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"First in...Last Out": History of the U.S. Army Pathfinder (1942-2011)

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Technical Report

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US Army Command and General Staff College Fort Leavenworth United States

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Pathfinders were deployed in different theaters of war under totally different types of warfare, enemy idiosyncrasies, terrain, strategy and tactics, and as such they were called on to rapidly evolve and adapt to these different situations. The primary focus of this study is to provide a historical account and analysis of the U.S. Pathfinder from 1942 to what they are today, in order to understand this adaptability. This study traces the late development of Pathfinder Operations by the U.S. Army during World War II WWII, and selected employments of Pathfinders in both, the European and Pacific Theaters of operations. This historical account will also explore Pathfinder Operations and employment during the Vietnam and Afghanistan Wars. The research concept illustrates three archetypal historical examples WWII, which was to see the development of full-scale Airborne Operations the Vietnam War, which was the proving ground for Air Mobility Operations, and Afghanistan, were pathfinders added a new dimension to their capabilities by conducting personal recovery missions during Operation Enduring Freedom. The intent of this study is to give us a better optic on how the Pathfinder strategy has evolved over the course of 70 years, which will allow us to determine their specific contribution to mission success. In doing so, it will provide insights into Pathfinder doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures, strategy, technology and lessons learned from their origin at the British, 21st Independent Parachute Company to todays modern warfare. It aims to draw conclusions and recommendations to optimize the employment of Pathfinder and Pathfinder Operations to meet the threats and challenges of todays ever-changing environment.

Subject Categories:

  • Humanities and History
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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