De Oppresso Liber

To say that Edward Fitzgerald is a retired lawyer who has written a memoir of his military experiences in the 1950’s may not make his book sound at first like the most exciting literary project of the year.  Bank’s Bandits is, however, a highly readable work: a well-observed, literate, and often very funny account of recruitment and training in the original U.S. Special Forces formed during the Korean War, the 10th Special Forces Airborne Group.  The book is also a helpful and evocative introduction to the Special Forces idea itself, which has done so much to revolutionize concepts of modern warfare.

At the start of the war in Afghanistan in 2001, President Bush’s advisors were debating furiously whether U.S. intervention would demand “boots on the ground,” an amazing notion that is used without much sense of its implications.  Briefly described, the phrase suggests that wars can be won without any significant participation by ground troops, an idea that would have seemed astonishing to most generations of soldiers and planners.  How can anyone win a war without thousands of boots in place?  The new approach results, of course, from the force of modern airpower as well as from planners’ fascination with small elite units who can operate behind enemy lines, often in cooperation with local rebels and militias.

The elite-force idea has its roots...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here