Special Forces personnel began serving in the Republic of Vietnam in 1957. During the early days of the Vietnam military buildup, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy sent Special Forces Units to South Vietnam in a special advisory capacity. In September 1962, United States Special Forces, Vietnam (Provisional) was formed from members of the First Group, stationed on Okinawa, and the Fifth and Seventh Groups from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The Studies and Observations Group (aka SOG, MACSOG, and MACV-SOG) was a joint unconventional warfare task force created on 24 January 1964 as a subsidiary command of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV). The unit would eventually consist primarily of personnel from the US Army Special Forces, the US Navy SEAL's, the US Airforce, the CIA, and elements of the USMC Recon units.
The soldiers, operating in small units, created many patch designs which were locally manufactured and, in many cases, handmade. The first insignia, of course, was the beret flash, which combined the yellow from the first group, black from the Fifth, and red from the Seventh and incorporated them with a bend with bundles that represented the flag of the Republic of Vietnam. This flash, designed by Colonel George Morton, eventually became the insignia of the Fifth Special Forces Group. Popular among the recon teams known as "Mike Force," which is the universal corruption of "Mobile Strike Force".
The patches of the Vietnam War present an interesting study in that this was the first time where a fairly large number of in-country made patches were developed by the soldiers fighting there. Many of the government issued patches had been redesigned since Korea and saw the introduction of the new subdued styles. Many of the MACV-SOG insignia were all originally hand-sewn, later reproduced machine-sewn versions can be found in many variants. This is due to the fact that many of the insignia made "in country" were unauthorised wear and preferred by Special Forces Soldiers for their unique individuality and flare, with no two exactly alike. Many patches were issued to Special Forces trained Indigenous Tribesman and new arrivals and/or new recon team members signifying their fighting skills and acceptance as being attached to the team.
It is interesting to note that the Green Berets in many cases wore their patches secretly inside the Green Beret, hats or inside of shirts. It was placed there in keeping with the covert nature of their missions. They were secretly flashed to other members of the group or unit, but these patches were basically a private affair. In fact, images of skulls on patches or insignias were officially forbidden by the military. Besides recon teams, MACV-SOG also deployed exploitation teams or "hatchet teams" which were of platoon size and consisted of Americans and indigenous troops. The most famous of all highly classified areas of operations were along the Ho Chi Minh trail, into Cambodia and Laos.
The insignia provided a sense of unity, achievement and belonging to represent significant events in a soldier's tour, an unrecognised battle, a particular subgroup or unofficial unit. Originally SOG teams were named after US States. As these were used up, names of snakes (for example, the Adder, Anaconda, and Cobra) became popular. The motto "We Kill For Peace" was almost universally used by these units.