Academic journal article Military Review

In the Combat Zone: Special Forces since 1945

Academic journal article Military Review

In the Combat Zone: Special Forces since 1945

Article excerpt

IN THE COMBAT ZONE: Special Forces Since 1945 by Robin Neillands. 350 pages. New York University Press, New York. 1999. $25.95.

Robin Neillands concentrates on US and British units in what he calls "the story of special forces since 1945." His goal is to describe how special forces have "developed, expanded and changed." He also desires to dispel the "Rambo" myth of the typical special forces soldier.

A significant problem Neillands faces is one of definition. Early in the book, he advises the reader that all units mentioned are special forces (SF) or special operations forces (SOF). Later he admits that the term "special force"-a term not in the US military lexicon-has various meanings in different countries. He places US Army Special Forces, US Navy SEALs, the Army's Delta Force and the British Special Air Service in the SF category. He lumps parachute units, the US Marine Corps, US Army Rangers and the French Foreign Legion in the SOF category. These categories are especially confusing for American readers because there is a clearly defined difference between the two components in the US military. For example, in the United States, Marines are not considered special operations forces.

Neillands ignores civil affairs, psychological operations and aviation units included in the US military definition. The British army also distinguishes between units that conduct special military operations, including SF operations, such as the Special Air Service and Special Boat Service, and conventional units having special purposes, such as parachute and marine units. …

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