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Detachment 101 and North Burma: Historical Conditions for Future Unconventional Warfare Operations

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Technical Report,05 Jul 2015,26 May 2016

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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As military budgets and public support for conflict erode, unconventional warfare UW provides the US military with a method to affect strategy without committing significant blood and treasure. Although overt risks to force or mission may be lower with UW there are significant risks associated with this type of warfare. Historically, UW success or failure has often been contingent upon conditions in the operational environment. This monograph used a case study of Detachment 101, a subordinate element of the Office of Strategic Services, to test the hypothesis that an UW campaigns success is determined by how well UW operations exploit favorable conditions in the operational environment. North Burma, Detachment 101s area of operations and one of the most austere and unforgiving environments, delivers numerous examples of how the physical environment can create obstacles and opportunities for UW operations. Additionally, although contemporary UW operations are supported by far more advanced technology, Detachment 101s early UW operations also illustrate how enemy actions, conventional partner force capabilities and limitations, and indigenous populations can be manipulated or influenced by UW or Special Forces elements to achieve desired operational end states.


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