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  • The corruption of the special forces in Vietnam

    Is it true what Tom Clancy said in his book that towards the end of the Vietnam-American era, the Special Forces attitude became 'tainted' by war, and they gained the nickname 'snake eaters'?
    Apparently, this had something to do with the growing custom of ear gathering off enemy dead, and wearing them as trophys sometimes, also some warcrimes that could not be investigated, because they happened on mission that did not exist in places that no US troops had been.
    So , dear friends and any vets that would honour this thread by replying.
    Was it so, that the Green Beret's who entered the war, healing villagers, teaching better hygiene and farming methods, also giving them arms and giving them a means to protect themselves from the occasional 'Pogroms' of the lowland Vietnamese.
    Did they involve into drugged out i dont give a ****, style killers, who romped around the borderlands doing god knows what?
    Please you who are more informed, give a line or two, after all a small amount of Finnish pride is involved too...
    Larry Thorne (a real person acted by John Wayne), was from Finland, his original name was Lauri Törni,
    fought the Russians, and was an expert in infiltrating behing enemy lines.
    So, the specials he helped to form by giving all his knowledge on how you survive three weeks in a hostile enviroment. I'm shure he did not want the SOG to become 'snake eaters'.
    "SI VIS PACEM, PARA BELLUM" - " If you want peace, prepare for war".

    If acted upon in time, ww2 could have been stopped without a single bullet being fired. - Sir Winston Churchill

  • #2
    Re: The corruption of the special forces in Vietnam

    Originally posted by 17poundr
    Is it true what Tom Clancy said in his book that towards the end of the Vietnam-American era, the Special Forces attitude became 'tainted' by war, and they gained the nickname 'snake eaters'?
    Apparently, this had something to do with the growing custom of ear gathering off enemy dead, and wearing them as trophys sometimes, also some warcrimes that could not be investigated, because they happened on mission that did not exist in places that no US troops had been.
    So , dear friends and any vets that would honour this thread by replying.
    Was it so, that the Green Beret's who entered the war, healing villagers, teaching better hygiene and farming methods, also giving them arms and giving them a means to protect themselves from the occasional 'Pogroms' of the lowland Vietnamese.
    Did they involve into drugged out i dont give a ****, style killers, who romped around the borderlands doing god knows what?
    Please you who are more informed, give a line or two, after all a small amount of Finnish pride is involved too...
    Larry Thorne (a real person acted by John Wayne), was from Finland, his original name was Lauri Törni,
    fought the Russians, and was an expert in infiltrating behing enemy lines.
    So, the specials he helped to form by giving all his knowledge on how you survive three weeks in a hostile enviroment. I'm shure he did not want the SOG to become 'snake eaters'.
    Don't confuse Green Berets with LRRPs (Long Range Recon Patrols) or SOGs. I know a guy, who is a father of some scouts in my sons' troop. He was one of those guys who went deep into the jungle on those less than public missions. He is rarely coy about answering any questions about Vietnam. I am sure I can get the skinny from him on what was going on. I have heard his stories long enough (4 years now) that I am sure he is not telling tall talls. Every retelling is right on with the last one(s), unlike liars whose stories constantly vary from telling to telling. I won't see him again until 6/18, so I will relate his version later that weekend.
    Retreat hell, we just got here. Every Marine, a rifleman.

    Never let the facts get in the way of the truth.

    Comment


    • #3
      I have always had a high admiration for those men who went to VietNam as "advisors" and trained the Montagnards to defend themselves.
      This was a noble deed in itself.........even if the idea was to get them to help fight the Communists. (some actually did).
      I have read different things about these men deciding to abandon the "military" life and remain with the Montagnards as part of the tribe.

      Mark
      Deo Vindice
      Si vis pacem, para bellum. (If you want peace, prepare for war.)

      Comment


      • #4
        There are good and bad guys in every army. It's just sad that it still exists today. i.e. Abuh Grah (sp?) in Iraq

        Skoal!

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Re: The corruption of the special forces in Vietnam

          Originally posted by Iron Mike USMC
          Don't confuse Green Berets with LRRPs (Long Range Recon Patrols) or SOGs. I know a guy, who is a father of some scouts in my sons' troop. He was one of those guys who went deep into the jungle on those less than public missions. He is rarely coy about answering any questions about Vietnam. I am sure I can get the skinny from him on what was going on. I have heard his stories long enough (4 years now) that I am sure he is not telling tall talls. Every retelling is right on with the last one(s), unlike liars whose stories constantly vary from telling to telling. I won't see him again until 6/18, so I will relate his version later that weekend.
          My friend, i posted this thread because of my confusion and curiosity on such matters.
          I belive that much more should be known about those extraordinary troops that were excuse my metaphor ' brushed under the carpet' because the trauma of the anti war movement and all that confusion that has given foreigners as myself, a very mixed and messy picture of what really happened in the Vietnam- US war.
          I have heard the phrase the US won it's battles but lost the war, and I would like to hear of these battles.
          For example when Mel Gibson came out with Hal Moore's story, I was so taken by it, that i ordered the original book, and was taken by the heroism and the intencity of the fighting.
          I was only confused because I was reading the Book on the Special forces of the USA by Tom Clancy and he mentioned the somewhat tainted reputation of the special forces in the end of Vietnam. I want to learn, not throw mud in any direction. If anything I respect those men, and would like to hear all i can.

          T:thumb: :thumb:
          Attached Files
          "SI VIS PACEM, PARA BELLUM" - " If you want peace, prepare for war".

          If acted upon in time, ww2 could have been stopped without a single bullet being fired. - Sir Winston Churchill

          Comment


          • #6
            No disrespect intended for Tom Clancy, but don't get your facts from popular fiction writers, no matter how technically correct they are or may seem to be in their works.

            Vietnam was an unpopular war, and biases still exist. To imply a widespread tendency for special operatives to become snake eaters is irresponsible. No doubt here is truth to the statement, but it was hardly common enough to be considered a "normal" outcome to the situation.

            As I understand it, the term snake eaters didn't imply so much going native, or becoming rogue units or individuals, so much as the troops using extreme survival skills to make it through their long missions behind enemy lines.

            War does things to people. Terrible things, and everyone reacts differently. Yes, some American troops did collect the ears of the enemy. Collecting body parts as trophies of war is nothing new in the world. It has been happening for millenia. Anyone who thinks it was new or exceptional isn't up on their history.

            I believe it was an outgrowth from the demand, "need", by higher echelons to get body counts. Collect the ear off any enemy casualty, and you have proof. Not some number created to satisfy the generals and politicians to signal we were winning. Enemy body counts had no direct effect on the war, only friendly body counts. It was a meaningless measurement.

            Other units left "calling cards" on the bodies of enemy combatants. It was their way of saying we're bad, get out of our way, or you're next.

            I am rambling a bit off topic.
            Retreat hell, we just got here. Every Marine, a rifleman.

            Never let the facts get in the way of the truth.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Re: The corruption of the special forces in Vietnam

              [QUOTE]Originally posted by Iron Mike USMC
              [B]Don't confuse Green Berets with LRRPs (Long Range Recon Patrols) or SOGs.

              Sorry mate. I alway assumed that SOG meant Special Operations Group, silly really, but living in Finland, and not having a limitless wallet, I just look at the book titles in Amazon, and saw books about SOG and assumed they were synoymous with the green berets, I order a book from Amazon every now and again, but the postage doubles the price when it gets here, so I buy from the Akademic bookshop in Helsinki, Finland, who have a good ww2 collection in english, but nothing about Vietnam! I have to say I'm getting curious about why there is no books or documentaries about Vietnam here.
              I'm planning on ordering a documentary series called 'a thousand days of war' or something to that effect, it last's about six hours all in all, and i thought that it would be a good way of getting info, and seeing some of the best footage on war ever shot on moving film. Any advice?
              "SI VIS PACEM, PARA BELLUM" - " If you want peace, prepare for war".

              If acted upon in time, ww2 could have been stopped without a single bullet being fired. - Sir Winston Churchill

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Iron Mike USMC
                No disrespect intended for Tom Clancy, but don't get your facts from popular fiction writers, no matter how technically correct they are or may seem to be in their works.

                This book is a part of his non fiction series, the first one being 'Submarine, then I belive Is Armoured Cav, then Aircraft Carrier, then the Airforce , Marines, Airbourne, and Special Forces( forgive me if i missed a title)
                The one on the Special Forces 'a guided tour of U.S. Army Special Forces. Written with John Gresham
                I quote from the Introducton..."My first error came with the original name for this book. E had planned to call it Snakeater, an old Vietnam era slang term use to describe special ops personnnel and their skills in the field. BIG mistake on my part"...
                So, he goes on to correct some of the myths, but the myths were not invented by him, my interest was in what you talk about later the transformation of men in combat, and perhaps the extraordinary transformation of men of an extraordinary unit.



                War does things to people. Terrible things, and everyone reacts differently. Yes, some American troops did collect the ears of the enemy. Collecting body parts as trophies of war is nothing new in the world. It has been happening for millenia. Anyone who thinks it was new or exceptional isn't up on their history.

                This is what i wanted to learn about, did the individual going 'rogue' become an exepted thing in that very far away place from normal life?


                I believe it was an outgrowth from the demand, "need", by higher echelons to get body counts. Collect the ear off any enemy casualty, and you have proof. Not some number created to satisfy the generals and politicians to signal we were winning. Enemy body counts had no direct effect on the war, only friendly body counts. It was a meaningless measurement.

                Other units left "calling cards" on the bodies of enemy combatants. It was their way of saying we're bad, get out of our way, or you're next.

                I am rambling a bit off topic.
                No rambling, you were right on, good text! Thanks!
                "SI VIS PACEM, PARA BELLUM" - " If you want peace, prepare for war".

                If acted upon in time, ww2 could have been stopped without a single bullet being fired. - Sir Winston Churchill

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Re: Re: The corruption of the special forces in Vietnam

                  [QUOTE]Originally posted by 17poundr
                  [B]
                  Originally posted by Iron Mike USMC
                  Don't confuse Green Berets with LRRPs (Long Range Recon Patrols) or SOGs.

                  Sorry mate. I alway assumed that SOG meant Special Operations Group, silly really, but living in Finland, and not having a limitless wallet, I just look at the book titles in Amazon, and saw books about SOG and assumed they were synoymous with the green berets, I order a book from Amazon every now and again, but the postage doubles the price when it gets here, so I buy from the Akademic bookshop in Helsinki, Finland, who have a good ww2 collection in english, but nothing about Vietnam! I have to say I'm getting curious about why there is no books or documentaries about Vietnam here.
                  I'm planning on ordering a documentary series called 'a thousand days of war' or something to that effect, it last's about six hours all in all, and i thought that it would be a good way of getting info, and seeing some of the best footage on war ever shot on moving film. Any advice?
                  You were correct, SOG is special ops. I just didn't phrase it well. I meant the three are different. there relationships between them, but indicatong one does not automatically mean one of the others.
                  Retreat hell, we just got here. Every Marine, a rifleman.

                  Never let the facts get in the way of the truth.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I thought the snake eaters came from training. Where the trainee is dropped off in the swamp with a knife, etc. This from a SERE page:
                    The most common survival entrée is snake, which is why soldiers in other branches of the military refer to the Green Berets as "snake eaters." In the wild, snakes are as ubiquitous as fast-food joints in a city. "Very few countries don't have snakes -- they're pretty easy to catch, they're a good source of protein, and they're easy to cook up," says Smith. "I've eaten rattlers, cottonmouths, copperheads -- they all taste the same." (And not like chicken.)

                    You can read the whole thing here: http://www.fastcompany.com/online/69...tosurvive.html

                    I read a good book years ago about it. Green Berets at War: U.S. Army Special Forces in Southeast Asia, 1956-1975
                    by Shelby L. Stanton
                    "War is God's way of teaching Americans geography."
                    - Ambrose Bierce

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Gen_Electric
                      I thought the snake eaters came from training. Where the trainee is dropped off in the swamp with a knife, etc. This from a SERE page:
                      The most common survival entrée is snake, which is why soldiers in other branches of the military refer to the Green Berets as "snake eaters." In the wild, snakes are as ubiquitous as fast-food joints in a city. "Very few countries don't have snakes -- they're pretty easy to catch, they're a good source of protein, and they're easy to cook up," says Smith. "I've eaten rattlers, cottonmouths, copperheads -- they all taste the same." (And not like chicken.)

                      You can read the whole thing here: http://www.fastcompany.com/online/69...tosurvive.html

                      I read a good book years ago about it. Green Berets at War: U.S. Army Special Forces in Southeast Asia, 1956-1975
                      by Shelby L. Stanton
                      You're right. It is survival skills.
                      Retreat hell, we just got here. Every Marine, a rifleman.

                      Never let the facts get in the way of the truth.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Long history in Nam. Had been Special Ops Forces in there from early on. Kenney basically blew their cover by bringing them out in the open as the Green Berets. They had been empowering villages and this did not sit well with the central authorities. By then end of the war. There were essentially three functions being done: Still some degree of village "pacification and empowerment", long range sneak and peak teams operating out of the firebases, and the still very black assasination squads head by senior US NCOs and staffed mostly with Vietnamese.

                        The confusion of mission and rules started at the top. And if you think Geneva Convention violations started with the current war you ain't payin' attention.
                        Boston Strong!

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by JSMoss
                          Long history in Nam. Had been Special Ops Forces in there from early on. Kenney basically blew their cover by bringing them out in the open as the Green Berets. They had been empowering villages and this did not sit well with the central authorities. By then end of the war. There were essentially three functions being done: Still some degree of village "pacification and empowerment", long range sneak and peak teams operating out of the firebases, and the still very black assasination squads head by senior US NCOs and staffed mostly with Vietnamese.

                          The confusion of mission and rules started at the top. And if you think Geneva Convention violations started with the current war you ain't payin' attention.
                          Jungle fighting is always savage, I heard story's from Burma that are very, very rough, (no prisoners, leave the wounded guy a pistol and a grenade), because any wounded of Slim's troops or Chindits that were caught by the Japanese were found bound on a tree with barbed wire with their genitals cut off and tied to their mouth.
                          I think the Viet Minh must have received the same treatment from the Japanese, so we can see that the 'nasty business' in South east Asia went way back to ww2.
                          Those jungles were just too far away from Geneva.
                          "SI VIS PACEM, PARA BELLUM" - " If you want peace, prepare for war".

                          If acted upon in time, ww2 could have been stopped without a single bullet being fired. - Sir Winston Churchill

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I spoke with a fellow I know, parent of a couple of scouts in my sons' troop. He was SOG and LRRP, but was not Green Beret.

                            he has confirmed much of what has been said above, regarding "snake eating", collecting ears, etc. What was quite enlightening was the issue of "going native". There was an aspect of that, early, when teams were working deep with villagers, such as the Montangards (sp?). A lot of that had to do with gaining trust and blending in.

                            Responding to an earlier post, about going native, or over the edge, a la Apocolypse Now, had to do with adrenaline. Apparently the nature of the missions caused extreme heightening of awareness of the surrounding environment. The skies were bluer, the jungle greener, the air fresher, the sounds sharper, the booze better, the sex better. All from the adrenaline pumping. Eventually some guys got hooked and needed to go out to get their "fix".

                            Another side effect was individual troops reacting without thinking, and occassionally shooting their own guys. Some, even after they left the service. Someone pissed them off, or surprised them, and then draw, aim and shoot so fast, no time to think.

                            He mentioned other things, but a bit too graphic for here.
                            Retreat hell, we just got here. Every Marine, a rifleman.

                            Never let the facts get in the way of the truth.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              My dad was a Forward air controller during the Vietnam war. His main job was to be the life-line for the LRRP squads. the term special forces is to broad for the terms that were being used. the LRRP's or Long Range Recon. Patrols went into place like Cambodia, Laos, and N. Vietnam and tried to gather info, or some other sort of small group mission. 90 percent of the time they were seen demounting from the slicks and had to break through and accomplish there mission. the FAC's or forward air controllers would essentially follow and scout ahead and draw enemy fire and direct air support. if any of you have ever seen BAT 21 my dad flew the plane danny glover was flying. it only went about 90 MPH and saved countless mission because of the FAc's
                              Colonel,
                              night-time security leader,
                              Dr. Sinister's Secret Island Base

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