Category Archives: Military History

The Finish: The Killing of Osama bin Laden

From Mark Bowden, the preeminent chronicler of our military and special forces, comes The Finish, a gripping account of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. With access to key sources, Bowden takes us inside the rooms where decisions were made and on the ground where the action unfolded. After masterminding the attacks of September 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden managed to vanish. Over the next ten years, as Bowden shows, America found that its war with al Qaeda—a scattered group of individuals who were almost impossible to track—demanded an innovative approach. Step by step, Bowden describes the development of a new tactical strategy to fight this war—the fusion of intel from various agencies and on-the-ground special ops. After thousands of special forces missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the right weapon to go after bin Laden had finally evolved. By Spring 2011, intelligence pointed to a compound in Abbottabad; it was estimated that there was a 50/50 chance that Osama was there. Bowden shows how three strategies were mooted: a drone strike, a precision bombing, or an assault by Navy SEALs. In the end, the President had to make the final decision. It was time for the finish.

By: Mark Bowden

Hardcover, First Edition (2012)

Atlantic Monthly Press

History of the Second World War

The appearance of Sir Basil Liddell Hart’s last book, his long-awaited one volume History of the Second World War, is shadowed only by the knowledge that he did not live to see its publication. At the time of his death in January, 1970, he was working on the proofs of this great work, although it had been commissioned as long ago as 1947. But only in 1969 was he satisfied that the printer could be given the text  he had patiently built in the intervening twenty-two years.

So often ignored in his own country — to its eventual peril — in the euphoric period between the two world wars, Captain Basil Liddell Hart was rightly honored in his later years as one of the outstanding teacher-historians of this or any other age. His private library and voluminous archives of personal correspondence with such giants as Lloyd George and Churchill; his blueprints of military efficiency were rejected in Britain and the West but taken up eagerly by the younger German commanders like Rommel with devastating results; the notes of the detailed interviews which he conducted after the war with captured German generals, as well as with the leading Allied commanders who had so often turned to him for inspiration and advice; the subject files and private papers placed in his hands by many of his great contemporaries, all became famous, and his home at Medmenham in Buckinghamshire became a place of pilgrimage for statesman and students, soldiers and scholars, of all nations.

The present magnificent work is based largely on that priceless collection of private documents and the author’s constant study of the day-to-day events of the war. For all its clarity, Liddell Hart’s History does not always make for comforting reading. It is a military history on the broadest possible scale, ranging from the frustrating events preceding the war, through all the campaigns and battles of the seven turbulent years, to the final conclusion of hostilities. Trenchant, searching, thought-provoking, it is a study in realism and objective analysis, uncluttered by self-deception. Cherished illusions fade under fresh surveillance; long-held beliefs of justification fall under new questioning; reputations are reexamined by one of the most incisive minds of our time; judgements of our past are made lessons for our present and our future.

Among the startling conclusions reached in this book are the following: The European war could have ended in September, 1944, if General Eisenhower had not diverted gasoline from General Patton’s Third Army to Field Marshal Montgomery’s Army Group, thus preventing Patton from plunging headlong into the heartland of Germany. The Russians and the Germans discussed a negotiated peace in 1943. The massive Allied air bombings of German cities were ineffective and caused needless loss of lives. And, of course, most heart-rending of all, the evidence that this most costly of wars was a totally unnecessary war, a war that could have been prevented by a firm resistance on the part of Britain and France long before Hitler invaded Poland.

Because of its massive authenticity, because of its flinching conclusions, this is the most important work of military historiography to have emerged from the late war. It is a work that every student of military and world history, every serious reader, everyone who was engaged in World War II must read.

By: B.H. Liddell Hart

Hardback, First American Edition (1971)

G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York

Silent Warrior: The Marine Sniper’s Vietnam Story Continues

In 1986, Charles Henderson first published Marine Sniper-the incredible story of Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock, whose 93 confirmed kills in Vietnam have never been matched by any sniper before or since.

Now, the incredible story of a remarkable Marine continues-with harrowing, never-before-published accounts of courage and perseverance. These are the powerful stories of a man who rose to greatness not for personal gain or glory, but for duty and honor. A rare inside look at the U.S. Marine’s most challenging missions-and the one man who made military history.

By: Charles Henderson

Softcover, 336 pages

Published: 2003, Penguin Group, Inc.

A Chronology of the United States Marine Corps 1965-1969

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This is the fourth volume of a chronology of Marine Corps activities which cover the history of the U.S. Marines. It is derived from unclassified official records and suitable published contemporary works. This chronology is published for the information of all interested in Marine Corps activities during the period 1965-1969 and is dedicated to those Marines who participated in the events listed.

By: Gabrielle M. Neufeld

Published: 1971, Historical Division Headquarters, United States Marine Corps

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Roberts Ridge: A Story of Courage and Sacrifice on Takur Ghar Mountain, Afghanistan

Afghanistan, March 2002. In the early morning darkness on a frigid mountaintop, a U.S. soldier is stranded, alone, surrounded by fanatical al Qaeda fighters. For the man’s fellow Navy SEALs, and for waiting teams of Army Rangers, there was only one rule now: leave no one behind. In this gripping you-are-there account–based on stunning eyewitness testimony and painstaking research–journalist Malcolm MacPherson thrusts us into a drama of rescue, tragedy, and valor in a place that would be known as…

ROBERTS RIDGE

For an elite team of SEALs, the mission seemed straightforward enough: take control of a towering 10,240-foot mountain peak called Takur Ghar. Launched as part of Operation Anaconda–a hammer-and-anvil plan to smash Taliban al Qaeda in eastern Afghanistan –the taking of Takur Ghar would offer U.S. forces a key strategic observation post. But the enemy was waiting, hidden in a series of camouflaged trenches and bunkers–and when the Special Forces chopper flared on the peak to land, it was shredded by a hail of machine-gun, small arms, and RPG rounds. A red-haired SEAL named Neil Roberts was thrown from the aircraft. And by the time the shattered helicopter crash-landed on the valley floor seven miles away, Roberts’s fellow SEALs were determined to return to the mountain peak and bring him out–no matter what the cost.

Drawing on the words of the men who were there–SEALs, Rangers, medics, combat air controllers, and pilots–this harrowing true account, the first book of its kind to chronicle the battle for Takur Ghar, captures in dramatic detail a seventeen-hour pitched battle fought at the highest elevation Americans have ever waged war. At once an hour-by-hour, bullet-by-bullet chronicle of a landmark battle and a sobering look at the capabilities and limitations of America’s high-tech army, Roberts Ridge is the unforgettable story of a few dozen warriors who faced a single fate: to live or die for their comrades in the face of near-impossible odds.

By: Malcolm MacPherson

Softcover, 384 pages

Published: 2006, Random House Publishing Group

U.S. Army Special Operations in World War II

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Special operations – in this context, commando or guerilla activities – conducted by the U.S. Army in World War II have been the subject of a good many thrilling adventure stories but little sober, historical analysis. Only a handful of works have examined the critical issues underlying special operations, and the Army’s historical series on World War II treats the subject only in passing. Yet special operations had a significant role that should not be ignored. Ranger units captured positions critical to the success of amphibious landings in the Mediterranean, France, and the Philippines. Partisans advised by American military personnel provided essential intelligence to American forces and harassed enemy troops in support of American operations in Italy, France, the Philippines, and Burma. As special operations forces grow in importance within the U.S. Army, we need to look at our experience with such activities in World War II. I recommend this study as an overview for Army leaders and other interested parties of an important, but often misunderstood subject. It fills a gap in the Army’s history of World War II and honors individuals whose efforts, frequently unsung, nevertheless made a major contribution to the American and Allied victory in that war.

– Harold W. Nelson Brigadier General, United States Army Chief of Military History

Published: 1992, Center for Military History

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Recondo: LRRPs in the 101st Airborne

Author Larry Chambers vividly describes the guts and courage it took to pass the though volunteer-only training program in Nha Tarng to be part of the 5th Special Forces Recondo School, the hair-raising graduation mission to scout out, locate, and out-guerilla the NVA. Here is an unforgettable account that follows Chambers and the Rangers every step of the way–from joining, going through Recondo, and finally leading his own team on white-knuckle missions through the jungle hell of Vietnam.

By: Larry Chambers

Hardcover, 281 pages

Published: 2003, Presidio Press

Inside Delta Force: The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit

He is a master of espionage, trained to take on hijackers, terrorists, hostage takers, and enemy armies. He can deploy by parachute or arrive by commercial aircraft. Survive alone in hostile cities. Speak foreign languages fluently. Strike at enemy targets with stunning swiftness and extraordinary teamwork. He is the ultimate modern warrior: the Delta Force Operator.

In this dramatic behind-the-scenes chronicle, Eric Haney, one of the founding members of Delta Force, takes us inside this legendary counterterrorist unit. Here, for the first time, are details of the grueling selection process—designed to break the strongest of men—that singles out the best of the best: the Delta Force Operator.

With heart-stopping immediacy, Haney tells what it’s really like to enter a hostage-held airplane. And from his days in Beirut, Haney tells an unforgettable tale of bodyguards and bombs, of a day-to-day life of madness and beauty, and of how he and a teammate are called on to kill two gunmen targeting U.S. Marines at the Beirut airport. As part of the team sent to rescue American hostages in Tehran, Haney offers a first-person description of that failed mission that is a chilling, compelling account of a bold maneuver undone by chance—and a few fatal mistakes.

From fighting guerrilla warfare in Honduras to rescuing missionaries in Sudan and leading the way onto the island of Grenada, Eric Haney captures the daring and discipline that distinguish the men of Delta Force. Inside Delta Force brings honor to these singular men while it puts us in the middle of action that is sudden, frightening, and nonstop around the world.

By: Eric L. Haney

Softcover, 416 pages

Published: 2003, Random House

Kill Bin Laden

The mission was to kill the most wanted man in the world—an operation of such magnitude that it couldn’t be handled by just any military or intelligence force. The best America had to offer was needed. As such, the task was handed to roughly forty members of America’s supersecret counterterrorist unit formally known as 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta; more popularly, the elite and mysterious unit Delta Force.

This is the real story of the operation, the first eyewitness account of the Battle of Tora Bora, and the first book to detail just how close Delta Force came to capturing bin Laden, how close U.S. bombers and fighter aircraft came to killing him, and exactly why he slipped through our fingers. Lastly, this is an extremely rare inside look at the shadowy world of Delta Force and a detailed account of these warriors in battle.

By: Dalton Fury

2008, St. Martin’s Press

Eyes Behind the Lines: US Army Long-Range Reconnaissance and Surveillance Units

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Eyes Behind the Lines: US Army Long-Range Reconnaissance and Surveillance Units is the 10th study in the Combat Studies Institute (CSI) Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) Occasional Paper series. This work is an outgrowth of concerns identified by the authors of On Point: The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. Specifically, these authors called into question the use of long-range surveillance (LRS) assets by commanders during that campaign and suggested an assessment ought to be made about their continuing utility and means of employment. This revision contains some important additional information the author received after this book was originally published.

Major (Retired) James Gebhardt, of CSI, researched and wrote this Occasional Paper with that end in view. In this study, Gebhardt surveys the US Army’s historical experience with LRRP and LRS units from the 1960s Cold War and Vietnam War, through their resurgence in the 1980s and use in Operations JUST CAUSE and DESERT STORM, to the advent of the GWOT. The paper’s analytical framework examines each era of LRS units in terms of doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, and personnel. In doing so, the author makes a strong case for continuing the LRS capability in the Army’s force structure.

The variety of environments and enemies likely to be faced by the military in the GWOT continues to demand the unique human intelligence abilities of trained and organized LRS units. As the Army leads the Armed Forces of the United States in combating terrorists where they live, the lessons found in this survey remain timely and relevant.

By: Maj. James F. Gebhardt, US Army (ret.)

2005, Combat Studies Institute Press – Electronic version only – click link or image to download