I arrived in Vietnam in August of 1968 and after an indoctrination and acclimatization course on Hon Tre Island off the coast of South Vietnam, I was assigned to an A-Team. A-325/Duc Hue, located in the III Corps area of South Vietnam in Hau Nghia Province, northwest of Saigon along the Cambodian border. Everyone that I came in contact with, from personnel of the 5th Special Forces Group (Abn) Headquarters in Nha Trang to the C-Team personnel at Bien Hoa and on to the B-Team personnel at Tay Ninh, were all welcoming and professionally cool.
While a member of my A-Team, race was not specifically discussed as I can recall. Our discussions and concerns were about the NVA across the Cambodian border that wanted to kill us. We however did discuss during one evening in the Team House, the relative differences of the U.S. and African countries’ economic development. That discussion did not evolve to the point of being racist. Respect among teammates in SF is a given. Everyone on an A-Team knows what each member had to go through to earn that Green Beret. I left my A-Team in October of 1969 to return to college, feeling good about my teammates and Special Forces in general.
Reading the story of Col. (Ret) Paris Davis’ Medal of Honor paperwork package being lost twice by the Army is disheartening and may also be discouraging to many. However, it is important to distinguish between the U.S. Army of those decades and the Army Special Forces. It was the U.S. Army’s personnel that somehow lost Col. Davis’ Medal of Honor paperwork package. It was Army Special Forces personnel and Col. Davis’ teammates that persisted in getting new paperwork pushed forward.
The Army Special Forces, by the nature of its creation in 1952 by former members of the Army’s WWII Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and their Special Operations teams named “Jedburghs,” with the concept of Unconventional Warfare (UW), was not appreciated and or wanted by the Army. These former OSS men: McClure, Bank, Volkmann, Fertig, Blair, Waters, and McDowell persisted such that the Army Special Forces’ UW concept survived and has grown to now being the Army’s newest branch (by General Orders No. 35 in 1987). On top of this UW concept (no pun intended), being granted Presidential permission in 1961 to wear the Green Beret by President Kennedy was a bit too much for the “regular” Army.
The Army had disbanded and thought it had gotten rid of its special units after WWII; (the Rangers and the 1st Special Service Force — a U.S. and Canadian combined force). In the 1950s and ‘60s, Army Special Forces had therefore become an unwanted stepchild of the U.S. Army. This is not my opinion; it is the history of the Army Special Forces during those times.
Regardless of the bravery and heroism of the men of Special Forces, there were many in the “regular” Army that were not fans.
So, here we have in 1965 an African American Green Beret captain doing what Green Berets do when the going gets tough, gets his Medal of Honor paperwork lost not once, but twice! And yes, given the racial unrest in the U.S. during the 1960s, Col. Davis’ race cannot be discarded in how this almost 60 year “cluster f_ _ k” took place. What we do know for sure is that his Green Beret teammates and the 5th Special Forces Group (Abn) and Command did not leave him, alone, after almost 60 years.