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Special forces

Special forces or special operations forces is a term used in reference to relatively small military units designed for unconventional warfare and special operations. Such units rely on stealth and speed; and, are often equipped with specialized equipment; they are generally better trained than typical military units. These are not the same as paramilitary units.

The work of special forces is often classified. In most cases, there are ties between intelligence agencies and special forces units. In many cases special forces are also used to train local forces when military aid is given to other countries. Because of their training, and the covert nature of much of their work, special forces have an aura surrounding them and are frequently the topic of military fiction.

Table of contents
1 History of Special Forces
2 World War II
3 Late 20th and early 21st Century
4 See also
5 External links

History of Special Forces

Special forces have played an important role throughout the history of warfare where the aim is to achieve more disruption by "hit and run" or sabotage than more traditional face to face combat.

During the Napoleonic wars, rifle and sapper units existed who were not committed to the formal lines that made up most battles of the day. They instead held more specialized roles in reconnaissance and skirmishing.

World War II

During World War II in 1940 the British Commandos were formed following Winston Churchill's call for "specially trained troops of the hunter class, who can develop a reign of terror down the enemy coast." The Commandos were selected from volunteers among existing servicemen and went on to spawn a number of other specialist units including the Special Air Service, the Special Boat Service and the Small Scale Raiding Force of the Special Operations Executive.

In the summer of 1942, the United States formed the Rangers who were based on and trained by the Commandos. The US and Canada also formed a sabotage ski brigade for operations in Norway who became known as the Devil's Brigade.

The German army had the Brandenburger Regiment who became a special armoured force used by Rommel in the North Africa campaign for long range reconnaissance as well as raids behind enemy lines. A unit within the Waffen SS commanded by Otto Skorzeny also conducted many special operations.

In Italy the Decima Flottiglia MAS were responsible for the sinking and damage of considerable Allied tonnage in the Mediterranean. After the division on Italy in 1943, those fighting with Germany retained the original name and those fighting with the Allies retitled as the Mariassalto.

Late 20th and early 21st Century

Throughout the later half of the 20th century and into the 21st century, special forces have come to higher prominence as governments have found objectives can sometimes be better achieved by a small team of specialists than a large more conventional deployment.

Stealth and reconnaissance remain a key feature of their use providing invaluable information only possible by physically having the right people in the right place at the right time.

Invariably special forces were used in key military operations such as the Falklands War, Northern Ireland, the first and second Gulf War, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, the Iranian Embassy siege (London) and the Moscow Theatre siege.

See also

External links