Reflections From A Special Forces Officer: West Point, Cold War Europe, And Vietnam

Paul Churchill Hutton III


In his second interview, COL(R) Church Hutton took the opportunity to delve into some of the topics he covered in his first interview in more depth. He begins by talking about the importance of athletics at West Point, and some of the lessons he learned playing football and track. Duty is a subtle characteristic, and one he felt he learned through Army sports, along with courage, determination, and persistence. He then discusses some of his experiences teaching in the Department of English and Philosophy from 1968 to 1971. He cites the criticality of studying philosophy to developing thinking leaders who can understand the “why.” During his time on the faculty at West Point, he indicates that portions of the Corps had developed a strong anti-war sentiment. After briefly mentioning a very intense patrol in Korea along the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone), he transitions to talking about his service as a Green Beret. He links Special Forces with force projection and talks about force multiplication and “joint-ness,” conducting operations like disaster relief and helping to develop other nations’ militaries. He describes his time working in TRADOC (Training and Doctrine Command), planning host nation activities for 20 to 30 brigades world-wide. The discussion shifts to Cold War Europe, and he addresses both the Cuban Missile Crisis and the later shift to Détente. He describes his training techniques for a Special Forces Battalion and working with other nations, including the Greeks, French, British, and Iran in 1976. In addition to working with allied Special Forces units, he paints a picture of the terrorism threat at that time, discussing organizations such as the Red Brigades in Italy, the Red Army Faction in Belgium, and the Baader-Meinhof group in Germany. He shifts to discussing his experiences in Vietnam, focusing on working with the Bru tribe, a minority community in the western mountains of Vietnam, and notes the importance of understanding the world from their perspective. It was critical for his team to rapidly gain the trust of the Bru, and they did so, in part, by providing medical, dental, and veterinary care, while seeking to foster positive relations with the tribal elders. He indicates that the Vietnamese people, in general, did not have a good relationship with the Bru people. At the end of his interview, he reflects on his post-military career, including time on the Army Staff, and working security assistance issues.


conflicts Vietnam War Cold War
topics Camaraderie Courage Leadership Military Techniques Military Families Morale West Point History
interviewer David Siry
date 03 October 2016


name Paul Churchill Hutton III
institution USMA
graduation year 1958
service Armor / Special Forces
unit 5th SFG / MACV / 1st Battalion 10th SFG / ARSOFE
service dates 1958 1988