SAIGON -- The U.S. Command said today the former chief of the U.S. Special Forces (Green Berets) in Vietnam and seven of his subordinates have been arrested on a charge of planning and carrying out the murder of a Vietnamese civilian.
A U.S. spokesman said Col. Robert B. Rheault, 44. of Vineyard Haven, Mass.. commander of the Special Forces, was relieved of his duties July 21. He is a 1946 graduate of West Point and holds the Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters.
The eight men, seven officers and a senior noncommissioned officer were jailed at Long Binh Army post near Saigon under charges of premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit murder. It was the largest group of American officers to face trial in the Vietnam War.
The Army declined to tell exactly what happened but said the men were accused of shooting to death a Vietnamese man near the central coastal city of Nha Trang 188 miles Northeast of Saigon June 20.
As commander of the U.S. 5th Special Forces Group. Rheault was in charge of all Green Beret troops in Vietnam until relieved of his command.
Spokesmen said the investigation had been ordered by Maj. Gen. G.J. Maybry, commanding general of U.S. Army Support Troops in Vietnam and that the investigation would determine whether the men would be court martialed. They said it was not known how long the investigation would take.
At Rheault's summer home on the island of Martha's Vineyard off Massachusetts, Mrs. Rheault said, "there's a mistake somewhere. My husband has had a long and honorable career in the army."
She said he was serving his second tour of duty in Vietnam and had been there since May. The other time was almost five years ago, she said. Also charged along with Rheault were: Maj. David E. Crew of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Maj. Thomas C. Middleton Jr. of Jefferson, S.C.; Capt. Leland J. Brumley of Duncan, Okla.; Capt. Robert F.