When it comes to notable military men, Charlie A. Beckwith (Charlie) is someone who fought with full pride and bravery in war. “Chargin’ Charlie” was born on January 22, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. Beckwith was an athlete in high school and college and had the opportunity to play for the Green Bay Packers pro-football team in 1952, but turned down the opportunity.

Beckwith was noted to have been an all-state player in football while in high school. After he graduated from high school, he was accepted into the University of Georgia (UGA). While attending college, he lettered in football and was also part of their ROTC program.

Beckwith was asked by the Green Bay Packers to sign with them during the 1950–51 NFL draft while at UGA. Instead, he decided to forego a career as a football star and join the U.S Army instead. He received his commission as a Second Lieutenant in the ranks of the Army.

Beckwith’s Military Career

Charles Beckwith began his military career volunteering for the U.S. Army and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 1952. After the Korean War, Beckwith was a Platoon Leader of Charlie Company, 17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division in South Korea. In1955, Beckwith was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. He was the commander of the combat support company that was part of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

During the early ’60s, he was sent as an exchange officer with the elite 22 Special Air Service (SAS). Where he commanded 3 Troop A Squadron. Where he fought communist forces as part of the Malayan Emergency. Beckwith learned guerilla-style operations and tactics that were used in the Malayan Emergency. During the time that he fought with the U.S. Army in Malaysia, Beckwith developed a case of leptospirosis. Doctors did not expected him to survive. However, Beckwith recovered from leptospirosis and went on to do more impressive things for the U.S. Army.

After his return from England, he presented a detailed report outlining how the U.S. Army had weaknesses without a SAS style unit. His reports and outline feel on deaf ears as Special Forces leadership brushed him aside.

Wanted: Volunteers for Project Delta

In 1958, Beckwith joined the Special Forces and by 1960, Captain Beckwith was deployed for Special Operations in the Kingdom of Laos. In 1965, Beckwith volunteered and returned to Vietnam where he commanded a Special Forces unit code named Project Delta (Operational Detachment B-52)  He used his SAS experiences to seek and selectmen for his long-range reconnaissance operations in South Vietnam.

“Wanted: Volunteers for Project Delta. Will guarantee you a medal. A body bag. Or both.”

With this call to arms, Charlie Beckwith revolutionized American armed combat.

Beckwith was critically wounded in 1966 with a shot to his abdomen from a .50-caliber round. He had been taped up after being hit and was left for dead. But, Beckwith had the strength and will to stay alive through the hell of war. Indeed, the fate of death never came to him in Vietnam or during any other military operation or military training or exercise during his legendary career. Beckwith fully recover from his wounds and went on to revamp the U.S. Army Ranger School.

Lt. Col. Beckwith also served as the commander of the Control Team “B” as part of a unique Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC). This place was situated in Nakhon Phanom, Thailand. The Commander at the time was Robert C. Kingston.

JCRC’s mission involved the support of the Armed Services to clear up the situation of members of the U.S. armed forces who were MIA in French Indochina. The JCRC had a primary role that involved carrying out field searches, doing excavations, recoveries, and other activities concerning repatriation. Beckwith was promoted to the position of Colonel and was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in 1975 and held the role of Commandant of the Special Warfare School.

Establishment of The Unit

“The Unit,” or 1st SFOD-D (1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta) was a game plan Beckwith had penciled on paper and stuck to his mind ever since he was an exchange officer with the SAS. With the ever growing threats of international terrorism, Beckwith felt it was time to resubmit his ideas of a counter-terror unit to the Pentagon. After many years of back and forths with military brass and Pentagon officials, Beckwith was finally given the go-ahead to form his elite unit the 1st SFOD-D in 1977. This unit was hyper-focused on hostage recovery operations and anti-terror activities.

The Unit’s first mission was Operation Eagle Claw. The operation was ordered by President Jimmy Carter and involved assets from the Navy and Marine Corps. The mission entailed rescuing 53 Americans who had been held hostage in the American Embassy in Iran in 1980. The mission was aborted due to weather conditions. A sandstorm brewed and caused mechanical issues for some of the helicopters.

The operation called for eight helicopters but only five arrived at the operational area. During planning the mission would be aborted if less than six helicopters remained. To many military advisors or planners, only four were necessary but the abort was called and accepted by President Jimmy Carter. As the forces prepared to leave, one of the helicopters crashed into a transport plane and caught fire. Resulting in the death of eight service members.

After the events of Operation Eagle Claw, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation was established with a promise to care for the 17 children of those eight service members. Which has grown to help educate over 1,200 children.

In the aftermath of Operation Eagle Claw, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) was formed to provide transport to The Unit and other Tier one assets, as well as the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), was directly based on recommendations to strengthen the United States Special Operations capabilities from Beckwith during the investigations into Operation Eagle Claw.

The Legacy of Colonel Beckwith

US Army Col. Charles Beckwith, 1980 effort to liberate 53 American hostages held at US Embassy in Tehran, Iran, at home. (Photo by Will Mcintyre)

“Chargin’ Charlie” Beckwith retired from a dedicated life as a Colonel in 1982. Indeed, the war zone was not a place that was responsible for taking his life, from a barrage of enemy fire or some other element of war. Colonel Beckwith passing away due to natural causes in Austin, Texas in 1994. A true innovator in the arena of Special Operations. Colonel Beckwith had lived a life that was admired by many soldiers, military historians and many others who had been an indirect or direct part of it. This much is certain: “Chargin’ Charlie” will forever be remembered in U.S. military history as a leader, thinker, and innovator concerning the area of special operation forces.

Charles A. Beckwith wrote a book about his premiere Unit titled Delta Force.

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