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Special Operations Forces Part: 2 - The

Historical Roots
05 July 2014

In the second installment of the Future War Stories (FWS) profile of Special Operations Forces, we
will examine the roots of modern SOF, from prehistorical times all the way to conflicts in
Afghanistan and Iraq. My original intention was to break up the SOF blogpost over three parts, but
it looks more like four given the steer size of the historical roots of SOF. During the research phase,
it seemed to me, that there was lack of this topic on the internet. The Wikipedia article on the
history of Special Operations is simply dreadful and limp, and I decided that FWS should take on
the challenge of this...and man, what a challenge it was! This blogpost was a massive effort, and
while I think it was needed, this was overboard...even for my standards! By the way, some longtime
readers of FWS will notice that there is some connection between the beginning roots of the science
fiction ideal of the "super soldier" and the roots of specialized/elite military forces. FWS used some
of the same examples as we did back on that older blogpost. I realize that this blogpost is massive,
and I will attempt to rush the 3rd part of the Special Operations Forces blogpost because I feel that
this section will be less popular than the rest. Enjoy the read!

The Roots of Modern Special Operations Forces

While most people believe that the concept of Special Forces goes back to the dark
days of World War II, the idea of elite select members of an military organization
goes back...way back. Specialized warriors that stood out from the rank-and-file of
ancient massive armies are an ancient tradition, far more ancient than most people
realize. In prehistorical times, human hunter-gather societies depended on their
prime-age males to be both the hunter and the defender of their societies (just watch
1981's The Quest for Fire). Normally, out of the ranks of the warrior/hunters came the
leader of the social group. During this time, the best of the warrior/hunters were
tasked with raiding on other early human groups for necessary supplies, fire, and
women. Often, the best hunters in these societies got the larger share of meat and
breeding females (much like the superior male in feline groups). There are mostly
likely a great of us humans walking around that are descended form these alpha mate
hunters. There is evidence, even in Native tribes of North America, that the best and
most skilled hunters were the teachers of the young males (and some females), the
first ones chosen for raiding and war parties, and the the ones tasked with bring down
difficult game.
When humans made the transition from hunter-gather to form and create complex
societies based in a single location, the need for protection only grew. Some early
human societies used all males as a source for their warriors. However, in some early
human villages and cities, there were permanent warrior groups, and even some that
ventured away from the village to scout and hunt. Even some that acted like
"rangers", watching over animal herds and the borders of their lands. By the time of

the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Assyrian Empire; we can see the development of
early SOF units, and the split between the ancient roles of "specialized" forces. On
one had, early SOF units could be classified the chariot crews, the archers, and the
horsemen of early human armies. After all, most infantry were drew from villages
and received little training (depending on the civilization), but archers, chariots
crews, and cavalry were specialized, more expensive, and better trained; some of the
hallmarks of Special Forces.
The other type of proto-SOF unit in the classical world were specialized infantry
warriors. One of the most celebrated (and misunderstood) ancient elite infantry
fighting groups is the classical Spartan warriors, and there really is nothing like them
before or since. In Greek society of the time, most city-states raised an army from
their male population, but Sparta was different, they had an standing army comprised
of elites only. Their entire society was constructed around achieve military superiority
via culling the best of the best from the males in their society. The training was harsh,
and children died in training, but the ones that lived until completion were some of
the finest warriors in the ancient world. While there is little doubt to their abilities on
the battlefield and the psychologically value of their fearsome reputations, the
Spartan system was rotten at its core. By the late 3rd century BC, Sparta was relaying
on Helot slave armies due to their own inability to field enough warriors.
Around the same time as the Spartan warriors was the Persian Empire's famed 10,000
Immortals. While they are not what Zack Snyder showed us in Frank
Miller's 300, they were an specialized elite infantry unit that were given the best
training and best equipment. The 10,000 Immortals were the elite heavy infantry of
the Persian Army and designed to have at all times 10,000. No more, no less.
Wounded, sick, or death members were immediately replaced. To put it in some
perspective, at its apex, Sparta could field about 10,000 warriors. The Immortals had
their own special food supplies, servants, and even women that all traveled with them
to attend to their "needs". It is also known that the Immortals were high ranking
members of Persian society, and even outfitted with fine clothing and jewelry...but no
creepy silver Kabuki masks.
Philip II of Macedon used an elite shield-carrying infantry called the Hypaspists and
their job was mainly to protect the flanks of the long-pike wielding infantry in the
phalanx. Because these members of the phalanx could not turn to counter threats on
their flanks, the Hypaspists were used protect them. During the rein of Alexander the
Great, he had elite infantry, the Asthetairoi, who were selected for
his Pezhetairos foot companies. They were armed with short swords, pikes, and
armor, but their role in the army of Alexander is up to debate. Some historians believe
that the Asthetairoi were the bodyguard of Alexander and the army elite, while others
believe that the Asthetairoi were used like hoplites, the free citizens that composed
the infantry corps who could afford bronze armor and weaponry. Others believe
that Asthetairoi were specialized classical urban warriors, that raiding and fought in

Another of Alexander's elite army units was the Companion Cavalry, and they were
the first use of shock cavalry in the ancient world. The Companion Cavalry was the
pattern for some many elite units, the use of rapid tactics and being in the cavalry.
They were outfitted with the best that Alexander could give, donning bronze armor
and carry several weapons. Shock cavalry is used for rapid assault on infantry,
charging the field and breeding confusion and panic, allowing the lines to break. In
the Classical World, there are two unusual elite military units: the Scared Band of
Carthage and the Scared Bands of Thebes. Carthage used it money and influence to
hire massive soldier-of-fortune armies, and had Carthaginian citizens leading the
mercenaries. However, there was the Scared Band, This units of 2,000-3,000 male
warriors was culled from the rick of Carthaginian society, and trained from birth to be
an elite infantry unit with the best gear, armor, and weapons money could buy. While
they nice expensive gear and good training, the unit was wiped out twice and was
never to be reformed. The second Scared Band belonged ot the Greek city state of
Thebes. In the 4th century BC, Thebes field an small unit of 300 men, who were
paired up, one older, more experienced man to another young man, to form couples.
It is believed that even the name refers to a scared bonding ritual that tied the two
men together, leading to great esprit de corps.This was a common practice in
Classical Greek military organizations. The Scared Band soldiers were used to
protect the city and were trained in equestrian warfare, wrestling and dance. Dance.
Seriously? They were well-funded from the city citizens and given estates when
retired from service. While great deeds of combat were written about the Scared Band
of Thebes, some modern historians believe that their deeds were embellished for PR
There were two elite and specialized units in the Roman imperial forces, one being
the Praetorian Guard and the other being the Imperial Germanic
bodyguards. Formally formed in 27 BC by Emperor Augustus to act as a close
protection unit for the Emperor, the Praetorian Guard became a force of change in the
Roman world until around the 3rd century AD. Originally named for the commanders
tent, the Praetorian Guard started off as a personal protection detail to Roman
Generals, like Scipio Africanus, then grew into a force of 500-1500 guards.
Praetorians were drawn from veterans, and the post was considered to be honor, and
paid more than the standard Legionnaire. During the instability that plagued Rome,
the Praetorians played an active role in regime change via direct assassinations,
supporting one over another, and even selling the position of emperor to the highest
bidder. No shit. The Praetorian Guards actually auctioned off the throne to Rome to
Didius Julianus, who only ruled for three months. Due to their double dealing, the
later Emperors knww not to trust the guard, and it was disbanded. The Imperial
Germanic bodyguard were a more personal close protect detail than the Praetorians,
and believed to be more trustworthy due to their lack of connection to Rome. While
the historical record of the Imperial Germanic guard is unclear, they did seemed to
have been replaced later in Roman history with Emperor Trajans Equites Singulares
Augusti and Emperor Antoninus Pius personal guard unit, the Leones. The Varangian

Guard of the Byzantine Empire was similar to the old Roman Imperial Germanic
guard, and were composed of English and Scandinavians.
With the fall of Rome, and the Dark Ages of Europe, there was the rise of another
specialized warrior group that has come to symbolize European society for hundreds
of years: the Knight.The word "Knight" traces it roots back to the Norman Invasion
by William the Bastard in 1066, where his followers are called "cniht" and they were
rewarded by William with lands, and the "cnihit" pledged their loyalty and sword to
William. The Knightly class was given a code of behavior to keep these armored
professional warriors under control. After all, the Knight was a trained horsemen, and
their purpose was to defend the realm and the King, and they could bored and bloody
if left to their own devices.
Equaling Knights to the modern SOF units like SAS is a little difficult. Most modern
Special Forces soldiers are not directly involved in the politics of their nation, nor are
they pledge their loyalty to the leader of that nation. The loyalty of SOF soldiers is
not often bought with lands, title, or riches. European Knights' role in medieval
society was to be their kings most loyal, most highly trained (and expensive)
soldiers. Knights were also political, and landowners via fiefs that had a stake in the
survival of the Kingdom and the future of the Kingdom. Much like Special Forces of
today, they had the best kit, trained at special schools of armed combat, could select
the best in weaponry, and were highly mobile via horses. All of this added up to that
Knights were expected to be the core of the army, that held the line while others ran
from battle. They could also function as Cataphract, the heavy armored shocktroop cavalry. Also, much like modern Special Forces, Knights were the stuff of
legend and great deeds, and held in a certain regard by the general publicwell, the
ones not burning down your village, and killing you. For nearly 500 years, the Knight
was symbol of Medieval warfare, and while those armies were composed of archers,
pikemen, and regular infantry, the Knights were held in special awe and terror.
The ranks regular infantry were mostly unarmored, poorly armed and trained, and
culled by force from the peasant class. By the 15th century, the party was over for the
Knights. They got expensive and of less tactical good on the battledfield, especially
with the longbows, crossbows, and arrowheads being more effective. The
effectiveness of the pleasant archer was proven at the Battle of Crecy, who were
vastly cheaper than Knights. This contest of Knight vs. long-range modern weaponry
was finally fully lost by the Knight with the advent of the gun.
By the mid-16th century lightly armored pikemen, cavalry, and matchlock calivers
could take down an Knight and there was no wearable armor suit that could protect
the Knight from the power of the bullet. After this, Knighthood would become a
largely ceremonial title, as they disappeared into governmental service and oversaw
their affairs and lands. This would set the stage for the next evolution of the Special
Forces. In other regions of the world, the idea of specialized and high trained
professional soldiers was incorporated into their societies. During the era of the Three

Kingdoms of Korea, an elite group of male warriors from the Silla Kingdom rose out
of social/religious groups. Some have compared the Hwarang to the Samurai, but
other believe that the Hwarang have been elevated to enhance Korean history. There
was the Middle Eastern Furusiyya of Middle Ages and the Hashishin of the Crusade;
all were an expert in horse-centered warfare and devoted to the cause.
In the Americas there was a twist to the concept of elite warriors. Instead of codes of
behavior, these warriors of the jungles and the plains, took their fighting ability from
the soul of some of the most dangerous animals in the New World. Like the European
powers, the Aztecs could rise an army from their pleasant popular when the need
arose for war, but there was a core of professional warriors that donned the skins of
the mighty jungle cat, the Jaguar. The Jaguar Warrior was part of the ruling elite of
the Aztec empire, and much was expect out of them, including victim for the rituals
Unlike the Knights or Samurai, the ranks of the Jaguar and Eagle warriors were filled
of young men who rose to the challenge. They had to capture four prisoners in order
to be allowed entry into the ranks of these elite imperial warriors. Once there, training
began, shaping these young men into warriors worthy of the donning the Eagle or
Jaguar skins. When the Spanish invaded the Aztec Empire in 1519, the Jaguar
warriors were there defending the empire against the alien invaders. When the Aztec
Empire fell in 1521, the animal warriors of the old empire were no more, and they
passed into legend.
Currently, the Spartans are the current favorite ancient warriors of the general public,
and while the Spartans were unique, deadly warriors that were the apex of their
society, they are nothing when compared to my favorite ancient warrior culture: the
Samurai. Comprising 10% of their total national population, the Samurai, "one who
serves", where an elite section of society that you had to be born into, and only the
Samurai were given the right to don two swords, and the right to cut down civilians
that showed them disrespect (Kiri-Sute Gomen). They lived by a ethical code of
behavior in society and on the battlefield. For the Samurai, duty and honor were
all encompassing values that were represented in their Katana swords. For nearly a
thousand years, the Samurai dominated military and political life of Feudal Japan,
and event today, the world is still fascinated with these warriors that died out in the
Once again, drawing comparisons between the Samurai and modern day Special
Forces is difficult. Most Special Forces members are not born into the role, nor are
the bulk of them political. However, they do share similarity in being outfitted in the
best gear, training, and ability to wield special weapons. Special Forces and Samurai
share attending military training schools, designed to teach specific forms of combat,
often with specific weaponry. But, that is true of much of the specialized warrior
groups mentioned here, where the Samurai and the SOF of today are more similar is
in state-of-mind. While the Samurai class were members of upper echelons of their
overall society and maintained lavish households befitting of their status with

servants and well-maintained gardens, they were committed warriors. Samurai

devoted their time to serve to their lord, perfection of their art, and the mastery of the
arts of war. This is similar to the SOF members, where they train like they fight, and
devoted years to being ready at a moment's notice. Samurai were ready for death, and
accepted that military service came at a price. To stay alive as a Samurai is to prefect
your abilities, and the same is true of Special Forces soldiers, training is a method of
survival. While the Samurai were the apex warrior, they could not survival the influx
of western knowledge and culture after Commodore Perry opened Japan up to trade
and cultural exchange.
The fatal mistake that the Samurai, the Knights of Europe, and the Spartans all made
was over commitment to their art, not enough to the society at large, and their
variability of technology. The Samurai, while members of their society, floated on top
of the peasants that made the Samurai way of life possible, and they were hated and
feared by the normal populous. In addition, the Samurai were rarely used for warfare
during the Tokugawa Shogunate era, and they altered to be more political entity that a
military entity. In 1876, when the practice of wearing two swords was banned along
with the formation of a "modern" westernized army and navy was ordered, the
Samurai seemed outdated and out of fashion in a era of cannons, artillery, and rifles.
Oddly, the symbolism, ethical code, and lore of the Samurai were mined for a PR
benefit during the military campaigns of the Imperial Japanese government during
World War II. To the extend that copies of the legendary Katana sword were issued to
officers. I own one, passed down from my Grandfather.
There is one more Feudal Japanese groups that could be viewed as a precursor to
modern SOF units: the Ninja or the Shinobi. While the precious origins of the
Shinobi are obscured, we know that a Chinese Monk by the name of Kain Doshi
taught former Samurai (Ronin) Daisuke Nishina Togakure in the ways of less
restrictive fighting around the mid 12th century, and this gave the foundation of
Ninjutsu. In order to adopt the new way of combat from the shadows, and make a
living by being a spy, Daisike gave up his code and his sense of honor for completing
the task above all else. Regional lords, called Daimyo, would employ Shinobi clans
for dirty deeds done expensively that could not or would not be done by the lord's
Samurai. Whether it was spying, sabotage, dishonoring someone or assassination, the
Ninja were the ones to take on the dirty deeds of feudal Japan. They were looking
down upon by Samurai, but that not stop the Samurai from buying them for great
sums of gold ryo coins. The Ninja would shape the sheath irregular combat aspect of
modern Special Forces, and part of the public imagination of black operations. In the
near future, FWS will be covering the Ninja in-depth to dispel the rumors that
surrounding these shadow warriors.
The effect of the gun was massive to the early specialized military units. During the
age of the bladed weapon, soldiers and the elite warriors like the Spartans and the
Samurai, years were involved in perfecting the art of inmate combat that would allow
them to best their opponents. Most recruits could not hold a candle to the skills with

the blade weapons as a Samurai. However, the gun altered that. Both the Samurai and
the Knights were victims of the gun's advancement onto the battlefield. After all, if
you train a peasant-soldier to fire a matchlock in a few weeks to take out the warrior
that had been training his entire life for this moment, the latter begins to make little
tactical sense. Heavy metal armor plates were done away with, and battlefields
became lined with soldiers in matching uniforms, long firearms, and artillery cannons
supported their advancement, with cavalry rushing the flanks.
In these new military units, the closest soldiers of the battlefield that we had to
modern Special Forces was the cavalry. The men of the cavalry were highly trained to
control and utilize their mounts, along with be armed with specialized weaponry and
gear, like the carbine and sword, and not mention that horses were an expensive
military item. Also, cavalry were glamorized, and seen as the more elite and the pride
of the army. Historical units like the Green Jacket Dragoons of the British Empire,
the Buffalo Soldiers of the American army, and the various units like the Hussars.
All of these were designed to be leading or elite cavalry designed for challenging
missions and/or irregular warfare. During the American Civil War, the Confederacy
used men like John S. Mosby were used as military Partisan Rangers/Raiders that
harassed the Union from behind their lines. The CSA also used out-and-out
guerrilla/bushwhacker forces, like William Quantrill and the deadly William T.
Anderson, whom both sacked Lawrence, Kansas in 1863. Horseborne soldiers were
the prefect platform for specialized and/or irregular units. The horse allowed for
mobility in a era of rigid infantry tactics, the horse and the soldiers that rode them,
were liberated from some of that. Really up until the First World War, the cavalry
were the closest thing to "big army" Special Forces units, however, the car, aircraft,
and the machine gun changed all of that, leading to the development of modern
Special Forces units.
Modern Special Forces owe a great deal to the armed and hostile interactions between
the white settlers of America and the Native Tribes. Many FWS readers know that I
grew up in Oklahoma, and I've had many experiences with the Tribes up there, and I
can clearly see why they influenced the development of modern SOF units. Irregular
warfare, raiding, scouting, sheath, and tracking were elements of modern SOF
training that came from the Native American warrior, and early on during the
settlement of America, the deadly nature of the tactics of these warriors was well
demonstrated. The North American Native Tribes did not engage in out-and-out
warfare as the Europeans or the Central/South American Empires did. These tribes
often raided, took hostages, and used knowledge of the land to sneak up on their prey
or enemy. They also were not held back by complex rank-and-file, nor where they
experienced with the gun, all for a more "natural" use of it, instead of lining up.
It was quickly seen in the first real engagements between the European invaders and
the Native Tribes, and it did not take long for Europeans to get the messages. As early
as 1622, during the Anglo-Powhatan Wars, small civilian militia units were formed
that were a hybrid of European and Tribal tactics by Captain John "Rorat" Smith, and

these units were called "Rangers." Credit for being the father of the Rangers was
Puritan Colonel Benjamin Church (1639-1718). He used friendly Native Americans
to train colonial militia in use of their trade-craft to wage offensive and brutal
operations against hostile tribes. These Rangers were comprised of Christian Indians
and were used during the King Philip's War (1675-1678), King William's War (16881697), and Queen Anne's War (1702-1713). This pattern of soldiers in the New World
was copied and used during the French and Indian War, the American Revolution,
The War of 1812, and the Black Hawk War.
During the French and Indian War, two separate colonial groups of Rangers were
fielded to attack the French and their allied tribes, using irregular unconventional
warfare tactics: Gorham's Rangers and Rodger's Rangers. Major Robert Rogers
formed an long-range scouting and raiding unit that gathered intelligence and waged
offensive operations. John Gorham formed another, and more effective Ranger unit
that was used to suppress native tribal activity in Nova Scotia using a mostly friendly
Tribal members lead by British officers. Gorham's Rangers used the waters for
assault missions and recon, along with operations against forts and the city of
Quebec. Both Ranger units of the French and Indian War would lead to the modern
day Special Forces and the 75th Rangers.
Another father of the modern Special Forces, was Francis "Swamp Fox" Marion.
Marion was from a plantation owning family and was recruited by the British during
the French and Indian War to wage war on Cherokee Tribe. During the Revolutionary
War, Marion was deployed to a scout unit, and helped liberated POWs that joined his
cause to wage unconventional war against the British and the American
colonial loyalties. Depending on how you look at the Revolution, Merion is either a
hero or a war criminal or both. Often, unconventional warfare operations can be
messy. Merion and his merry guerrillas were known to attack and kill loyalties and
committed war crimes. But, Merion got results, celebrated as a hero of the
Revolutionary War, and one of the founding father's of modern Special Forces.
Then that bring us to another native group that fought the British, but there bravery
and skill caused them to be folded into the British colonial ventures: the Gurkha.
Even today, the Gurkha are bad mother fuckers with badass knives and legendary
skill and bravery. They originally were warriors on the opposite side of a war with the
British East India Company. After the war was over, the Gurkha were given to the
East India Company to act as corporate warriors. Throughout the British wars of
expansion in Asia, the Gurkhas were there, and serviced with bravery and deeds
worth of legend. By 1857, the British formed an official Gurkha unit, the Royal
Gurkha Rifles, in the British Army, and they would see action throughout the East. In
practice, the Gurkha are more similar to the French Foreign Legion. During World
War One, about 200,000 Gurkha warriors served, and there were stories of Gurkha
deadly close-quarters combat skills, especially with their iconic Kukri knife. Today,
the 3,000+ Brigade of Gurkhas is home to the continued Nepalese warrior tradition in
the British Army, and have served in Afghanistan with honor and bravery.

Another father of the modern Special Forces, is Frederick Russell Burnham DSO, an
American adventurer, horsemen, and one of the founders of the "scouting" movement
and tactics of ranger-type small irregular units. When you read about F.R. Burnham
DSO today, I always thought that he was "the most interesting man"of the late 19th
century . While born an America, Burnham would serve the British colonial efforts in
South Africa through the British South Africa Company and later, the British Army
during several regional native suppression operations, and the 2nd Boer War. He was
friends with Frederick Selous (the namesake of the famed Selous Scouts) and Cecil
Rhodes, men would help form and shape Rhodesia. Burnham's experience with
Native Americans helped shape his ideas about long-range irregular warfare,
scouting, and reconnaissance. This ideas were put into practice during the Matabele
Wars, when Burnham served as scout, and gathered intelligence on the native
warriors, including the assassination of their leader, Mlimo. His fieldcraft would lead
to the idea of specialized units knowing and using the land for small units that were
far from their shelter and supply. Some of his ideas would help found the Boys
Scouts of America.
At the close of the 19th century, there is one more early Special Forces-like unit, the
Rough Riders of the Spanish-American War of 1898. This unit was formed from
volunteers from Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona that had experience in hot
climates and with horses. This 1,200+ hearty bunch was organized to be an light
cavalry unit with specialized gear, weaponry, and uniform and quickly transported to
Cuba. There, the Rough Riders found battle, and quickly became an favorite of
newspaper stories. During the battle of Kettle Hill, the Rough Riders assault was
covered by Colt-Browning M1895 7mm machine gun fire, which was an early
example of modern infantry combat tactics. In their own lifetime, the men of the
Rough Riders become legends.
One of the forgotten wars running up to the First World War was the Boer War of
1899-1902, in which the British Empire was attempting to squeeze out the Dutch
settlers, known as "Boers", off of the rich gold mines located in South Africa. The
second Boer War was a bloody affair, and saw volunteers from all around the globe
attempt to help the much smaller Boer states defend against the British. Much like the
United States 200 years before, the Boers did not possess the military power to
engage in traditional battles with the English, and nearly all of the Boer military was
comprised of militia, who opted for irregular unconventional warfare tactics.
These Boer irregular forces used commando raids and their knowledge of their lands
against the British. The Boer volunteers hunting skills came in handy. With their own
firearms (mostly bolt action large caliber rifles), they often made expert shots,
resulting in high causalities figures for the British. When British Reinforcement
arrived in 1900, it was their largest mobilization up until that time. This turned the
tide, and the Boers lost much of what they were fighting for. From late 1900 to 1902,
the Boers were guerrilla commandos, raiding and harnessing the British. In response,

the British formed their own irregular "ranger" counter-insurgency units, like the
famed Bushveldt Carbineers and the Lovat Scouts, populated with men like Lt.
Harry "Breaker" Morant, and the 14th Lord Lovat.
While the First World War is not known for Special Operations Forces, there are a
few, but it would take World War II and the advancement of certain technologies to
advance the concept of the SOF units. During the First World War, we do see
conventional cavalry units lead disastrous charges against fixed machine gun
positions, and that ended the glory days of the cavalry. In there place, grew
specialized units of raiders that used submachine guns and covering fire to hit the
enemy trenches. These were the Imperial German Sturmtrupp or "stormtrooper".
Prussian military officer Willy Rohr developed the tactics of the Sturmtrupp and by
this, he also developed the small unit tactics of modern warfare. These assault units
proved the doctrine of Rohr, and by the end of the war, more and more units on both
sides of the conflict were adopting his tactics. One element of the stormtroopers that
was different was their weaponry. Mixed weaponry was used, instead of just boltaction rifles, and the more liberal use of hand grenades and flamethrowers. Then were
was the unique equipment, like the new steel helmets (Stahlhelm) and shields. One
issue with these assault troops was their loyalty to their unit, and not as much to the
overall German command, and when the Nazi party was formed, their ranks of
the Sturmabteilung were made up of WWI veterans of the stormtroopers. In some
ways, the Sturmtrupp were the continuation of the Jager Rangers.
When it comes to the primary conflicts that shaped modern Special Forces and the
military mindset on their usage, the 2nd World War is considered the proving ground
for all modern SOF concepts, tactics, and abilities. The British created two important
founding SOF units: The Commandos and the Long Range Desert Group. The
Commandos were formed in summer of 1940, and were designed to raid behind
enemy lines. The Commandos would later give birth to the Special Air Service in
1947. Men like the 15th Lord Lovat would help shape the tactics and kind of men in
the commando service, and even train the Commandos at his lands in Scotland. He
and the Commandos would carry out raids on German positions. Lovat was also like
current SOF members, an individual. He had his piper, William Millin play music
during the Normandy Invasion, Lovat carried his own rifle and wore his own choice
of uniform. When you look up "bravery" in the dictionary, there should be a picture
of the 15th Lord Lovat next to it.
Specialized units like the British Commandos, the USMC Raiders, OSS teams, the
US Army Pathfinders and Rangers, along with the 3rd Reich Brandenburgers and the
502nd SS Jager battalon, were all modern interpretations of previous historical units,
and these WWII units used classic irregular unconventional warfare tactics and
techniques to wage war. Some of the other Special Forces of World War II were the
byproduct of technology. Units like the British LRDP, the German Fallschirmjager,
the American Airborne and UDT units would have not been possible without the
introduction of the military cargo plane, SCUBA gear, and the Willys Jeep.

The more covert, unconventional operations, were handled by a joint taskforce of

British, Free French, and the American OSS called Operation JEDBURGH. To full
discuss Special Forces and World War II, we would need a book-length blogpost, and
no one wants to read that. Instead, I offer this: World War II was proof positive of the
abilities of Special Forces units and their effectiveness in modern, mobile warfare.
After the war, most nations fielded permanent Special Forces units and these
specialized units would often be used more frequently than the larger elements of the
armed forces. During the Korean War, the United Nations Partisan Infantry (KOREA)
was formed to carry out classic Special Forces missions, and were nicknamed "the
White Tigers". The existence of the White Tigers was kept a secret until 1990, when
it was revealed that these men carried out operations deep within North Korea.
On June 25th, 1952, the US Army founded the Special Forces, too late for the nascent
unit to join the fight in Korea, but they were laying the ground work for Vietnam. In
the United Kingdom, one of the world's best and most influential SOF units, the
British SAS was formed during the early days of World War II by Lt. David Sterling,
but was reformed in 1947. During their first years of formation, the SAS were
deployed to Malayan, present day Malaysia, to help put down a liberation guerrilla
insurgency. They were then called back to the desert in 1960's through the 1970's,
helping put down an South Yemen support insurgency in Omen, called the Dhofar
Rebellion. It was here, that the Regiment used the famous "Pink Panther" Land Rover
series 11A LMUVs.
When America became the involved in the Vietnam War, Green Berets and Army
trainers were sent to help the South against the North. In the hillside villages, the
Green Berets would train these villagers to defend their lands against the guerrilla
Viet-Cong. However, the war grew, and America was sucked in. Given the conditions
of the Vietnam War, both in terrain and the strategically, it was a nature environment
for the use of Special Forces. The American, South Korean, South Vietnamese, and
Australian SOF units used both the waterways, the jungles, and the new helicopters to
wage an counter-insurgency unconventional campaign.
Units like the LRRP, were trained to engage in long range, deep cover scouting, and
provide the on-site intelligence needed to find and destroy the Viet-Cong and NVA
forces that were moving through the hellish jungles of Vietnam. Another SOF unit
often discussed in the formation of modern Special Forces is MACV-SOG or
the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group, and its
primary purpose was to conduct covert SOF mission during the Vietnam War, and
was active prior to Vietnam "going hot" in the late 1960's. Formed in 1964, and
composed of different branches of the American Armed Forces, it mission was to end
the Viet-Cong insurgency in South Vietnam via different classic SOF mission types;
all the way from direct action, assassinations, and PSYOPS. Founder of DELTA
Force, Colonel Charlie Beckwith was a member of MACV-SOG and Project DELTA.
It was also during the 1970's, that new role of SOF units was revealed. In 1976,

Israeli Commandos rescued hostage held on an Airbus A300 plane by the PLO that
were flown to Uganda, and moved off the plane. This was an important rescue during
the dawn of the age of international terrorism. It was reasoned by international
Special Forces units that counter-terrorism operations would dominate SOF unit
After the Vietnam War, there were two of the most key moments in Special
Operations history: Operation EAGLE CLAW and Operation NIMROD. In 1979,
the Islamic Revolution overthrew the American supported Shah, and 52 Americans
were held, and President Carter decided to start the process of mount one of the most
daring rescue missions since the Son Tay Raid of 1970. Nearly every branch of the
American armed forces was involved with Operation: EAGLE CLAW, including
DELTA Force. Operation: EAGLE CLAW was to be one of their first missions.
It took months to plan, train, and move all of the equip needed for the rescue, and
while hopes were high, this was ambitious mission. It turned out that Operation:
EAGLE CLAWwas beyond the capability of the US military. During a refueling stop
inside of Iran, on of the Sea Stallion helicopters drifted into one of the C-130's
resulting in fire that resulted in the dead of five Air Force personnel and three
marines. Operation: EAGLE CLAW, ended the presidency of Jimmy Carter and
called a serious review of US SOF capability. The aftermath of EAGLE CLAW
resulted in the superior abilities of the US SOF community today...but it was a painful
In London in 1980, members of an terrorist organization, the DRFLA, took hostages
at the Iranian embassy, and send out a list of demands. Given the policy of not giving
in to terrorists' demands, it appeared that the hostages would be killed. The British
government prepared the SAS for a hostage rescue mission. When one hostage was
killed during the sixth day, the SAS were authorized to go in. Two teams of SAS
operators stormed the embassy with H&K 9mm MP5 SMGs and all of their black
ninja kit. When the smoke cleared after the 17 minute mission, the SAS were
successful, all but one terrorist was killed, one hostage was killed, and two wounded.
Operation: NIMROD was another successful CT/HR mission for western SOF team,
and proved that Special Forces could counter terrorists. This was the focus of most
SOF teams throughout the 1980's and early 1990's.By this time, Special Forces were
well respected, funded, and waiting for a mission. British SAS would be involved
with the Falklands War, and they, with the American SOF units, would hunt missile
launchers in Iraq during the 1st Gulf War. However, the greatest missions of SOF lay
ahead in the new millennium.
After the cowardly attack on the United States on September 11th, 2001, the Special
Operations community in America and her allies readied for a classic Special Forces
war, by September 26, 2001, the CIA deployed an SAD team JAWBREAKER lead
by Gary Schroen to make contact with the Northern Alliance and lay the groundwork
for the full-scale war on the AQ and the Taliban shitbags. On October 19, 2001, the
US Army Green Berets had deployed their first ODA team Tripe Nickel (555) into

Panjshir Valley of the Hindu Kush to link up with JAWBREAKER. Today, SOF units
operate with greater authority and respect than ever before. They are seen as the tip of
the spear, and the best of their society and military. As this blogpost was being
written, the US government has deployed 300 Special Operations members
to stabilize the situation in Iraq, and to help Iraqi forces win against ISIS.