Category Archives: Unconventional Warfare

75th Anniversary of US Airborne Forces this Year

82_Airborne_Patch.svgThe US Army Airborne Forces are about to celebrate a rare anniversary: the 75th since its establishment. While several nations established parachute forces before the USA, including Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union, most of the others have not operated continuously all that time, raising the possibility that the American airborne arm is senior to all as a matter of continuous operation.

Here’s what we’ve got on the coming event. Geronimo!

The point of this event is to celebrate the US Army Airborne and Special Operations 75th Anniversary on National Airborne Day, which is 16 August 2015.

The event will be held on 12 August 2015, at the Rosen Hotels and Resort in Orlando FL…. The 82d Airborne Division Association annual convention will be held at the same location from 13-15 August.

The event will begin at 1930 hours with a free fall team jumping the US Colors and POW/MIA banner on the premises, then a short Memorial Service conducted by Col Dennis Freytes and then the band will begin. We have an eight member 60’s band scheduled for your entertainment. The event will be held indoors in the Main Ballroom. There will be light food, beer, wine and soft drinks, as well as a cash bar.

We will have numbered 75th Anniversary Coins and those with numbers of Airborne Battalions, Regiments and Divisions, along with SF and other Special Operations will be auctioned. The other coins, in the configuration of a silver dog tag, will be sold for $15.00 at the event. We also have a Ruger SR 762, which is a 308 caliber semi-auto rifle along with an ACOG scope, that we have been selling raffle tickets on for some time.

You can find more information about it at the 82nd Airborne Association website.

Cuban-Sponsored Terrorists Celebrate Removal from US List — with Mass Murder

Obama_Poster_Che_ChumpEver wonder why even US allies in Latin America lose their faith in us from time to time? (If so, it means you haven’t been watching US policy in the region long, or intently). The latest reason to question the good faith of the US is in our groveling President’s latest self-abasement to Los Hermanos Castros, who celebrated the President’s declaration that they are not terror sponsors in a very predictable way — by sponsoring a terrorist act of mass murder in Colombia.

Yesterday, President Barack Obama announced that the United States would be removing Cuba from the U.S. State Sponsors of Terror list as part of his push to normalize relations with the communist dictatorship. But just hours later, a terror group long fostered by Cuba — even today, the Castro brothers are harboring several wanted members of the group — murdered 10 Colombian soldiers and wounded 17 others in a terror attack on a military base.

via Hours Later, Cuban Sponsored Terrorists Kill 10 | PJ Tatler.

FAL provided to international terrorist group by Cuban government.

FAL provided to international terrorist group by Cuban government.

Cuba is still the Caribbean resort and bolt-hole of choice for world terrorist cadres and bad actors wanted worldwide. The state hosts, as honored guests, some 70 American common criminals including many murderers and at least one cop-killer. It is the go-to safe haven for Basque ETA bombers before, between and after terrorist attacks; for Colombian FARC and ELN terrorists, who also have received Cuban arms and training; for the Salvadoran FMLN; for the Peruvian Sendero Luminoso or Shining Path; for various Arab terrorists of the 60s through the 90s. Cuban arms fuel every ongoing insurgency in Central and South America, and the Cuban state and its armed forces cooperate with drug trafficking organizations. Whether that last is done for ideological or financial reasons — the US has been able to associate Swiss and offshore bank accounts with many Cuban officers and leaders, including Fidel and Raúl Castro — nobody knows.

But under this gelding President and his palace eunuch Secretary of State, that’s not terrorism. Being a veteran? One who didn’t then slander your fellow vets, unlike Secretary Kerry? That’s terrorism.

“A word means exactly what I say it means, no more and no less” — occurred once in humorous fantastic fiction, once in serious dystopian fiction, but now it seems to underpin our national policy.

George Orwell lives. Or maybe, Lewis Carroll.

The Fall of the Slaveholders

Ovenight, last week, Ukrainian freedom fighters toppled the statues of three Soviet oppressors: Sergo Ordzhonikidzhe, Nikolai Rudnev, and Yakov Sverdlov. The Ukrainian government has ordered the removal of symbols of former occupiers, the Third Reich and the Soviet Union, but it seems that some of the locals couldn’t wait for officialdom to move. “Raz, dva!” Crash!

These three are a nasty bunch indeed, and not anybody that a civilized society would celebrate. Yet the USSR saw fit to erect ugly Socialist Realism style statues of them. (Note that Socialist Realism is not small-r realism. Sverdlov, for example, is scrawny, small and unimpressive looking in surviving photos).

  • Ordzhonikidzhe was a Georgian quisling who helped sell his countrymen into Russian slavery, and became a Soviet functionary and senior secret policeman. He later died in the midst of Stalin’s 1930s purges. Although there are several competing stories of how he died, it seems likely the revolution he served turned on him.
  • Nikolai Rudnev was a Red officer responsible for several mass murders during the Civil War; a Heydrich character, he is the sort of man who is only celebrated in a terror state.
  • Yakov “Yankel” Sverdlov was a secret policeman who was murdered in 1919, officially by enemies of the revolution but probably by his fellows in what was then the OGPU. This “martyr” story made him a saint of the Soviet terror state; he’s analogous to Horst Wessel. Many sources associate him with the murder of the Tsar’s family in 1918.  His son Andrei became a mass-murderer for the NKVD; his daughter married the Himmler of the NKVD, Genrikh Yagoda, and was presumably sent to a camp to be killed when Yagoda was, in the early years of the Yezhovshchina.

A waste of bronze, making statues to these savages. Good on the Ukrainians for pulling them down.

When an Exfiltration Goes Bad: 22 October 1942

We have mentioned again, and again, and here we go again that special operations in the real world are highly influenced by logistics. Things like UW, GW, and long-range strategic reconnaissance require a well-developed ability to put people on the ground in the denied1 rear area of the enemy, to communicate with them securely and secretly while they are there, and to extract them when needed.

An operation came to a bad end during the German invasion of the Soviet Union. We don’t know the operation’s intention, although we may guess; we don’t know the names of its on-the-ground participants, only that they were Estonians. What we do know is the outcome.

8L+CH moored in Finland, 1942. Probably the mission aircraft. Click to embiggen.

8L+CH moored in Finland, 1942. Probably the mission aircraft. Click to embiggen. From here; this site has, among many other things, pictures of many of the 138 He115s built. A decade ago none were thought to have survived, but three have been found underwater and two recovered for restoration in the last ten years.

The Germans were no novices at special operations (remember how Lenin got to Russia in the first place before the October Revolution?), and like today’s US Forces, they supported SOF insertions, resupply and extractions with a combination of dedicated SOF air and specially-tasked conventional elements.

Emblem of the conventional coastal unit that provided the aircraft and crew for the mission.

Emblem of the conventional coastal unit, 1st Squadron of Coastal Flyer Group 906, that provided the aircraft and crew for this doomed mission.

German SOF airlift included a unit covered as KampfGeschwader or KG (Bomber Wing) 200, that operated a wide mix of German and Allied aircraft, and smaller units that were covered as Versuchs Verbände (“Research Detachments”) of the Oberkommano der Luftwaffe (Air Force High Command). For the October 22 mission, 2./VV/OdL needed a water landing, so they tasked Küstenfliegergruppe 906 with the mission. A Heinkel 115 crew of four trained and prepared to fly to a staging lake in Southeastern Finland, and then deep within Soviet lines; land on Lake Jungozero, a small lake near the better known Lake Onega; and make contact with the 13-man Estonian penetration patrol. For what purpose? That’s unclear.

Using Heinkel 8L+CH (or 8L+IH?) pilot August Archer with his crew Ernst Leuenhagen and Stefan Kuballa, under command of observer Lieutenant Kurt Helf, flew to make the rendezvous. It never flew back and the fate of the crew was never officially reported.

nkvd_1940_honored_officer_badgeOnly the NKVD knows what happened next2, but they had already captured and turned the Estonians (or turned, at least, their radio operator). The mission was a trap. The NKVD executed the unlawful-combatant Estonians and the lawful-combatant aircrew alike; the disposal of the aircraft is not noted, but the Russians could have turned it back on their enemies. (Like the other combatants, the Red Army had elements dedicated to insertion, resupply and extraction of clandestine forces. According to his memoirs, noted test pilot Mark Lazarevich Gallai flew for such a unit during the war).

There are ways that we know to reduce the likelihood of experiencing the end that befell to the unlucky Estonians and the crew of 8L+CH. But they require not only having the procedures in place, but also using them religiously. The SOE and SIS had such procedures in place to prevent a German Radiospiel against any of their circuits in Europe, but clever German CI officers several times managed to human-engineer their way into the SOE nets and bluff their way around duress checks; this was, in fact, how the entire network of SOE Netherlands was taken down.

The intelligent planner gives his enemy credit for being at least as intelligent as he is. If not, you’re sending infil/extraction/resupply missions to doom. Ability to land on water is extremely useful for SOF insertion.


  1. “Denied” here is a term of art, meaning that it is area that the enemy, through his exercise of physical or political control, fires etc., denies to you for operations.
  2. Oliver reports that the aircrew was machine-gunned as the plane coasted to shore, engines off, but does not source this claim.


Gallai, Mark L. Über unsichtbare Barrieren – Erinnerungen eines Testpiloten. Militärverlag der DDR, Berlin 1978. (This is a German translation of Gallai’s original Russian work. It is a good read. To the best of our knowledge it has never been translated into English).

Oliver, David. Airborne Espionage: International Special Duty Operations in the World Wars. Stroud, Gloucestershire. The History Press, 2013.

Thompson, Adam. Küstenflieger: The Operational History of the German Coastal Air Seervice 1935-1944 (note pp. 158-159). 

Life Amidst Incipient Insurgency

Lexington ReenactmentInsurgencies seldom break out overnight, but when they come, they lay their burdens first on the civilians associated with the hated government or occupying power. No less was that true in the early stages of the American Revolution, when life for Loyalists (or Tories, in the vernacular of the day) and the families of officials became first unpleasant, then difficult, and finally positively hazardous.

“The tories lead a devil of a life,” one [English] soldier wrote during the summer of 1774; many of them had lost hope entirely and… had decided to return to England at the first opportunity. Anne Hulton, the sister of the town’s Customs Commissioner1, had seen the handwriting on the wall as early as 1770, when she began writing to friends in England about her dangerous situation, “the want of protection, the perversion of the Laws, & the spirit of the People inflamed by designing men.” She had been troubled deeply by the sight of bands of men roaming around the Hulton country Place in Brookline, “disguised, their faces blacked, with white Night caps and white Stockens on, one of ‘em with Ruffles on & all with great clubs in their hands.” In Boston her brother had been attacked in his house on at least one occasion….

From Miss Hulton’s point of view (as elucidated by Ketchum), what she was observing wasn’t simple crime and lawlessness, but a major divide in society, not just political but also one of class. She saw the two sides very much as “us” and “them.” The “us” were the well-to-do gentry, established here as they had been in England: wealthy, refined, educated. And “them”? Low, base louts, led by men with evil ends and no scruples as to means; she could no more accept that there were men of “property and sense and character” on the independence side, than, perhaps, most of the would-be rebels could see anything but the worst in the British governors and generals. Hulton bucked up when Gage and more Redcoats landed, but before long this occurred (emphasis ours):

"Bostonians Paying the Excise Man." This Philip Dawe print purports to show the tarring and feathering of Malcolm.

“Bostonians Paying the Excise Man.” This Philip Dawe print purports to show the tarring and feathering of Malcolm that so distressed Anne Hulton. She did not mention that he was a tax man, and lets the implication hang that he was attacked solely for loyalty.

On a bitter winter’s night an old man named Malcolm, a Tory, was attacked by a mob, stripped naked, coated with tar and feathers, and then, “his arm dislocated in tearing off his clothes, he was dragged in a Cart with thousands attending, some beating him with clubs and Knocking him out of the Cart, then in again. They gave him several severe whipings, at different parts of the Town. The spectacle of horror and sportive cruelty was exhibited for about five hours.” According to Miss Hulton, the poor wretch was tortured further in an attempt to make him curse the King and the governor, but he continue to defy them, crying “curse all Traitors!” It was, she said, the second time old Malcolm had been tarred and feathered.3

That was it for Anne Hulton. She took passage back to England. But it took time to arrange, and she was still in Boston when Gage’s troops limped in from Lexington and Concord on 19 April 1775. She reported, in a letter then, a silent, shocked town coming to grips with the realization that it was cut off from the mainland — besieged, and threatened with starvation. She was glad to return to Britain from this nightmarish place.

“Overview history” often plunges right from the Intolerable Acts to Lexington and Concord — an act of open, armed rebellion — with nought in between but the Boston Tea Party. In fact, the Colonies (notably the major cities of Philadelphia and Boston) were hotbeds of escalation, that pointed the way towards armed conflict in the future. The King’s officers could not countenance violent attacks on His subjects, especially attacks that occurred because of the subject’s loyalty. But the tarring and feathering of Mr Malcolm sounds as if that the mob doing it had small fear of consequences. It was during this brief window of increasing assaults and disorders that British action, either political concessions or military action, had their last and best chance to prevent open war. But both sides thought they would win the war4, so their interest in preventing it was not stronger than their outrage over their opponents’ actions.


  1. As one of the “faces” of English taxation, a Customs Commissioner would have been a lightning rod for rebel hostility.
  2. Ketchum, Richard M. Decisive Day: The Battle for Bunker Hill. New York, Anchor Books, 1974. p. 39.
  3. Ibid. Tarring and feathering was a humiliation almost unique to Colonial history, and almost uniquely applied to tax collectors, according to Benjamin Irving of Brandeis U. Other humiliations if not tortures included making the feathered Tory drink boiling tea (which was done to Malcolm, according to the print), and in Charleston, South Carolina, they were not satisfied with tarring and feathering one fellow, so they hung him from a gibbet and then burned him, gibbet and all.
  4. When both sides are confident they are bound to win an incipient war, de-escalation is impossible; bystanders will learn in due course which one’s confidence was misplaced.

CIA Officers Complain: Hollywood Gets ‘em Wrong

CIA SealAh, les pauvres petits! This story is one of those unintentionally funny ones. It apparently began at the New York Times, which thinks it’s a big deal that female CIA officers find that they are depicted all wrong on television. Must be because they’re women, right, because Hollywood is so well known for taking pains to get everybody else’s profession right.

I mean, Hogan’s Heroes was just like being in Stalag Luft XVII, after all. And every police investigation ends with a gunfight in which the gun is shot out of the real murderer’s hand, and he turns out to be the CEO/Senator/General/CIA. Oh, wait, you mean they don’t get male CIA officers right, either?

Another pet peeve, media hacks: don’t call CIA officers “agents,” like this Breitbart version of the story did. Two different things!

Agent [sic]  Sandra Grimes, who helped unmask her colleague Aldrich Ames as a double agent for the Russians, agrees with [Gina] Bennett.

“I wish they wouldn’t use centerfold models in tight clothes. We don’t look that way. And we don’t act that way,” she insisted.

You haven’t seen some of your newer sisters sniffin’ around the married guys in the CJSOTF, then.

When asked if she was wearing a Tory Burch dress, as seen on TV, Bennett replied: “I couldn’t afford anything like that. It’s probably Burlington Coat Factory.”

Bennett also takes issue with the way her fallen co-worker Jennifer Matthews was portrayed in the film Zero Dark Thirty.

There are more examples if you gird your loins and go Read The Whole Thing™ .

Well, an awful lot of people were portrayed wrong in Zero Dark Thirty: basically, everybody. But then, it was based on White House leaks. It was not as bad as the other Osama whacksploitation TV-flick, SEAL Team Six, but it was pretty close.

What else do these Unique and Special Snowflakes™ complain of?

“The problem is that they portray most women in such a one-dimensional way; whatever the character flaw is, that’s all they are,” said Gina Bennett, who first began her career sounding the alarm on Osama bin Laden in 1993.

Just for the record: noticing Osama in 1993 was not exactly clairvoyant. That’s when he blew up the World Trade Center the first time.

She has been an analyst in the Counterterrorism Center for more than 25 years.

“It can leave a very distinct understanding of women at the agency-how we function, how we relate to men, how we engage in national security- that is pretty off,” Bennett continued.

Now, Ms. Bennet and Ms. Grimes, and the other officers quoted in the article, all have a point. People like them have been depicted falsely, and sometimes cartoonishly.  But the Times, in its reflexive reductio-ad-sex-and-race that is so central to its sense of The Narrative®, misses entirely that it’s not just lady officers who are depicted all wrong. So are male officers. So is the analyst/case-officer divide. So is the HQ/field divide (neither of the last two have ever been depicted on large or small screen, but they loom large in Agency culture).

If it’s on TV, it’s probably messed up like a soup sandwich, in terms of any accuracy in depicting the world.

After all, was the program they ran on a gun shop anything like your LGS, or was it a bunch of overweening, Hollywood jerks?

Active SF and Guard SF — RAND Arroyo Study.

The RAND corporation is a Federally Funded Research and Development Corporation (FFRDC), a nonprofit originally sponsored by the Air Force to do big-forebrain thinking about strategic warfare. It was the original “think tank” and the prototype of many FFRDCs that have materially advanced US defense policy. The Army, not wanting to be neglected, sponsored a RAND sub-center called the Arroyo Center, which does the same kind of think-tanking, but on ground forces issues.

Recently, the Arroyo Center conducted an Army-sponsored study on the Reserve Component Special Forces and their relation to and best employment relative to active-duty SF elements. This hit us right where we live; your humble author spent significant time on active duty (in 10th SFG(A)), in the Clinton-disbanded USAR SF (11th SFG(A)), and in the National Guard SF (20th SFG(A)). Each unit had good people and a unique mix of pros and cons both for unit members and for Army planners who would use the unit, and it was crystal clear that some of these pros and cons alike stemmed from the active vs. reserve-component divide. Thus, we were extremely interested in seeing what RAND’s researchers had to say. This report was completed in 2012 by a team of  John E. “Jed” Peters, Brian Shannon and Matthew E. Boyer, but has only been subject to a lot of discussion in the community this year.

Technical Report–National Guard Special Forces (RAND, 2012).pdf

This had to happen sooner or later, and we’re glad it did — someone noticed that the guard units and active units were different. The active guys have noticed this and assume that it means the guard units were worse, but in actuality, they’re just different, which means that employment decisions ought well to take those differences into consideration.

There are some small differences in the organization of Guard and Active SF units, mostly flowing from the fact that recent changes to the active force structure haven’t been replicated in the Guard.

ARNG groups have general support companies while the AC groups have general support battalions, the AC groups have special troops battalions that the ARNG groups do not, and the AC groups have four-company battalions while the ARNG groups have three-company battalions. They state that these organizational differences interfere with one-for-one interchangeability and the smooth rotation of units through the deployment cycle.

The Active Army works around that, mostly, by using the building blocks that are the same (ODA, ODB/Company, FOB/BN). The one time a Guard officer commanded a major CJSOTF was a thorough success, but the officer and the unit faced a whispering campaign (for example, a Unit Citation for the element was sidetracked and not awarded). Active officers are extremely jealous of command slots and would prefer to use Guard SF soldiers as individual or small unit plus-ups or replacements.

The authors note that SF’s historic flexibility has resulted in the past in the creation of provisional or mission-limited task units which did not survive beyond the length of their intended mission. These include specific task elements (TF Ivory Coast, the Son Tay Raiders), and more durable elements, such as MAC-V SOG and the Greek projects (Delta, Sigma, Omega) of the Vietnam War.

They note that some states do assign their SF elements state missions, and some do not. (The state they mention as not assigning a state mission to their SF company may be Massachusetts). For example, 20th Group soldiers in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi have been instrumental in hurricane relief in their states, along with their states’ other National Guard units.

Locations of Guard SF Units

Who’s Where. Note that Roanoke Rapids is not in VA, but where the map shows it is, in North Carolina.


There’s a lot of commuters to Guard SF units. In our last company (a unit of 84 men), we drew men from at least 12 states. We also had a real problem with our battalion and group being located 1,400 miles away — we were, at best, out of sight, out of mind, and at worst, ripped off.

20th SF soldier-family locations

20th SF soldier-family locations

For example, we found that the Alabama boys tended to retain our slice of new equipment. In one case, they held some SOPMOD II components before a deployment, and only issued it to us after we got back. We don’t think there was anything nefarious happening here (the AL guys were and are great guys), just the effects of propinquity. Not everybody agreed, as the RANDistas noted:

In some instances, these arrangements have prompted feelings of favoritism and unfair- ness, in which subordinate units located in different states from their parent organizations believe that they are discriminated against in favor of in-state subordinates, who as a result enjoy deployment opportunities, priority for new equipment, and priority for training courses that do not accrue to the out-of-state unit.

That’s probably true. We knew that our guys were not going to get a fair shake at battalion or group command, staff, or sergeant major slots. Just the way it worked.

And then there’s this problem (Read The Whole Thing™ to understand it in full, but “Title 32″ means, essentially, “Guard units when not mobilized onto active duty”):

Under Title 32, there is very little coherence in command relationships for Special Forces units.

Boy, is that ever true.

Here’s a chart showing some of the personnel differences:

SF active vs Guard qualifications

This table is a little bit bogus because it was done by adding up the number of 18 series soldier with these qualifications and dividing them by the number of groups. But in addition to the groups, the active component has a large number of 18 series officers and men assigned to the training base or to headquarters, the Joint Readiness Training Center special-ops cadre, etc. The number of non-group 18 series slots is probably at least one group equivalent.

It is not really practical for part-time soldiers to maintain MFF and dive teams. In the last couple of decades, the currency and recency requirements, and the logistical requirements for running a jump or a dive, have exploded; if you were to meet your dive or HALO proficiency requirements, you would literally have to spend 100% of your drill time on that skill alone, neglecting everything else. Accordingly, the active commands parcel out few qualifications schools slots to the Guard, and those Guardsmen that have HALO wings or a Combat Dive bubble usually obtained the qualification on active duty.

Here are the recommendations. We think they speak for themselves:

Screenshot 2015-04-04 13.32.25

The colored numbers are explained by this graph:

Screenshot 2015-04-04 13.32.35


Here are some thoughts of ours that we did not see Peters et. al. take up.

  1. The Guard teams tend to stay together much longer. The Active Army personnel system is so bad that there’s no real way to keep personnel turbulence from wracking your team. When we were on active duty, three months with the same personnel was a long time.
  2. The problem of language proficiency, that they dwell on, comes in part from the Army whipsawing the Guard groups with area, language and priority changes. They do this to their own guys too (it’s not some anti-Guard bias, it’s lack of respect for language as important), but they fund language schools for them much more heavily. Basically, we’ll believe USASOC and USASFC thinks language is important when they start acting like it is important, and providing consistent and stable leadership on it. This, they have never done.



Sabotage Cartridge, Reputed British Provenance, 1943-45

sabotage_round_2A Swiss museum (Fortress Museum Heldsberg) recently required a collection of roughly a thousand cartridges, including many rare and exotic specimens, many of which have been sectioned for display. Among them is this unique 7.92 Mauser round that was reportedly dropped from British aircraft in cunningly copied German packaging. Thinking it was misplaced ammunition, some unfortunate Landser would pick it up, and kB! ensued.

These sorts of sabotage operations are not meant to kill or maim any serious number of men, or destroy or damage a militarily significant number of weapons. That’s not what they’re about at all. Instead, they’re psychological operations, calibrated to shake the enemy’s faith in his own war industries and in his weapons. Even exposure of the foreign origin of the ammunition involved does not resolve this psychological threat, because, since the ammo so closely resembles the genuine article, he can’t be sure if any shot is going to behead him.

If nothing else, it produces an army of flinchers.

Sabotage Round 1

Here’s what the Heldsberg museum says about it (our translation):

Sabotage Cartridge

This cartridge was manufactured in a munitions factory in England. It is a copy of a Wehrmacht cartridge with the code P 490 of Hugo Schneider AG in Altenburg, Germany. These cartridges with a genuine-looking headstamp, in perfectly forged packaging and crates were dropped by the Englishmen during bombing raids at night over German areas. Any German trooper was sure glad about the unexpected resupply. He just couldn’t know that this ammunition comprised cartridges specially altered to blow up weapons. Instead of the normal load of propellant, the powder area is full of an explosive charge. It consists of a shortened English blasting cap that is installed so that its open end is struck by the flash of the primer. About 1.2 grams of plastic explosive is found between the blasting cap and the cartridge case. Above that, the free space is filled with wadding, so that the blasting cap and the explosive stay where they belong, and so that the cartridge is not too heavy. If an attempt to fire set off the blasting cap and explosive, the chamber and bolt would be destroyed. The shooter and anyone standing close to him could be wounded by blown-up weapon parts. The bullet expelled by this explosion would have a significantly lower velocity and energy. The weapons usually would be destroyed.

In the past, we’ve known of such cartridges made by Germany in both World Wars (7.62 x 54R caliber), by Russian in WWII (also 7.92 x 57), and by the USA in Vietnam (7.62 x 39 and 7.62 x 54, as well as mortar and recoilless-rifle rounds and unguided rockets purporting to be of Chinese and Russian origin). No doubt this obvious idea has been used even more widely than that. But we were previously unaware of this British ammunition. Our best guess is that if it is indeed British, it was generated under the auspices of the Special Operations Executive under the Ministry of Economic Warfare.

The museum’s cartridge collection comes via a Herr Karl “Charly” Untersee, who has sectioned almost 1,000 cartridges. Some of his cartridges, including a number of bizarre multiple-projectile loads, have been photographed for an art exhibition called AMMO (what else?) by photographer Sabine Pearlman.

Nebst einem Querschnitt durch schweizerische Munition sehen Sie eine einmalige Sammlung von aufgeschnittenen Patronen. Unser Waffen- und Munitionsspezialist, Herr Karl Untersee, hat in unzähligen Stunden das Innenleben von fast 1’000 Patronen für uns sichtbar gemacht. The Museum itself is a World War II underground bunker/artillery fortress, well preserved and maintained as a tourist attraction. It was hastily built to face Austria, not previously thought a threat to Swiss liberty, after the Anschluß of 1938.

SF Doctrine: Field Manual 3-18

CrestThis document, linked in this post, is official Army doctrine on Special Forces operations. It will be very boring to those of you looking for a JADE HELM smoking gun, or even a lot of nuts and bolts about how SF does things; most of those details live in team and unit SOPs, and those don’t circulate beyond the community.

FM 3-18 is less than a year old and covers many thing better than previous editions of itself and its forerunner (FM 31-20 and 31-21). Among the things it covers better is SF integration with ARSOF and joint conventional forces, and it even includes an excellent and accurate recounting of SF origins and history.

Special Forces units are oriented to specific missions and regions. This drives their area studies, contingency mission planning, and language and cultural training. A unit’s area orientation is expressed in mission tasking letters, which are classified documents. Until relatively recently, the general orientation of specific SF elements to specific unified combatant commands was classified SECRET, even though it was very widely known and ridiculously easy for anyone to figure out. In this unclassified document, the regional orientations (which are adjusted from time to time) finally come out of the closet. Old-timers will note the disappearance of LANTCOM; its mission and responsibilities were divided among NORTHCOM, EUCOM, and Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) beginning in 1993; JFCOM has since been disestablished.

Screenshot 2015-04-03 14.26.27

In addition to the Special Forces units, some other ARSOF and other services’ SOF plan to fall in on specific commands in specific contingencies, but none has the highly developed, long-standing and persistent area orientation of Special Forces.

There are many key ideas to be distilled from this document, for instance:

The following five criteria provide guidelines for conventional and SF commanders and planners to use when considering the employment of SF:

  1. It must be an appropriate SF mission or activity. SF should be used to achieve effects that require its specific skills and capabilities.
  2. The mission or tasks should support the [Joint Force Commander’s] campaign or operation plan or special activities.

  3.  The mission or tasks must be operationally feasible. SF is not structured for attrition or force-on- force warfare and should not be assigned missions beyond their capabilities.
  4. Required resources must be available to execute the mission. Some SF missions require support from other forces for success.
  5. The expected outcome of the mission must justify the risks. Commanders must make sure the benefits of successful mission execution justify the inherent risks.

Doctrine like this is catnip to force and strategic planners. It tells them what units can and can’t do; it alerts them to the range of practical possibilities. With any luck it fires their imagination.

SF has evolved a good bit since we first darkened their door in the long black night of the Carter Administration. In the 1980s, SF avoided disbandment by offering commanders the capability to conduct deep strike and strategic or special reconnaissance. Despite the wonderful array of technical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems today, there has proven to be no substitute for intelligent, American (or American-controlled), human eyes on target. SF has proven to be a great distributor of “ground truth.” But the evolution of other SOF elements has produced other units that can do eyes-on-target, and that can do DA missions. (In some cases, some specific combinations of unit and mission, they do these missions better, and in some, not as well, as SF would do).

USASOC has identified 13 different principal tasks that special operations units must conduct. Of these it she’s the following nine, in the brown boxes, suitable to a greater or lesser extent for SF units.

Screenshot 2015-04-03 14.08.52


Since the 1970s development of units specially oriented towards surgical strike tasks, SF has concentrated more of the “green spectrum” of special warfare tasks. Only a small subset of SF, now called the Crisis Force (formerly, the Commander’s Interim/Intervention Force or CIF) maintains proficiency and currency in surgical strike tactics, techniques and procedures.

More SF doctrine document discussion Real Soon Now™.


Oops. We meant to attach the document. Heck, that was the whole point of this post. Here:

(U) Special Forces Operations, FM 3-18, May2014

OSS Operational Group Resources

phillips_greek_patchApparently it’s a thing for mouth-breathing rappers to say that they’re “OGs,” meeting “original gangsters.” (Sorry, gangstas. We forget that spelling is a marker of white privilege or some such twaddle, and authenticity means pretending you’re retarded in some circles).

By “original,” given the deep awareness of history possessed by most rappers, they’re probably referring to last Tuesday.

We got your OGs, gentlemen. These are the OGs, the OSS Operational Groups. Do not mess with them or their memory. These are our people.

OSS OG 2 in Greece pic26X

Lt Nick Pappas (center) and OG 2 in Greece. Note TSMGs, BARs,and 2.36″ rocket launcher.

The OSS OGs were a gang that was capable of taking turf from their rival gang, which was called the Axis. Each Operational Group comprised 30-odd officers and men, prepared and trained for operations in uniform deep behind enemy lines. They operated in most theaters of war: in Europe, France, Italy, Yugoslavia and Greece; in the CBI, China, Burma, Siam (Thailand), and Indochina. They were infiltrated by parachute, light aircraft, speedboats and native fishing boats, and sometimes even walked in. They were the most direct ancestor of US Army Special Forces, even though SF would never receive any of their lineage or honors.

We’ve mentioned them recently, but thought we would offer you some links to more resources on the OGs.
1. The OG manual, 25 April 1944, via the main Internet Archive page…

…and .pdf version

Sample of the common sense within:

Since OG personnel operate in uniform they must rely on concealment and secrecy to safeguard their operations. Concealment,is of particular important to OG’s because- they are small in number and can be severely weakened by the loss of even a few men. Prior to their entry, OG’s should be issued camouflage clothing appropriate to the season and terrain. OG’s will be obliged in most cases to avoid cities and towns where the enemy or his agents may be encountered. Semi­ permanent concealment in mountainous or forested areas may be available, and native sympathizers will be induced to provide hiding-places in their homes and barns when this is feasible. In some areas enemy con­ trols may be so rigid as to compel OG’s to keep on the move, changing bivouac sites frequently.

2. CGSC paper by MAJ John W, Shaver III, USA, 1993: Office of the Strategic Services: Operational Groups in France During World War II, July-October 1944:

3. Greek/American OG Memoirs of WWII:

This one is really good!

4. OG History site with the missions, code names and AARs of most of the European OGs and the Chinese ones. Some of the missions (like the recently updated AAR from the Italian CAYUGA group) are really classic SF UW missions, exactly what we try to drill in training exercises like Robin Sage and JADE PALM 15.

5. Official history page on the OGs. (Other pages linked here explain the other elements of OSS, letting you see where the OGs fit into that big picture).