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Special Operations in American Wars

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Special Operations in American Wars

Michael Qualls

James Madison University

United States Special Forces have been used in �covert’ operations since the beginning of the US Military. From Vietnam to Iraq, they have played a major role in battle, and continue to as technological knowledge increases.

What are Special Forces? The Department of Defense defines Special Forces as, “organized, trained, and equipped to conduct special operations with an emphasis on unconventional warfare capabilities” (Joint Doctrine Division).

Generally, Special Forces are used for highly targeted and specific operations. These include sabotage and reconnaissance. Because of their high level of training, they are small in numbers, and they generally do poorly in normal combat against larger normal military forces, as normal military forces can overwhelm them by number of troops.

The work of Special Forces is more often classified, and hence the degree of selectivity among candidates is in proportion to the degree of importance in the military mission.

Special Forces operatives may also be used to train foreign local forces when military aid is given to other countries, as much of their specialized training includes language and cultural skills. Special Forces have an aura of mystery surrounding them and are frequently the topic of military fiction. (Definition of Special Forces)

We can see that Special Forces are a critical part of the Unites States Military force. The most important missions; Assassinations, Extractions, and other �High-Risk’ missions are given to these highly trained men and women.

The interesting thing about Special Forces is that someone does not move up in rank or graduate to it, people are chosen by current Special Forces because of their experience and expertise in certain fields.

Special Forces have been used in most of the wars in which the United States have been involved in. Some argue that they are a useless branch of the United States military, and simply cost too much money to maintain. On the other hand, some argue that Special Forces are a necessary part of any military, especially the United States military, because they have played a critical role in the success of the military. Without Special Forces, we could have possibly lost crucial battles to Nazi Germany, Russia, and Iraq.

In 2002, the United States Special Operations Command had an annual budget of $4.9 billion dollars, a mere 1.3 percent of the overall Department of Defense budget (Pike) The argument for the elimination of Special Forces from the military is not supported, because their budget is a small percent of the overall military’s budget.

Special Forces were a necessary part of wars involving the US, such as World War II, the Vietnam War, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In World War II, Special Forces played a key role in stopping Nazi Germany. Special Forces missions shut off critical supply lines far behind enemy lines, crippling the German Army. Also, Special Forces were some of the first of the Allied Forces to set foot in the European theater. They were the first on the beach, at Point du Hoc, in France, in order to clear the way for the battleships which deployed troops on D-day. An Excerpt from a mission log of the assault on Point du Hoc best explains how Special Operations troops work.

In January, as the two battalions trained along the coasts of Britain, Rudder and Maj. Max F. Schneider, the commander of the 5th Ranger Battalion, arrived in London to receive their mission for D-day from Col. Truman Thorson, operations officer of Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley's U.S. First Army. Four miles west of OMAHA Beach, the main American landing area, was Pointe du Hoc, a peninsula of steep, rocky cliffs jutting out into the Channel. There the Germans had emplaced a battery of six 155-mm. guns which dominated the invasion beaches. Destruction of the battery was critical to the success of the invasion. Although planners had provided for naval and air bombardments of the Pointe, a direct infantry assault was the only certain way of neutralizing the fortification. To reach the position by sea, the attackers would first have to land on a narrow shoreline and then scale an 83- to 100-foot cliff. One intelligence officer remarked, "It can't be done. Three old women with brooms could keep the Rangers from climbing that cliff." Although initially stunned by the magnitude of the task, Rudder and Schneider stepped up their training program, focusing on cliff climbing and amphibious tactics as the date of the

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