Beckwith, Charles Alvin, COL

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1542-Infantry Unit Commander
Last MOS Group
Infantry (Officer)
Primary Unit
1976-1981, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D)
Service Years
1952 - 1981
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This Military Service Page was created/owned by SGM Mike Vining to remember Beckwith, Charles Alvin (Chargin' Charlie), COL USA(Ret).

If you knew or served with this Soldier and have additional information or photos to support this Page, please leave a message for the Page Administrator(s) HERE.
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Not Specified
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Date of Passing
Jun 13, 1994
Location of Interment
Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery - San Antonio, Texas
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 Official Badges 

101st Airbone Division Infantry Shoulder Cord US Army Retired (Pre-2007)

 Unofficial Badges 

Ranger Hall Of Fame

 Military Associations and Other Affiliations
Historical Soldiers
  1981, Historical Soldiers

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Last Known Activity

Colonel Charles A. Beckwith is inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame for 29 years of military service to the nation. His extraordinary career, which included service during Korea, the Malaysian Uprising, Vietnam, and the Iranian hostage crisis garnered respect from military and civilian leaders at the highest levels within the United States government. His service and heroic actions were recognized with numerous awards including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm, Silver Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Bronze Star with V device (3 Oak Leaf Clusters), Legion of Merit (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), and the Purple Heart. He was the epitome of a Ranger while assigned to the Florida Ranger Camp. His outstanding abilities were widely recognized throughout the Ranger and Special Operations communities. In 1965, he led a 250-man force that reinforced a besieged Green Beret compound at Plei Me. After that he went on to solidify his place in history as the founding father of Delta Force. His initiative and tenacity resulted in the creation, implementation, and utilization of the finest anti-terrorist unit in the world. Colonel Beckwith?s insight and firsthand experiences at Desert One were instrumental in the creation of the Joint Special Operations Command. Colonel Beckwith is the classic example of a warrior and the epitome of a United States Army Ranger. 

Charles Alvin Beckwith (January 22, 1929 ? June 13, 1994), known as "Chargin' Charlie", was a career United States Army soldier and Vietnam veteran, credited with the creation of Delta Force, a branch of the U.S. Army. Although he is held in high regard by various members of the military Special Operations Forces, the general public know him best due to the ill-fated Operation Eagle Claw in Iran, 1980.


 Early life

Beckwith was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1929, and was an all-state football player for his high school team. Charlie Beckwith attended Boy?s High in the 40s. The ?rival? school was Tech High where Charlie began. He was a great lineman at Tech High. Coach ?Shorty? Doyle at Boy?s High convinced Charlie to transfer to Boy?s High. The move created ill will between the two football teams. The first game between the two schools found Charlie being held out on the bench. The Tech High fans began chanting ?We want Beckwith? until Coach Doyle put Charlie in. On his first play, Charlie stood straight up from his stance and punched the defensive lineman in the face. He had broken and bloodied the defensive lineman?s nose and knocked him out cold on the field. In only 4 seconds Charlie had managed to be ejected from the game to the delight of his teammates who went on to win the game.

He later enrolled in the University of Georgia where he played football for the Dawgs. He joined the university's Army ROTC program and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 1952. He was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1952 as well but turned it down to stay in the army.

Military career

In 1955, Beckwith joined the 82nd Airborne Division as commander of Support Company, 504th Infantry Regiment. Two years later Beckwith transferred to the Green Berets and in 1960 was deployed to South Vietnam and Laos as a military advisor.

Beckwith served as an exchange officer with the British Special Air Service (22 SAS Regiment) in the early 1960s, and came away very impressed with the unit. US Army Special Forces in that period focused on unconventional warfare, but Beckwith was highly impressed with the SAS direct-action and counter-terrorism capabilities.

Beckwith commanded a Special Forces unit code-named Project Delta in Vietnam. He was critically wounded in early 1966 (he took a .50 caliber bullet through his abdomen), so badly that medical personnel initially triaged him as beyond help. In triage, after surgeons had pushed him to one side as a hopeless case. Beckwith survived mainly due to his superb conditioning and iron determination.[2] After recovery, he took over the Florida Phase of the US Army's Ranger School, transforming it from a scripted exercise based upon the Army's World War II experience, into a Vietnam-oriented training regimen. He was known as an extremely tough trainer, even by military standards.

In the late 1960s, Beckwith returned to Vietnam, where he commanded a batalion. In the 1970s he was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina where he commanded training operations.

Delta Force

Beckwith was the driving force for the founding of Delta Force in November 1977 as an overseas counter-terrorist unit whose main mission is in hostage rescue, barricade operations and specialized reconnaissance. He was the Unit's first commander serving in that position from 1977 to 1980.  The Unit's first public recognized mission (the aforementioned Operation Eagle Claw) ended in spectacular failure, not because of any unit shortcomings but due to a malfunction in several of the helicopters and lack of pilots trained in such operations. After the "debacle in the desert" the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment was formed specifically to provide transport for Delta Force, and eventually other Special Operations Forces, worldwide. Delta Force has since grown to become one of many counterterrorist units recognized worldwide (such as the British SAS Regiment, Canada's Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2), Australian SAS, France?s GIGN, Germany's Grenzschutzgruppe 9 (GSG9) and the Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK), and the Israeli Sayeret Matkal).  After the failed Iran Hostage Rescue Mission (Operation EAGLE CLAW), Beckwith recommended the forming of the Joint Special Operation Command (JSOC), at Pope Field, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with was formed in 1980.

Later life

Following his disappointment at the failure of the Iranian operation, Beckwith retired from the army. He started a consulting firm and wrote a book about Delta Force. He died at his home of natural causes.

Charles Beckwith was married to Katherine Beckwith, and they had three daughters.

Charles Beckwith's remains are interred in the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, San Antonio, Texas.


"My men and I have decided that our boss, the President of the United States, is as tough as woodpecker lips. "

"I was not about to be party to half-assed loading on a bunch of aircraft and going up and murdering a bunch of the finest soldiers in the world."

"I learned that Murphy is alive and well. He's in every drawer, under every rock and on top of every hill."

Story about the Army Chief of Staff
In 1979, Charlie was in a meeting with GEN Bernie Rogers and several other generals. Charlie got mad and left the room. GEN Rogers told a young Sergeant to go get Charlie. He found Beckwith on the back of the loading dock at the original Delta compound pissing off the dock. He said, "Charlie, GEN Rogers wants you to come back in." Beckwith said, "You go tell Bernie that Charlie is takin a piss. And when I get through takin a piss, I MIGHT come back in there!" The SGT went back into the conference and said, "Sir, COL Beckwith said to tell you that he will be right with you."  Not many guys had the balls to tell the Chief of Staff of the Army what Charlie would have told him. Fortunately, the young E-5 didn't have the balls to pass the message on.

Other Comments:

By Tom Bennett

Charles Beckwith, a retired Army colonel and Atlanta native who led the abortive 1980 mission to free American hostages in Iran, died Monday at his home in Austin, Texas. He was 65.

His wife, Katherine, called police after finding Beckwith dead in his bedroom. Police said he apparently died of natural causes.

Beckwith led Delta Force, a 130-man anti-terrorist unit that flew to Iran on April 24-25, 1980, and tried but failed to rescue 52 Americans held hostage.

Three of eight helicopters in the mission failed; six was a minimum needed, and Beckwith scrubbed the mission. During the retreat, tragedy struck when a helicopter moving to re-fuel from a C-130 cargo plane struck it and both burst into flames. Eight servicemen died.

Iran held the Americans for 444 days before the Ayatollah Khomeini ordered them released in January 1981 as President Carter left office, and while Carter's successor, Ronald Reagan, stood on the inaugural stand.

"Chargin' Charlie," as Beckwith was known, was a 6-foot-3 Green Beret officer and decorated hero of the Vietnam War.

At Atlanta's Brown High, Beckwith was an all-state football player and went on to become a three-year starter at guard for the University of Georgia.

A student ROTC leader, he received an Army commission in 1952. He became a maverick officer who bucked the establishment at every turn. After a year's training with a British anti-terrorist unit, Beckwith campaigned for 14 years in the Army hierarchy to create a U.S.A. anti-terrorist unit. The result was "Delta Force."

The Iran mission effectively ended Beckwith's military career. Back in the United States, he was ordered to hold a press conference, at which he said he had canceled the mission because "I'm not going to be a party to a halfway loading of a bunch of aircraft and going up and murdering a bunch of fine soldiers. I'm not that kind of man." He retired from the Army in 1981 and formed an Austin consulting firm, Security Assistance Services.

He wrote a 1983 book, "Delta Force," with Donald Knox in which Beckwith blamed the helicopters and their Marine pilots for the failure of the rescue mission.

Charles Alvin Beckwith was born Jan. 22, 1929, in southwest Atlanta, one of three children of an independent oil dealer.

He grew up near Atlanta's Fort McPherson. He went there on Sundays to watch polo matches and dreamed of having an Army career, his mother recalled.

At Brown high, Beckwith was a football teammate of Pepper Rodgers, later a college and pro coach, and at Georgia, Beckwith teamed with Marion Campbell and Zeke Bratkowski, later NFL players and coaches.

Three years into his Army career, in 1955, Beckwith joined the 82nd Airborne Division. (NOTE: Charlie started out in the 82d as commander of Support Company, 504th Airborne Infantry Regiment.) He was pissing people off even back then. I remember him telling a member of the Regimental Staff, "I'm a company commander, not a God Dam football player". In 1958, he moved to the Special Forces, or Green Berets, "because they needed officers," he recalled. In 1960, Beckwith was an American adviser in Vietnam and Laos, and 1962-63 he trained with the British 22nd Special Air Services Regiment.

Back in Vietnam in 1965, (NOTE: This was Charlie's assignment as commander of Special Forces Detachment B-52, Project Delta.) Beckwith led a 250-man force that rescued a Green Beret garrison at Plei Me. He and the other rescuers stayed and fought another eight days until the enemy departed. Beckwith later learned he had faced regular North Vietnamese troops and told the press: "Give me a battalion of them and I'll take over the whole darned country." The remark was taken as a slap at the Americans' South Vietnamese allies, and after that Beckwith avoided the press.

Click here to read related story by Joe Galloway on the Seige at Plei Mei

On a 1966 mission while flying in a helicopter, Beckwith was hit by a .50-caliber bullet. (NOTE: This was the operation that later became a best selling book, and the movie, "We were soldiers once, and Young".) According to the Chicago Tribune, Beckwith at various times criticized the Special Forces command and air cavalrymen in charge of ferrying his Green Beret troops into action.

His superiors now heeded his suggestion for a U.S. anti-terrorist unit, and in 1974 Beckwith was told to implement his plan. "Delta Force" officially was born at a meeting of high-ranking officers at Fort Benning in 1976. Beckwith won promotion to colonel. He located his unit in an unlikely place - the stockade at Fort Bragg, N.C. Its high fence afforded the security they wanted for secret training. The post's prisoners were transferred to a jail in a nearby town.

(NOTE: This writer omits Charlie's return to Vietnam after his recovery from the GSW, and his assignment to a conventional unit. He also overlooks Charlie's tenure as Commandant of Special Forces Schools at Fort Bragg.)

Beckwith's unit scaled a significant hurdle in 1977, receiving the endorsement of Gen. Frederick "Fritz" Kroesen, then commander of FORSCOM at Fort McPherson and in charge of all ground troops in the continental United States. An aide to Kroesen had campaigned in the Army establishment to transfer Delta Force's anti-terrorism activities to other units. In June 1977, Beckwith won a bureaucratic struggle when Delta Force was placed under the direct operational control of the Department of the Army, bypassing other commands.

U.S.-Iranian relations worsened after Carter permitted the country's ailing shah to enter the United States. In October 1979, Delta Force went through a "validation exercise," a simulated anti-terrorist action watched by experts from NATO countries. Beckwith was returning home when he received a call that the embassy in Tehran had been seized and orders that he go on alert.

He stepped up training. Delta Force built a mockup of the embassy and practiced assaults. They rehearsed breaking down doors and storming into darkened rooms.

He took part in a White House briefing on the rescue mission, and was surprised when Carter gave a go-ahead.

"I didn't think he had the guts to do it," Beckwith wrote later. He had not voted for Carter and had been angered when Carter had given amnesty to U.S. draft dodgers in Canada.

After the mission, Beckwith returned to the White House. Carter thanked him for "going public" by holding a press conference. Beckwith asked if he could tell the president something.

"Of course, colonel," Carter replied.

"Mr. President, me and my boys think that you are tough as a woodpecker's lips."

Surviving besides his wife are his three daughters, Connie, Charlotte, and Pegg. 

This remembrance profile is maintained by Mike R. Vining, SGM USA (Retired).


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Combat Infantryman 2nd Award
Master Parachutist
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 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
1st Battalion, 508th Airborne Battalion Combat Team82nd Airborne DivisionArmy Ranger School7th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
MAAG Laos1st Special Forces Group (Airborne)Command and General Staff College (CGSC) Course5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment 101st Airborne Division US Pacific Command (USPACOM)Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC) , US Army Pacific (USARPAC)
US Army John F Kennedy Special Warfare Center & School (USAJFKSWCS)1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D)
  1952-1953, 1st Battalion, 508th Airborne Battalion Combat Team
  1955-1958, HHC, 82nd Airborne Division
  1957-1958, 111.67, HHC, 2nd Airborne Battle Group, 504th Infantry
  1958-1958, Army Ranger School
  1958-1960, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
  1960-1962, MAAG Laos
  1962-1965, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne)
  1965-1965, Command and General Staff College (CGSC) Course
  1965-1966, HHC, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
  1966-1968, Army Ranger School
  1968-1969, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment
  1968-1969, 101st Airborne Division
  1970-1973, US Pacific Command (USPACOM)
  1973-1974, Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC) , US Army Pacific (USARPAC)
  1974-1976, US Army John F Kennedy Special Warfare Center & School (USAJFKSWCS)
  1976-1981, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D)
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1953-1953 Korean War
  1960-1961 Vietnam War/Advisory Campaign (1962-65)/Battle of Go Cong
  1962-1965 Vietnam War/Advisory Campaign (1962-65)
  1965-1965 Vietnam War/Defense Campaign (1965)/Battle of Plei Me
  1965-1966 Vietnam War/Counteroffensive Campaign (1965-66)
  1968-1968 Vietnam War/Tet Counteroffensive Campaign (1968)
  1969-1969 Vietnam War/Tet 69 Counteroffensive Campaign
  1969-1969 Vietnam War/Summer-Fall 1969 Campaign
  1969-1969 Vietnam War/Winter-Spring 1970 Campaign
  1980-1980 Operation Eagle Claw (Iran)
 Colleges Attended 
University of GeorgiaChaminade University of Honolulu, Hawaii
  1948-1952, University of Georgia
  1973-1973, Chaminade University of Honolulu, Hawaii
 Other News, Events and Photographs
  Jan 01, 1981, Retired
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