Aaron Bank

Aaron Bank: The Father Of Special Forces

For those who are not aware of important units within the United States military, Aaron Bank is a soldier who had the talent and the respect from the higher ranks of the military to create a force that is like no other. Born on November 23, 1902, in New York City, New York. Aaron Bank was noted to have been born into a family of Russian immigrants. Bank also learned many languages like German and French as well, which would come in handy much later during War World II. Before joining the US Armed Services, he traveled throughout Europe in the 1930s. He worked as a lifeguard and a physical fitness instructor before enlisting. Aaron Bank joined the U.S. Army in 1942 and ended up being selected for Officer Candidate School.

In 1943, he decided to volunteer for the Office of Strategic Services after the U.S. Army had requested those with linguist abilities to apply. Gaining important military experience during WWII, Aaron Bank was chosen to be involved in the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), which was a predecessor to the CIA. Aaron Bank had specific training as part of this agency in areas like unconventional warfare strategies, intelligence gathering, sabotage, parachute jumping. Bank had to get up to speed about what this agency was involved in. Aaron Bank became an important staffer of “Wild Bill” Donovan’s creation. The Office of Strategic Services was hatched during World War II to do unconventional warfare tactics and had many successes during World War II. The CIA did adopt some of these strategies from the Office of Strategic Services.

Special Forces created by Col. Aaron Bank who was an OSS Jedburgh. The “Jeds” and OSS Operational Groups (OG) were the predecessors to U.S. Special Forces. Gen. Donovan said the OGs performed “some of the bravest acts of the war.”

The Office of Strategic Services was an agency within the U.S. federal government that existed from 1942 to 1945. This agency was very unconventional in its tactics and strategies. This agency that Aaron Bank worked with included personnel who worked to procure information about those countries that were considered the enemy as well as sabotage their war efforts in specific ways. There were many different approaches during World War II.

This agency was known for having 12 thousand staff members on hand. The Office of Strategic Services also collected critical intelligence on specific parts of the globe that the U.S. military forces operated in. Aaron Bank was fluent in French and German and had traveled through Europe in the 1930s. Bank’s talents and knowledge were very important for the Office of Strategic Services at the time he was admitted into this agency.

“Wild Bill” Donovan’s agency used agents and spies inside a Fascist and Nazi-controlled Europe. The agency that Bank’s served early in his military career handled disinformation and counterpropaganda work. These agents also created highly technical reports for bureaucrats to adjust war plans and policy and lend support to guerrillas and other fighters that were putting up resistance to the U.S. and America’s Allied forces.

Bank’s Medal and Accolades

Aaron Bank also earned accolades and medals for his important services during WW II and the Korean War. Some of his list of medals include the Army of Occupation Medal, Distinguished Service Medal, the Soldier’s Medal, National Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Campaign Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Asiatic-Pacific, World War II Victory Medal and the Korean Service Medal. Bank also received the Medal in Commemoration of Victory in the Resistance Against Aggression.

Bank had also been picked to be part of Operation Iron Cross, which was a bold mission that involved Bank having a group of German prisoners of war in his control. Bank and members of this special team were instructed to parachute into Austria. The Alps of Austria were the target for U.S. Allied planners to be a final place for Hitler and other Nazi leaders to be located in the early part of 1945.

Lasting Legacy

Colonel Bank may have been in harrowing military operations in WWII, but he passed away without any fear of death by the hand of America’s enemy on April 1, 2004, in Dana Point, California. Colonel Bank lived to the age of 101. And much like the long span of Aaron Bank’s life, it is appropriate that the Colonel will be forever be remembered as being the contributor to the US Army.

The Rise Of Special Forces

Colonel Bank was allowed by the U.S. Army to be in charge of 2 thousand plus spaces for his men in this important military unit. This first unit that Col. Bank was directly involved in was named the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) located at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Bank was also known for writing up a memorandum providing the idea that soldiers that were part of this special unit to be permitted to don a beret for distinction. The Colonel provided a list of three potential colors for the berets: wine red, green or purple. However, the Army had turned down Colonel Bank’s idea.

Four years after Aaron Bank had retired from the military, President John F. Kennedy authorized this Army group to wear these berets that Banks had initially proposed. Col. Bank was noted as saying about Green being the official color of the Army Beret that Kennedy picked it because he was an Irishman.

Over 7 thousand soldiers make up this group in the U.S. military. The Army National Guard makes up two of these groups. And there are also five additional groups that are classified under Spec. Forces. Those soldiers who wear the green beret are a viable fighting force that is in military operations today.

Aaron Bank’s Written Works

After retiring from the US Army Forces in 1958, Aaron Bank went on to author two books. Bank’s first book, which was published in 1986 called From OSS to Green Berets, served as his memoir and a documented history of the Special Forces. Colonel Bank also co-wrote the Knight’s Cross, which was published in 1995. Knight’s Cross is a fictionalized account of his aborted mission that involved capturing Adolf Hitler and many senior German officials.

Bank was still active with those in the Green Beret/Spec. Forces community after retiring from the US Army. He would make special visits to speak about his military experiences and also write about them.

The Phoenix Program

The Phoenix Program

The CIA, assassinations and terror of the Phoenix.

The Phoenix Program was a brutal counterinsurgency program run by William Colby, later head of the C.I.A., aimed at weeding out Viet Cong and their sympathizers. According to some sources, more than 25,000 suspected Viet Cong were killed, many of them assassinated, as part of the operation. The Phoenix Program program designed, coordinated, and executed by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), United States special operations forces, special forces operatives from the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam and the Republic of Vietnam’s (South Vietnam) security apparatus during the Vietnam War. The program was in operation between 1965 and 1972, and similar efforts existed both before and after that period. By 1972, Phoenix operatives had “neutralized” 81,740 suspected NLF operatives, informants, and supporters, of whom 26,369 were killed.

The Program was designed to identify and “neutralize” (via infiltration, capture, terrorism, torture, and assassination) the infrastructure of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (NLF or Viet Cong). The CIA described it as “a set of programs that sought to attack and destroy the political infrastructure of the Viet Cong”. The major two components of the program were Provincial Reconnaissance Units (PRUs) and regional interrogation centers. PRUs would kill and capture suspected VC. They would also capture VC and civilians who were thought to have information on VC activities. Many of these people were then taken to the interrogation centers where some were tortured in an attempt to gain intelligence on VC activities in the area. The information extracted at the centers was then given to military commanders, who would use it to task the PRU with further capture and assassination missions.

In a paper for the CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence, Colonel Andrew R. Finlayson of the U.S. Marine Corps wrote: “The Phoenix program is arguably the most misunderstood and controversial program undertaken by the governments of the United States and South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It was, quite simply, a set of programs that sought to attack and destroy the political infrastructure of the Lao Dong Party (hereafter referred to as the Viet Cong infrastructure or VCI) in South Vietnam. Phoenix was misunderstood because it was classified, and the information obtained by the press and others were often anecdotal, unsubstantiated, or false. The program was controversial because the antiwar movement and critical scholars in the United States and elsewhere portrayed it as an unlawful and immoral assassination program targeting civilians. [Source: Colonel Andrew R. Finlayson, USMC (Ret.), A Retrospective on Counterinsurgency Operations, The Tay Ninh Provincial Reconnaissance Unit and Its Role in the Phoenix Program, 1969-70, CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence ^^]