Monday, September 28, 2015
The Introduction of Black Berets in the US Rangers
General Charles Echols "Pete" Spragins was the man who iintroduced the black beret to the uniform of the Airborne Rangers.
Through four generations, members of Spragins' family attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, each ultimately achieving the rank of general.His great-grandfather, Maj. Gen. Stewart Van Vliet, served on Ulysses S. Grant's staff as quartermaster of the Union Army during the Civil War. His father, Maj. Gen. R.L. Spragins, served at Guadalcanal and with the "Iron Men of Metz," ultimately pushing through the Vosges with the 44th during the bitterly cold winter of 1944 to liberate Strasbourg during World War II.
Spragins volunteered for the Korean War and joined the Rangers at Fort Benning, Ga., as commander of the 10th Ranger Infantry Company (Airborne). In commemoration of the grueling training, mostly in the dark of night, he introduced the Rangers' signature black beret.
The beret was wildly popular with his troops and was worn unofficially through the Vietnam War. It was officially designated as part of the newly created battalions of U.S. Army Rangers in 1975, according to several online sources. Nice to see that his very first black beret was, indeed, a black Basque beret - cabilliou in place!