were largely taken from the OSS-OG structure.

The 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was recognized publicly for the first time in 1955 when the New York Times published two articles about the unit, describing them as a "liberation" force designed to fight behind enemy lines. Pictures showed soldiers of the Group wearing their distinctive green berets, but with their faces blacked out to conceal their identities. The green berets had been authorized for wear at Bad Tölz by the Group Commander Colonel William Eckman on 17 November 1955. The usage of these berets became group policy and led to the headgear becoming authorized for Special Forces as a whole after President John F. Kennedy's visit to Fort Bragg in October 1961. The Department of the Army had previously refused to recognize the beret as official headgear for the unit or Special Forces in general.

The 10th Special Forces Group continued to operate in Germany until 30 September 1960, when its lineage and honors were consolidated with that of elements of the 1st Special Service Force and 2nd Infantry Battalion (previously 2nd Ranger Infantry Battalion), to form a new unit: 10th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces. The change was part of the formation of the 1st Special Forces Regiment as a parent regiment for all US Army Special Forces units. New distinctive unit insignia and other regalia were created and approved for the new Special Forces units. During the 1950s, the 10th Special Forces had a unique crest with dominant Trojan Horse theme designed by Captain Roger Pezzelle. This was worn on the green berets worn by the unit. It remained the unofficial beret badge until 1962 and continued to be an unofficial item of unit regalia thereafter.

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Page last modified: 02-08-2012 18:44:07 ZULU