Sharing the Stories of the Originals
By Alex Quade
War Reporter & Honorary SFA Natl. Lifetime Member
THANK YOU — Rylander Award Winner, The Hon. Noel Koch, former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense — and various Distinguished Members of the Regiment — MG Eldon Bargewell (RIP), former SFA & SOA Dir. Cliff Newman, OSS legend COL Sully de Fontaine (RIP), SF Originals MAJ Clyde Sincere, COL Vahan Sapantzi, as well as MOH COL Roger Donlon. These gentlemen sent leads over the years on surviving Originals — and strongly encouraged me to do my “reporter thing” and track them down.
It’s been a privilege — and delightful challenge.
For instance, Original Arlen Sciallo worried about paperwork he signed in 1952…
“The whole thing was so clandestine — I don’t know how much of this I can reveal under perjury of law, Miss Alex,” he fretted.
“Oh, my goodness,” I replied, assuring him multiple times — that nearly 70-years had passed, and there was so much open-source material — he would not be violating his sworn oath.
“I’ve got it right here, Miss Alex — it’s an affidavit, State of North Carolina, County of Cumberland… that one Sciallo, Arlen G., Corporal, blah, blah, blah,” Arlen read to me the paper he signed.
“…Hereafter being warned of his rights under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, Article 31, 5th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States… I have been informed that all discussions either public or private… That such disclosures are subject to lead to penalties within the meaning of the Espionage Laws of the United States as defined in Army Regulations 380-10. Furthermore, I will not reveal any information concerning the 10th or 77th Special Forces… that all of the above applies to me after discharge from the US Army,” Arlen stated.
I assured him again — he would not be arrested for sharing a little of his initial SF experiences in 1952, training at Fort Bragg.
“Well, you know what seemed to be, you could go into any bar in Fayetteville, and the cocktail waitresses, I guess we drank a lot of beer — anyway, the girls, the waitresses, they pretty much knew what was going on in Special Forces. So, whether guys were drinking and saying things they shouldn’t and what have you, I don’t know,” Original Arlen Sciallo admitted.
Interviews with some Originals included hand-written, snail-mail letters back and forth — different languages with others.
Some Lodge Act Soldiers occasionally fell into native tongues as they reminisced. I found, that if I started speaking German — luckily, ich spreche ein bisschen Deutsch — we’d get back on the same page.
For instance, Original Walter Smith from Poland, told me in German, as “Displaced Persons” they were given a choice…
“We could’ve gone to Airborne units like 82nd,” Smith said. “But I knew the ropes! Special Forces, and be on my way.”
“MSG Donnelly named me ‘Mickey Murphy’ because he couldn’t pronounce my Polish name,” he shared. His real name — Wladyslaw Naumowicz — was listed as “Walter Smith” in most records, but he goes by “Mickey.”
Mickey went to Camp Hale, CO, for mountain training… and also learned how to drive a locomotive during other training in NC. His teammates included Originals Clyde Sincere and Tommy Tomlin.
He laughed, recalling putting condoms filled with water in the beds of drunken teammates in the barracks. “Boy, they were mad when they woke up all wet!”
Many Originals sent their photos and documents. Others sent lovely handwritten letters talking about their former SF Brothers — such as Original Ervin Harpole, aka “Dutch,” who talked about his friend “Frenchy,” Henryk Szarek:
“Ms. Alex: As you know there were some very interesting members in the old SF far more experienced than members like myself. Here is one: Henryk Szarek. I think he arrived in Tölz in 54. He served in the Polish Army. Captured by Germany. Put to work as a barber for the Wehrmacht. Escaped and joined the French Foreign Legion. Served with the Legion in Indochina— now Vietnam. One of the few surviving members of Task Force 100. I believe he joined SF in Bragg in 53.”
Original Tommy Tomlin explained more about “Displaced Persons”…
“In our early days and training, we had what we called ‘Field Craft Classes,’ that were normally conducted by our Lodge Bill personnel, our ‘DPs’. We called them ‘DPs’ back then — because we were young and vulgar and nasty and ignorant. The ones that we had were recruited early, my goodness — some of them were quite up in years, in their 40’s, 45, something like that,” Tommy told me.
Many Originals wanted to discuss SF lineage…
“The architect of it, putting it all together was not COL Bank, he was one of the first ones that was called as a commander of the 10th Group — and he assisted and helped General McClure and Colonel Volckmann quite a bit. To me, the original architect of Special Forces would be Major General Robert A. McClure. A lesser voice, but did as much or more work, probably, was COL Russell W. Volckmann. In the Philippines, he refused to surrender and escaped capture to command US Army forces in the Philippines, in Luzon,” Original Tommy Tomlin told me.
Each Original mentioned COL Aaron Bank…
“COL Bank was very good, and if you screwed up — like I did on several occasions — you had to face him to find out if you was (sic) going to be court martialed or not. You go before the Colonel, and he’d mildly chew you out for whatever you had done. We were always guilty, if we got up in front of him. We had done whatever. Anyway, if you could recite the Special Forces Creed, he’d turn us loose. ‘Don’t do it again, and don’t come back,’ he’d say,” Original Tommy Tomlin shared.
“One time I went before him a second or third time, and he said, ‘SGT Tomlin, you’ve been here before.’ I said, ‘Well, yeah, but…’ He said, ‘How can I correct that?’ I said, ‘Just send me to the field’,” he added.
All the Originals I spoke with said, while they didn’t know what they were in for, their first SF experiences made a lasting impression…
“They didn’t do stupid things like fold their underwear into squares, all measured, and stuff like that! They was (sic) a lot different than the 82nd. I thought the 82nd was stupid. The senior NCOs in SF — I guess they made it somewhat different — because they were in the same barracks with you,” Original Joe Brock said.
His experience on the ship to Germany also made an impression…
“There was a lot of gambling, and I did not gamble, but one of the NCO’s, he would borrow money from me, and then if he won, he would pay be back more than I loaned him. By the time I got to Germany, I guess I made about $50-$60,” Original Joe Brock added, which was a lot of money back then.
SF was a good fit for Originals such as Ralph King, who yearned to do something new in the Army…
“The Colonel in my unit at Ft. Benning said, ‘Why don’t you find out what (the new SF organization) is all about.’ And I said, ‘Well I don’t really care what it is all about, I just want to try it, since something different than I’d been learning down here (Ft. Benning) where you have the same old, every year. Same old squad training, same old platoon training, the same old company training — I was ready to try anything new, and not the same old,” Original Ralph King shared with me.
In SF, rather than “same old,” Ralph went to Smoke Jumper School in Montana in 1952. His first impression of the Kaserne in Germany was not “same old,” either.
“It was barracks — all walled in. It used to be an SS Kaserne. And it had an underground tunnel that they (the SS) could use to go to the Bahnhof (the railroad station in town)… without being seen by the public. They had an underground there, with cell blocks — you might call them — to lock someone up,” Original Ralph King explained.
Each Original shared his amazing experiences, thoughts for this generation of SF, and advice for the next generation of SF. It was a privilege to speak with them, in what was for some, their final interview.
Thank You — Arlen Sciallo, Tommy Tomlin, Wladyslaw Naumowicz — aka Walter “Mickey” or “Murphy” Smith, Joe Brock, Ervin “Dutch” Harpole, Henryk “Frenchy” Szarek, Ralph King, Ben Linschoten, Larry McMillin, Othar Shalikashvili, Paul Vukovich, Chuck Darnell, George “Speedy” Gaspard, Reuben Mooradian, Teodor “Ted” Padalinksi, Chuck “Slats” Petry, Henry Bertrand, Clyde Sincere, Vahan Sipantzi, Richard Simonian, and others.
I look forward to sharing more of our SF Originals’ stories and lessons, ahead.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR — War reporter and documentary filmmaker Alex Quade started her career at the White House during the Persian Gulf War. She’s worked in television covering global conflicts and hostile environments for CNN, FOX, CBS, HLN, APTN and CNNI out of Frankfurt and Berlin, Germany, New York and Atlanta (Alex Quade’s filmography is available at https://m.imdb.com/name/nm6102772/fullcredits?ref_=m_nmfm_1). She’s produced videos and reports for The New York Times; front page stories for The Washington Times, Military Times, and Small Wars Journal; and magazine cover features for National Guard, Communicator, and Dangerous Assignments. She’s the recipient of more than two dozen journalism awards. Among them: two national Edward R. Murrow Awards, the national Defense Media Award for her career covering special operations, an International Aerospace Media Award, group Emmy, Peabody and Columbia du-Pont Awards, and the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Excellence in Journalism Award “for her courageous reporting and honest news coverage.” For more info or to contact Alex: http://alexquade.com/