The U.S. Army’s 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, is activated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The Special Forces were formed to organize and train guerrilla bands behind enemy lines. President John F. Kennedy, a strong believer in the potential of the Special Forces in counterinsurgency operations, visited the Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg to review the program and authorized the Special Forces to wear the headgear that became their symbol, the Green Beret.
The 5th S.F. Group was sent to Vietnam in October 1964, to assume control of all Special Forces operations in Vietnam. Prior to this time, Green Berets had been assigned to Vietnam only on temporary duty. The primary function of the Special Forces in Vietnam was to organize the Civilian Irregular Defense Groups (CIDG) among South Vietnam’s Montagnard population. The Montagnards, “mountain people” or “mountaineers,” were a group of indigenous people made up of several tribes, such as the Rhade, Bru, and Jarai, who lived mainly in the highland areas of Vietnam. These forces manned camps along the mountainous border areas to guard against North Vietnamese infiltration. At the height of the war the 5th S.F. controlled 84 CIDG camps with more than 42,000 CIDG strike forces and local militia units. The CIDG program ended in December 1970 with the transfer of troops and mission to the South Vietnamese Border Ranger Command. In February 1971, the 5th Special Forces Group was withdrawn as part of the U.S. troop drawdown.