on July 1, 2003
This book was very difficult to put down once I started reading it. Beckwith has a way with words that makes it seem like he's sitting next to you telling you a story. While reading the book, I felt like I knew Charlie Beckwith and his way of thinking--that's how much personality he put into this book.
1st Special Forces Operational Detachment--Delta (SFOD-D) is the military's formal name for Delta Force. Delta is perhaps America's foremost elite counterterrorist unit along with the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) and Navy SEAL Team Six. Beckwith created Delta Force after spending a year with the British Special Air Service (SAS) and seeing how the US had a void that a unit like the SAS could fill. Thus, Delta was formed with the SAS in mind.
A word of caution to people who are considering reading this book. The book tells of how Delta Force was formed...from its beginnings as a US version of the British SAS to its failed first mission freeing the hostages in the Iran. If you're looking for something on what Delta Force currently does and how its operators are currently trained or selected, this isn't the book for you. Beckwith tells us how the first Delta operators were trained and selected, but that selection process has probably changed some by now. This book is more a detailed history on the formation of the Delta Force, and not a book on its current engagements and operations (which are most likely classified anyway).
I HIGHLY recommend this book.
on December 13, 2003
To understand Charlie Beckwith and Delta Force, probably the best way to do that is to first understand the British SAS. Beckwith was a huge fan of the SAS, he got most of his ideas from the SAS and all in all had it not been for the SAS, there would have been no Delta.
This book is a story that describes how Beckwith went thru a life changing experience when he underwent a Green Beret exchange tour with the British 22nd SAS Regiment in the early sixties. And then he came back to the USA and spent the rest of his Army career lobbying the Army bureaucracy to build a unit based on the SAS model. This lobbying effort was intensely personal and emotional for Beckwith and frequently involved frustration and disappointment.
Beckwith describes his battles with the Army's conventional bureaucracy, which was powerful and all encompassing. But he also describes his frustrations with the Army's already established special forces of that era...the Green Berets and Ranger Battalions of the sixties and seventies. Beckwith describes how he got little to no support from the regular Army in establishing an SAS type unit, but also how the Green Berets and Ranger Battalions tried to block and stymie his efforts.
Eventually, in the mid to late seventies Beckwith got his wish with the help of a handful of sympathetic, high ranking General officers. To build a truly unique special operations unit based exclusively on the British SAS model. It was neither Green Beret based nor Ranger Battalion based, although most of the early Delta operators were veterans of one of the two mentioned units. It was an American unit, but based on a foreign unit known as the SAS. This all occurred in the extremely anti-special forces political climate of the seventies...right after Vietnam.
Beckwith's career ultimately culminated in the failed 1980 Iranian rescue mission. Which was a huge political disaster for the Carter administration. After which he retired from the Army and sort of faded away. He died in 1994. Its sad that Beckwith never got to see his life's hard work become fully appreciated after the 911 debacle. Beckwith was truly a futuristic thinker, an innovator and creative person.
I would recommend this book for anyone interested in the British SAS, Delta or for anyone who has an intense dislike for bureaucracy and the status quo.
on December 26, 2002
The only book I've read willingly, since high school, COVER to COVER.
I was surprised how ensnared I was while reading the SAMPLE PAGES here at amazon.com. The SAMPLE PAGES start off with the author, Charlie Beckwith, a young United States' Green Beret, on the shores of Great Britain, and follows his shell-shocked induction into the unorthodox echelon of its elite military special forces, known as the SAS.
The book itself, begins with the author, a mature colonel commander of an already established elite Army shadow-unit, known as Delta Force, on route with generals to brief (then) president Jimmy Carter on the fragile hostage crisis escalating critically out of control in Tehran, than fades to his early years as a young special forces exchange soldier with the British SAS --a place were most of his unconventional views would be shaped-- and how it all lead up to that very critical junction in history. We follow him from his training with the SAS, through his growing pains as a young green beret soldier in Vietnam, to his underdog fight with the U.S. military bureaucracy in the hopes of establishing a "SAS-capable" unit, able of fill the "gaping holes" now evident in the U.S. special forces. Through trial and error Charlie painfully learns the ins-and-outs of a rigid Army bureaucracy, bent on protecting its traditions, and money, in the face of it's obvious flaws.
Charlie Beckwith may have not expected all the walls he would have to overcome when going against the Army convention, and often thought of giving up; when commanders threw his recommendation papers in his face. But, eventually, an emotional Charlie, and his perseverance, paid off. With the bloody dawning of a terrorism movement now escalating throughout the world, and no means of combating it with traditional military means, and fear now gripping the Carter administration, Charlie Beckwith, after years of battling the system, is commissioned to create his unique Delta unit, in the hopes of freeing American hostages trapped inside the U.S. embassy of Tehran.
Delta Force was finally born. But It's ultimate test would now come in the form of an impossible mission, across the perilous deserts of Iran, into the capital city of Tehran, and fight it's way out of the city -- to bring home the American hostages and restore public faith in the Carter administration.
on September 27, 2002
I picked up this book thinking there was going to be a good amount of detail of past missions. After reading the book I found that my assumption was wrong. The book starts out with the author's career during the Vietnam War and ends with a description of the Iran hostage rescue operation in 1980. The majority of the book is a review of the author's struggles to set up the Delta Force and a lot of detail on the training that took place. If this is what you are looking for then the book will interest you. If you are after a lot of combat action then you will be disappointed.
I did find the slow and painful description of how the Army bureaucracy works to be an eye opener. I would have thought all the higher ups would have jumped at creating a group like Delta but that just was not the case. This could be a case study for persistence in how the author got his group up and running. Overall I found the book to be well written and interesting. There were a few slow spots in the middle, but not so bad that it would make you put down the book.
on September 23, 2002
Great book. Outlines the difficulties in getting a new idea sold in a rather inflexible/bureaucratic system.
It is a long way from identifying a requirement, to actually get someone interested to set measures to fill a deficiency. A lot of turf wars involved.
I actually expected a fact book on Delta's history/capabilities and ops involved. What I found was a really well written story of the man who pursued the issue of creating Anti-Terrorist capability within the US Forces. Now everybody will understand the vision this man had and how important this topic always was and always will be.
I liked the credit given to the SAS, that I consider the finest unit in this area of work.
I would have liked for the book to continue further than the Iran operation (especially as I actually bought the book for the purpose of getting information about the Somalia Ops), but it is clear the it ends when Col Beckwith left the unit, as he is the author. Great book that is really hard to put down.
on March 7, 2002
Rather, Delta Force is the plain-spoken memoir of a real-life Special Forces officer's long career advancing his art, if not his army career. Charlie Beckwith was a prophet before his time, and his campaign for the creation of an SAS-style special ops unit in the U.S. Army was stymied at every turn for nearly his entire career. Branded a rogue, even a traitor to the S.F. community, in the end, of course, his ideas won out, and Delta came into being, with Beckwith as it's first commander.
There are Vietnam war stories here, but this is not a book of "there I was. . ." tales. Beckwith also offers the reader a glimpse of Army politics, but this is not a book about vain and self-absorbed senior officers. A few chapters are devoted to Delta's baptism by fire in the Iranian Hostage rescue operation, but it's not really a book about the debacle at Desert One. In Delta Force, the reader will find a memoir of one of the pivotal figures in modern ground warfare. This is the story of one tough, dedicated hombre; what he learned, and how he learned it.
I'm not sure the average reader would get all of Colonel Beckwith's humorous asides and throwaway lines. Some are pretty wry, and would probably require that the reader have a military background to even notice. This edition has a few annoying typographical errors (is proofreading truly a lost art?), and Beckwith's prose occasionally lapses from one tense to another and then back again, which creates a slight feeling of disjointedness. Given those very minor caveats, for a reader with some familiarity and interest in the operational art, this is a must read.
on March 1, 2002
This book is Col. Charlie Beckwith's account of the formation of the Army's elite counter-terrorist unit, the Delta Force. Do not read this book to gain much of an understanding of how the unit exists today. I doubt there is such a book, since Delta operates under the strictest secrecy.
Nevertheless, Delta Force is an interesting account of one man's struggle to bring his idea to fruition in the midst of gigantic army bureaucracy and red tape.
Col. Beckwith also discusses his experiences serving with British SAS units, whom he held in the highest regard. He also talks about his years in Vietnam. These accounts are really interesting. The rest of the book deals with Operation Eagle Claw, the ambitious attempt to rescue Americans held hostage in Iran during 1979. After reading Col. Beckwith's account, I made a special trip to Arlington cemetary to pay tribute to the 8 Americans killed in that heroic, but unsuccessful effort.
After September 11th, we as Americans owe much of our safety and security to the heroes in Delta. That alone is a good reason to read this book.
on February 26, 2002
COL. Charles A. Beckwith (Ret.) tells a great story.
The book is a page turner and I had a hard time putting it
down. This is a story of the creation of 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment - Delta (SFOD-D), aka Delta Force.
The story is told from COL Beckwith point of view and
written with Donald Knox.
The story starts with a prologue of a meeting
with President Jimmy Carter in volving the rescue operation
of Tehran hostages crisis.
Then we go back to June 1962, when Green Beret CPT Beckwith and Sergeant Rozniak would participate in an exchange program with the British 22 Special Air Service Regiment aka SAS.
The story progresses forward from there to the creation of 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment - Delta (SFOD-D) to finally the mission to rescue the hostages being held at the U.S. Ambassy in Tehran.
The structure of the book is broken down as followed:
(This is a pocket book, 365 pages, 24 hours read time)
Epilogue by C.A. Morbley.
on January 25, 2002
Beckwith's book is an excellent account of his development as a Special Ops soldier, in Vietnam and on exchange with the SAS. He then brings these ideas into Delta Force, goes through all the gov't hassle of getting it established, and then commands SFOD-Delta in Operation Eagle Claw, the Iran hostage resuce mission, 1979-1980. Beckwith's insight into these issues is second to none.
Readers looking for more information on Operation Eagle Claw itself, particularly the Air Force fixed-wing and USMC rotary-wing elements of the mission, should read "The Guts to Try" by James H. Kyle, Col. USAF ret. This equally excellent but much less famous book covers the overall planning of Eagle Claw at a joint-forces administrative level above Beckwith, and covers the joint-forces command of the actual mission, since Kyle was the overall commander at Desert One. The mechanical and personal failures of the helicopters and their crews are also discussed, as well as Kyle's conclusions on why the mission failed. Beckwith's book gives an excellent account of his part of the mission, but does not cover these more global points.
on July 1, 2001
Charlie Beckwith founded Delta Force and decided to write a book about it. And that's mainly what the reader gets: the founding details and problems of this highly skilled American counterterrorist unit. If you expect blazing action sequences like the '85 resque attempt of the hijacked cruise liner Achille Lauro or the destruction of SCUD missile sites in the Gulf War by Delta in '91, you'll be dissapointed. All that happened after the publication of the book in 1983. At least a third of it consists of rather boring meetings, talks, and frustration, that Beckwith goes through trying to set up his unit, and that's a pity. Like buying a book about the Chicago Bulls and reading all about it's organization and stadium but no basketball. The last third of the book fortunately is somewhat better. It's about Delta's extensive preparations to resque 53 Americans held hostage in the American Ambassy in Iran in '79. Alas, again not much 'bullet ducking action' because, as many people probably remember, the acual resque mission hardly got started, unable even to pass the first chopper refuelling point in the dessert. What went wrong? Beckwith here explains too little. Something with the RH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters went wrong, but afterwards the reader still doesn't know *why* that one chopper crashed into the EC-130 transport plane and what *exactly* went wrong flying through the sand storm to the meeting point 'Dessert One'. Some inside pilot information afterwards would have been more than welcome. For a more action-oriented book that involves Delta, I recommend Mark Bowden's "Black Hawk Down" about the '93 Mogadishu (Somalia) firefight in persuit of warlord Aidid.