Book Review:

War Veteran’s New Book is a Primer on the Bureaucracy of Warfare

by Joseph B. Rosenberg

book cover from Amazon.comUS Army Special Warfare—Its Origins

Alfred H. Paddock, Jr.,
University Press of Kansas, 2002

The events of 9-11 hastened the release of many books on “Special Warfare”—loosely defined as small unit, non-traditional operations, including psychological operations. Many of these books, like Tom Clancy’s Shadow Warriors (reviewed in the Baltimore Chronicle in May 2002) were mostly about the romantic side of these operations, sort of turning history into a History Channel script.

This book by Dr. Alfred Paddock, who actually served in these operations, goes behind the scenes and shows the modern origins of these activities. This revision of his earlier work shows how Special Warfare originated in World War II and was codified during the Korean War and implemented in Vietnam. It shows the Army bureaucracy as resistant to these kind of irregular activities and focuses on the amazing efforts of Major General Robert Alexis McClure, who worked for Eisenhower in World War II, in coordinating and instigating Special Operations with that most irregular of organizations, the OSS.

During Korea, with the firm backing of Truman’s Secretary of the Army Frank Pace, McClure established Special Warfare as a permanent part of the Army infrastructure, virtually founding what is now the JFK Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Having access to background materials, Paddock explains in 163 meticulously footnoted pages, the internal struggles to make unconventional warfare a permanent part of the Army’s arsenal.

Having been there myself, I would have preferred a much more extended discussion of the role of Psyops in Vietnam; nevertheless, this book is a primer on the bureaucracy of warfare. In a world where every day we learn how the FBI, CIA and other alphabet agencies did not communicate within and without their structures to protect us from acts of terror, Paddock, as a historian, shows us that operations that conceptually limit the loss of human lives, however logical, need to be continually bolstered by military and civilian leadership, lest they be bogged down in the bureaucratic “goo” and rendered ineffective. We can’t keep playing “catch-up” and the finger-pointing mambo after the terrorists hit.

Joe Rosenberg, a Baltimorean, is retired from the Social Security Administration.

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This story was published on January 8, 2003.