Members of the U.S. Army Special Forces
will emphatically assert that the "Green Beret" is a hat and not the man who wears it. Nevertheless, for a time in the 1960s the Green Berets and the men who wore them became a national fad
emerging in a wide variety of popular culture
referents. After a decline in popularity during the 1970s — coinciding with the American public's backlash against the Vietnam War
— the Green Berets gripped the popular imagination again beginning with the Rambo film franchise
in 1982. They continue to appear as both major and minor referents in popular culture — especially in Hollywood movies
— often serving as a short-hand signifier for a "shady," "covert
," or at least highly "operational
," military background for a fictional character. As a dramatic device
, this can "cut both ways" — i.e., lead an audience to either admire or fear (or both) a character.
Soldiers of the "New Frontier"
Although the U.S. Army Special Forces
were created with a low profile in 1952, and the green beret
was not officially authorized, things changed dramatically with President John F. Kennedy
. He wanted to challenge Communist influence and wars of liberation in the recently decolonized Third World
, and bolster pro-American regimes with the U.S. Army's own special forces
and counter-guerrilla fighters.
On 12 October 1961, Kennedy visited the U.S. Special Warfare Center, where his aide,......