Green Beret Heraldry

LTG Yarborough to BG Emerson

This letter LTG Yarborough to BG Emerson (CG of JFK Center for Military Assistance at Ft. Bragg) adds more important historical information to the story of the Green Beret

12 May 1971
Dear Hank:

I have been following the articles in VERITAS concerning the inception of the green beret and I am inclosing a little more historical data which may bear on the question. The picture inclosed is of Captain Carlos C. Alden who was the Surgeon of the 509th Parachute Battalion during WW II. You will observe he is wearing a beret and you will recall that the 509th Parachute Battalion was commanded by Colonel Edson D. Raff who later became the commander of Special Forces at Fort Bragg in the period around 1953.

Ed Raff was the proponent for the wearing of the red beret by our paratroops who were attached to the British 1st Airborne Division prior to the invasion of Africa. Many of the paratroops, as evidenced by Doc Alden, did wear the red beret with Ed Raff's blessing. Just as the red beret was the mark of the British parachute soldier, the green beret was the badge of the British commando. It is easy to see how Ed Raff fathered the green beret as a result of his WW II affiliation with the British forces.

The rest of the story, as has been published, is fairly accurate. It was President Kennedy's Military Aide, General Chester V. Clifton, (a classmate of mine) who arrived at Fort Bragg in preparation for the President's visit and conferred with me on the Special Forces demonstration which was to take place for the President. I indicated to General Clifton the deep feelings that the Special Forces troopers had for the green beret -- many of them owned it and wore it surreptitiously. I had on several occasions tried to have the beret officially approved, but with results well known. I felt that this was the occasion to get some high level support for a symbol which would be most meaningful to the U.S. Army's most elite unit. Clifton agreed with me and sent me a communication which stated that the President would like to see our men in green berets. This was too much for the Army which then capitulated and a crash action insued to obtain enough "green beanies" prior to the President's visit. Although there were a number of authentic models which appeared, there were equal numbers of dime store, ladies' haberdashery and green headgear from other sources. The result was heterogeneous, but electrical. We discovered that there was no manufacturer in the United States who could provide the quality to match the British item. Consequently, our early procurement was from Canada (probably imported from Great Britain).

I hope these notes will add to your archives in a meaningful way. I look forward to seeing you in July.


Lieutenant General, USA

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