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 2
FMLN Special Forces Techniques

SAPPERS

The sappers were the most important and common specialty within the FMLN special forces. Sappers were considered strategic forces that used special irregular tactics independently or in conjunction with the regular units. Their mission was to attack and destroy objectives, deep in the enemy rear, where they would attempt to eliminate the army's strategic and tactical advantages by penetrating at the weakest points. In other words, their role was to act as equalizers. They were the guerrillas' substitute for heavy artillery and aviation. 1 Sapper personnel were selected from among the best of the regular guerrilla units.

The sappers were assigned the task of breaking the enemy's defenses of the cities or economic centers by the destruction of fixed, fortified positions and the enemy's support weapons, planes, armor, and artillery. This included attacking the very center of the armed forces and the government zones of control. Highly destructive attacks in the "safe areas" of the enemy would cause both physical and psychological damage. If the enemy had nowhere to rest, he would begin to lose confidence in himself and his leaders. Loss of morale would lead to loss of the war.

All the objectives of the sappers were assigned by the high command of the FMLN. The FMLN high command based its orders on those objectives which would produce the greatest political and psychological repercussions and economic damage, and that would inflict the greatest military defeat on the enemy. The political impact of the operation was usually the first consideration. The FMLN was struggling for political power, and as such the political effects of its military operations were usually the most impor-

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acronyms vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Chapter 1 Guerrilla Special Forces of El Salvador: the Fpl, Vietnam, and Cuba 1
  • Chapter 2 Fmln Special Forces Techniques 17
  • Notes 46
  • Chapter 3 Fpl Special Forces Operations 47
  • Notes 75
  • Chapter 4 Erp Operations 77
  • Notes 106
  • Chapter 5 Special Forces of the Fal 109
  • Notes 125
  • Chapter 6 Guerrilla Special Forces in Latin America 127
  • Notes 144
  • Chapter 7 Conclusions and Analysis 147
  • Bibliography 163
  • Index 167
  • About the Author 171
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