Project GAMMA

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

US Army
War Patch Det B57 GAMMA 5th SFGA 1970.gif
Det B57 "Project GAMMA" unofficial insignia
CountryUnited States of America
BranchUnited States Army
TypeCovert Operations
SizeDetachment, 6 US, 460 Indigenous personnel
Part of5th SFGA RVN 1968–70
US Army Special Forces SSI c. 1970
EngagementsVietnam War (Cambodia)

Project GAMMA was the name given in 1968 to Detachment B-57, Company E (Special Operations), 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, U.S. Army in Vietnam from 1967 to 1970. It was responsible for covert intelligence collection operations in Cambodia.


Detachment B-57 arrived in South Vietnam in June 1967. On 26 February 1968 it was moved from Saigon to Nha Trang and it received the designation Project GAMMA on 1 April 1968, in conjunction with other special forces units such as Project DELTA (Detachment B-52) and Project SIGMA (Detachment B-56), both responsible for Special Recon.[1] Members of the detachment operated from nine sites under the cover of civil affairs and psychological operations offices.[2]

Project Gamma was responsible for obtaining intelligence on Cambodian support for the activities of both regular and irregular units of the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), as well as irregular camps in Cambodia. The top intelligence officer on General Abrams' staff stated in October 1968 that Project GAMMA was providing 65 percent of the known data on PAVN base camps and strengths in Cambodia, as well as 75 percent of the same data on South Vietnam.[3] According to historian Shelby Stanton, by early 1969 Detachment B-57 "had developed into the finest and most productive intelligence-collection operation the United States had in Southeast Asia". Stanton attributes this success to the South Vietnamese authorities not being aware of operations conducted by the detachment's indigenous agents.[2]

One source claims GAMMA was responsible for intelligence operations against Prince Norodom Sihanouk.[4]

Capture, interrogation, and killing of Chu Van Thai Khac[edit]

In early 1969 some of Detachment B-57's sources of information started to disappear. This led the detachment's leadership to conclude that its intelligence agents had been compromised.[2] In the spring of 1969, a MACV-SOG reconnaissance team operating in Cambodia captured photos showing Chu Van Thai Khac (AKA Thai Khac Chuyen[5]), a South Vietnamese GAMMA agent, meeting with North Vietnamese intelligence officers. Chuyen was subsequently arrested and interrogated for ten days, with polygraph tests indicating that he had compromised security arrangements and was working with the Viet Cong. Various ways of dealing with Chuyen were discussed within Detachment B-57, including possibly killing him. While the 5th Special Forces Group's executive officer strongly opposed killing Chuyen, the detachment's commander and operations officer met with the CIA headquarters in Saigon who suggested that "elimination ... might be the best course of action".[6]

On 20 June 1969, three officers assigned to Project GAMMA drugged Chuyen, took him out on a boat into Nha Trang Bay, shot him twice in the head and dumped his body into the South China Sea. A cover story claiming that Chuyen had been sent on a one-way mission as a test of his loyalty was later approved by the 5th Special Forces Group's commander, Colonel Robert B. Rheault.[7]

Later, Sergeant Alvin Smith, Chuyen's former handler, became concerned for his safety and sought sanctuary with the CIA in Nha Trang, where he revealed that Chuyen had been killed. General Abrams heard of the matter and ordered the arrest of Smith and seven involved officers, including Rheault.[8] The case went to trial and was covered extensively by the media, becoming known as the Green Beret Affair[9] and led to popular knowledge of the term "terminate with extreme prejudice" as a euphemism for "execute".[10] The Army defense lawyers for the eight soldiers called General Abrams and CIA officials to the witness stand. Both declined to get involved in the proceedings and testify. Finally in September 1969, Secretary of the Army Stanley Resor announced to all that all charges would be dropped against the eight soldiers since the CIA, in the interests of national security, had refused to make its personnel available as witnesses, therefore making any manner of a fair trial impossible.[3]

Project GAMMA was deactivated on 31 March 1970.

An official Army history of the Green Berets, published after the Vietnam War,[11] does not mention Project GAMMA or Detachment B-57. Although the Pentagon has declassified much material about Green Beret operations inside Laos and Cambodia, as of 2007 nothing on Project GAMMA has been made available.[3]


Project Gamma used members of the Khmer Serei and the Khmer Kampuchean Krom in its activities inside Cambodia.

It consisted of five collection teams supervising 13 nets with 98 indigenous agents.[3]

A listing of the personnel assigned to Detachment B57 "GAMMA" is available from Radix Press Houston, Texas.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stanton, Shelby L. (2003). Vietnam Order of Battle. Stackpole Books. pp. 244–245. ISBN 0-8117-0071-2. Retrieved 13 June 2009.
  2. ^ a b c Stanton (1988), p. 196
  3. ^ a b c d Seals, Bob (2007) The "Green Beret Affair": A Brief Introduction,
  4. ^ Hersh, Seymour M.,The Price of Power, Kissinger in the Nixon White House, Summit Books, 1983, paper, Cambodia: The Coup p175; ISBN 0-671-44760-2
  5. ^ The Green Beret Affair: A Factual Review by Terry McIntosh|
  6. ^ Stanton (1988), p. 197
  7. ^ Stanton (1988), pp. 197–198
  8. ^ Stanton (1988), p. 198
  9. ^ Smith, Terence (15 August 1969). "Questions in Green Beret Affair". The New York Times.
  10. ^ Smith, Terence (14 August 1969). "Details of Green Beret Case Are Reported in Saigon". The New York Times. ...suggested that he either be isolated or 'terminated with extreme prejudice.' This term is said to be an intelligence euphemism for execution.
  11. ^ Kelly, Francis John (1989) [1973]. U.S. Army Special Forces 1961–1971. Vietnam Studies. Washington, D.C.: United States Army Center of Military History. CMH Pub 90-23.
  12. ^ Sherman, Stephen; WORK-IN-PROGRESS, Who's Who from Detachment B-57 (Project GAMMA), Radix Press 2006. See reference below.


Periodical References to the Green Beret Affair[edit]