Charles Alvin Beckwith

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Charles Alvin Beckwith
Nickname"Chargin' Charlie"
Born(1929-01-22)January 22, 1929
Atlanta, Georgia
DiedJune 13, 1994(1994-06-13) (aged 65)
Austin, Texas
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUnited States Army
Years of service1952—1981
RankColonel
Commands heldSupport Company, 504th Airborne Infantry Regiment
Special Forces Detachment B-52 (Project DELTA)
2nd Battalion/327th Parachute Infantry Regiment
1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta
Battles/warsKorean War
Vietnam War
Operation Eagle Claw
AwardsDistinguished Service Cross ribbon.svg Distinguished Service Cross
SilverStar ribbon.jpg Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster
Legion of Merit ribbon.jpg Legion of Merit
BronzeStar ribbon.jpg Bronze Star
Purple Heart BAR.svg Purple Heart
Other workSecurity consultant
 
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Charles Alvin Beckwith
Nickname"Chargin' Charlie"
Born(1929-01-22)January 22, 1929
Atlanta, Georgia
DiedJune 13, 1994(1994-06-13) (aged 65)
Austin, Texas
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUnited States Army
Years of service1952—1981
RankColonel
Commands heldSupport Company, 504th Airborne Infantry Regiment
Special Forces Detachment B-52 (Project DELTA)
2nd Battalion/327th Parachute Infantry Regiment
1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta
Battles/warsKorean War
Vietnam War
Operation Eagle Claw
AwardsDistinguished Service Cross ribbon.svg Distinguished Service Cross
SilverStar ribbon.jpg Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster
Legion of Merit ribbon.jpg Legion of Merit
BronzeStar ribbon.jpg Bronze Star
Purple Heart BAR.svg Purple Heart
Other workSecurity consultant

Charles Alvin "Charlie" Beckwith (January 22, 1929 – June 13, 1994), known as Chargin' Charlie, was a career United States Army officer and Vietnam veteran who attained the rank of Colonel before his retirement. He is credited with the creation of Delta Force, the premier special operations unit of the U.S. Army.

Contents

Early life

Beckwith was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1929, and was an all-state football player for his high school team. He later enrolled in the University of Georgia, where he played football for the Bulldogs and was a member of the Delta Chapter of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. He joined the university's Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps program and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 1952. He was drafted by the Green Bay Packers that same year but turned down their offer to serve in the Army.[1]

Military career

After the Korean War (1950–1953) was over, then-2nd Lieutenant Beckwith served as a Platoon Leader with Charlie Company, 17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division in the Republic of Korea. In 1955, Beckwith joined the 82nd Airborne Division as a commander of a support company with the 504th Infantry Regiment.

Two years later, after also having completed Ranger School, Beckwith joined Special Forces, and in 1960 was deployed to South Vietnam and Laos as a military advisor.[2]

Beckwith served as an exchange officer with the British Special Air Service (22 SAS Regiment) in 1962 where he picked up many of their capabilities. He conducted war-time guerilla operations with the SAS during the Malayan Emergency. In the jungle, he contracted leptospirosis that was so bad doctors expected him not to survive, but he made a full recovery within months.[3]

Upon his return from England, Beckwith presented a detailed report outlining the Army's vulnerability in not having an SAS-type unit. For several years, Beckwith (who then was a Captain) submitted and re-submitted the report to Army brass, only to be repeatedly thwarted in his efforts. SF leadership at the time thought that they had enough on their hands and didn't need the bother of creating a completely new unit.[4]

Meanwhile, as the 7th Special Forces Group's operations officer, Beckwith went to work revolutionizing Green Beret training. SF at the time focused on unconventional warfare, and especially foreign internal defense: i.e. training indigenous personnel in resistance activities. But Beckwith recognized that, "Before a Special Forces Green Beret soldier could become a good unconventional solder, he'd first have to be a good conventional one... Because I had commanded rifle and weapons companies, I was appalled on arriving in Special Forces to find officers who had never commanded conventional units."[5] Beckwith restructured 7th's training, basically rewriting the book on American special ops training from the real-world lessons he had learned with the SAS. Beckwith also had learned that a symbol of excellence like a beret had to be earned. Officers were being assigned to Special Forces straight out of war college with no prior special ops experience and were given their Green Beret on arrival. The hard-nosed and practical training standards that Beckwith instituted would lend themselves to the birth of the modern Q-Course.

In Vietnam, Beckwith commanded a Special Forces unit code-named Project DELTA. He was critically wounded in early 1966 (he took a .50 caliber bullet through his abdomen). It was so bad that medical personnel triaged him as beyond help for the second time in his military career.[6] This time, again, Beckwith made a full recovery and went on to overhaul the Florida Phase of the US Army's Ranger School. Beckwith transformed this phase from a scripted exercise based upon the Army's World War II experience, into a Vietnam-oriented jungle training regimen.

In 1968, following Tet, LTC Beckwith returned to Vietnam, taking command of the 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry (Airborne), 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. For the nine months that he commanded the 2/327 (“No Slack”), they saw many successes in combat operations, including: Huế, Operation Mingo, Operation Jeb Stuart, Operation Nevada Eagle (clearing the Huế-Phu Bai area), and Somerset Plain (sweeping the southern portion of the A Shau Valley). The toughest job the battalion had was clearing a seven kilometer stretch along Route 547, running west of Huế; eventually defeating the determined NVA defenders so that Fire Support Base Bastogne could be established. From 1973 to 1974 LTC Beckwith served as Commander, Control Team "B" with the Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC) located at RTAFB Nakhon Phanom, Thailand. He was promoted to Colonel while there. Under the Command of BGEN Robert C. Kingston, USA, JCRC's sole mission was to assist the Secretaries of the Armed Services to resolve the fate of servicemen still missing and unaccounted for as a result of the hostilities throughout Indochina. JCRC had a predominantly operational role—the carrying out of field search, excavation, recovery, and repatriation activities. Afterward COL Beckwith was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina where he commanded training operations.

Delta Force

Although Beckwith had presented proposals throughout the 60's for a superbly elite, highly autonomous direct-action unit, the idea had sat on the shelf for a decade. Finally, in the mid-70's, as the threat of international terrorism became imminent, Beckwith was tapped to form his unit. Delta Force was founded in November 1977 as a counter-terrorist unit whose main mission is in hostage rescue, covert operations, and specialized reconnaissance. Its first mission (the aforementioned Operation Eagle Claw) was aborted due to aviation failures which led to several deaths. After the "debacle in the desert" the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment was formed to provide transport for Delta Force and other special operations units. JSOC was also formed, directly based on Beckwith's recommendations during Senate investigations into the mission's failure.[7]

Later life

Following his disappointment at the failure of the Iranian operation, Beckwith retired from the Army. He started a consulting firm and wrote a book about Delta Force. He died at his home of natural causes.

Charles Beckwith was married to Katherine Beckwith, and they had three daughters.

Charles Beckwith's remains are interred in the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, San Antonio, Texas.

See also

Book

References

  1. ^ "Col. Charlie Beckwith, 65, Dies; Led Failed Rescue Effort in Iran". The New York Times. June 14, 1994. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A0CE7D81E3AF937A25755C0A962958260. Retrieved April 28, 2010. 
  2. ^ Beckwith, Charles. "Delta Force", Avon Books, 2000. (Mass market paperback; original work published 1983.) ISBN 0-380-80939-7
  3. ^ Beckwith, Charles. "Delta Force", Avon Books, 2000. (Mass market paperback; original work published 1983.) ISBN 0-380-80939-7 (pg. 36)
  4. ^ Beckwith, Charles. "Delta Force", Avon Books, 2000. (Mass market paperback; original work published 1983.) ISBN 0-380-80939-7 (pg. 48)
  5. ^ Beckwith, Charles. "Delta Force", Avon Books, 2000. (Mass market paperback; original work published 1983.) ISBN 0-380-80939-7 (pg. 52)
  6. ^ Beckwith, Charlie; C.A. Mobley (1993). Delta Force: The Army’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit. New York: Avon. pp. 352. ISBN 0-380-80939-7. 
  7. ^ Beckwith, Charles. "Delta Force", Avon Books, 2000. ISBN 0-380-80939-7