The Origin of the Green Beret
Most of the time the public refers to the members of the United States Special Forces as “The Green Berets”. What they may not know is just how the distinctive headgear came to represent these elite soldiers:
The Green Beret was originally designed in 1953. It was created by a veteran of the OSS, a wartime organization that was the predecessor of today’s CIA, called SF Major Herbert Brucker. That year it was first worn in action, during prolonged field exercises, by the “A ¨C Team” Operational Detachment FA32 as led by First Lieutenant Roger Pezelle.
Before long all of the Special Forces had adopted the green beret but it was unofficial, the Army refusing to officially approve of its adoption by the Special Forces. That would change however when President John F Kennedy made an official visit to Fort Bragg, NC in 1961.
Prior to the event the President sent a message to the Commander of the Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, Brigadier General William Yarborough, that all of the Special Forces members that were going to be attendance should wear their green berets. As they had been set special duties the President felt it was only right that they should have something to set them apart from the rest and that the green beret was perfect for the purpose. At the same time the Department of the Army sent word to Yarborough that the green berets were now authorized to become an official and permanent part of the Special Forces uniform.
When President Kennedy arrived at Fort Bragg ands spoke with the Brigadier General he asked him how he and his men liked their green berets now that they officially belonged to them. “They’re fine, Sir. We’ve wanted them a long time.” was his reply.
It was also President Kennedy who gave the official declaration of the meaning of the green beret. In a 1962 White House memo he stated that the green beret should be considered “a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom.”and is has been ever since.