Thorough research into the American military’s special arm for guerrilla warfare, which helped undermine the Axis effort during World War II.
In this valuable study, Lulushi (Operation Valuable Fiend: The CIA's First Paramilitary Strike Against the Iron Curtain, 2014, etc.) finds harrowing and inspiring incidences of both bravery and recklessness among the special forces arm of the wartime precursor to the CIA, the Office of Strategic Services. The guerrilla arm, called Operational Groups Command, was inspired by the British Commandos under the Special Operations Executive, which had in turn been instigated upon the successful use of the German K-Truppen (combat troops)—these soldiers operated independently from the regular army and provided a key strategic advantage in the Nazi military campaigns at the beginning of the war. As head of the OSS, which was a civilian agency placed under the Joint Chiefs of Staff (amid much controversy in the War Department), William “Wild Bill” Donovan, a World War I hero and friend of President Franklin Roosevelt, created the Operational Groups Command to collect intelligence and to aid the partisan and resistance groups in enemy-controlled areas. The trial run of the OSS was Operation Torch, the invasion of French North Africa under Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s leadership in November 1942. In these and subsequent maneuvers in Italy and the western Mediterranean, the special foreign language–speaking soldiers, trained in commando tactics, parachuted into enemy-occupied territory and became valuable tools in harassing the enemy and in bolstering support of local resistance groups. Lulushi ably delineates these specific campaigns, from Corsica to Vercors, France, to the Balkans, and focuses on the appalling treatment of POWs by the Germans—e.g., the capture of the 15-man Ginny mission in Genoa-La Spezia in February 1944.
A proficient, well-wrought work that emphasizes the actual fighting men, their deeds, and their fates. A good complement to Douglas Waller’s Wild Bill Donovan (2011).