Initially those who joined the British Commandos
kept their parent regimental headdress and cap
badges. In 1941 no 1 Commando had no fewer than 79
different cap badges and many different forms of
headdress. "Thus a motley collection of caps, Tam o'
Shanters, bonnets, forage caps, caps 'fore and aft',
berets, peaked KD caps, etc., appeared on the
Commando parades," says Captain Oakley, "the forest
being a veritable RSMís nightmare!"
No. 2 Commando and No. 9 Commando faced with the
same problem had adopted the Tam o' Shanter, but, as
a traditional Scottish headdress, this was not
considered suitable for what was a British unit.
After some discussion it was agreed that if No 1
Commando was to adopt a uniformed headdress then the
beret, which had been worn by the Tank Regiment
since the first world war (and had recently been
adopted by the Parachute Regiment), would meet the
requirements: it had no British regional affinity,
it was difficult to wear improperly, and it could be
easily stowed away without damage (when for example
tin hats were in use).
Having decided on the headdress, the next question
to be resolved was the colour. The shoulder insignia
of No. 1 Commando had been designed by the Richmond
Herald at the College of Arms. It incorporated three
colours in its design of a green salamander going
through fire: red, yellow and green. Green was
chosen as the most suitable. A Scottish firm of
tam-o-shanter makers in Irvine (Ayrshire) was chosen
to design and manufacture the beret.
Once the design was agreed, Brigadier Robert Laycock
was approached by No. 1 Commando to seek his
permission to wear it. He had been pondering on what
the commandos should use for their headdress, and
welcomed the green beret as a chance to introduce it
as standard for all commando formations, with No. 1
Commando being the first to don them.
The proposal that the commandos should start wearing
green beret as their official headdress was
submitted to the Chief of Combined Operations and
forwarded by Lord Mountbatten to the Under-Secretary
of State for War. Approval was granted and in
October 1942 the first green berets were issued to
the Royal Marines.
In the U.S. armed forces, the green beret may be
worn only by soldiers awarded the Special Forces
Tab, signifying they have been qualified as Special
Forces (SF) soldiers. The Special Forces beret is
officially designated "beret, man's, wool, rifle
green, army shade 297."
U.S. Special Forces wear the green beret because of
a shared tradition which goes back to the British
Commandos of World War II. The first Ranger unit,
commonly known as Darby's Rangers, was formed in
Northern Ireland during the summer of 1942. On
completion of training at the Commando Training
Depot at Achnacarry Castle in Scotland, those
Rangers had the right to wear the British Commando
green beret, but it was not part of the regulation
uniform at the time and was disallowed by the U.S.
The 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) had many
veterans of World War II in their ranks when it was
formed in 1952. They began to unofficially wear a
variety of berets while training, some favouring the
crimson or maroon airborne beret, the black Ranger
beret, or the green commando beret. The 10th Special
Forces Group (Airborne) deployed to Bad Tolz,
Germany in September 1953. The remaining cadre at
Fort Bragg formed the 77th Special Forces Group.
Members of the 77th SFG began searching through
their collections of berets and settled on the Rifle
Green colour of the British Rifle Regiments (as
opposed to the Lovat Green of the Commandos) from
Captain Mike de la Pena's collection. Captain Frank
Dallas had the new beret designed and produced in
small numbers for the members of the Special Forces.
Their new headdress was first worn at a retirement
parade at Fort Bragg on 12 June 1955 for Lieutenant
General Joseph P. Cleland, the now-former commander
of the XVIII Airborne Corps. Onlookers thought that
the commandos were a foreign delegation from NATO.
In 1956 General Paul D. Adams, the post commander at
Fort Bragg, banned its wear, even though it was worn
surreptitiously when deployed overseas. This was
reversed on 25 September 1961 by Department of the
Army Message 578636, which designated the green
beret as the exclusive headdress of the Army Special
When visiting the Special Forces at Fort Bragg on 12
October 1961, President John F. Kennedy asked
Brigadier General William P. Yarborough to make sure
that the men under his command wore green berets for
the visit. Later that day, Kennedy sent a memorandum
which included the line: "I am sure that the green
beret will be a mark of distinction in the trying
times ahead." By America's entry into the Vietnam
War, the green beret had become a symbol of
excellence throughout the US Army. On April 11, 1962
in a White House memorandum to the United States
Army, President Kennedy reiterated his view: "The
green beret is a symbol of excellence, a badge of
courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for
freedom." To no avail, both Yarborough and Edson
Raff had previously petitioned the Pentagon to allow
wearing of the green beret. The President, however,
did not fail them.
In addition to being the headdress of the United
States Army Special Forces, "Green Berets" is also a
well known nickname of the organization.
Information from Wikipedia