You Can't Kill the Delta Force: The Story of How They Started

War Is Boring
(U.S Army photo by Sgt. Kyle M. Alvarez)

War Is Boring

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You Can't Kill the Delta Force: The Story of How They Started

One Army officer, Col. Charlie Beckwith, was personally responsible for pushing his superiors to create Delta.

After more than three decades and dozens of Hollywood movies, the U.S. Army’s Delta Force—one of Washington’s premier specialized units—is still largely hidden from public view. The Pentagon offers few details about the group, its organization or even how many Delta “operators” there are in total.

(This article by Joseph Trevithick originally appeared at War is Boring in 2015.)

But the unit—technically the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment D—is a part of the Army, and has all the formal trappings that come along with being part of that bureaucracy. As a result, some of the detachment’s formative history is a matter of public record.

The Army originally planned Delta Force as “an organization which can be deployed worldwide and has the capability to provide an appropriate response to highly sensitive situations including acts of international terrorism,” explains a 1977 analysis of the proposed unit held by the Army’s Center of Military History.

The center keeps an assortment of records to help track Army units, their histories and honors. The staff help determine what battalions and squadrons the Army keeps—or even brings back into existence—when the ground combat branch shuffles things up.

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