In 1958, 101st Airborne Division commander Major General William Westmoreland gave Korean War Medal of Honor recipient Major Lewis Millet an important assignment. His task? Establishing a condensed, but intense, patrolling and raiding school for the division. Westmoreland was concerned that his division’s paratroopers needed more intensive training in raiding and reconnaissance patrolling, but was aware that the U.S. Army Ranger School was unable to provide training on the scale he envisioned for an entire division.
General Westmoreland chose the name “Recondo” for his school. The “Recon” half of the new word was clear enough, but there is still some lingering debate over the “do” part. Most soldiers younger than General Westmoreland assumed the name was a combination of recon and commando, but some sources say that General Westmoreland’s original intention was that the “do” came from the WWI nickname for American soldiers, “doughboys.”
To a generation accustomed to Pillsbury TV commercials featuring the fat and giggly Pillsbury Doughboy, that was absolutely unacceptable. Whatever General Westmoreland originally intended, to everyone else, “Recondo” has always stood for “reconnaissance commando.” When he later became commandant of the U.S. Military Academy, General Westmoreland also instituted a less intense program of Recondo training at West Point. Later, in Vietnam, General Westmoreland played a major part in establishing the most famous Recondo school of them all—MACV Recondo School.
When conventional U.S. troop units began deploying to the Republic of Vietnam, the men of Project Delta (B-52) and its predecessor, Project Leaping Lena, had already honed their skills and gained experience in conducting reconnaissance and other special operations in Vietnam, as well as in training indigenous troops in these arts. It soon became evident that the conventional units would need a reconnaissance capability beyond their organic cav troops and infantry battalion recon platoons.