In 2006, a group of senior sergeants in 3rd Ranger Battalion began growing out their beards on Fort Benning, Georgia. It was an unusual sight within a unit famed for its “high and tight” haircuts. The group of Rangers was being detailed to a secret mission in Pakistan, one which would attempt to relaunch the Lodge Act which allowed European defectors and refugees to join the US Army as a fast track to gaining American citizenship.
The 2006 attempt to create a cell of Pakistani counter-terrorist operators that would work for American interests was one of two dismal failures during the Global War on Terror to resurrect the Lodge Act. The concept behind it is valid, but for various reasons the actual execution was flawed. The bottom line is that is a difficult, if not impossible, for Americans to completely blend in with foreign cultures.
Take myself for example. I won’t be blending in anywhere unless we decide to go fight the IRA in Ireland and even then, my cover would last about until the second I open my mouth. Granted, others would fare better. I was always a little jealous of some of the guys in 7th Special Forces Group. The many hispanic Americans assigned to that unit deploy to Central and South America and are able to better integrate with the local culture than I ever could in the Middle East. This leads one to wonder if it isn’t worth attempting another Lodge Act, but one in which applicants for Special Forces are carefully screened and tested.
In a new article written by Special Forces officer Douglas Livermore, the argument is made that giving the evolving threats from numerous rogue states as well as bigger threats from adversarial nations in the Pacific Rim and Eastern Europe, that the only way Special Forces will be able to operate effectively in these theaters in by making use of indigenous talent.
The concept has worked before. I wrote about the Lodge Act a few years back saying:
The idea behind the Lodge Act was to create a sort of American foreign legion, the ultimate Unconventional Warfare unit made up of men who defected from the USSR and its satellite states. With their in-depth knowledge of enemy nations and foreign language capabilities, they could be trained in Infantry and Ranger tactics before having their skills polished with instruction in sabotage and other forms of Unconventional Warfare. This was the sort of thing that Colonel Banks had some first hand knowledge in, of course, from his experience in the Second World War with the Jedburgh teams.
At the end of the article, I also mentioned that there are a lot of unanswered questions about these Lodge Act Green Berets. What did they do for their unit? What missions did they participate in? Only recently have I been able to give a real answer. Detachment A was a clandestine Special Forces unit stationed in Berlin.
The unit was commanded by Sid Shachnow at one point, a Jewish holocaust survivor who immigrated to America and eventually became a Green Beret, but in the unit’s ranks were a number of former Nazis. The Lodge Act, named after Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, allowed displaced persons from World War II, hailing from countries like Ukraine, Hungary, Germany, and Czechoslovakia to join the United States Army, many of them joining Special Forces and bringing with them much sought after foreign language skills needed as the Cold War escalated. Some had served in the Warsaw rebellion against the Nazis, others had fought in the 1956 Hungarian revolution, and some had even been a part of the Finnish underground during the war.
“It was a fast track to [American] citizenship,” Warner Farr said and Bob Charest added that, “you felt like you were in a foreign Army.” The Lodge Act Green Berets could be identified by looking at their US Army serial numbers which all carried the same prefix at the beginning: 10812. “I bet at that time  there were no more than 15 Americans in the unit,” Farr said, referring to native-born Americans as opposed to Lodge Act soldiers and naturalized citizens. Gradually, the unit did become more Americanized as the Cold War progressed and World War Two veterans began to age.
So we know that many Lodge Act Green Berets were assigned to Det A and had the “stay behind” mission which would see them sabotaging logistics and infrastructure in Berlin if the Soviets ever pushed over the wall and launched World War Three. Others were no doubt assigned to Operation “Falling Rain” in which they would have parachuted into Warsaw Pact nations to launch unconventional warfare against the Soviets and their communist proxies.
Livermore concludes his article by pointing out that US Special Forces should utilize the MAVNI program to recruit non-US citizens and prepare them for Special Operations selection and training. Displaced people from the current conflict in Syria and Iraq could be screened and selected, such as Yazidi refugees or moderate Sunni and Shia Arabs. By recruiting foreigners into the US military, America might finally have a leg up on the opposition in a way we haven’t had since we brought European refugees into our military in the 1950’s.
Image courtesy of DoD