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01-22-2004, 20:07

Decorated Vietnam-era Special Forces team reactivates at Bragg


By Spc. Jennifer J. Eidson
U.S. Army Special Operations Command

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, Jan. 22, 2004) — A new group of Special Forces Soldiers brought back into operation a disbanded, but highly decorated Vietnam-era unit during a ceremony held Jan. 20, just days after the 40th anniversary of the original team’s creation.

A detachment reactivation ceremony for Operational Detachment - A 726 from 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was held here at the battalion’s classroom due to the formation of a new 12-man detachment under the team number of the Special Forces unit that deactivated after the Vietnam War.

“It is a great day…when we call back to service the most distinguished detachment in our group’s long history,” said Lt. Col. Paul B., commander of 1st Battalion, during the ceremony.

The original members of 726 were only together three months and 10 days before they headed out for Vietnam in 1964. The team, then led by detachment commander and future Medal of Honor recipient Capt. Roger H.C. Donlon, had a mission of relieving another Special Forces detachment from a camp at Nam Dong and then closing it down.

At the reactivation ceremony, Donlon, who is now a retired colonel, spoke of how his team will forever play a key role in Special Forces operations and how its members will continue to be role models to current and future Soldiers.

“It was 40 years ago, this month, when we were assembled as 726,” Donlon said. “As I reflect on those days and the lessons learned from the interim, I get a great sense of pride.”

During the early morning hours of July 6, 1964, ODA 726 came under attack at Nam Dong by two reinforced Viet Cong battalions. The men of 726 fought for five hours before the conflict stopped. Team members Master Sgt. Ralph “Pop” Alamo and Sgt. John L. Houston both died during that day’s battle and were posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for their actions.

After the attack of the camp, ODA 726 became the Army’s highest decorated unit of its size. Donlon earned his Medal of Honor for his actions there. The other members of 726 all received valor awards, including four Silver Stars and five Bronze Star Medals with valor devices. Combined, the team received nine Purple Hearts.

Donlon told his former teammates in attendance that the new members of 726 look up to them as “warriors from last century,” and he also asked the new team to continue to learn from them and their experiences.

“Look at us as we continue to serve,” he said. “Allow us the privilege and honor to still play a role in supporting you and your team.”

“If you falter, if you fall, if you get knocked down, get back up immediately and stick to your mission,” Donlon said.

Capt. Shawn T., the new detachment commander of ODA 726, said his team has a lot to live up to, but having the chance to meet with the former team at the ceremony gave the new detachment a chance to gain some of their knowledge.

“We can draw a lot of experiences from them,” T. said. “When we prepare to go some place, we might have to set up a camp just like they did, and there are a lot of lessons that we can learn from these guys.”

B. ended his speech by telling the former members of 726 that they set the bar, and it is the new detachment’s turn to try to reach up to meet their standard while the team continues to fight in the Global War on Terrorism.

“It is our turn to keep you safe in your beds, and allow you to worship freely, as you allowed us to sleep safely, and allowed us to worship freely,” B. said. “It is an honor to serve you.”


Medal of Honor recipient and retired Col. Roger H.C. Donlon speaks Jan. 20 at the 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C., reactivation ceremony of Special Forces Operational Detachment - A 726. Donlon commanded the team in Vietnam during the battle of Nam Dong on July 6, 1964. (Photo by Spc. Donna E. Tewell, 7th Special Forces Group [Abn.])


A poster of the original members of Special Forces Operational Detachment - A 726 together in 1964. The poster is available for download as a 3.5 MB .pdf file. (Poster design by Spc. Donna E. Tewell, 7th Special Forces Group [Abn.])

Larger photos on web site