The Other Desert War: British Special Forces in North Africa, 1940-1943

The Other Desert War: British Special Forces in North Africa, 1940-1943

The Other Desert War: British Special Forces in North Africa, 1940-1943

The Other Desert War: British Special Forces in North Africa, 1940-1943

Synopsis

"Gordon's book reveals an impressive mastery of the archival and secondary sources available on the subject. His writing is crisp and interesting, yet sober and scholarly at the same time. The daring and resourceful men of the British desert forces have found a historian whose ability to tell their story matches their ability to create some of the most daring and imaginative operations of World War II. This is an extraordinary book about extraordinary soldiers." Military Review

Excerpt

This is exciting, well-written military history. It can be read with pleasure and profit by anyone from a teen-aged war gamer to a National War College student concerned with the role of special forces in twentieth-century warfare. How such forces were employed--particularly in the second of the century's two world wars, and particularly by the Anglo-Americans--has remained an issue given only limited exploration in existing assessments. In this sound analysis, Professor Gordon has succeeded in unraveling the partly legendary story of a key period in the evolution of special forces--the period when, in the first half of World War II, the British sent small, self-contained, highly mobile units raiding, reconnoitering, and intelligence-gathering into the deserts of North Africa. In so doing he makes clear the differences between elite forces, special forces, and the task force organizations almost always preferred by military professionals. Elite forces--the "few good men" of the U.S. Marines, the Brigade of Guards, the Gurkhas--are selected, trained and disciplined to do something well, anywhere at any time. A task force, on the other hand, comprises an all-arms, all-service force that is formed for a given operation--rescuing the Falklands or Grenada, say, or perhaps punishing a state that supports terrorism. But a special force is a rather newer phenomenon in modern warfare than these two types. It is a force that is recruited, trained, and equipped solely for a particular kind of operation, one that is regarded as difficult and hazardous and often involves actions deep behind enemy lines.

The Libyan desert, in which the British employed precisely this sort of force, is a jumble of mountains and oases with artesian wells in the eastern third of the Sahara between Egypt and the Sudan. It lies adjacent to the Mediterranean coastal strips and uplands of Libya and Cyrenaica, and the Western Fezzan, to which an east-west caravan route leads to join the north-

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