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Special Operations and the Grenada Campaign

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Journal article

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Some of the best warriors in the world choose to battle in the shadows. They fight, have fought, and will fight in hot wars and cold, in major actions and minor skirmishes, usually in deep twilight and, very rarely, on center stage. At the upper end of the spectrum of warfare, their efforts may catalyze a major campaign. At the low, dirty end, they can decide small wars or, better, abort such conflicts before they erupt. The titles of the outfits evoke respect among friends and strike fear among foes Delta, Rangers, Green Berets, Night Stalkers, SEALs, Air Commandos, and Force Recon. These are the core of Americas special operations forces. For the sake of brevity, well refer to them as SOF in this article. In an era of random terrorism, sputtering insurgencies, and violent challenges to American interests in the restive Third World, SOF seem to offer the best way to respond to many of the vexing military confrontations euphemistically labeled low-intensity conflicts. With the electorate often eager for bold action in these frustrating episodes, Americas special units have become the unwilling subjects of much recent public attention. Against their wishes, special fighters have emerged from obscurity. Yet the picture remains unfocused, not only for the curious citizenry, but also for many of the combat leaders serving in the United States general purpose forces. The professionals need better information. In times past, with ample time to get smarter, otherwise gifted American officers badly misused special operations forces witness the fate of Colonel William O. Darbys Rangers in the hellish Cisterna infiltration in Italy in 1944, or Brigadier General Frank D. Merrills Marauders costly travail against the Japanese at Myitkyina, Burma, also in 1944. Given this age of smoldering half-peace, conventional and special elements can be at war within hours.

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  • Military Forces and Organizations

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