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Special Forces Berlin
by James Stejskal




Home > Conflicts > Vietnam

The U.S. Army Special Forces had a 14-year long history of involvement in Vietnam. The first members of Special Forces to serve in Vietnam were from the 14th Special Forces Operational Detachment. This 16-man detachment entered Vietnam in 1956 to train a cadre of Vietnamese Special Forces teams. The first Special Forces Soldier to die in Vietnam (1956) was Captain Harry G. Cramer, Jr. Throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s many Special Forces detachments would deploy to South Vietnam.

5th Special Forces Group. In September 1964, the 5th Special Forces Group set up its headquarters in Nha Trang. The 5th Group would stay in Vietnam until it re-deployed to Fort Bragg, North Carolina in 1971.

MACV-SOG. The Military Assistance Command Vietnam - Studies and Observations Group or MACV-SOG conducted reconnaissance, intelligence, and special operations during the  Vietnam War. This secretive organization ran several operations within South Vietnam and into the neighboring countries of North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. One of the earliest operations was the implementation of OPLAN 34A.

Operation DANIEL BOONE. This was a cross-border operation into Cambodia conducted by Special Forces soldiers assigned to MACV-SOG. See Operation DANIEL BOONE.

Special Forces Camps in Vietnam

List of Special Forces Camps, 1961-1971, Center for Military History, U.S. Army

Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG)

U.S. Army Special Forces ODAs, assigned to the CIA's cover organization, MAAG's Combined Studies Division (CSD), provided support in the form of training and advising to Montenard villagers belonging to the Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) program. Teh program began in 1961. The belief of the CIA and military at the time was that a paramilitary force of minorities in the central highlands would expand South Vietnam's counterinsurgency efforts into remote areas.

Buon Enao Experiment. The forerunner to the CIDG program was an experiment in village defense conducted in the Central Highlands village of Buon Enao.

Village Defense Program (VDP). CIDG was originally called the Village Defense Program - the name was changed to CIDG when MAAG, Vietnam was restructured and changed its name to the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV).

In July 1962 U.S. DoD directed that all overt Special Forces paramilitary activities be transferred from the CIA to MACV. 1.

Piasecki, Eugene G. "Civilian Irregular Defense Group: The First Years: 1961-1967", Veritas, Vol. 5, No. 4, posted on website of Small Wars Journal.

Notable Events

Son Tay Raid. On the night of November 20-21, 1970 a group of U.S. Army Green Berets conducted a helicopter insert into a prisoner of war camp located near Hanoi, North Vietnam. The Operation IVORY COAST was intended to rescue over 70 U.S. prisoners of war held by the North Vietnamese.

Websites with Information about Special Forces in Vietnam

Running Agents into North Vietnam. There were a number of programs mounted by the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Army Special Forces to infilitratrate intelligence agents and resistance fighters into North Vietnam. Most of these were unsuccessful and resulted in the capture and execution of the operatives. Some were 'turned' by the North Vietnamese intelligence service and used as 'doubles'. 2. 

Vietnam - Army Special Operations by GlobalSecurity.org

Military Assistance Command Vietnam - Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG)

macvsog.cc Website managed by Robert Noe (CCN 69-70).

Project Delta, Detachment B-52. The small clandestine organization of about 100 Special Forces Soldiers proved to be one of the most successful special reconnaissance operations of the Vietnam War. The unit was formed in May 1964 as a covert organization; and it lasted for about six years - deactivating in July 1970. It was tasked with training the Civilian Irregular Defense Group and the South Vietnamese Special Forces (known as Luc Luong Dac Biet) in conducting long-range reconnaissance patrols deep in enemy territory. The activities of Project Delta were classified until years after the wars conclusion. About 600 men total served in Project Delta. For more information visit https://sogsite.com/project-delta/

SF Casualties in Vietnam

Coffelt Database of Vietnam Casualties. This online database provides the names of individuals who died in the Vietnam Conflict. The unit of assignment and circumstances of death are detailed with each individual's entry.

Publications about Special Forces in Vietnam

Razzano, Jr., MAJ Frank D., The Necessity for the Military Assistance Command - Vietnam Studies and Observations Group, U.S. Army CGSC, Fort Leavenworth, KS, 2015, PDF, 72 pages.

Department of the Army, Vietnam Studies: U.S. Army Special Forces 1961-1971, CMH Publication 90-23, Washington, D.C. 1989 (First Printed, 1973).

Department of the Army, US Army Special Forces and Similar Internal Defense Advisory Operations in Mainland Southeast Asia, 1962-1967 (U), AD502694, Research Analysis Corporation Technical Paper RAC-TP-354, McLean, Virginia, June 1969.
http://www.dod.mil/pubs/foi/ . . . /438.pdf

White House, Guerrilla Operations in Viet-Minh Territory, National Security Action Memoradum No 26, March 9, 1961. President Kennedy directed the DoD and CIA to launch guerrilla operations in Viet-Minh territory at the earliest possible time. NSAM No 26 posted on the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Videos about Vietnam

Vietnam: Training ARVN | Foreign Internal Defense (FID). “Training ARVN” examines US Foreign Internal Defense (FID) doctrine through the early years of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. ARVN came to look like a mirror image of the US Army of the 1960s. Under American advisement, South Vietnam developed its abilities in its war against North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front. Yet ARVN’s deficiencies contributed to the United States’ decision to introduce American combat forces in 1965. Army University Press, YouTube, November 2, 2023, YouTube, 29 minutes.

SOGCast, YouTube, by John Stryker Meyer. Chronicles and stories of MAC-V SOG.



1. This was directed in National Security Action Memoradum Number 57: responsibility of Paramilitary Operations, June 28, 1961.

2. On the turning of intelligence operatives by the North Vietnamese read "New Vietnam Spy Tale Sheds Light on How the U.S. Lost the War", Newsweek, by Jeff Stein, April 30, 2015.




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