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30 November 2014


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The Twisted Genius

"Ah, to be young again..."
You ain't lying! This is an exciting development if it comes to pass. I remember briefing Colonel Potter on our plans for UW in Eastern Europe. We told him we would model our operations on the Jedburgh teams. We task organized the detachment into a cellular organization with a command cell, an intel cell and two ops cells. We used books like "Piercing the Reich" and "Total Resistance" as training materials.

I never bought into the whole special operators hoopla, even when I was working with them. The CIA really bought into it, especially after 9/11. All the talk there was capture-kill whenever I visited them.


it appears to be already "done" and Dempsey is behind it. He wants all this stuff under title 10. pl


Using a screwdriver to drive screws...will wonders never cease?

John Minnerath

PL and all
Back to our roots. Good move long past due.



Hopefully the UW thoughtfulness trickles down to the regular troops. I get sick and tired of seeing grunts trying emulate DA/commando elements by throwing 30 pounds of gear on an M4, writing their blood type on every inch of clothing, and talking about "operators" while wearing ballcaps with American flag Velcro patches.

That nonsense has become prevalent in my world, where guys feel the need to wear shemaghs and think that they need a HALO capability for law enforcement (no really).


While I am certain that it is an interesting and fun job to train such forces I do have my reservations about concepts like "unconventional warfare-indirect action".

One man's freedom fighter is the others man's terrorist.

From the point of view of those attacked by such forces they are attacked by terrorists and those who train those terrorists are evil enemies.

Now compound that with studies by the CIA, recently reported about because Obama had asked for them, which analyzed how "successful" such interventions with such forces by the U.S. have historically been.


Not successful at all was the CIA's answer. The best case they could make for being successful was the training of religious nuts in the war on the secular Afghan government that was supported by the Soviets. We know how that turned out in the long run.

Essentially one is training a force that is very likely to drift in warlordism or, in the unlikely event that it comes to power, into some fringe ideology.

All this usually on the back of the local population which is the one that will have to carry the burden and will have to live with the damage.

See Libya and Syria for recent examples.



your comment is boringly predictably condescending. pl






Typical Moon of Alabama complaints. How's the Boko Haram study of 'freedom fighting' in Nigeria coming along? How about an IS study? They are just another man's freedom fighters aren't they?


This is a question for all UW folks as well as for b (in his capacity as a former Bundeswehr officer),

For all the unpleasant political background and associated atrocities, the World War II era German operations in the Balkans (mostly, although not exclusively, in Yugoslavia) seem to offer a lot of potentially important and fascinating lessons about conducting unconverntional warfare. I was wondering how much these operations are studied by both US and European militaries, or, if they are considered so toxic and immoral that they are considered off limits to serious studies.



The US Army had the German officers involved write monographs about the counter-guerrilla operations in the Balkans, the Pripet Marshes, etc. These are part of the literature of the subject of CG ops. This was not really COIN since it involved only one of the facets of COIN. The Germans did not conduct UW operations in the Balkans. The Partisans, Chetniks and their British SOE partners did that. pl


This is recently up: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/30/athens-1944-britains-dirty-secret

It might be of interest in re: the Balkans years go and the US and/vs UK involvement. I have followed this narrative/story for 35+ years here as an American. Glezos is a hero like no other individual of his generation.

The article needs criticism from many perspectives. Please weigh in all.

The Twisted Genius


IMO the Army has done a fairly good job in documenting lessons learned from past battles. I read a DA Pamphlet (a book actually) called "Small Unit Actions during the German Campaign in Russia." It was well written, detailed and quite informative. Here's a library of some of this stuff held at Fort Leavenworth.


alba etie

Col Lang
Could this be the beginnings of stepping away from training and equipping the " moderates anti Assad rebels " by the CIA in Jordan and KSA . And if that is true could this also be the beginning of tacitly working with the Syrian Government in defeating Daash /ISIL ?



I recommend Evelyn Waugh's "Sword of Honor" trilogy concerning WW2 in the Balkans. pl

The Twisted Genius

Alba Etie,

"Could this be the beginnings of stepping away from training and equipping the "moderates anti Assad rebels" by the CIA in Jordan and KSA"

The way I read it, Aaron Bank's children have had enough of the CIA and the Big Army screwing the pooch with the UW and foreign army building missions. They are stepping up to right these wrongs. The Green Berets are best suited by training and temperament to do these missions. Unfortunately the CIA will fight this tooth and nail... and they are very good at bureaucratic infighting if nothing else. They also have their noses firmly planted up the Executive arse.


Colonel, TTG,

Thank you for the information. Of course, I meant COIN rather than UW, in relation to the Balkans.

The Twisted Genius

I am curious about the need to reorganize 18 operational detachments in each SF group into smaller teams for UW. When Aaron Bank organized the first group (the 10th SFG(A), btw) he designed the twelve man team with the unique mix of skills specifically for the UW mission. I can see the need for additional training to meet the mission for different geographical areas, but I cannot imagine what the new reorganization into smaller teams would bring to the fight. How about task organization? We organized into a cellular structure to meet the requirements of a more urbanized environment. How about split team operations? We did that, too.



The founding documents of SF written for the Army General Staff in 1953 prescribed that the ODA should be divisible in two parts so that they would be more "handy" for UW operations of the kind the Jeds waged in occupied Europe, but he also anticipated that several ODAs could be combined together to form the larger sized OSS teams. pl


TTG et al

From "Aaron Bank's Children":

"Colonel Aaron Bank was born on 23 November, 1902 in New York City. His parents were immigrants from Russia. His father died the year after he was born. Bank lived with his maternal grandfather as a child. The grandfather was an insurance broker in the city, presumably in the Jewish community since the grandfather spoke little English. As a child and young man, Bank had little taste for formal schooling. He left home early for a life of adventure. He was an athlete throughout his long life and made an early career of work as a swimming instructor and personal trainer. When he was 29 he married a woman 14 years his senior who was one of the wealthiest people in California. She was a widely accomplished person. Bank was the third of her four husbands. They traveled together on several continents. Bank acquired language and social skills appropriate to her position in life. For some period of time in the 1930s, they resided In Biarritz where Bank is said to have been the head life guard at a hotel. In 1939 war began in Europe and the Banks returned to the United States to live in Dade County, Florida where he worked in real estate, specializing in the sale of large residential properties. In the middle of 1942 he was drafted and volunteered for Officer Candidate School. At graduation he found that the army’s ground combat forces did not want him because of his age. He was forty-one years old. Unwilling to accept a largely meaningless training job in the United States, he asked to be assigned to the “Office of Strategic Services,” a group formed in imitation of the British “Special Operations Executive.” The British organization had been created at Churchill’s urging by amateur enthusiasts from the British upper classes. Many of these people were university professors, journalists, country gentry and part- time soldiers from the yeomanry. The belief was then prevalent that German successes in the first year of the war were due in large part to expert “leveraging” of the shock action and disproportionate effect of small groups of soldiers inserted by parachute or other means into their enemy’s rear area where they spread havoc through sabotage, propaganda and guerilla warfare.
Bank volunteered to participate in an effort to assist and enable French resistance groups in German occupied territory. After a year of training in the US and Britain, he parachuted into southern France as a member of a three man “Jedburgh” team. Their function was to train and supply the French Maquis in the area around Nimes and Arles. He fought with the resistance until relieved of this duty by the advance of American forces from their landing beaches on the Riviera in Operation Dragoon. Bank sought a follow- on mission behind German lines in Austria but the war ended before that could occur. He was next sent to China, but the Japanese surrendered before he could get back in the fight.
Following the end of the war Bank presided over a variety of counter-intelligence and intelligence activities in Europe in the Counter Intelligence Corps. This was a good refuge for him because the CIC was largely manned with officers who, like him, lacked the educational background wanted by the Army in peace time.
The Cold War began within a few years. The Warsaw Pact came into being and was understood to be an offensive force that could overrun much of Western Europe if war began between that alliance and NATO.
In 1951 Bank was in Korea serving with airborne troops. He was surprised and somewhat dismayed to be summoned to Washington to work in the Army General Staff in a section engaged in a process of introspection on the related subjects of psychological warfare and assistance to guerrillas in occupied Europe in any future war.
The CIA had been busy from 1950 onwards in weapons cache building across Soviet occupied Europe. It was expected that as Soviet and other communist forces advanced westward in a war with NATO, the subject peoples behind their lines would rise to act against them just as the peoples of Western Europe had acted against the Germans in World War Two. As this notion clarified in the collective mind of the US Government, it was decided that the CIA could not play the role that the Office of Strategic Services had in that war. OSS was essentially a military organization under the command of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as such it had coordinated its activities closely with overall military plans. As an Army manned group, OSS had received the full support of the US military establishment. The CIA was a civilian agency that lacked the skills needed to organize, train and hopefully lead guerrilla armies behind Soviet lines.
After a prolonged internal debate, the Chief of Staff of the US Army decided to establish a group for the resistance assistance mission and at the same time to provide 2,500 military personnel authorizations with which to make that possible. These personnel “pay billets” were conveniently made available by another army decision to disband the Ranger light infantry raiding companies that had existed in the Far Eastern command. These soldiers had carried out; patrols behind Chinese and North Korean lines, reconnaissance and the like. The army had decided that they were too much of a drain on leadership manpower that ought to be in line units and so they were disbanded, to be re-born twenty years later.
At the same time a decision was made, largely at Bank’s urging to base the guerrilla assistance force’s methods on the OSS’s effort in occupied Europe. This meant that the emphasis would be on recruiting well educated, language skilled and highly flexible soldiers who would train, advise, and coordinate the actions of foreign guerrillas. These guerrillas would be commanded by their own leaders rather than Americans. Such work would demand a subtlety of mind that might be hard to find. Aaron Bank had done precisely this kind of work in France.
From the point of view of the Regular Army establishment Bank was an interesting and capable officer but still someone thought of as “Christmas Help.” Bank was not a general’s son-in-law or nephew. The careers of sons-in law had to be protected from the craziness of ventures such as this. Promotion boards were certain to scratch their heads and not wish to promote people who volunteered for this kind of “foolishness.” Officers who brought to mind Clint Eastwood’s character in “Where Eagles Dare,” or anyone in “The Guns of Navarone,” would not be favored by selection boards. Bank was an obvious choice to organize and train what he insisted should be called Special Forces and also to establish its doctrine for operations. When he was appointed, he was pleased to learn that he would have a free hand in creating the group unless he wanted too much for his “band of thieves.”
He began to recruit. The first commissioned officers in Special Forces were nearly all former OSS men with combat experience in Europe. Like Bank, they had somehow survived in the army. They felt they had been re-born.
He decided that the enlisted soldiers should be very special. The first hundred were recruited by him from the draftee stream by looking for athletes who were second generation Americans whose parents came from the European areas where the mission would be focused. Superior intellect was greatly desired. This was determined by interview and test. Such men were easily recruited from among the draftees by the prospect of adventure and an outdoor life.
Bank next searched the US Army and the world at large for very skilled and experienced combat soldiers. Europe was then filled with veterans of the world war and the colonial wars of the post war period. Few among them were U.S. citizens. The law barred their enlistment in peace time in the US Army. At the Pentagon’s request, the Congress passed the Lodge Act. This law made it possible for Bank to offer U.S. citizenship to those whom he wanted and who would join him. Among the possible candidates were many veterans of the German Army, or their allies, the Finnish Jaeger Commandos. There were Spanish Republicans and Nationalists from the Spanish Civil War and the Spanish Foreign Legion. There were many exiles from the armies of the communist regimes of Eastern Europe. There were Germans who had served in the Wehrmacht, then the French Foreign Legion in Vietnam and who yearned to come to America. There were quite a few from the Panzer Grenadier Division Grossdeutschland, the premier fighting formation of the German armed forces. The “word” had gone around the division “alumni” that Bank was hiring. Such foreign soldiers knew everything there was to know about soldiering that was worth knowing... They were an endless resource, and once given asylum they responded with the loyalty that marks their kind. Many of these “foreigners” are buried at Fayetteville, North Carolina near Fort Bragg. Another group of US soldiers brought into Special Forces at the beginning were Rangers who had lost their army “home” when the Ranger companies had been disbanded. Either from a sense of guilt for causing that or because of internal army politics, Bank welcomed many of these assault infantrymen into Special Forces. These men and their spiritual descendants rarely relished the sophistication of the OSS Europe model for the new kind of unit. They remained dedicated to commando operations carried out by American soldiers, as well as to extreme standards of physical fitness. Most of them never embraced the idea of working through foreign irregulars and simply hoped for “better days.” The last major group of volunteers to be Special Forces soldiers was made up of old paratroop sergeants, many of whom had served in the airborne force in World War Two. These men were glad to embrace Bank’s vision and were among his most devoted followers. Bank hand-picked all these people.
In the matter of organization and specialization, Bank decided that the capabilities of both the OSS Jedburgh three man teams and the larger 30 man OSS Operational Groups should be found in the new force.
To do that he created 12 man “A” detachments as the basic units in Special Forces. In each of these there would be; a captain and a lieutenant of some experience, a master sergeant operations planner, a sergeant first class intelligence planner, a light weapons specialist (rifles, machine guns etc.), a heavy weapons specialist (mortars, artillery, tanks, etc.), two demolitions specialists, two medical specialists, and two communications specialists. Bank believed that these detachments could be split in half if necessary and would then resemble the capability of a Jedburgh team. He believed that a half “A detachment” could train and support a fifteen hundred man guerrilla regiment. Alternatively, several “A detachments” could be combined to resemble the OSS Operational Groups.
Bank judged the skills combined in the “A Detachment” to be those necessary for the resistance assistance job. The training he required for these skills was formidable. Special training programs were created at army service schools. The training was extensive and prolonged. The longest of the programs was that for the medical specialists. This lasted over a year and involved a lengthy “practicum” in hospital work. The medics were taught surgery, pharmacology, preventive medicine, orthopedics, obstetrics (guerrillas have women and children). These Special Forces medical personnel were not “medics” in the sense of the Geneva Conventions. They were combat men, fighters who happened to know a lot of medicine. They did not claim the often meaningless protection given to medical personnel by those treaties.
Bank insisted that having completed specialty training the team members begin to cross-train each other.
Field training across the world was continuous. The government immediately found these soldiers useful and they were often “loaned” to CIA for missions that the CIA was wise enough to know exceeded their own ability.
The men were gone from their home stations much of the time. It became a joke in Special Forces to say that a typical SF sergeant was someone who passed through Fort Bragg every few months with “a Rolex watch, a bag of dirty laundry and an erection.”" PL

William Fitzgerald

Pat Lang,

Reading about Banks and the genesis of SF brought up questions on the subject of the establishment of SF camps in the border hinterlands of Vietnam. Were they necessary to the overall mission? Did they become ground to be held against an enemy who could assemble enough combat power to assault and on occasion take them? Finally, would it have been workable to have had the A Teams operate so as to disperse (with the indigenous troops) when under threat, rather than hold terrain?




"Bank," not "Banks" The RVN government was incapable of holding the borderlands against major NVA and VC formations. The Army of Vietnam had its hands full fighting the same enemies in much more populated areas in which the bulk of the population was located. The borderlands were thinly populated with Vietnamese inhabiting what towns there were. these towns had ARVN garrisons as well as garrisons from the local (provincial)forces. These were much like the US National Guard in their relationship to the ARVN. The NVA and VC had massive logistical and C&C centers in Laos and Cambodia. These terminated the southern end of what civilians called the Ho Chi Minh Trail (a multi road truck logistical route reaching back to North Vietnam). If left unmolested in the borderlands the NVA and VC would have consolidated their position and made them into fortresses. To thwart that a series of fortified patrol bases were built along the border. These are the SF camps you mention. From these US and VN SF led large sized patrol operations in zones that extended from the border to the south ten or fifteen miles. The troops led by the SF were called Civilian Irregular Defense Groups (CIDG) There were not enough people in the border zone to provide the several hundred CIDG needed in each patrol base to conduct patrol ops and defend the base against enemy troops so the CIDG were mostly recruited from the Vietnamese population of the cities. They were volunteers and were reasonably well paid as opposed to ARVN or provincial soldiers who were drafted and poorly paid. The CIDG forces in the patrol bases were commanded by VN SF. The American SF were there to advise them, train them and arrange for fire support, etc. Once again there were very few civilians in the rural areas of these patrol operations. What few there were almost entirely non-Vietnamese tribal Montagnards (stone age people)These patrol operations had specific purpose and they required defensible bases. This was not "Lawrence of Arabia" running around in native dress in the desert. These VN SF and CIDG were all assets of the RVN government. US 5th SFG, the over all USSF command in VN maintained several task forces of US SF and local soldiers who were serving with US SF in what were called Mobile Strike Forces (MIKE forces). These existed for the purpose of serving as reinforcement for the patrol forts when they were attacked. These MIKE forces were entirely controlled by the US. None of this had anything to do with Phoenix (a CIA anti VC political infrastructure project). Nor did it have anything to do with USMACVSOG which was a US operated cross border reconnaissance operation. pl

Charles I

hmm thanks for that direction, need a good winter pile

Charles I

Freedom, sovereignty equals chaos and communism, you're with us or you're with the reds. Britain had just lend-leased its empire away, so a little manageable trinket like Greece would be hard to eschew. And they had Royalty!

Charles I

Fascinating. Spock out.

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