In the late 1950s. the fear that the Soviet Union would invade and overrun Western Europe was very real. So the U.S. had come up with a contingency plan. A small unit of unconventional warriors who would conduct guerrilla warfare, train indigenous forces, and operate behind Soviet lines until the Western allies could liberate their territory. This unit was the secretive 10th Special Forces Group.
The 10th Special Forces Group was formed in 1952. Besides a New York Times article in 1955, the unit was kept under the radar. Then, in 1959, Americans were properly introduced to these phantom fighters in an episode of The Big Picture, which was produced with the assistance of the Army’s Signal Corps.
The phantom fighters had already accumulated significant experience conducting unconventional warfare during WWII and Korea. They would soon become known for their distinctive green headgear. Their green beret.
The Necessity of the Unconventional
During World War II most American unconventional warriors were part of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) which had also been conducting intelligence operations. Yet, due to the typical short-sightedness and petty jealousies that permeate Washington, OSS and unconventional warriors were deemed expendable after WWII ended.
So, OSS was disbanded less than three weeks after the Japanese surrender as President Harry Truman hated the head of the OSS, General William “Wild Bill” Donovan. However, things changed shortly after the war when the Central Intelligence Agency was created on July 26, 1947, and Truman signed the National Security Act into law.
Five years later, Aaron Bank, a former OSS operator, was given command of the newly formed 10th Special Forces Group. The Headquarters and Headquarters Company was established on May 19, 1952. The Group itself was activated a month later on June 19, 1952. The first class of Special Forces troops graduated later in 1952.
After a year of intensive training and expansion, the 10th Special Forces Group grew to 1,700 personnel. Then, about half of the officers and men were transferred, along with the Group Headquarters, to Lenggries, in the German Alps, and later to Bad Tölz at Flint Kaserne. Ironically, their headquarters in Bad Tölz were in a former German SS officer training barracks.
At around the same time, 100 Green Berets were also deployed to Korea. There, they trained anti-Communist North Korean partisans (called the United Nations Partisan Forces Korea) on the off-shore islands.
The remaining personnel stayed at Fort Bragg where they formed the core of the 77th Special Forces Group, which was later redesignated as the 7th Special Forces Group.
Thus from its infancy, the 1oth SFG had a nearly global presence.
The Lodge Act’s Importance for the 10th Special Forces Group
At first, the men in Germany recruited heavily from veterans of the OSS, Airborne, and Ranger Companies. Later, the phantom fighters would also draw from many foreign nationals who had fled from Eastern Europe and had enlisted in the U.S. Army under the Lodge Act. These Eastern Europeans had intimate knowledge of the people, customs, language, and terrain of the areas where the unit would be called to operate in.
Among those who answered the call and enlisted under the Lodge Act was Major Larry Thorne (Lauri Allan Törni) who became an SF legend. Thorne conducted a tour in Vietnam with A-734 of the 7th SFG but was later killed in a helicopter crash during his second tour while a member of MACV-SOG. Thorne can be seen in the Big Picture episode as a signal first lieutenant.
Therefore, the Lodge Act had an invaluable part to play in the solid foundation of the Green Berets. Without it, the Special Forces would lose on a lot of men with the skillsets and knowledge needed for the unit’s demanding mission set.
Now, nearly 60 years after its creation, the 10th Special Forces Group is still at the tip of the spear ready to take on any enemy of the United States.
And the legend lives on.
Below you can watch The Big Picture episode that showed the men of the 10th Special Forces Group conduct unconventional warfare operations.