Tag Archives: Military History

Where The Hell did The Word “Recondo” Come From?

Tiger Stripe Blasting Cap

Recondo (usually assumed to be a combination of the words Recon and Commando) was founded by Major General William Westmoreland in 1958 to ensure that the critical patrol and reconnaissance skills taught at the Army’s Ranger School were taught and reinforced throughout his command, which at the time was the 101st Airborne Division.

Westmoreland chose Major Lewis Millet to command the school, which was staffed by Ranger-qualified soldiers of the 101st.  At the time, Ranger School was eight weeks long, and lacked the capacity to train soldiers in the numbers that Westmoreland wanted.  The original Recondo was between 2-4 weeks long (as it evolved), and trained soldiers in patrolling, navigation, demolitions, communications, hand to hand fighting, escape and evasion, and POW resistance (later scrapped after an Inspector General investigation).  Other units took this model and implemented it, including the US Military Academy at West Point, the 82nd Airborne Division, the 18th Airborne Corps, and the 25th Infantry Division.  Graduation rates for the 101st Recondo ran as low as 10 percent, with another 20 percent completing – but not graduating  – the course.

By far the most famous – and dangerous – Recondo school was operated by Military Assistance Command – Vietnam from 1966 to 1970.  Instructed by members of the 5th Special Forces Group, MACV Recondo was three weeks long, encompassing over 260 hours of instruction.  The first two weeks mirrored many of the skills taught in previous Recondo courses, but the final week – dubbed “You Bet Your Life” – was an actual combat mission of opportunity.  This mission was planned and conducted by the students, but graded by instructors – and the enemy.  Clearly the students learned something during their first two weeks: an article published in  Green Beret Magazine in 1968, two years into the school, stated that only two students had been lost to enemy fire at that time.  The MACV Recondo course didn’t just train US Army soldiers, though; over 300 friendly forces trained alongside the over 2,700 Americans that graduated.  Graduates received a patch and unique Recondo number upon graduation.  Graduation rates ran as high as 60%, although this number was somewhat inflated due to the fact that most MACV Recondo attendees had already attended and passed a rigorous unit selection and preparatory course beforehand.

RECONDO PVC Patch

Although Recondo was disbanded in 1970, its legacy remained.  The members who graduated usually returned to their home unit’s Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRPs or “Lurps”), and the common training they received at Recondo set the standard and ensured commonality among the many LRRPs spread across Vietnam.

Continuing their line of SOF tribute patches, RE Factor Tactical has just released their Recondo PVC patch, styled after the patch awarded to successful graduates of the MACV Recondo school.  Check it out in the store today!

Further reading:

Article from Green Beret Magazine, April 1968

Brief description of 101st Recondo Curriculum

The ever-popular Wikipedia

First-hand account of a 25th Infantry Recondo

About the author

Joel is an 12 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team. He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer. He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US. He is the owner of Hybrid Defensive Strategies, LLC in Chesapeake, VA, and can be contacted on Facebook and Instagram. Any opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Coast Guard or the US Government.

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Tarawa: How an Intelligence Failure Led to the Underwater Demolition Teams

DoD Photo
DoD Photo

In 1943, the Allies debated their strategy for taking back the Pacific from the Japanese.  Their strategic goal: the unconditional surrender of Japan.  General Douglas MacArthur slogged his way through the South Pacific, closing with and defeating the heavily entrenched Japanese defenders.  A victory in the South Pacific guaranteed the safey of Australia and the severing of Japan’s southern sea lines of communication, but defeating layered defenses in heavy jungle was slow work.

Was there another way?  Pacific Fleet’s planners thought so.  They proposed a Central Pacific campaign, with the goal of seizing the Marshal Islands.  Seizing the Marshals would assist Gen. MacArthur by cutting off the Japanese in New Guinea, the Solomons, and the Philippines from resupply.  Additionally, the Marshals provided a base from which to launch a campaign against the fortified islands that were needed for air bases in the final invasion of Japan.

But there lay the problem.  The invasion of the Marshals required far more troops than available, at least without disrupting MacArthur’s drive.  Not only was MacArthur’s drive critical to victory, it also had strong political support.  No delay would be tolerated.  But the planners had an answer: the Gilbert Islands.

Requiring significantly fewer troops, the Gilberts lay on the Marshals’ doorstep, and could be used for reconnaissance and basing for a later invasion.  Planners quickly turned their attention to the atolls of Tarawa and Makin, specifically the individual islands of Betio and Butaritari, respectively.  Aerial reconnaissance craft overflew every aspect of the islands, and the USS Nautilus took periscope level photos of the beaches.  Everyone knew that the two atolls’ islands  sat ringed with reefs, but no one seemed to know how deeply those reefs would be submerged on the day of the landing.

Marine casualties lay on the beach of Betio
Marine casualties lay on the beach of Betio. DoD photo.

The staff of Task Force 54, the assault force commander, stated in their orders that no more than one to two feet of clearance would be available at Betio due to a neap tide.  Divisional planners at the 2nd Marine Division interviewed sea captains and former residents of Betio.  With one exception, all stated that there would be enough clearance for the landing craft (LCVPs), which needed at least four feet to navigate safely, to pass.  Planning proceeded based on those interviews.

On November 20, 1943, after an intense naval and aerial bombardment, the Marine landing force began to approach Betio.  The first wave approached in amphibious tractors.  The tractors crawled across the reef, under heavy Japanese fire, and deposited their Marines.  Then the follow-on waves, loaded into LCVPs, began to hit the reef.  As the Task Force 54 staff had predicted, only one to two feet of water was available on the reef line.  The LCPVs grounded.  Marines scrambled from their boats and began to wade hundreds of yards to shore under heavy fire.  Some companies reported losing 35% of their forces before they ever made the beach.

Marines prepare to repatriate the bodies of 36 Marines killed on Tarawa.
In 2015, Marines of the 3rd Marine Regiment repatriated the bodies of 36 Marines killed on Tarawa. Marine Corps photo.

After three days of fighting, the Marines took the island.  Casualties were hastily buried, and a landing strip was built, leaving some Marines buried there, unknown.  Unknown Marines are still being brought home to this day.

Tarawa (and Makin, to a lesser extent) drove home the need for an intelligence gathering and route clearance capability that did not exist in the Navy write large.  The rest, as they say, is history.  According to the UDT/SEAL Museum:

 “[D]uring the Tarawa landing at the Gilbert Islands, a chain of 16 atolls and coral islands in the South Pacific Ocean, a submerged reef caused amphibious landing craft to founder far offshore, resulting in the loss of hundreds of U.S. Marines from enemy fire and drowning. After that experience, Admiral Kelley Turner, Commander of the 5th Amphibious Force, directed that 30 officers and 150 enlisted men be moved to Waimanalo ATB (on the “big island” of Hawaii) to form the nucleus of a reconnaissance and demolition training program. It is here that the UDTs of the Pacific were born.

The first UDT group became UDT-1 and UDT-2, “provisional” UDTs with strengths of about fourteen officers and seventy enlisted men each. They saw their first action on 31 January 1944 in the attacks on Kwajalein and Roy-Namur during Operation FLINTLOCK in the Marshall Islands. Following FLINTLOCK, the UDT men returned to establish a naval combat demolition training and experimental base on a beach near ATB, Kamaol on the island of Maui.

Between December 1944 and August 1945, UDT men saw action across the Pacific in every major amphibious landing, including Eniwetok, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, Angaur, Ulithi, Pelilui, Leyte, Lingayen Gulf, Zambales, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Labuan, Brunei Bay, and Borneo. On 4 July 1945 at Balikpapan on Borneo, UDT-11 and UDT-18 spearheaded one of the last and least-recorded offensive actions of the war, where they performed their now classic pre-assault reconnaissance and demolition operations.”

udt_patch_navy_seal-600x600

About the author

Joel is a 12 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team. He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer. He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US. He is the owner of Hybrid Defensive Strategies, LLC in Chesapeake, VA, and can be contacted on Facebook and Instagram. Any opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Coast Guard or the US Government.



Mao’s Phases of Revolution and the War for Independence: Part III

This is my second paper for the Naval War College in which I attempt to analyze the American War for Independence through the three phases of revolutionary warfare theorized by Mao Tse-Tung in his book On Guerrilla Warfare.  This is part two of two.  Part one can be found here.  Part two can be found here.  While I do not adhere to Mao’s political views in any way, shape, form, or fashion, his insight into guerrilla warfare is invaluable, as USMC Capt. Samuel B. Griffith II said in his forward to the translation: “it remained for Mao Tse-Tung to produce the first systematic study of the subject….  His study…will continue to have a decisive effect in societies ready for a change.”  Any opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Coast Guard, the Naval War College, or the US Government.

Politics and Alliances

If pitched battles produced losses, and even Continental generals such as Horatio Gates and Charles Lee recommended irregular or guerilla warfare tactics (Fischer, 2004), why then did the Continental Army continue to pursue a strategy of attempting to take and hold large cities, such as Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston?

Simply put, politics (both internal and external) drove the decision.  The Continental Congress realized that losing large cities painted a picture of a failing rebellion.  Congress had begun alliance negotiations with France within a month of declaring independence.  France demonstrated a willingness at first, especially after the British evacuated Boston; however, when Washington lost New York, their eagerness cooled.  While the French provided surreptitious support in the form of arms and financing, a full and public alliance remained out of reach. (State Department, n.d.)

The Congress hoped this alliance would fill critical needs for the colonies.  At the time, no large-scale arms manufacturing existed in the colonies.  The Continental Navy made a name for itself with its daring, but remained outmatched by the power of the British fleet.  The French army also brought experience to the table that the Continental Army lacked.  France saw a vested interest in helping the colonies – they lost significant power as a result of their defeat by the British in the Seven Year’s War, and this rebellion offered a chance for retribution. (State Department, n.d.)  France, however, wished to avoid entangling itself in another costly war unless a benefit could be realized.  The American approach of small guerilla skirmishes and a war of attrition proved tactically sound, but failed to convince the French that the colonials could win the war.

Not until the Colonial victory at the Battle(s) of Saratoga did the French fully commit to a public alliance.  This alliance opened the door for French troops and ships to flow into the American colonies, as well as Britain’s Caribbean colonies.  (Allison, 2011)  While this influx did not result in a surge of decisive battles, it did force Britain to adapt its war strategy, distracting both their naval and land forces from the American colonies. (Pritchard, 1994)  Forces under the French General Rochambeau strengthened the weakened Colonial forces and played a critical role in the victory at Yorktown. (Allison, 2011)

Dressed in a period correct Continental uniform, Guilford Courthouse National Park ranger Jason Baum fires a rifle similar to those Continental soldiers would have employed against the British Army during the Revolutionary War. The demonstration was part of a staff ride conducted by the 108th Training Command (IET) at the Greensboro, N.C., park on Feb. 6. The staff rides are training events used by staff members of the unit to learn important lessons from the past in order to ensure success in future conflicts. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Javier Amador)
Dressed in a period correct Continental uniform, Guilford Courthouse National Park ranger Jason Baum fires a rifle similar to those Continental soldiers would have employed against the British Army during the Revolutionary War. The demonstration was part of a staff ride conducted by the 108th Training Command (IET) at the Greensboro, N.C., park on Feb. 6. The staff rides are training events used by staff members of the unit to learn important lessons from the past in order to ensure success in future conflicts. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Javier Amador)

An Unnecessary Rush

Clearly, Phase III presented opportunities for the colonies.  But was it really necessary to move into Phase III so early, especially with such an unprepared force?  The rivalry between Britain and France that the colonies relied on would certainly have remained alive.  The most influential trainer in the Continental Army hailed from Prussia, not from France, and he worked without pay.  Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben served as a staff officer under Frederick the Great, though he never saw combat in Europe.  He demonstrated a remarkable knack for training: “Washington gave him a hundred men to train; he was so impressed with the results after two weeks that he let him train another hundred….  The men were already veterans; Steuben’s training made them a disciplined and effective army.” (Allison, 2011)   As previously noted, the French military contributions were well-known and significant in replacing lost numbers, but their finances and arms contributions are easy to overlook.  As Griffith notes: “such factors as…the presence or absence of material help, technical aid, advisers, or ‘volunteers’ from outside sources…are naturally relevant to the ability of a movement to survive and expand.” (Griffith II, 1961)   The colonies received supplies, training assistance, and money, and they successfully engaged in unconventional warfare against the British forces – all Phase II activities.  Instead of attempting to seize or defend towns, the individual generals – under the direction of General Washington – should have been given free rein to harry the British in their areas.  While they harassed and wore down the various British units, General Washington would have focused on training up the solid core of the Continental Army.  The British suffered from an inability to properly re-supply and replenish their forces (O’Shaughnessy, 2013), a fact that a guerilla war of attrition funded by the French would have exacerbated.  As Sun Tzu said: “There has never been a protracted war from which a country has benefited.” (Tzu, 1963) When the Continental Army was capable of standing on its own, General Washington would then be able to face off against a British army that was a shell of its former self.

The U.S. Army 3rd Infantry, the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, and the Commander-in-Chief's Guard demonstrate Revolutionary War battle tactics and customs at Mount Vernon, Va., Feb. 17, 2014. The demonstration was part of festivities celebrating President's Day at the home of George Washington. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Diana Sims/Released)
The U.S. Army 3rd Infantry, the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, and the Commander-in-Chief’s Guard demonstrate Revolutionary War battle tactics and customs at Mount Vernon, Va., Feb. 17, 2014. The demonstration was part of festivities celebrating President’s Day at the home of George Washington. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Diana Sims/Released)

Conclusion

Arguably, the Continental Army did eventually flow back into Phase II, especially throughout the South.  This shift led to the over-extension of General Cornwallis, and eventually to his establishment of a base at Yorktown, Virginia.  There, the now-well-trained Continental Army, along with their French allies, delivered the fatal blow to the British army.  But prior to this well-executed combination of unconventional and conventional warfare, Washington and his generals obsessed with Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston.  This obsession cost the army dearly in lives, resources, and morale.

The pursuit of the French alliance was a key political aim, and military decisions were made in support of that aim.  As Clausewitz said: “The political object…will thus determine both the military objective to be reached and the amount of effort it requires.” (Clausewitz, 1976)  It was only after much effort had been expended that a better strategy was devised.  Much of that effort could have been saved had the urgency of a formal alliance been re-evaluated and more emphasis placed on unconventional tactics coupled with a rigorous conventional training regime.  When the colonies declared independence, their chances of winning were limited.  A well-planned guerilla war would have thrown the British army off their guard, and shifted the chances toward the upstart colonies and their revolutionary way of thinking.

Works Cited

Allison, R. J. (2011). The American Revolution: A Concise History. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Clausewitz, C. v. (1976). On War. (M. Howard, P. Paret, Eds., M. Howard, & P. Paret, Trans.) Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Ferling, J. (2010, January). Myths of the American Revolution. Retrieved October 22, 2016, from Smithsonian.com: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/myths-of-the-american-revolution-10941835/?no-ist

Fischer, D. H. (2004). Washington’s Crossing. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Griffith II, S. B. (1961). Strategy, Tactics, and Logistics in Revolutionary War. In M. Tse-Tung, On Guerrilla Warfare (S. B. Griffith II, Trans., pp. 20-26). Champaign, IL: University of Chicago Press.

O’Shaughnessy, A. J. (2013). The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the British Empire. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Pritchard, J. (1994, Autumn). French Strategy and the American Revolution: A Reappraisal. Naval War College Review, 83-108.

State Department. (n.d.). French Alliance, French Assistance, and European Diplomacy during the American Revolution, 1778–1782. Retrieved October 22, 2016, from Department of State, Office of the Historian: https://history.state.gov/milestones/1776-1783/french-alliance

Tse-Tung, M. (1961). On Guerilla Warfare. (S. B. Griffith II, Trans.) Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press.

Tzu, S. (1963). The Art of War. (S. B. Griffith II, Trans.) New York, New York: Oxford University Press.

About the author

Joel is a 12 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team. He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer. He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US. He is the owner of Hybrid Defensive Strategies, LLC in Chesapeake, VA, and can be contacted on Facebook and Instagram. Any opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Coast Guard or the US Government.



Mao’s Phases of Revolution and the War for Independence: Part I

This is my second paper for the Naval War College in which I attempt to analyze the American War for Independence through the three phases of revolutionary warfare theorized by Mao Tse-Tung in his book On Guerrilla Warfare.  While I do not adhere to Mao’s political views in any way, shape, form, or fashion, his insight into guerrilla warfare is invaluable, as USMC Capt. Samuel B. Griffith II said in his forward to the translation: “it remained for Mao Tse-Tung to produce the first systematic study of the subject….  His study…will continue to have a decisive effect in societies ready for a change.”  Any opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Coast Guard, the Naval War College, or the US Government.

Cristopher Ruff, the Curator of the Army Reserve Museum shown wearing a period correct Continental Soldier's uniform, explains what took place during one of the closing moments of the Battle of Guilford County Courthouse to leaders and Soldiers of the 108th Training Command (IET) during their staff ride on Feb 6 at its site in Greensboro, N.C., which is now a National Park. The staff rides are training events used by staff members of the unit to learn important lessons from the past in order to ensure success in future conflicts. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Javier Amador)
Cristopher Ruff, the Curator of the Army Reserve Museum shown wearing a period correct Continental Soldier’s uniform, explains what took place during one of the closing moments of the Battle of Guilford County Courthouse to leaders and Soldiers of the 108th Training Command (IET) during their staff ride on Feb 6 at its site in Greensboro, N.C., which is now a National Park. The staff rides are training events used by staff members of the unit to learn important lessons from the past in order to ensure success in future conflicts. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Javier Amador)

Introduction

Beginning in 1764, protest spread across thirteen British colonies in America.  These colonies, seemingly the beneficiaries of British protection and largesse, despised the taxes that Parliament levied on them.  Specifically, they questioned the legality of a legislative body – in which they had no say – imposing those taxes.  Protests grew into riots, riots grew into rebellion, and rebellion grew into a Declaration of Independence.

The likelihood that the American colonies could win their struggle against Great Britain was limited in 1776.  A primary factor contributing to this limited likelihood was a lack of a cohesive military organization.  At the outset the colonies relied entirely upon the militia system, and on Mao’s continuum, the colonies were better prepared for a guerilla war than the conventional war they fought.  However, the colonies understood their need for recognition as an independent nation, and sought recognition and an alliance with the French.  To demonstrate to the French that an alliance would be beneficial to them, the colonies needed to be able to show conventional military victories.

Even with this valid need, the colonies should not have rushed into conventional warfare.  The French were longtime enemies of the British, and their support would more than likely have still been available later.  This long-standing enmity could have allowed the colonies to spend more time in the guerilla stage before proceeding to conventional war.

For the purposes of this paper, the terms guerilla or unconventional war will refer to warfare conducted outside the standard of seizing and holding territory or attempting to do so.  The term conventional war will refer to siege warfare or other warfare intended to seize or hold territory.

Mao, Revolution, and the Colonies

Many years after the American Revolution, a Chinese Communist named Mao Tse-Tung theorized on the idea of revolutionary warfare.  According to Samuel Griffith in his introduction to Mao’s On Guerilla Warfare, Mao organized revolutions into three fluid phases.   Phase I is the organizing phase, where “volunteers are trained and indoctrinated, and from here, agitators and propagandists set forth, individually or in groups of two or three, to ‘persuade’ and ‘convince’ the inhabitants of the surrounding countryside and to enlist their support.” (Griffith II, 1961)  Phase II, the “progressive expansion” phase, sees “Acts of sabotage and terrorism multiply; collaborationists and ‘reactionary elements’ are liquidated…The primary purpose of these operations is to procure arms, ammunition, and other essential material….” (Griffith II, 1961)  Finally comes Phase III: “It is during this period that a significant percentage of the active guerilla force completes its transformation into an orthodox establishment capable of engaging the enemy in conventional battle.” (Griffith II, 1961)

In the case of the American Revolution, Phases I & II occurred intermittently from approximately 1764 to 1775. During this period, various Parliamentary acts, such as the Stamp Act, Declaratory Act, and Coercive Acts inflamed colonial sentiment, and violence flared.  Colonists and British authority clashed in places such as the “Boston Massacre,” the “Boston Tea Party,” Lexington, Concord, and Fort Ticonderoga.  July 3, 1775 marked the beginning of Phase III, when General George Washington road to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to assume command of the newly formed Continental Army. (Allison, 2011)

The colonists spent significant amounts of time organizing themselves politically.  Starting with Boston’s Committee of Correspondence in 1772, the colonies gradually formed a network to keep each other informed of events.  By 1774, every colony participated, and British actions in one colony rapidly traveled through the network to unaffected colonies.  These committees served to keep the flame of indignation alive and well from Rhode Island to Georgia. (Allison, 2011)  Other citizens’ groups, such as the famous Sons of Liberty in Boston, stirred civil unrest and attacked tax collectors and other symbols of authority, but typically did not engage in battles with British troops.  The Continental Congress met and adjourned multiple times between 1774 and 1776. (Allison, 2011)

Members of the 3rd Infantry Regiment – Commander-in-Chief’s Guard, from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall at Fort Myer, Va., demonstrate battle techniques used during the Revolutionary War in Yorktown, Va., as part of the annual Yorktown Day celebration, Oct. 19, 2014. The celebration included a parade and other festivities including wreath laying ceremonies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kimberly Nagle/ Released)
Members of the 3rd Infantry Regiment – Commander-in-Chief’s Guard, from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall at Fort Myer, Va., demonstrate battle techniques used during the Revolutionary War in Yorktown, Va., as part of the annual Yorktown Day celebration, Oct. 19, 2014. The celebration included a parade and other festivities including wreath laying ceremonies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kimberly Nagle/ Released)

The Continental Army at its Inception

The colonies also organized militarily, relying on the traditional militia system.  Each state raised at least one militia, some raised many.  These militias tended to represent a town or region.  Their officers were typically elected, and had various backgrounds ranging from sea captains to wealthy merchants to farmers. (Fischer, 2004)  Militias were not professional military organizations for the most part; they formed to address a specific threat, then disbanded once the threat had passed.  Despite the recent conflicts in the colonies, the majority of colonial militia leaders (including George Washington, who served as the Colonel of the Virginia militia) possessed little to no experience in the large-scale employment of professional soldiers. (Ferling, 2010)  No one would question their determination and valor (except perhaps the British), but they simply did not possess the experience of their British counterparts.  Many viewed militia as unreliable and undisciplined, including General Washington. (Fischer, 2004)  The prevailing opinions on both sides gave the colonists little chance in a pitched battle against British regulars.  A British parliamentarian is reported to have said that the colonists “were neither soldiers, nor could be made so; being naturally of a pusillanimous disposition, and utterly incapable of any sort of order or discipline.” (O’Shaughnessy, 2013)

Despite the fact that Congress named Washington the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army in 1775, it retained much control until December 27, 1776.  At the urging of General Nathanael Greene, who implored that “Time will not admit nor Circumstance allow of a reference to Congress.  The Fate of War is so uncertain, dependant on so many Contingencies…that it would be folly to wait for Relief from the deliberative Councils of Legislative Bodies,” Congress granted Washington full powers of management of the war effort for six months. (Fischer, 2004)  The reliance on the militia system, the micromanagement of the army, and the relative inexperience of the army’s commanders combine to portray a steep learning curve for the Continental Army.

Works Cited

Allison, R. J. (2011). The American Revolution: A Concise History. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Clausewitz, C. v. (1976). On War. (M. Howard, P. Paret, Eds., M. Howard, & P. Paret, Trans.) Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Ferling, J. (2010, January). Myths of the American Revolution. Retrieved October 22, 2016, from Smithsonian.com: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/myths-of-the-american-revolution-10941835/?no-ist

Fischer, D. H. (2004). Washington’s Crossing. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Griffith II, S. B. (1961). Strategy, Tactics, and Logistics in Revolutionary War. In M. Tse-Tung, On Guerrilla Warfare (S. B. Griffith II, Trans., pp. 20-26). Champaign, IL: University of Chicago Press.

O’Shaughnessy, A. J. (2013). The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the British Empire. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Pritchard, J. (1994, Autumn). French Strategy and the American Revolution: A Reappraisal. Naval War College Review, 83-108.

State Department. (n.d.). French Alliance, French Assistance, and European Diplomacy during the American Revolution, 1778–1782. Retrieved October 22, 2016, from Department of State, Office of the Historian: https://history.state.gov/milestones/1776-1783/french-alliance

Tse-Tung, M. (1961). On Guerilla Warfare. (S. B. Griffith II, Trans.) Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press.

Tzu, S. (1963). The Art of War. (S. B. Griffith II, Trans.) New York, New York: Oxford University Press.



About the author

Joel is a 12 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team. He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer. He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US. He is the owner of Hybrid Defensive Strategies, LLC in Chesapeake, VA, and can be contacted on Facebook and Instagram. Any opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Coast Guard or the US Government.

 

Here’s A Brief History of the Airborne

WAC_1

Members of the 82nd Airborne Division wait to board an aircraft while in full kit during operation Devil Strike at Fort Bragg, N.C., July 16, 2016. Operation Devil Strike showcased the Global Response Forces ability to deploy on short notice. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ericka Engblom)
Members of the 82nd Airborne Division wait to board an aircraft while in full kit during operation Devil Strike at Fort Bragg, N.C., July 16, 2016. Operation Devil Strike showcased the Global Response Forces ability to deploy on short notice. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ericka Engblom)

For those of you that have looked into Army Special Operations Forces, you’ve certainly noticed by now that the vast majority of them are Airborne.  If you’ve ever tuned in to HBO, you’ve probably seen the series Band of Brothers, detailing the exploits of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), 101st Airborne Division.  You may have even heard of the 82nd Airborne Division (I grew up at Fort Bragg, so I assumed for the longest time everyone knew who the 82nd was).  But what is the Airborne, and where did the Airborne come from?  And what maniac first decided it was a good idea?

Early parachute designs were sketched as far back as Leonardo Da Vinci, but the first successful parachute jump didn’t occur until 1797, when Andre Jacques Garnerin jumped from a balloon at a height of 3,200 feet.  Parachuting was still considered an odd amusement for many years, although others made successful jumps, primarily from balloons with the parachutes packed in the balloon versus on the jumper.  In 1911, a Russian named Gleb Kotelnikov invented the knapsack parachute, which was originally packed into a hard case until he perfected his soft case in 1924.  The stage was now set for weaponizing the parachutist.  And militaries didn’t take long to consider it.  Only 6 years after Kotelnikov’s invention, no less a mind that Winston Churchill was proposing air-dropped infantry.  Colonel Billy Mitchell, of the US Army Air Corps, likewise proposed a similar idea.

The first military parachutist drop, however, took place between 1930 and 1933 (sources vary on the year), back where the knapsack parachute began – Russia.  The first drop was small – only 62 parachutists – but in 1936, Russia conducted an operation involving over 1,000 parachutists.  Other armies took note, including Germany, France, Japan, and Italy.  Germany would actually successfully drop paratroopers (fallschirmjagers) into combat for the first time in history in

Paratroopers descend from the sky during World War II.
Paratroopers descend from the sky during World War II.

1940 during the invasion of Denmark.  Britain and the United States, though behind, now began developing airborne units, noting the success Germany had with airfield and bridge seizures during not only the Denmark invasion, but Norway, Holland, and Belgium  as well.  In the US, these first airborne unites were called the United States Army Airborne Test Platoon, then the US Parachute Troops.  Japan also successfully deployed paratroopers as early as 1942, and used them with success in Indonesia, Timor, Sumatra, and the Philippines.

The Soviets were the first Allied force to deploy paratroopers in combat in 1942, followed by the British, and finally the United States, when the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion parachuted into Algeria on the 8th of November.  Between 1942 and 1943, US paratroopers made multiple jumps into Africa and Italy, including the 509th, 505th, and 504th PIR (among others), and the 503rd PIR parachuted into New Guinea.  However, the largest airborne combat jump in history took place on the 6th of June, 1944, when 20,000 troops of the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, as well as the British 6th Airborne Division were dropped into Normandy as part of Operation Overlord.  While the Overlord drop is probably the most popularly known World War II jump, it was far from the last American combat jump.  Ten other drops were made into France, Holland, New Guinea, Germany, and the Philippines all the way until 1945.  After World War II, US Paratroopers made static-line jumps into Korea, South Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, and Afghanistan, with the last recorded US combat jump taking place on March 23, 2003.

Paratroopers of the 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, search for enemy combatants during a movement to contact mission as part of a field training exercise (FTX) on Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 24, 2016. The 2nd BCT conducted the FTX to increase combat readiness and train for a variety of war-fighting missions as part of the nation’s contingency-response force.
Paratroopers of the 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, search for enemy combatants during a movement to contact mission as part of a field training exercise (FTX) on Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 24, 2016. The 2nd BCT conducted the FTX to increase combat readiness and train for a variety of war-fighting missions as part of the nation’s contingency-response force.

Through 61 years of combat jumps, the US Army Airborne units have built a long and proud history of being the first to a fight, winning hard fought ground, and tenaciously defending it.  They’ve been accused of being hot-headed, arrogant, and a number of other unsavory things along the way (labels they tend to wear somewhat proudly, at least if the 82nd is an indication).  Their record speaks for themselves – they are the soldiers crazy enough to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, and they’ll do it in the middle of the night, en masse, take your toys, and they won’t give them back so long as they’re still standing.

Who are you?

Airborne!

How far?

All the way!

***Disclaimer: I know I haven’t gotten close to really detailing all the exploits of the Airborne throughout their existence, but this was only intended as a brief history of where they came from, not a comprehensive examination.***

Further Reading:

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/airborne-jumps.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gleb_Kotelnikov

Sky Soldiers – History’s First Airborne Units

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-first-parachutist

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallschirmj%C3%A4ger

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Airborne_Troops

http://www.armyparatrooper.org/history.html

About the author

Joel is an 12 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team. He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer. He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US. He is the owner of Hybrid Defensive Strategies, LLC in Chesapeake, VA, and can be contacted on Facebook and Instagram. Any opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Coast Guard or the US Government.

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Here’s a Little Story about Washington Crossing the Delaware

You guys seem pretty psyched about RE Factor’s new line of “modernized” art, especially the Colonial Maritime Raid Force.  Since July 4th is coming up, I thought it might be fitting to talk a little about the story behind the original painting Washington Crossing the Delaware River.

(Metropolitan Museum of Art)
(Metropolitan Museum of Art)

In late 1776, George Washington’s Continental Army had suffered a series of damaging losses. British General George Howe had driven Washington’s army out of Manhattan, into New Jersey, and finally across the Delaware into Pennsylvania.  Over 90% of the Continental Army was lost to disease, battle, or desertion.  Washington’s remaining troops’ enlistments were set to expire at the end of the year.  In those days there was no stop-loss.  When an enlistment ran out, men went home.  A general could wake up to find that his entire fighting force had gone home, and he had no remedy other than personal magnetism or more money.  Washington was in a bad place, and he knew it.  He also knew that just across the river sat around 1,400 Hessian mercenaries in Trenton, New Jersey, and he outnumbered them.  A victory could dramatically improve morale, convince his men to remain, and also bolster the Continental Congress’ foreign ambassadors as they attempted to convince France and other nations to support America’s struggle for independence.

Washington actually planned a tightly timed three-pronged attack consisting of Washington’s troops hitting Trenton from the north, troops under General James Ewing cutting off escape routes to the south, and militia under Colonel John Cadwalader cutting off reinforcements.  The attack was planned for the morning of December 26th, with the army crossing the river under the cover of darkness at 2300 on December 25th.  Unfortunately, as with any plan, the environment gets a vote, and on the night of the 25th, a nor’easter descended on Washington’s troops as they crossed the river.  Despite the crossing only being approximately 300 yards, the army’s movements were hampered by the frozen river and savage storm.  The planned attack got so far behind that at one point, the General considered cancelling it.  Unknown to him, the delay actually worked in his favor.  The Hessian troops had been warned of an attack to commence at midnight.  When the army did not materialize as expected, they let down their guard.  The four-hour weather delay, which also prevented Washington’s two other columns from crossing the Delaware in time for the attack, may have actually saved the maneuver.  Washington’s troops, accompanied by artillery under the command of Colonel Henry Knox, attacked at 0800.  The Hessian commander was killed, and the Continental Army captured almost 1,000 enemy troops.

After the battle, Washington retreated back across the river into Pennsylvania.  On December 31st, he re-took Trenton, then moved north, where they defeated three British regiments in separate engagements before taking up winter quarters in Morristown, New Jersey.

From a tactical perspective, Washington’s victories were not tide-turning, at least not in the physical sense.  Washington was still outnumbered with a poorly supplied army.  But from a morale standpoint, these victories were key.  They proved that the Continental army could indeed stand up to British regulars and win, and most likely prevented the total collapse of the enterprise.

The actual painting titled Washington Crossing the Delaware River wasn’t painted until 1851 by German artist Emanual Leutze, who may have taken a few artistic liberties with the painting.  Leutze was less concerned with an accurate depiction of the even than he was with creating an idolized, inspiring picture of General Washington, which he did succeed in accomplishing.  The painting is arguably one of the most famous American history paintings, and hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

RE Factor has taken a few more artistic liberties with the painting, and updated it with some more modern military elements.  Check it out in the RE Factor store!

Further reading:

http://philadelphiaencyclopedia.org/archive/trenton-and-princeton-campaign-washingtons-crossing/

http://www.mountvernon.org/george-washington/the-revolutionary-war/the-trenton-princeton-campaign/10-facts-about-washingtons-crossing-of-the-delaware-river/

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/washington-crosses-the-delaware

About the author

Joel is an 12 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team. He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer. He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US. He is the owner of Hybrid Defensive Strategies, LLC in Chesapeake, VA, and can be contacted on Facebook and Instagram. Any opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Coast Guard or the US Government.

Here’s A Look at The Tax Stamp, A Key Event to The Revolutionary War

1765_one_penny_stamp
The Stamp Act tax stamp

As the birthday of our great nation approaches we wanted to take a look back at The Tax Stamp, a key event among many that led up to the Revolutionary war.

In 1765, Britain imposed the Stamp Act on Colonialists living in the Americas.  The British declared that many printed materials must be produced on stamped paper.  The stamped paper was provided by the British and carried an official stamp much like today’s mail services.  Printed materials requiring the tax stamp included legal documents, newspapers, playing cards and other documents distributed throughout the colonies.  The British needed Colonialists to purchase the tax stamps with official hard British currency, something that was scarce at the time.

stamp

The British used the Stamp Act as a way to raise revenue to help pay for troops stationed in the Americas following the French and Indian War.  The Colonists argued that the troops offered no value since the French threat subsided following the war and local militias were able to keep the Native Americans at bay.  However, the British refused to pull back stationed troops to England, mainly because it would cause thousands of career soldiers to lose their jobs.  Instead, the British felt it necessary to heavily tax Colonialists through some avenues to include the much-disputed tax stamp.  The move led to intense protests by the Colonialists and in many regards represented the first signs of an emerging revolution.  In the end, The Colonialists argued they had no representation for their taxation.  According to the British Constitution, citizens could only be taxed if the tax was approved by their elected official within the British Parliament.  The British imposed the Stamp Act with no representation or approval of the Colonialists.  This, in turn, led to the famous revolutionary cry “no taxation without representation.”

To combat the Stamp Act the Colonialists took to the streets and several anti-colonial groups, such as the Sons of Liberty, began to push back against colonial rule.  The Colonies established the Stamp Act Congress, with representatives from each colony, designed to oppose the unrepresented tax act formally.  This was the first time the Colonies officially worked together to oppose the British rule and was an essential step towards unification.  The Stamp Act Congress eventually turned into the Continental Congress, the predecessor to our current Congress.  In many ways, the Stamp Act was the first joint act of the now United States of America.

Repeal_of_the_Stamp_Act

During the Stamp Act, many newspapers printed political cartoons to oppose the tax and colonial rule.  One popular image is the one below that is also featured on our t-shirt.

stamp-act

 

REFT16_June_Liberty_v1

We also included the famous quote by Patrick Henry “Give me liberty, or give me death.”  Patrick Henry gave this speech ten years after the Stamp Act in 1775 and is considered to be the speech that led to the approval of Virginian troops being used in the Revolutionary War.

Get yours here.