was only six months before American "advisers" started accompanying the patrols.
  There were many refinements of Project Delta's operational techniques through the six years of its existence, but the project achieved its highest degree of perfection — and Delta was as close to perfection as anything ever was — under Maj. (later Lt. Col.) Chuck Allen, who was with the Project for two years and commanded it for six months. He is the man Gen. William C. Westmoreland called "Big 'Un."


SF—Bright, Dedicated, Ballsy


  For a time, MACV headquarters insisted that recon teams be commanded by officers, because they did not trust the quality of information they received from enlisted swine. This was an erroneous notion because, for one thing, Special Forces, at least at that time, was one of the few military organizations in history whose enlisted men had, on the average, higher IQs than their officers. And those young lieutenants were a whole lot more flighty than a seasoned SF NCO — which is not to say that the officers were dumb. SF was simply an organization of very bright, dedicated and ballsy individuals.
  In fact, mental requirements for Special Forces were exactly the same as those for OCS. The only differences in the prerequisites were that you had to be able to swim to get into the Forces and you couldn't have a criminal record and get into OCS.
  Of those officer recon-team leaders, incidentally, one of the few to, work out was Bill Larabee, now a lieutenant colonel in the Pentagon, late of the XVIII Airborne Corps G-3 shop, and, as a young captain, Chuck Allen's operations officer.
  Another change, under Col. Francis J. "Splash" Kelley, was the formation of Projects Sigma and Omega. There are various versions of how that came about. Chuck Allen says that Kelley wanted to use Delta in I Corps and formed Omega for II Corps and Sigma for III Corps. And, as it turned out, that is how they were generally deployed.
  But what one of my old sergeant buddies told me, when I started checking into it, was that early in his tour Kelley was invited down to the Project for dinner. It was a spirited evening; the gentlemen of the Project were well known for their iron discipline and control in the field, and their lack of those qualities in garrison.
  As rumor has it,  during  the  course


of  the  evening a  master sergeant gave
the new colonel a fat, wet kiss on the ear and murmured to him, "Don't ever die, you sweet motherfucker. Don't you even catch cold." According to the rumor, Kelley organized his new projects the next day.
  It would be easy enough to call Col. Kelley in Denver and check to see if that version is true. But he wouldn't admit it if it were, and then we'd have to take that incident out of this story. Rumor control is no longer an issue. This is folklore.
  Under Allen, and thereafter, the core of the Project consisted of the recon section, with 12 teams of 10 members each, usually four Americans and six Vietnamese Special Forces men, usually only six of whom were deployed at a time. The headquarters was SF Del B-52. Nominally, the Project was commanded by a Viet lieutenant colonel and Allen was his adviser. The reaction force was the Vietnamese 91st Airborne Ranger Battalion, an organization which had its good points and its not-so-good points. That was why there was also a platoon of Nungs (a Chinese tribe with a mercenary heritage) for bomb-damage assessment. The Nungs, you see, were trained, fed, paid and led by Americans.
There was also a section of all-Vietnamese teams, known as Roadrunners, which ran the trails in VC and NVA uniforms.
  Normally, the 281st Assault Helicopter Company     was    assigned    in    direct


support. This was an extraordinary unit. Alert crews slept on the ships, ready to go pull a team out at a moment's notice. The gun-ships took off so heavily loaded they had to skip twice to get airborne, and the slicks could inch down into a hole in which you'd swear a starling couldn't land.
  There was also an Air Force FAC (Forward Air Control) team assigned, normally commanded by a USAF lieutenant colonel, and on one occasion there was a Marine Corps fighter wing assigned opcon to the Project, commanded by a major general. Probably the only instance in history of an Army major being in command of a Marine Corps major general.


Project Delta was special.
This was the organization of
which Gen. Robert Cushman,
later Commandant of the
Marine Corps, said, "These
men come from the ether zone
of military excellence."


It was about the time of the Tet Offensive that I started hanging around with the officers  from Project Delta.  Chuck  Allen

 

28     SOLDIER OF FORTUNE 

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