Aaron Bank and the Early Days of

    U.S. Army special forces


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On a windy, rainy day in November 2005, the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School renamed its academic training building Colonel Aaron Bank Hall. Approximately 200 members and former members of the Special Forces community, as well as civilians, attended the ribbon cutting and enjoyed a thankful speech in English, French, and German by Mrs. Catherine Bank.[1] Although far from a household name, Aaron Bank is famous among the U.S. Army Special Forces, commonly known now as the Green Berets. What merits this honor? Why is he lauded as a Special Forces legacy? How did he earn the title, Father of the Special Forces?

Aaron Bank's exploits rank him among the rarest of American soldiers.  Fluency in French and German earned him ideal candidate status as an officer in the newly formed OSS (Office of Strategic Services), the precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency. During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt tasked William Donovan to create one entity to coordinate United States intelligence gathering and conduct clandestine military operations. A crucial element of those operations involved small teams known as Jedburghs that combined one American or British officer, one French officer, and an enlisted wireless telegraph operator to work with the French Resistance. Bank was one of those Jedburghs. This is the story of the early days of U.S. Army special warfare through the life of Aaron Bank from his service in World War II to the official creation of the U.S. Army Special Forces in the early 1950s.

            In a sense, this is a biography, but one that focuses on the period of 1944 to 1952 where a few men championed the need for a specialized unit capable of training indigenous forces for irregular warfare, intelligence gathering, and psychological operations. While many deserve their place as a "founding father" of U.S. Army Special Forces, nearly every published work on Special Operations as well as memoirs from other OSS veterans, mentions Bank's contributions. By chronicling the selection of men like Bank, the training they endured, their missions, and their desire to make this type of force permanent in the U.S. Army, the reader will have a clear understanding of the early days of U.S. Army special warfare. Additionally, the compelling contribution of Aaron Bank will serve as a guide through this piece of military history.



[1] Joe Healy, "SWCS Dedicates Bank Hall," Special Warfare 19, no. 1 (January/February 2006): 6, http://www.soc.mil/swcs/swmag/Archives/06_JanFeb.pdf (accessed August 26, 2010).