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Green Beret Affair

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Title: Green Beret Affair  
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Green Beret Affair

Project GAMMA

Unofficial "War Patch" of Det B57 "Project GAMMA" 5th SFGA RVN 1968–70 & US Army Special Forces SSI c. 1970
Active 1968–1970
Country United States of America
Branch United States Army
Type Covert Operations
Role Intelligence
Size Detachment, 6 US, 460 Indigenous personnel
Engagements Vietnam War (Cambodia)
Parachute wings backing colors

Project GAMMA was the name given to Detachment B-57, Company E (Special Operations), 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, U. S. Army in Vietnam from 1966 to 1970. It was responsible for covert intelligence collection operations in Cambodia.


Detachment B-57 arrived in Vietnam in June 1967. On 26 February 1968 it was moved from Saigon to Nha Trang and it received the designation Project GAMMA on 1 April 1968, in conjunction with other special forces units such as Project DELTA (Detachment B-52) and Project SIGMA (Detachment B-56), both responsible for Special Recon.[1] Members of the detachment operated from nine sites under the cover of civil affairs and psychological operations offices.[2]

Project Gamma was responsible for obtaining intelligence on Cambodian support for the activities of both regular and irregular units of the Vietnam People's Army, as well as irregular camps in Cambodia. The top intelligence officer on General Abrams' staff stated in October 1968 that Project GAMMA was providing 65 percent of the known data on NVA base camps and strengths in Cambodia, as well as 75 percent of the same data on South Vietnam.[3] According to historian Shelby Stanton, by early 1969 Detachment B-57 "had developed into the finest and most productive intelligence-collection operation the United States had in Southeast Asia". Stanton attributes this success to the South Vietnamese authorities not being aware of operations conducted by the detachment's indigenous agents.[2]

According to some sources, GAMMA was also responsible for intelligence operation against Prince Norodom Sihanouk.[4]

Capture, interrogation, and killing of Chu Van Thai Khac

In early 1969 some of Detachment B-57's sources of information started to disappear. This led the detachment's leadership to conclude that its intelligence agents had been compromised.[2] In the spring of 1969 a reconnaissance detachment operating in Cambodia captured photos showing Chu Van Thai Khac (AKA Thai Khac Chuyen[5]), a South Vietnamese GAMMA agent, meeting with North Vietnamese intelligence officers. Chuyen was subsequently arrested and interrogated for ten days, with polygraph tests indicating that he had compromised security arrangements and was working with the Viet Cong. Various ways of dealing with Chuyen were discussed within Detachment B-57, including possibly killing him. While the 5th Special Forces Group's executive officer strongly opposed killing Chuyen, the detachment's commander and operations officer met with the CIA headquarters in Saigon who suggested that "elimination ... might be the best course of action".[6]

On 20 June 1969, three officers assigned to Project GAMMA drugged Chuyen, took him out on a boat into Nha Trang Bay, shot him twice in the head and dumped his body into the South China Sea. A cover story claiming that Chuyen had been sent on a one-way mission as a test of his loyalty was later approved by the 5th Special Forces Group's commander, Colonel Robert B. Rheault.[7]

Later, Sergeant Alvin Smith, Chuyen's former handler, became concerned for his safety and sought sanctuary with the CIA in Nha Trang where he revealed that Chuyen had been killed. General Abrams heard of the matter and ordered the arrest of Smith and seven involved officers, including Colonel Rheault.[8] The case went to trial and was covered extensively by the media, and led to popular knowledge of the term "terminate with extreme prejudice" as a euphemism for "execute".[9] The Army defense lawyers for the eight soldiers called General Abrams and CIA officials to the witness stand. Both declined to get involved in the proceedings and testify. Finally in September 1969, Secretary of the Army Stanley Resor announced to all that all charges would be dropped against the eight soldiers since the CIA, in the interests of national security, had refused to make its personnel available as witnesses, therefore making any manner of a fair trial impossible.[3]

Project GAMMA was deactivated on 31 March 1970.

An official Army history of the Green Berets, published after the Vietnam War,[10] does not mention Project GAMMA or Detachment B-57. Although the Pentagon has declassified much material about Green Beret crossborder operations inside Laos and Cambodia, nothing on Project Gamma has been made available.[3]


Project Gamma used members of the Khmer Serei and the Khmer Kampuchean Krom in its activities inside Cambodia.

It consisted of five collection teams supervising 13 nets with 98 indigenous agents.[3]

A listing of the personnel assigned to Detachment B57 "GAMMA" is available from Radix Press Houston, Texas.[11]

See also



Periodical References to the Green Beret Affair

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