The Warrior Tradition

THE HISTORY CHANNEL – Tuesday 2 September, 5.30pm

They are unconventional, elite, super-skilled, and highly trained. They are the U.S. military’s Special Operations forces, and they are designed to meet the changing needs of today’s defensive tactics. They are part of a long tradition of soldiers who have eschewed the open battlefield to fight behind the lines. Shrouded in secrecy, commandos have been a fixture in this country since the Revolutionary War, when Francis Marion and his group of “irregulars” harassed the British. However, it wasn’t until World War II, when the U.S. Army created the Rangers and Merrill’s Marauders that “unconventional warfare” units began to evolve. President John F. Kennedy endowed the first official “Special Forces,” with their distinctive green berets, and soon these units were fighting behind the lines in Vietnam. The nature of their operations nicknamed “Black Ops” remain obscure even today. Their reputation for strategic brilliance and valour had earned them a lingering mystique as “quiet… but deadly, professionals.” This program will take a close-up look at their combat techniques, sorting out the myths from reality, and focusing primarily on the war in Vietnam. For it was in Vietnam that the Green Berets took the concept of “Special Forces” from the planning rooms of the Pentagon to the battlefields of Indochina, leaving a lasting legacy of bravery for all America’s combat troops.