From Vietnam to El Salvador: The Saga of the FMLN Sappers and Other Guerrilla Special Forces in Latin America

By David E. Spencer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
FPL Special Forces Operations

THE FINAL OFFENSIVE (SAN SALVADOR, JANUARY 1981)

FPL special forces, perhaps the special forces detachment described in Chapter 1, were slated for action during the January 10, 1981 offensive in San Salvador. This is the first documented combat action of these forces. There were two groups, probably each of about platoon strength. One group was concentrated in the San Marcos neighborhood, and another near Ciudad Delgado. Initial plans were frustrated because the army had been informed about guerrilla plans to attack the air force base at Ilopango, and the National Guard headquarters. The military launched spoiling incursions against suspected guerrilla points of concentration on January 10. One of the places attacked was the special forces point of concentration in the San Marcos neighborhood. They were forced to spend the day evading army forces. Men and weapons became completely scattered and disorganized, so the men were not able to carry out their assigned task. The group leaders lost control. On January 11 the army returned to its barracks, thinking that because of the lack of guerrilla action, it had successfully prevented the offensive. However, this lull allowed the guerrillas to reorganize and attack. Action was especially strong and successful in Soyapango and Ciudad Delgado. On Monday January 12 the army began to send out patrols. They began to surround the city by taking the San Jacinto and Soyapango hills and the San Salvador volcano. The army made another incursion against San Marcos where the special forces were concentrated, apparently to prevent guerrilla forces from massing. This again prevented the special forces in that neighborhood from acting. In addition, the leader of the San Marcos group, Joaquin, proved to be incompetent, and was never able to regain control of his troops and weapons. The FPL leadership

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