Lessons of Operation Eagle Claw Part 2

Vietnam- The Son Tay Raid

In 1970 the Son Tay Raid took place. The U.S. had been in Vietnam for almost fifteen years but with heavy combat troops for the past five years (Gargus 2010). American casualties in the war were up to almost 400 soldiers a week. The American people were beginning to tire of the war.

The U.S. course in Vietnam had been set towards disengagement and turning the war over to the South Vietnamese. President Nixon was determined to extract from Southeast Asia with dignity in a plan called, “Peace with honor.”

There was one issue that resonated with the American public. It was the future of the U.S. prisoners of war (POW) held in North Vietnam. Overhead imagery from a U.S. Air Force SR-71 “Blackbird” reconnaissance plane found the possible presence of U.S. POWs at the compound of Son Tay, North Vietnam. The camp was just 20 miles from Hanoi, the capital of North Vietnam (Cawthrone 2011).

Several months of planning and training coordination through military channels followed the decision to do a rescue attempt of the American prisoners. The raid against the Son Tay camp was an excellent execution of a joint special operation.

Son Tay Raiders

The American raid on the night of November 20, 1970, surprised the North Vietnamese by the aggressive display of America’s concern for the U.S. prisoners held at Son Tay (Cawthrone 2011). No P.O.W.s were rescued. The enemy had moved the prisoners to other facilities. Later the raid would later serve as a model of a well-designed and aggressive joint special operation.

Son Tay Raiders

A helicopter loaded with commandos lands at Son Tay

The mission was deemed a failure by the media. Over time the positive aspects of the raid would come to validate the raid as a success. The level of planning for the mission became a trademark for future joint special operations. Lessons learned from this raid would form the foundation of Operation Eagle Claw.

Planning and Training for the Mission

Almost from the beginning Operation Eagle Claw was a joint operation. The planners decided to use the RH-53D Sea Stallion of the U.S. Navy. The helicopter would ferry the Delta Commandos and rescue the hostages. The Air Force would use AC-130 Spectre gunships to provide Close-Air-Support that the commandos might need during the exfiltration (Haney 2002).

Attached to the mission was a company of U.S. Army Rangers. Their mission would be to provide security for the men and equipment on a secret airfield in the middle of the Iranian desert. With all these elements combined this was the first joint mission of the U.S. military since Vietnam.

The plan called for Delta Force to rendezvous with supporting American forces in Egypt (Beckwith 1981). The Army Rangers was going to seize an airfield in the middle of the Iranian desert. The desert airfield was for the extraction after the hostages were rescued.

From Egypt, the team of commandos would fly to Oman and finally to the secret airfield the Rangers had captured. The plan called for on April 21, 1980 the Rangers to be transfer to Masirah Island off the coast of Oman (Couch 2012). From there the commandos and Rangers moved to three transport MC-130s accompanied by three fuel bearing EC-130s.

Eight Navy RH-53 Sea Stallions left the aircraft carrier Nimitz. They were to go to the airfield, refuel and the Navy helicopters were to fly the rescue team to a hidden cave outside Tehran. The final phase was for the rescued hostages to be taken to a stadium across the street from the embassy and to freedom (Haney 2002).

Map 1 of Operation Eagle Claw

Map of Operation Eagle Claw

At the secret airfield called “Desert One” things started to go wrong. Two of the Sea Stallions crashed into each other while landing aborting Desert One. One helicopter never left the Nimitz due to mechanical problems. At least six helicopters were to carry out the mission. One of the helicopters had engine trouble canceling the mission. As the forces were evacuating another helicopter drifted into a refueling tanker as it took off and exploded.

Wreakage of Desert One

Burnt Fueler Plane at Desert One

The failed mission was a brutal blow to America’s military reputation. Delta Force and the supporting team had risked everything to carry out this tough mission. The hard earned lessons of this mission were never forgotten. Many of the operational methods and safety measures employed by SOF in the future grew out of this tragedy (Beckwith 1981).

Many questions arose about the choice of pilots, about training and rehearsals. At a Senate hearing, Georgia’s Sam Nunn, chairman of the powerful Armed Service Committee, asked Colonel Beckwith what he learned from the aborted mission. He wanted to know how to prevent such failures in the future.

Beckwith answered in usual blunt style, “If coach Bear Bryant at the University of Alabama put his quarterback in Virginia, his backfield in North Carolina, his offensive line in Georgia and his defense in Texas and then got Delta Airlines to pick them up and fly them to Birmingham on game day, he wouldn’t have his winning teams.”

In conclusion he stated, “My recommendation is to put together an organization that would include Delta, the Rangers, the Navy SEALs, Air Force pilots, its own staff, its own support people, its own aircraft and helicopters. Make this organization a permanent military unit.  Allocate sufficient funds. And give it sufficient time to recruit, assess, and train its people,” (Beckwith 1981).

Since the debacle at Desert One, the Unites States’ Special Forces has expanded and reorganized. Due to the mistakes made in Operation Eagle Claw a new reorganization of SOF happened called the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). It would be the higher headquarters used during the American led invasion of Grenada in October 1983.


Joint Special Operations Insignia


Atkinson, Rick. Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War . New York: Houghton Miffliin Company, 1992.

Beckwith, Charlie. Delta Force: The Army’s Elite Counterterrorism UNit . New York: Avon Publishing , 1981.

Cawthrone, Nigel. War Elite: 31 Heroic Special Ops Missions from the Raid on Son Tay to the Killing of Osama Bin Liden. Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press, 2011.

Couch, Dick. Sua Sponte: The Forging of a Modern American Ranger. New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 2011.

Frank, Richard B. MacArthur (Great Generals). New York: MacMillian Publishing, 2007.

Gargus, John. The Son Tay Raid: American POWs in Vietnam Were Not Forgotten. College Station, TX: Texas A&M Military History , 2010.

Haney, Eric L. Inside Delta Force: The Story of America’s Counterterrorist Unit. New York: Random House Publishing, 2002.

Kaplan, Fred. The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War . New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013.

Leebaert, Derek. To Dare and to Conquer: Special Operations and the Destiny of Nations from Achilles to Al Qaeda. New York: Time Warner Book Group, 2006.

Liddell Hart, B.H., Sir. Strategy. London: G. Bell & Sons , 1956.

Locher, James R. III. Victory On The Potomac: The Goldwater- Nichols Act Unifies The Pentagon . College Station, TX: Texas A&M Publishing , 2002.

Meyer, Dakota, and Bing West. Into The Fire. New York : Random House, 2012.

Reed, Rowena. Combined Operations in the Civil War. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1978.

Stuckey, Scott W. “Joint Operations in the Civil War.” Joint Forces Quaterly, Autumn-Winter 1995: 92-105.

West, Bing. The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan. New York: Random House, 2011.

Wright, Lawrence. The Looming Tower; Al Qaeda and the road to 9/11. New York: Random House, 2006.




The Lessons of Operation Eagle Claw Part 1

Lessons of Operation Eagle Claw Part 1


Land and sea forces have operated together since the beginning of time. During the Civil War ‘combined operations’ as  to great with effectiveness at Vicksburg and other battles to secure the upper Mississippi River Valley (Reed 1978).

During both world wars combined operations were expanding upon. It was in Vietnam and the small wars of the 80’s and Desert Storm that joint operations of Special Operations Forces came into being.

Special Operations Forces (SOF) by their very mode of operation is joint operations. Army Rangers and Special Forces need transportation from the Navy and the Air Force to get where they are going to conduct their missions.  Analysis of the interplay between conventional and unconventional forces shows us how joint operations connect them both.

By looking at an historical example of how American joint special operations operate, like the Iranian Hostage Crisis, we can how these principles are used.


American Special Forces Team

American Army Special Forces A-Team

The American Embassy Seized

America had supported the Shah of Iran, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, for almost thirty years (Beckwith 1981).  The United States had helped the royalty’s return to power in the 1950’s.  America was labeled the “Great Satan.”  The Shah had provided some stability to the turbulent Middle East and America tended to look away from his despotic ways.  The Shah ruled Iran with an iron fist.

In February of 1979, a revolt had driven the Shah from power. An uneasy coalition of secular politicians and fundamentalist Shia Muslims led by the Ayatollah Khomeini came to power.  They had a single purpose of destroying any trace of the Shah’s oppressive reign.

On the morning of November 4, 1979, the American men and women working at the U.S. Embassy went about their regular working day. A few months earlier, over a thousand Americans had worked there but were evacuated after the Shah had been overthrown.  Only 66 members of the staff stayed. That morning a militant crowd had gathered outside the embassy.

By eleven o’clock the crowd worked itself into a frenzy. Soon the crowd led by angry students overran the outlining buildings and compound wall. The students took the embassy and captured the American embassy staff inside.

Demonstrators on the embassy

Demonstrators on the wall of the American Embassy in Iran

The Shah terminally ill with cancer, had fled to New York City where he now lay dying.  The hostages were taken so the new government could gain leverage from the U.S. to the ousted Shah to be returned to Iran for execution.

Once the call was received of the situation at the National Command Center it would set in motion one of the audacious military operations in the history of the United States. A mission where lessons would be both painful and profound for the United States.

After months of negotiations did not release the hostages President Carter decided to act. The covert mission would use the joint effort resources of all four of the services to be executed. The plan called for Delta Force, a unit of American Commandos- modeled after the Son Tay raiding party- to deploy to a secret location to prepare and deploy.

Delta Force

Delta Force was a unit conceived two years early with the mission of rescuing hostages.  The unit was commanded by a colorful Special Forces Colonel named “Chargin’” Charlie Beckwith, an aggressive and charismatic leader who had a storied career.


Colonel Beckwith

Beckwith had commanded a Special Forces unit in Vietnam that specialized in long-range reconnaissance deep into Vietcong territory (Cawthrone 2011). After being grievously wounded he would return for a second tour in Vietnam. He commanded a battalion in the 101st Airborne Division in some of the toughest battles of the war.

Beckwith in Vietnam

Beckwith his team in Vietnam

Years earlier Beckwith had served an exchange program with a British Special Forces unit called the Special Air Service (SAS). The SAS were widely regarded as the best unit in the world at unconventional warfare.

During the Malaya Emergency in the 1950’s, the SAS helped to stop a growing Communist insurgency. The SAS inserted patrols of 14 men into the jungle far from its operational headquarters. The patrols worked with local police and Chinese personnel to get a lay of the land.

Raids were launched and four man sections would fan out to explore the jungle to interdict known Communist approach routes. Standard doctrine said that an army patrol could not be out for more than a week. One patrol would stay in the jungle for 103 days (Cawthrone 2011).

Malayan Scouts SAS

SAS Patrol in Malaya in the 1950’s

The patrol were resupplied by helicopter and continued to operate against the insurgents.  These patrols, in time, would begin the painstaking process of winning over the aboriginal tribes (Beckwith 1981). For Beckwith this approach was revolutionary.

Upon his return to the U.S. Beckwith lobbied for the creation of a unit patterned after the SAS.  It would take a storm of terrorism sponsored events to change the mind of the U.S. government.  In 1976 an Israeli strike force led an attack on a captured Air France jet that was hijacked to Entebbe, Uganda.

Almost overnight Beckwith was tasked to create a unit with the same capability. For this basis of this unit he would call on veterans from a previous American raid.


Atkinson, Rick. Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War . New York: Houghton Miffliin Company, 1992.

Beckwith, Charlie. Delta Force: The Army’s Elite Counterterrorism UNit . New York: Avon Publishing , 1981.

Cawthrone, Nigel. War Elite: 31 Heroic Special Ops Missions from the Raid on Son Tay to the Killing of Osama Bin Liden. Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press, 2011.

Couch, Dick. Sua Sponte: The Forging of a Modern American Ranger. New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 2011.

Frank, Richard B. MacArthur (Great Generals). New York: MacMillian Publishing, 2007.

Gargus, John. The Son Tay Raid: American POWs in Vietnam Were Not Forgotten. College Station, TX: Texas A&M Military History , 2010.

Haney, Eric L. Inside Delta Force: The Story of America’s Counterterrorist Unit. New York: Random House Publishing, 2002.

Kaplan, Fred. The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War . New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013.

Leebaert, Derek. To Dare and to Conquer: Special Operations and the Destiny of Nations from Achilles to Al Qaeda. New York: Time Warner Book Group, 2006.

Liddell Hart, B.H., Sir. Strategy. London: G. Bell & Sons , 1956.

Locher, James R. III. Victory On The Potomac: The Goldwater- Nichols Act Unifies The Pentagon . College Station, TX: Texas A&M Publishing , 2002.

Meyer, Dakota, and Bing West. Into The Fire. New York : Random House, 2012.

Reed, Rowena. Combined Operations in the Civil War. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1978.

Stuckey, Scott W. “Joint Operations in the Civil War.” Joint Forces Quaterly, Autumn-Winter 1995: 92-105.

West, Bing. The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan. New York: Random House, 2011.

Wright, Lawrence. The Looming Tower; Al Qaeda and the road to 9/11. New York: Random House, 2006.






The American Way of War

The history of the United States is parallel to the development of the Western military. The American military is a hybrid of European traditions, democratic revolutions and unique war fighting methods that has continued to serve the same democracy for over 200 years.

In the American Revolution a ragtag group of farmers defeated what was considered the best army in the world at that time. The American Civil War is seen as the first modern war where men and machine were used in mass slaughter.

It was a blending of new and traditional forms of warfare that would influence armies all over the world for over a hundred years. Twice in the 20th century, America has saved the world, but after those wars, it showed no interest in taking control of the countries that were defeated (Clarke 2013).

The American military is a unique product of both the democratic and industrial revolutions and over time has evolved. Ultimately, the American military is a microcosm of the society it protects, and my belief is the best part of that society by living up to the highest ideals of sacrifice and service that has made our country a benevolent world power.

“The American way of war” was a phrase popularized by the military historian Russell Weigley in his 1973 book. His book has become a standard text used in military history classes throughout ROTC Program. Weigley argues that ‘the American Way of War’ has come to refer to a grinding strategy of attrition. American military strategy is much more than that. Like any story it is best to start at the beginning.


The Big Wars

The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)

During the colonial period (1607–1775), the militia of the various colonies defended the settlers while they were establishing themselves in America and helped England eliminate the French from North America (Stewart 2004).  When the American Colonies decided to revolt the English King sent 30,000 British Regulars to deal with the Americans.

A common myth is that the American militia won the war firing from behind the cover of wall, trees and houses. The myth also states American militia would pore musket fire into the advancing Redcoats who stand there and die. When the American Revolution happened the British had 75 years of experience fighting in North America and were used to guerilla tactics.

This approach of warfare was perfected in the French and Indian War (1754-1763), the name for the North American theater of the Seven Years’ War. This world-wide conflict was fought between Britain and France forces. Many of the leaders of the future Continental Army, including a young Major Washington, would get their first taste of combat fighting under British generals as American Militia.

General Washington did use a strategy of harassment to grind down the British forces instead of seeking a decisive battle. Most battles were fought using linear tactics, they would fire volleys and often stood in lines engaging each other.


The Continental Army and the militia would eventually master the art of 18th century warfare at Valley Forge under the instruction of Baron Frederick von Steuben, a Prussian Officer. The Continental Army won the war by standing in ranks and trading volleys and capturing battlefields at bayonet point.

Linear tactics remained the rule throughout the 19th century and the early 20th century. The mass carnage caused by the invention of the machine gun in World War I forced these time honored tactics to change.

In Europe at the end of the 18th Century and the beginning of the 19th Century a serious of battles known as the Napoleonic Wars.  Great Britain and France fought for European supremacy, and treated weaker powers heavy-handedly. The United States attempted to remain neutral during the Napoleonic period, but eventually became embroiled in the European conflicts, leading to the War of 1812 against Great Britain.

The French Revolution introduced the modern concept of the “nation in arms.” The American Revolution had given birth to the notion of fighting for ideals and words such as freedom and the concept of fighting for a national identity. Up to that point wars were relatively simple and restricted in area, forces, and objectives (Matloff 1968). These wars changed the way wars were fought and why all over the world.

The Civil War (1861-1865)

The technological advancements that came at the beginning of the Industrial Age changed in the American Civil War. With the use of trains and steam boats men and material could be moved greater numbers and quicker speeds. The use of a telegram sent over a thousand miles to deliver orders meant that Generals no longer had to be present to give orders.

Frightening advancements in rifles and cannons made the mass killing of Soldiers whole sale slaughter. The bayonet and saber as military weapons were no longer significant. For the first time in history thousands of Soldiers would die in a single day.  By the end of some of the epic battles of this long war tens of thousands would become casualties in a matter of hours.

Civil War

During the Civil War the principal combat arm was infantry. Its most common deployment was a long “line of battle,” two ranks deep. The new mission of the artillery was to bolster the defensive. Long-range shells and close-in canister, artillery became crucial in repulsing enemy attacks.

Small Wars of the 19th and 20th Century

From 1801 to 1805 America would fight two wars between the Northwest African Berber Muslim states as the Barbary States. President Jefferson’s first action after his inauguration in 1801 was declare war on the pirate states that had been kidnapping American sailors and stealing cargo that belonged to the United States. This war was America’s first brush with Islamic fundamentalism.

Barbary Wars
The First Barbary War

As America grew as a nation both in size and economy it would get involved in something known as small wars. Today the Army has several names for this time of conflict small wars,” “imperial wars,” or, as the Pentagon now terms them, “low-intensity conflicts.”  In the 1990’s the nation building campaigns of the Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia and Vietnam were further examples of this.

America’s force of choice for these type missions aboard was the Marine Corps.  The Marine Corps had a longer tradition in these kind of conflicts; its ‘Small Wars Manual’ published back in 1940, had noted that they “represent the normal and frequent operations of the Marine Corps,” which, from 1800 to 1934, had landed 187 times in 37 countries “to suppress lawlessness or insurrection,” mainly in Latin America but also far away as the shores of Tripoli, as the “Marines’ Hymn” put it (Kaplan 2013).

As America grew as a nation it experienced many “smaller” military actions, from the Tripolitan War circa 1801-1803 to the hundred years (1840-1941), that American troops were continuously stationed in China to the Philippine “Insurrection” (1900-1902) and to the many 20th Century American interventions in Latin America such El Salvador and Nicaragua. The America way of war changed as our country grew and expanded.



Boot, Max. “The New American Way of War.” Foreign Affairs, July 4, 2003: 41-58.

Clarke, Jeff. “Memorial Day: The Superpower.” The Ranger , 2013: 1-2.

Echevarria, Antulio J. II. What Is Wrong with the American Way of War? n.d.

Kaplan, Fred. The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War . New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013.

Matloff, Maurice- General Editor. American Military History 1607- 1967. Washington D.C.: Office of the Chief of Military History, 1968.

Stewart, Richard. American Military History Volume 1. Washington D.C. : Center of Military History , 2004.

Weigley, Russell. The American Way of War. New York : MacMillian , 1973.

The Thunder Run to Capture Baghdad

The American War Machine at its absolute finest in maneuver warfare. In recent history we can see it in the American invasion of Iraq.

On April 3, 2003 the 3rd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division captured the Saddam International Airport in the western end of Baghdad. Two days later, the 2nd Brigade, the Spartans, launched the first of two “thunder runs”- monstrous charges of tanks and other armored vehicles into the capital (Ricks, 2006). These probes showed the U.S. Army at its best, taking tactical risks that paid off substantially.

Thunder Run

These success of these raids led to the abandonment of the U.S plan to cordon off the city and move in slowly with dismounted infantry (Ricks, 2006). The two “thunder runs” into the Iraqi capital led to the collapse of the Saddam government and a quick American victory. It would be the occupation that would be tough.

American Way of War

During the American Revolutionary and Civil Wars dashing cavalry charges followed up with lighting strikes of mounted infantry behind enemy lines to capture ground quickly. A self-taught Confederate General named Nathan Bedford Forrest summed up the essence of this tactic with a single phrase, “Git thar fustest with the mostest,” (Kelly, 2003).

World War II

The American military is a master of learning and adapting. Using a strategy from World War II it attacked Baghdad. “Blitzkrieg” is a German word meaning “lighting war” describing an all-mechanized force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery and air power, concentrating overpowering force at great speed to break through enemy lines.

The premise is through constant motion, the attack attempts to keep the enemy off balance, making it difficult to respond effectively at any given point before the front has already moved on. The attacking force through a series of quick and decisive short battles will deliver a knockout blow to an enemy before it could fully mobilize.

Rommel and Patton knew that success on the battlefield is determined more often by shock and surprise — by-products of speed — than by superior firepower (Kelly, 2003).

The Spartans employed all three in Iraq, along with real time intelligence.

March 2003, Kuwait/Iraq Border- The March Up

The weeks before the attack into Baghdad the 2nd Brigade swept past significant areas of Iraqi resistance and urban areas. Rather than envelope them in pockets it left them alone. Later they proved troublesome they would be reduced by follow-on infantry and Marine units. The goal was to get to the capital as fast as possible.

The Attack on Bagdad

The Brigade’s famed “Thunder Run” into the center of Baghdad became the turning point of the war both militarily and psychologically. Once the coalition reached Baghdad, commanders decided that a military demonstration into, instead of in front of, the city was in order to show American military might.

Thunder Run Graphic

The idea was to shorten the battle by taking the capital. The highways into the city were practically open; the route chosen was a large four lane highway that arced from the southern to western ends of the city, ending with Saddam Airport, which was already in 3rd Infantry Division hands being captured the day before by elements of the 3rd Brigade.

Thunder Run- Recon by Fire

The intention of the first run was a risky armored thrust into enemy-held urban territory where tanks were supposedly wholly vulnerable. The second thunder run was quickly planned after the success of the first, two days later – and this time the Americans had come to stay and would overnight in several of the palaces that made up the downtown part of the city.

Armored Tracks into Baghdad

The idea would be like someone parking a tank on the front lawn of the White House and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. to let the Iraqis know that the Americans were serious about invading.

Importance of UAV’s

A key part in the strategy was the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’ (UAV) for real-time battlefield photos of Highway 8 leading into downtown Baghdad. The Spartans relayed potential target coordinates for warplanes that were used to attack in support of the armored column as it attacked into Baghdad against enemy bunkers.

To deconflict all these different assets they had fixed wing aircraft fly at a minimum of 10,000 feet, rotary wing at below 1,000 feet and the UAVs at 3,000 feet, given each aircraft a margin of error of 1500 feet or more for maneuver (Zucchino, 2004).

Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) can support planning for Main Supply Route (MSR) movements by providing early warning of enemy locations and potential Improvised Explosive Device (IED) locations along the MSR. ISR can provide real-time video along the MSR in order to identify possible problem areas before arriving at a particular location.

Using both manned and unmanned resources the Spartans were able to establish two levels of reconnaissance going into the city.

This required the establishment of Air Mobility Corridors being used first by UAVs being operated by the Air Force and Army to identify any blocked areas or enemy locations with IEDs along the MSRs ten minutes before the main body of the lead battalion with over 60 vehicles came along the road at almost 25 miles an hour.

The second layer of reconnaissance was done using helicopters and planes to destroy any potential enemy locations that were a defense corridor around the city as the convoy moved into the city to attack. All of this was a like a large symphony orchestra being guided by something called the Air Movement Table to ensure that all the resources from the various services were where they needed to be and when.

Another real-time concern was about missing critical turns into Baghdad airport at what everybody called the spaghetti junction, a maze of twisting overpasses and on-ramps on the cusp of downtown Baghdad to what you would see an any large American city. All of this was directed at in a unity of effort to take Baghdad and was executed using joint planning to take the city.

All of this allowed the Spartans to keep the momentum needed to attack into the city. The toughness of their tanks, the real-time intelligence from overhead coverage and the audacity of the Spartans allowed them to drive into downtown Baghdad.


General Patton’s 3rd Army, in what had been widely regarded as the most impressive armored attack in history, took four months to battle from the Falaise Gap to the Rhine. The 3rd Infantry traveled the same distance in two weeks (Kelly, 2003).

On April 7, the second thunder run cut right through to Saddam’s palace complex in the center of Baghdad, on the left bank of the Tigris and decided to stay (Ricks, 2006).

The arrival of U.S. forces in strength and in places where the Iraqi military did not expect them is the main reason Baghdad was seized so quickly, with so little loss of life (Kelly, 2003). The rapid fall of Baghdad prompted the disintegration of virtually all remaining organized military opposition.

Thunder Run Painting


Kelly, J. (2003, April 3). How the bold run to Baghdad paid off . World News.

Ricks, T. E. (2006). Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq . new York : The Penguin Press .

Zucchino, D. (2004). Thunder Run: The Armored Strike to Capture Baghdad. New York City : First Grove Press.

The Army National Guard Begins

The National Guard Begins

The National Guard will turn 378 years old this year. The history of the National Guard is really the history of America itself. The roots of the Guard go back to the various colonial militias organized by English colonists in the 1600s.

Continental Army
Militia in the French & Indian War

The name “National Guard” was first applied to units of the New York State Militia. It was a tribute to the Revolutionary War hero, the Marquis de Lafayette, during his visit to the U.S. in 1825. After the American Revolution, the Marquis returned to France where he commanded the Paris militia, the famous “Garde Nationale,” during the French Revolution (Snook 2001).

Whether as militiamen or Guardsmen, citizen-soldiers have played a central role in every major military conflict in our nation’s history. The topic of National Guard history has been generally overlooked by professional historians. There are only a few good general histories of the National Guard, the most notable being “The Minute Man in Peace and War” by Jim Dan Hill. It is the objectives of my blog posts this week to, at least partially, fill that void.

The Roots of the Militia

In the history of Western Civilization, the concept of armed citizens finds its roots in ancient Greece. As seen in the movie, “The 300,” the Greek city-states required military service of all able-bodied, free male citizens. Such service was usually of short-duration (a few months at most because many of the militia were farmers) fought locally to defend their own lands and city-state. The word militia comes from the Latin word miles, meaning “soldier,” (Doubler 2001).

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the tradition of the militia endured in Britain. The basic tenet of the British militia was two points. The first was citizen-soldiers had to provide their own weapons. Second, the real value of the militia was its ability to mass a great number of armed citizens at critical points on short notice (Doubler 2001).

Over the next several hundred years the British monarch never had a standing army for fear of being overthrown of in a coup. Each shire (county) required a local noblemen called a “Lord Lieutenant” to be responsible for arming and mustering the local militia and to conduct periodic training.

Early in the 17th century as England began to turn its attention to the New World it relied more and more on foreign mercenaries for its overseas adventures. This was due to the restrictions placed on the militia from serving away from its local geographical area.

The Militia in the New World

The Spanish were the first to introduce European military institutions to the New World. Almost 80 years before the English established its first militia the Spanish founded St. Augustine, the oldest permanent European settlement on the North American continent. An early militia roster in 1578 carries the names of 43 citizen-soldiers (Doubler 2001).

Over the next 100 years Spain relied on local colonists to defend St. Augustine and Spanish Regular Soldiers (full-time) to defend its colonies from Indian uprisings and various intrusions by the English and French.

Eventually late in the 17th Century the French began committing soldiers to its ventures in the New World as the population of both the English and Spanish settlers grew.

The National Guard is Founded

The military organization known today as the National Guard came into existence with a direct declaration on December 13, 1636. The Massachusetts General Court in Salem, for the first time on the North American continent, established that all able-bodied men between the ages of 16 and 60 were required to join the militia. Simply stated, citizen-soldiers who mustered for military training could be & would be called upon to fight when needed (Snook 2001).

The First Muster

The history of the United States National Guard is parallel to the development of the Western military. The American military is a hybrid of European traditions, democratic revolutions & unique that has continued to serve the same democracy for over 200 years.

The American Revolutionary War

In the American Revolution a ragtag group of farmers defeated what was considered the best army in the army at that time. During the colonial period (1607-1775), the militia of the various colonies defended the settlers while they were establishing themselves in America & helped England eliminate the French from North America.

This approach of warfare was perfected in the French and Indian War (1754-1763), the name for the North American theater of the Seven Years’ War. This world-wide conflict was fought between Britain and France forces (Powers 2014).

Many of the leaders of the future Continental Army, including a young Major Washington, would get their first taste of combat fighting under British generals as American Militia. When the American Colonies decided to revolt the English the King sent 30,000 British Regulars to deal w/ the Americans.

The American Way of Fighting

A common myth is that the American militia won the war firing from behind the cover of wall, trees & houses. The lore states American militia pored musket fire into the advancing Redcoats who stood there & died. When the American Revolution happened the British had 75 years of experience fighting in North America & were used to guerilla tactics.

Behind the Wall

General Washington did use a strategy of harassment to grind down the British forces instead of seeking a decisive battle. Most battles were fought using linear tactics, they would fire volleys & often stood in lines engaging each other. The Continental Army & the militia mastered the art of 18th century warfare at Valley Forge under the instruction of Baron Frederick von Steuben, a Prussian Officer (Doubler 2001).

The Continental Army won the war by standing in ranks, trading volleys & capturing battlefields at bayonet point. In Europe at the end of the 18th Century & the beginning of the 19th Century a serious of battles occurred known as the Napoleonic Wars. Great Britain & France fought for European supremacy, and treated weaker powers heavy-handedly.


War of 1812

The U.S. attempted to remain neutral during the Napoleonic period, but eventually became embroiled in the European conflicts, leading to the War of 1812 against Great Britain. 24 current units of the Army National Guard perpetuate the lineages of militia units mustered into federal service during the War of 1812.

The Battle of New Orleans was fought on January 8, 1815 and was the final major battle of the War of 1812.[
The Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812
Throughout the 1820’s & 1830’s territorial legislatures decided that militias were needed. The formation of units was haphazard. In a town, township or county, a group of men would form themselves into a company of infantry or cavalry to decide on a name then send a letter of introduction to the territorial governor requesting weapons & supplies. The unit names often were quite colorful: Bend Rangers; Polk Cavalry Guards; or Portland Rifle Company; Mounted Dragoons (Snook 2001).


Doubler, Michael D. I Am The Guard: A History of the National Guard, 1636-2000. Washington D.C. : U.S. Government Printing Office , 2001.

Powers, Rod. History of the Army National Guard. April 1, 2014. http://usmilitary.about.com/od/guardandreserve/a/anghistory_4.htm.

Snook, David L. History of the Iowa National Guard. New York : Simon & Schuster, 2001.

State University of New York, Albany. HIstory of the Army National Guard . Albany, New York : State University of New York Press, Albany , 2006.

Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms”

My favorite book by Ernest Hemingway is a “A Farewell To Arms.” It is a largely autobiographical work of fiction where a young man is wounded in World War I, falls in love with his nurse and their adventures to be together.

I love the way that the book maps the psychological complexities of the characters using Hemingway’s trademark “hard-boiled” style of writing. It details the harshness of life during and after the war. This is something I myself have trouble with.

Hemingway was an ambulance driver for the Red Cross during World War I. He went to France when he was just 18 years old and had two experiences that would profoundly change his life. He was wounded and he would fall in-love with a Red Cross nurse named Agnes von Kurowsky. Both his wound and his relationship with Agnes would form the basis of the book.

Reaction to World War I

“A Farewell to Arms” is the key American World War I novel but it has another message. The book also details the desperation, human condition and facing death by being hopeful in moments of peace even as we face our own mortality. The book is set in Italy and Switzerland

The Industrial Revolution would change warfare in World War I. Death was caused killing on a massive scale- tens of thousands of men killed in a single day. At the Battle of the Somme, one of the largest in World War I, 1 July and 18 November 1916 more than a 1,000,000 men were wounded or killed. J.R.R. Tolkien was wounded in this battle and it greatly influenced his writing of the “The Lord of the Rings.”  Nothing like this killing was seen on this scale before.

There was a thought at the start of the industrial age that machines should serve humanity. The idea of machines to slaughter people was never possible before. Tanks, gas, submarines, planes, machine guns- overwhelming massacre of humanity by the very machines that would be used to serve it.

WWI was a turning point in history because technology was used for mass violence on an almost industrial scale. Many veterans, including Hemingway, were changed forever by the violence of what they saw.

The survivors would later call it the worst catastrophe that the world has ever seen. It gave away to a sense of doom that later became known as the “Lost Generation,” the generation that came of age during World War I. The term was popularized by Hemingway, who used it as one of two contrasting epigraphs for his novel, “The Sun Also Rises.” Following World War I the “lost generation” would go into the roaring twenties and flow into the Great Depression.

This is the way I view the veterans of America’s current wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. A generation similar to the veterans of World War I who were a small generation that fought a war and later faced a crushing economy.

Hemingway style of writing- Kansas City Star Newspaper

Hemingway introduced the world to a new style of direct writing. Writing before him was much more naïve and sentimental and people spoke and wrote in windy phrases, a holdover from the Elizabethan era where writing was more formal.

Hemingway brought on a sense of writing that was more genuine and to the point. His style was very informal with short sentences that had noun, verb and object. Not a lot of flowery writing. He is credited with creating a whole new style of writing.

Early journalistic experiences shaped his enormously influential prose style called “cablese” omit nonessential words. Sharpen his writing and taught his lessons in economy. All the innate Victorian prose, his style, change the way Americans write to see it viscerally.

He created poetic patterns with the sound of words to create adjoining sentences.  Words that manly men use, macho words. He wrote about was real and had happen to him, he had a phenomenal memory and his accuracy with the names, dates all helped in his description with the senses. He was the master of piling up of items with the sounds of words much like a poet.  A great quote that would describe Hemingway’s writing style “Hard thing in the world is to sound natural as a writer,” Tobias Wolff.

He wrote with objectivity, simple language, and short declarative sentences with short paragraphs. His style of writing would later become associated with American traits with other artists.  A deceptive simplicity with much more at work by showing discipline by restraining yourself.

He was best known for his lean, concise prose that relied principally on dialogue and action to tell a story. Hemingway’s stated belief that a writer should not write about everything he or she knows, but should keep superfluous information hidden as a way of strengthening the tension in the story. This style of writing came to be known as the iceberg theory of prose.

In likening the story to an iceberg in which only the tip is visible out of the water, but under the surface there is an unseen mass. In his 1932 book, “Death in The Afternoon,” Hemingway describes his iceberg theory by explaining that if you truly know the subject you are writing about, inside and out, you are then free to omit things.

Why I love “A Farewell to Arms”

The majority of the story is in the first person of Henry but sometimes switches to the second person during his more philosophical reflections. Henry relates only what he sees and does and only what he could have learned of other characters from his experiences with them. This is the subtle context of this book.

Hemingway avoids lofty abstraction, he offers many powerfully evocative descriptions that often resonate with several meanings but it is not hard to understand them. Henry’s description of Catherine’s hair as a symbol of her beauty is awesome.



Major Larry Bauguess and the Officer as a Leader

I wanted to write about the Officer as a leader. I used Larry Bauguess as the subject of this piece because I could not think of a better example of outstanding leadership as an Officer.

Here is why:

When I was a cadet at Kemper Military Junior College in the mid-1990’s I was given a copy of the 1950 edition of the Armed Forces Officer. In its first paragraph, leadership through character is placed at the heart of the officer’s duty:  “Having been specifically chosen by the United States to sustain the dignity and integrity of its sovereign power, an officer is expected to maintain himself, and so to exert his influence for so long as he may live, that he may live, that he will be recognized as a worthy symbol of all that is best in the national character.”

I have served with many great military leaders, but perhaps the best was my Company Commander and friend Major Larry Bauguess. He defined the most important leadership quality of all that is stated over and over again in the military: setting the example. Sometimes the example he set was physical like being the first in on a unit run and other times the example was making sure that the lower enlisted Soldiers ate first.

Larry Bauguess
Larry Bauguess

A military unit tends to have a character of its own; an identity composed of its history and traditions, but most importantly the personality of its commander.  The unit becomes an extension of the likes and dislikes of the commander.  At the company level (300 men) the collective personality of the unit takes on the traits of the person who leads it.

The personality of Delta Troop, 1st Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment was hard-ass Spartan, perhaps the most Spartan of all the companies in the battalion because it was unique in its mission of reconnaissance and armored capability.  The rest of the companies were infantry and one company was much like the other on paper.

Larry’s ethos was purposefully directed and developed from the esprit de corps he had learned under the guidance of his battalion commander from the 101st Airborne Division, David Petraeus.  Larry was huge on the tradition, heritage of the rugged and tough reputation of the United States Paratroopers.  He would constantly tell tales of World War II, Korea and Vietnam where the warrior philosophy and hardcore attitude of airborne soldiers had saved the day.

The stronger a commander the more he affects the men he commands.

Larry ran the Troop with stern exacting leadership.  He allowed himself no luxuries while in the field and he allowed his troops almost none. It seemed that in early 2001 that someone forgot to tell Larry that the United States was not yet at war, he strived each day to train like we were getting ready for combat.

Larry infused the unit with a particular spirit of independence.  In the time I worked for him he always allowed for independent decisions and he would thrust subordinates into positions of constant responsibility and decision making.

I made more than my share of mistakes but under Larry’s patient mentorship those mistakes become lessons in how to lead Soldiers.

This was a part of Larry’s plan in developing his platoon leaders.

He preached that each unit from the platoon down (30 men) to the fire team (4 men) was independent and responsible for himself or itself, first then responsible up the chain of command, link by link.  His example of this was little group of paratroopers who had been dropped all over the countryside during the invasion of Normandy as seen in the series and book Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose.

There are many examples throughout this thread on great military leadership but I think the emphasis that most important aspect was that leading is a privilege, especially in leading the very best and brightest of a generation that serves our nation. Real definitive direction is given by leaders who are willing to sacrifice in the service of those they lead.

Larry Bauguess’ best quote, given in his deep Appalachian accent from his native North Carolina, “Be the leader you would want to be led by.”  He was more than a legendary Soldier who led by physical and personal example in everything he did, he was a friend and mentor who always there for someone else.

In 2005 in Iraq it was at Larry’s urging that I took command of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 42nd Infantry Division after the Commander, my buddy Captain Phil Esposito was murdered by his Supply Sergeant.  Larry’s simple advice was, “You know he would do it for you if the situation was reversed.  We do these things for each other.”

On May 15 2007, Larry Bauguess was killed by enemy small-arms fire in Pakistan.  Larry was on duty in Afghanistan, but was killed less than two miles inside Pakistan as he left a meeting meant to ease tensions after border clashes between Afghans and Pakistanis. He was 36. He left behind a wife and two young daughters as well as his parents and a host of people who loved and admired him. He died as he had lived- leading by personal example trying to save a downed comrade. I was proud to call him my friend.

Officers are commissioned by the Executive Branch of the United States Government.  They are commissioned to act as envoys of the President of the United States and representatives of the Executive Branch.  It is in this role that that Officers as leaders are held to a higher standard.

These blog posts is my attempt to do what Larry always talked about in, “Being in the service means being in the service of others.”

Larry Bauguess
Larry in uniform.


1. Department of Defense, 1950, The Armed Forces Officer.

2. Ambrose, Stephen. 1992. Band of Brothers, E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne: From Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest, Simon & Shuster, New York.

3. Bartone, Paul T., et al. 2009. “To Build Resilience: Leader Influence on Mental Hardiness.” Center for Technology and National Security Policy, National Defense University.

4. – 2010. New Wine in Old Bottles: Leadership and Personality in the Military Organization. The 71F Advantage: Applying Army Research Psychology for Health and Performance Gains (Chapter 6)

5. FM 22-6: Army Leadership: Competent, Confident, and Agile (Part 1)

My Uncle Joe Kriss

My favorite uncle, Joseph Kriss, passed away three years ago on May 16, 2011. He was my grandfather’s older brother, he was 94. He was a quiet, caring man who I loved and respected, this is why:

Joe Kriss, was a Pittsburgh boy who left for war right after college in 1942 and flew over 30 missions as a decorated B-17 Navigator and Pilot in Europe during World War II.

World War II

Uncle Joe was another of that generation of men who grew up tough during the Depression, shipped off to war, did their duty and came home to quietly work and raise a family.  Like so many World War II veterans, he rarely mentioned his days of combat.

Joe was born June 1, 1916, in Pittsburgh, PA, where he was raised and educated. After attending Carnegie Tech, Joe worked as an engineer at KQV radio station in Pittsburgh.

In 1942, after Pearl Harbor, he joined the Army Air Force. He was stationed in Big Springs and Midland, Texas, where he trained bombardiers. In April 1944, he went overseas with the 8th Air Force at Deopham Green, England. As a B-17 bombardier, with the famed 452nd Bomb Group, he flew 30 missions over Germany; 15 missions as lead bombardier. He would serve for the remainder of the war.

During the invasion of Normandy he flew missions hitting airfields. He was in the last bomb group over Normandy and flying the mission as the lead bombardier.

The Bomb Group hit V-weapon sites, bridges, and other objectives in France; struck coastal defenses on D-Day, 6 June 1944. His unit bombed enemy positions in support of Patton’s breakthrough at St Lo in July and the offensive against Brest in August and September.

Later in September, 1944, the 452nd assisted in the airborne attack on Holland. They hit enemy communications in and near the combat zone during the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944-January 1945. They bombed an airfield in support of the airborne assault across the Rhine in March 1945 leading into the final push on Germany.

For their outstanding accomplishments in combat during that period the 452nd was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation (PUC), originally called the Distinguished Unit Citation for actions on 7 April 1945. Despite vigorous fighter attacks and heavy flak, the 452nd accurately bombed a jet-fighter base at Kaltenkirchen.

The PUC is the same as that which would warrant award of the individual award of the Distinguished Service Cross, Air Force Cross or Navy Cross. It is the highest award given to a unit that has displayed and esprit de corps in accomplishing its mission under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions. The award is given to set an individual unit that sets itself apart and above other units participating in the same campaign.

The 452nd flew the last combat mission of in the European Theater of Operation on 21 April 1945 striking marshalling yards at Ingolstadt. The famed bombardiers returned to the U.S. in August 1945. The unit inactivated on 28 Aug 1945.

Joe was proud to be associated with such a great unit. It wouldn’t be until later I realized what a big deal his wartime service had been.

Later in life I asked him some questions after I had been to Iraq and Afghanistan and he told a few stories, but he didn’t really say much. Only throughout 1944 and 1945, he flew over France and Germany in a B-17. Later he would begin to open up.

He once returned from a mission and noticed his friends pointing to his plane. He wasn’t sure what they were looking at until he saw a large hole in the canopy just behind his seat, inches from his head -a souvenir from anti-aircraft flak.

The episode that led to his Distinguished Flying Cross is more established. He earned the medal, given for heroism or extraordinary achievement in the air, after a mission in 1945, during which he led his squadron on a bombing attack on an air base near Nuremberg.

The assault destroyed many enemy planes on the ground and damaged others in the waning days of the war. The citation that accompanied his award described the mission over Nuremberg and praised him for exceptional airmanship and outstanding courage “in keeping with the highest traditions of the Army Air Forces.”

The Family Man

After WWII he returned to his job at KQV. Like most veterans he got married and had a family. In July 1946, he went to work in Washington, DC, for WRC television. In those early days of television, he worked several different jobs from cameraman to video engineer for the acclaimed show, “Meet the Press.”

He told me stories of meeting every President from Truman to Carter. He said, “Truman had the strongest handshake and was the most down to earth of all the Presidents. Nixon I didn’t care for when I met him in 1972, there just seemed to be something dishonest about him.  Carter was very soft-spoken and humble, great traits for a farmer, but not for a President.”

I first talked to him after my grandfather died in 2002. I called to tell him his only brother had passed and would call three days later to tell him my grandmother had also passed.

Throughout this time he constantly asked if I or mom needed anything. During this time I grew to like him more and more.  I would visit him and my beloved Aunt Lainey a handful of times over the next couple of years.

Despite a vast age difference we always got along well and over time he went from being a distant relative to becoming a great friend. He would tell me stories of my grandfather as a boy and I would tell him about being in the modern army.

Over time we would both talk about our war time experiences. Before I left for Iraq he gave me his original Captain Rank and Aviator Wings from the War. He told me how they had brought him luck throughout his life. I would carry them with me throughout my tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Both were in my pocket the day my friend Bruno was killed. They are in my pocket now as I write this as he is will always be in my heart.

After I returned from Afghanistan in 2008 I called more often and many times our conversations would drift to life and what makes it worth living.

From those conversations I think he secretly clung to the belief that life is not merely a series of meaningless accidents or coincidences. But rather, it’s a tapestry of events that culminate in a wonderful, awe-inspiring plan. He was said, “After the war things were clearer for me.  I knew what it meant to live and what it meant to die. All time after that was a bonus,” he noted.

The story of Uncle Joe is a small one. Everyone who knew him always has a story to tell about him, a yarn about witnessing his heart of gold peeping out from his gentle and quiet exterior.

He was one for the good guys. I loved him and I know I was loved back. There was nothing I neglected to tell him and nothing he neglected to tell me.  He taught me that life is about serenity and that people live and then they die, as long as they do both things properly, as he did, there’s nothing much to regret. He will be missed fiercely because he was loved so greatly.

Joe Da Man.pptx

The Impact of Desert Storm

The Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805 was a naval engagement fought by the British Royal Navy against the combined fleets of the French and Spanish Navies, during the War of the Third Coalition of the Napoleonic Wars.

Up to this point many Europeans believed that Napoleon may have been unstoppable. Twenty-seven British ships defeated thirty-three French and Spanish under the French. The Franco-Spanish fleet lost twenty-two ships, without a single British vessel being lost. It was one of the greatest one-sided victories in the history of warfare.

Desert Storm was like the Battle of Trafalgar with the Allied Coalition easily defeating a much larger and more experienced Iraqi Army.


Joint Operations in Desert Storm

During Desert Storm, the air and the ground forces essentially fought in tandem, not as a seamless whole. It is a good example on how to properly phase a campaign. The planners ‘phase’ operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield had a dynamic effect on the planning processes used by the United States in the Global War on Terrorism.


The first major combat test for School for Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) graduates was Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989. The school built its reputation for producing excellent planners. However, it wasn’t until Operation Desert Storm that SAMS graduates earned the moniker of “Jedi Knight”, due partly to their efforts in planning the invasion.

Since then, SAMS graduates have participated in nearly every U.S. military operation as well as military operations other than war, such as relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina. Today, the school produces “leaders with the flexibility of mind to solve complex operational and strategic problems in peace, conflict, and war, ” (Army).

Shortly after General Norman Schwarzkopf arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 1990, U.S. Army Chief of Staff, General Carl Vuono offered him the use of some SAMS graduates. Schwarzkopf accepted. These SAMS planners became known as “Schwarzkopf’s famous ‘Jedi Knights.’ This small Jedi Knight team dramatically shaped the outlines of Operation Desert Storm. But the efforts of SAMS graduates were not limited to the initial planning effort until after the war was concluded.

Eighty-two graduates were participating in a wide array of command and planning tasks, in the theater by February 1991. These efforts established SAMS in the minds of the leadership of the Army as a place to turn to for superb planners.

The Leaders of Desert Storm

General Schwarzkopf is best known for his leadership in the Gulf War. Like Eisenhower, he knew how to keep tensions down and allies working together, as he did with the situation with Israel. One thing above all else that would have blown the coalition apart would have been Israel attacking Iraq in retaliation for the Scuds that fell on Israeli territory. Although much of the efforts to keep Israel out of the action were handled direct from Washington, Schwarzkopf’s handling of the Saudi’s in particular, on the ground as it were masterful especially for a General trying to prepare for war. Where he really shined was in phasing the air war to set the conditions for the ground campaign.

 General Norman Schwarzkopf
General Norman Schwarzkopf

General Chuck Horner, who became Commander in Chief, Central Command (Forward) CINCCENTFWD noted in his book, written with Tom Clancy,  that everywhere he initially went, the staffs’ “efforts lacked order and focus…missing essential details such as basing logistics and sortie rates.” Horner’s essential task was to understand the intent of General Schwarzkopf and the National Command Authority, and to focus the effort of the CENTCOM team to deploy and employ forces in a logical way that would accomplish the national strategic goals, something that would be hard to do in any environment much less one where you are at war.

DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM air power was used throughout the campaign from bridge busting, and artillery and tank killing, to SCUD chasing and sustaining sortie rates to cover attacking ground forces. The integration of joint planning with tactical air control parties with flanking units is discussed was key in the campaign. Although it is very difficult to measure the effectiveness of operations as they are happening the air campaign was also aimed at psychologically disabling the enemy by bombing them back to the Stone Age.

Desert Storm
Desert Storm Map

General Horner’s bottom line is that “the impact of airpower on the enemy was underestimated, and the ability of airpower to destroy a deployed enemy was overestimated,” (Clancy & Horner, 1999).

Some critics were harsh on Scwarzkopf handling of the Gulf War by saying instead of penning in Iraqi forces at the time and destroying them, Schwarzkopf’s war plan pushed them out like a cork popped from a bottle. Later, of course, some of these Republican Guard units lived to fight another day in the next Iraq war, starting in 2003.

From Desert Storm, we get a clear idea of the Powell Doctrine—the idea that force should only be used when linked to political objectives. By embracing the so called “Powell Doctrine” Schwarzkopf had designed a military strategy for a liberated Kuwait that had clear objectives and avoided what he thought would drag us into an unneeded quagmire. All of this was accomplished using his Joint Staff.

The Impact of Desert Storm

This was a task familiar to each of them—a structured problem—and they communicated their intent and began to build orders by using Joint Operations as the key to make the most of the small force that went into Iraq. An emphasis on “precision firepower, special forces, psychological operations, and jointness”―as opposed to the purported traditional dependence on overwhelming force, mass, and concentration―and the resultant qualities of “speed, maneuver, flexibility, and surprise” characterize this so-called new approach (Boot, 2003)

In the eyes of the world the status of America’s power and influence may have begun to wane due to a restraining economy and two long and costly wars but our security responsibilities have continued to grow. The complexity of these missions from Bosnia, Kosovo, to Iraq and Afghanistan has only blurred more and more of these operational lines. This is most complex in stability operations.

In his book “Waging Modern” by General Wesley Clark he says in war there is another idea that a military leader should have clear military objectives for the way that Joint Force should be employed with overwhelming force and with clear objectives.

General Clark writes talks about the tensions and competing demands of senior military leaders trying to bridge the divide between politics and military operations. He also clearly explains the linkages between our national security strategy (NSS) and national military strategy (NMS).

The integrated approach to warfighting is necessary to achieve true unity of effort in a comprehensive approach to stability operations is attained through close, continuous coordination and cooperation among the actors involved. This is necessary to overcome internal discord, inadequate structures and procedures, incompatible or underdeveloped communications infrastructure, cultural differences, and bureaucratic and personnel limitations.

Desert Storm Painting


Army, U. S. (n.d.). Command and General Staff College Circular 350-1. Leavenworth, KS : United States Army Combined Arms Center and School.

Boot, M. (July/August 2003). The New American Way of War. Foreign Affairs Vol. 82, No. 4,, 41-58.

Clancy, T., & Horner, C. (1999). Every Man A Tiger. New York : G. P. Putman’s Sons.

Clark, W. K. (2001). Waging Modern War, . New York: Public Affairs.

Schwarzkopf, N. (1992). It Doesn’t Take a Hero : The Autobiography of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf. New York: Bantam Doubleday Press.


The Idealogy of Osama Bin Liden

Osama Bin Laden inspired the attacks that brought to us to the Middle East.  To understand something you have to get into the mindset of the group that carries out such violent acts and their ideology and their theological arguments that justify mass murder of innocent men, women and children. Al Qaeda is notorious for its lack of Islamic scholarship in justifying mass murder.

Bin Laden the Man


For many Americans the face of Islamic terror is personified by Osama Bin Laden. Bin Laden loved to show the world he was the image of the modern Spartan warrior. In one of his most famous videotapes, he chose gray rocks for a backdrop, a camo jacket for a costume and a rifle for a prop.

To the frustrated Islamic world he portrayed a hard, pure alternative to the decadent west that had corrupted the holy lands of Islam with puppet princes who lived lavish lifestyles while he desired nothing but a gun and a prayer rug to carry out his meaning. His message of hate was clear: the zealot travels light, his thoughts made pure by his love of Allah that even stones are as soft as cushions for his untroubled sleep.

After his death we would find out that Bin Laden was not the stoic soldier that he played onscreen. The exiled son of a Saudi billionaire was living in a million-dollar home in a wealthy home nestled among the green hills in Pakistan when he was killed.

Osama House
Osama’s House in Abbottabad.

He slept in a king-sized bed with a much younger wife and watched satellite TV. In a final sense of irony, some of his favorite TV shows were situational comedies from the United States that depicted the very way of life he always talked about hating.

No matter how many times he spoke nostalgically about the 12th century and the glory of the Islamic caliphate, Bin Laden was a master of the 21st century image machine (Wright 2006). He understood the power of the underdog against a superpower.  Bin Laden had learned this image judo as a “mujahid”- holy warrior, fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and he perfected it in his personal war in the U.S.

In 1996 he laid down the challenge against the U.S., declaring war on the world’s remaining superpower- an audacious act of a twisted imagination right out of the mind of a James Bond super villain.

No Hollywood filmmaker could have staged a more terrifying spectacle than 9/11, which Bin Laden and his followers made come true with a few box cutters and nineteen misguided martyrs.  But again, the questions arise- Why would anyone want to do this? What drives such hate? To answer those questions we must start at the beginning.
The Soviet- Afghan War

In 1979 the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan would change the life of many followers of Islam (Tanner 2002).  For Bin Laden it was a call to destiny. Over the 9 years of the conflict he would launch an ambitious plan to confront the Soviets with a small group of Arab fighters under his command.

That group of Arabs would later provide the nucleus of al-Qaeda, founded in 1988. The purpose of al-Qaeda was to take jihad globally. As the Soviet War was ending, Bin Laden had assembled a force of fighters, many of whom had been trained by experts, and hardened in combat against a modern army.

Bin Laden fighting in Afghanistan in 1984.

Two other events Americans rarely connect what happened that would give even more credence to al-Qaeda: Russia’s retreat from Afghanistan in 1989, followed in 1990 by Western troops pouring into the holy lands of Saudi Arabia after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait (McDermott 2005).

The mujahedeen victory in Afghanistan electrified Islamic warriors who hated Christianity as much as communism; a new “infidel” army in the form of the immoral and godless West to fight proved an irresistible challenge (Wright 2006).
The key to understanding this vision and of all Bin Laden’s actions was his utter conviction that he was an instrument of God’s will. He was a religious fanatic who was convinced the mujahedeen victory of the godless Soviets was a reward for the faith of the true believer.

The zealotry of Bin Laden revealed itself as a teenager.  He prayed seven times a day (two more than the mandated by Islamic convention) and fasted twice a week in imitation of the Prophet Mohammad. For entertainment, a young Bin Laden would assemble a group of friends at his house to chant songs about the liberation of Palestine (Bergen 2006).

Bin Laden was driven not only by a desire to apply what he saw as God’s will but also by a fear of divine punishment if he failed to do so.  So not defending Islam against the decadent west, represented by America, would be disobeying God, something he would never do (Bergen 2006).

Not hard to conceive when you consider that a group of hard scrabble farmers (Afghans) armed with antique rifles defeated one of the world’s most powerful armies (Soviets) with their faith and a little help from their friends -read: the same Westerners they later claimed to hate.

The Call to Jihad

But what explanation is there that moves seemingly normal men to undertake monstrous acts of violence? Most of the terrorists responsible for unspeakable acts of mass murder remain shadowy figures. To understand their motives we must understand their lives and personalities and examine their beliefs (Wright 2006).

If we can illustrate just who these people are and why they do what they do, we can begin to understand the context of their beliefs. It provides a chilling implication of how all of our lives were changed in one of the most prolific acts of violence in modern history on 9/11.
The following is a sweeping list of why the Jihadists feel the call to battle is mandatory for all “True Muslims” (McDermott 2005):

To keep the “infidels” from dominating the world- To justify this broad motive most of the leaders of Islamic Jihad quote an infamous passage from the Koran that orders Muslims to fight until all “fitna” has ceased. Jihadists translate fitna as “disbelief,” although it can be defined as “internal conflict among Muslims.”
Because Allah wants you to- Armed with what is called “The Sword Verses” of the Koran these passages speak of more an internal and spiritual struggle than a specific provocation by the “infidels.” Jihadists use several different variations on this theme, including fear of hell, desire of heaven (via martyrdom) and their favorite fallback line- following the example of the Prophet and his companions in the battle for Mecca.

The gathering of holy warriors to fight- The global Muslim community, known as the “Ummah” is lacking in capable of fighters who are committed to the “true calling” of Islam (Fury 2008).  To show your allegiance to true Islam you need to fight and be prepared to die for the glory of being a martyr.

An interesting side note is that most young men who commit acts of terror are not even proficient in the recitation of the Koran in Arabic and cannot understand the language the holy book is written. Most of them are illiterate and know only what they were taught by their Islamic teachers. The teachers and leaders never seem to be willing to risk their own lives in this foolish effort to glory.

Protecting the Ummah- This extended to protecting the “dignity” of Muslims around the world and protecting the Muslim resources and houses of worship. This message was important to Bin Laden’s appeal; its importance was most significant when Coalition Soldiers arrived on the holy lands of Saudi Arabia in the 1990 Gulf War (Bergen 2006).

Bin Laden saw this as the ultimate affront to the “dignity” of Islam. Bin Laden’s family had made its fortune as the lead contractor renovating the holy sites of Mecca and Medina.  As a young man he had direct connection to these places in his early 20’s working in the family business and spending years in the most revered sites of Islam (Bergen 2006).

As seen with all these rationales, the call to jihad is to a large extent self-justifying. Once drawn in by an arguably legitimate defensive need, the most world’s most influential Jihadist called for fighting for a more obscure reason: Establishing a base for Islam.

Bin Laden expounded on this idea in 1988 and at first called his new organization for global jihad “The Solid Base.”  The use of the word “base” is highly significant and would later be shortened to the Arabic word for “the base”- al-Qaeda.

According to Bin Laden the Muslim community must wage jihad from an “area of land.” The base would be like a small spark which would ignite a large keg of explosives, for the Islamic revolution brings about an eruption of the hidden capabilities of the “Ummah.” His 1996 and 1998 “fatwas” or declarations of war against America were examples of this philosophy.

The Base or Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan

Bin Laden thought his blow that bloodied the nose of America on 9/11 would stun his enemy and that his rag-tag band of Jihadists could stand against the most powerful nation on earth. The opposite happened (Fury 2008).

Al-Qaeda lost the best base it had ever had: Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.  Shrewd members of Bin Laden’s inner circle warned him before 9/11 that antagonizing the U.S. would prove fatal. In a final act of hubris Bin Laden thought his beliefs and God would allow him to defeat America as it had the Soviets. The exact opposite happened.  The attacks on 9/11 set in motion events that would end Bin Laden, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

With the killing of Bin Laden flashed across the world a message: a smart, wise, and supremely competent U.S. will stick with an unpopular goal year after frustrating year as it did in defeating al-Qaeda. America gained the world’s respect and fear, if not affection.


Bergen, Peter. The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda’s Leader . New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006.

Fury, Dalton. Kill Bin Laden: A Delta Force Commander’s Account of the Hunt for the World’s Most Wanted Man. New York City: Saint Martin’s Press, 2008.

Maurer, Keven, and Rusty Bradley. Lions of Kandahar: The Story of a Fight Against All Odds. New York: Bantam, 2011.

Tanner, Stephen. Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the War against the Taliban . Philidelphia, PA: Da Capo Press, 2002.

Wright, Lawrence. The Looming Twoer; Al Qaeda and the road to 9/11. New York : Random House, 2006.