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Charles A. Beckwith

Chargin’ Charlie

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.

Richard J. Meadows the quiet professional

While there are many interesting stories and heroes on both sides of the war, especially modern war, Richard J. Meadows (Dick Meadows) is a real military hero. Dick Meadows lived up the expectations of a real American hero who saw action in the Vietnam War and was part of the Korean War as well. Meadows was someone who earned his medals and accolades over many decades as a brave soldier.

During his stellar military service, Meadows was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Dick Meadows was awarded two Silver Stars, a Bronze Star with “V for Valor,” the Air Medal, Legion of Merit, Combat Infantry Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, the Ranger Badge, Glider Badge, and the Scuba. Some also argue that Meadows would have been awarded the Medal of Honor had his Special Forces missions had not been classified. Maybe it is time to declassify some of these actions to honor his legacy.

Meadows also participated in the exchange program with the British Special Air Service and completed his SAS training. Which he later used to strengthen the US Army Special Forces selection and training infostructures.

The Military Beginnings For Meadows

Dick Meadows had a knack for sneaking behind enemy lines and creating cover stories to accomplish harrowing missions, but he also joined the military by using a fake age to get in at the age of 15 in 1947. Indeed, Meadows’s first role in the military was as a 15-year-old-paratrooper. Dick Meadows impressed many military leaders during his life to reach higher rankings.

By making an important name for himself through his distinguished service, Meadows was promoted to a much higher rank in the U.S. Army. In fact, “he was that war’s youngest master sergeant, at age 20” according to a historical piece about Dick Meadows published on Ultimatesniper.com. For the times, being the youngest master sergeant as the Korean war was at full bore only brought more responsibility that the future Major of the U.S. Army could handle.

For only attaining a ninth-grade education, Dick Meadows was an articulate and brilliant soldier and teacher. Many of his techniques as a Green Beret regarding covert operations were copied and used on other missions. One of these missions that they used Meadows’s methods involved an Israeli rescue mission the Israeli rescue mission in 1976 at Entebbe, along with the megaphone instructions that was available for captives to hear. Dick Meadows had used a megaphone in a mission to release POWs during Nam. However, when this raid at Son Tay prison camp (Operation Ivy Coast) revealed that there were no prisoners there — based on the wrong intelligence — the mission did not result in taking any substantial U.S. causalities. It did show a lot of important things, however. One of these things concerned the North Vietnamese’s reduction in its mistreatment of U.S. POWs.

Operation Ivory Coast, November 21, 1970, The Raid on Son Tay Prison

Dick Meadows and MACVSOG

As part of the MACVSOG (Military Assistance Command – Vietnam – Studies and Operations Group), Dick Meadows was involved in many of the highly classified missions. These missions were so secret that many Army Special Forces and Navy Seals who were on missions that would have garnered them a Medal of Honor were downplayed and downgraded to other medal awards as to not give away what soldiers like Meadows were part of.

MACVSOG was founded on January 24, 1964. While the commander in charge of MACV, General Westmoreland, had no direct authority to perform operations outside the designated area of South Vietnam. However, there was tight control placed on these SOG missions regarding the scope of these classified missions as well as the scale of the organization’s special operations. During these special operations in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, Dick Meadows was able to complete a lot of missions. He ultimately while saving the lives of his fellow soldiers, took key enemy hostages as well as filming the enemy soldiers to help combat Viet Cong propaganda that was being told to the American people. As a result, Meadows was able to keep himself safe without taking any significant injuries of any kind during his time under heavy enemy fire in combat situations.

Meadows was such an interesting story and an example of true American valor throughout his life. Meadows even made the cover of Newsweek magazine in 1982.

Operation Eagle Claw

Dick Meadows was also part of many special operations that did not involve Vietnam, like Operation Eagle Claw, which was an Iranian Hostage-related mission that was orchestrated by his friend Charles Beckwith and his new commando unit, Delta Force. In 1980, Dick Meadows acted in the role of a paid consultant to the U.S. government to help with Delta Forces’ secretive cause. He posed as an Irish automobile businessman as part of a cover during the recon mission to infiltrate the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran by gathering important intel for the teams to use. The mission ran into unforeseen issues based on an accident that happened in the Iranian desert and the mission was aborted. Meadows was responsible for being an essential part of this mission, although a few casualties mounted, Meadows managed to slip out of the country with ease. Meadows was noted to have escaped Iran through a commercial flight while being able to keep his cover fully intact during Operation Eagle Claw.

The Statue

Because of his ultimate bravery, valor and military leadership over the decades, Major Dick Meadows was given his statue by the U.S. government. This statue represented the top patriot who served his country and exuded an ultimate show of force under enemy fire. Meadows was a bonafide example of what it takes to be a quality Green Beret. On June 6, 1997, a statue of Dick Meadows and the military parade field that was near the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Command facility were dedicated to this brave soldier who had committed 31 years of service to his country.

The Legacy of Dick Meadows

When discussing his contribution to the Special Forces community, Dick Meadows was given many accolades and kudos regarding his service in this military milieu. Dick Meadows joined the Special Forces, which was part of the U.S. Army in 1953. He was very active as a member of the Army Rangers until he retired from the military in 1977 as a Major.

Although Meadows was diagnosed with leukemia a short few weeks before his death, Dick Meadows held his medical condition at bay for six weeks before passing away from Leukemia on July 29, 1995, in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. While Meadows was used to giving his life for his country in many operations and wars, he will forever be remembered as a great example of a true American soldier that all other soldiers should revere and look up to. Dick Meadow’s life and legacy is one that the up-and-coming Green Berets should study and emulate on the future battlefields and U.S. operations.