SHADOW WARRIORS: A HISTORY OF THE U.S. ARMY RANGERS
OSPREY PUBLISHING, 2006
QUALITY SOFTCOVER, $29.95, 352 PAGES, PHOTOGRAPHS, MAPS, CHARTS
The term "shadow warriors" is a sobriquet long applied to the U.S. Army Special Forces, who by nature of their mission do fight their wars in the shadows. Revisionists are now attempting to tug on this tent to cover all the special operations units. While U.S. Army Special Forces operators have their own military occupational speciality codes (the 18-series); the 75th Infantry Regiment (Ranger) is at its core a conventional regiment of highly-trained light infantry. While in point of fact the U.S. Army Special Forces Regiment could perform any of the missions of the 75th Infantry Regiment (Ranger), and sometimes do on a very small scale. But the pendulum doesn't swing in the opposing direction though. Thus for the author to ascribe the title "Shadow Warriors" to the U.S. Army Rangers is over-reaching at best and intentionally deceptive at its worst.
The short paragraph about the author, inside the back jacket cover, does little to establish the credibility of the author. A bachelor's degree does not an historian make. It indicates that he served in the 2nd Battalion of the Regiment, as a machine gunner, but not that he qualified as a Ranger. It also indicates that he served as a "Training NCO", but not that he was an NCO.
The physical quality of the book is excellant. It is well-made, with good quality pages, clear and sharp photographs, charts, and maps.
The content is, however, problematic. This book has the content quality of an internet website downloaded and published as a book. It has the same type of errors that are so replete on an internet website as well.
The author has certainly been assiduous in compiling his material. He isn't to be faulted for that, but it is in the culling out of false history and the military equivalent of "urban legends" for which the author can certainly be faulted. This book is so replete with errors of fact that they become distracting.
The author relates the early history of what the Ranger Regiment has adopted as their history. This includes the exploits of Major Robert Rogers and his famous, or infamous, St. Francis Raid on the Abenaki tribe, a tale which follows the traditional telling. It is doubtful, however, that this raid could be considered "successful", as he calls it, in the actual event. Canadian archeologists have investigated the Abneki burial site for the victims of that raid, mostly women and children, and fewer than Rogers reported. Further, most of his command, was lost on the retreat from that raid, pursued virtually to the gates of the British Fort Number 4 by the Abneki, who were infuriated by the attack on their village in the off-season of war. Also, the author fails to mention that the Father of the U.S. Army Rangers remained loyal to King and Country and fought against George Washington and his Continental Army during the American Revolution.
On Page 63, the author mentions "the 505th Airborne Infantry Regiment, eventually known for smoke jumping in the Pacific Northwest". The data given for what he is relating was October 9, 1950. In the real world, the unit was the "Triple Nickels", the 555th, and they didn't get around to smoke-jumping until July, 1945. During World War II, the Japanese set ballons adrift from Japan on the prevailing westerly winds. These ballons contained incendiary devices intended to cause forest fires; wood being a strategic material during the war. The 555th was re-designated the 505th Airborne Infantry Regiment in December, 1947. The 555th was sent to counter this somewhat unique strategic bombing codenamed Operation FIREFLY.
On Page 68, the author relates the story as to how a long range patrol unit came by their (non-regulation) beret, a headgear formally unique to the U.S. Army Special Forces (the Green Berets). The author doesn't correct the assertion in this tale, however, that the "British Commandos" wear a maroon beret.
On Page 73, the author attempte to describe the early days of long-range patrolling in Vietnam. The truth of that period continues to become more obscure as the years go by. This has been assisted in no small part by a relatively small group of former long range reconnaissance patrol members (the "LURRPs") who have created a cottage industry with their published tales of heroic derring-do, concurrently trashing the history-and reputations-of some very brave men. To be charitable, the history of that period, as cited in this book, is "incomplete".
On Page 74, South Vietnamese Ranger units, or Biet Ding-Quan, are described as "led by U.S. Army Ranger advisors....". Nonsense, these units were led by officers of the Army of the Republic of South Vietnam or ARVN. Many of these Biet Dong-Quan officers had served in the French Army or the French Foreign Legion, and some had even fought alongside Ho Chi Minh as a member of the Viet Minh, before moving south when the new Republic of Vietnam was establsihed. Many of these officers were extremely brave and had military experience well beyond the scope of the U.S. Army advisors who served alongside them.
On Page 115, the caption describes the "duck-hunter uniform" worn by those in the photograph, which does no credit to BRAVO Company, 2nd Battalion. The leader of this information, and many of his men, appear to have never been taught the proper way to "blouse" their boots, one mark of a paratrooper, which all 75th Rangers are required to attend. In point of fact, the "duck-hunter" camouflage pattern is totally different from the woodland camouflage pattern shown in this photograph. The duck-hunter camouflage pattern was used by the U.S. Marine Corps and eite U.S. Army units, from World War II until the early days of the Vietnam War. Often uniforms and equipment in this pattern were reversible, with a winter color on one side and summer colors on the opposite. Hence the old saying in the U.S. Marine Corps "green side out" and "brown side out".
On Page 207, the author slides the reference "Quiet Professionals" into the text while referencing the death of a U.S. Navy SEAL. Again, the author demonstrates an unusual degree of unfamiliarity with military terminology, for one ascribed to be a member of the special operations community. "Quiet Professionals" is the officially approved term used to describe the U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets). It is a term intensely disliked by the old SF operators, who were extremely professional in their work, but who tended to break things and blow things up. While they don't necessarily approve of the new term, they will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the new breed of U.S. Army Special Forces operator in taking offense to that term being used by or for other Special Operations Forces (SOF).
On Page 236, the author writes: "Operation ANACONDA continued for another two weeks and was hailed an unqualified and absolute success by General Tommy Franks." This operation reflects upon the reputation of Franks. It was his war, what is he supposed to say. In 2005, however, when this book was published, Operation ANACONDA is now generally accepted as a flawed operation, whose failures have resulted in the resurgence of the insurgency in Afghanistan and allowed the escape of important figures still involved in what the Bush Administration has described as the Global War On Terror or GWOT.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of errors or omissions in this book. It is a random sampling merely cited in order to illustrate the problem to be encountered by any reader intending to rely upon this book as a reliable reference on this subject.
A substantial amount of this book is taken directly from official sources. Simply because a source is "official" doesn't make it accurate. Indeed, the function of the military historian is, in part, to correct the official record.
The potential reader is warned not to use this book as a reference. Its value is as a place to start, before turning to more scholarly sources. Rather than "A HISTORY OF THE U.S. ARMY RANGERS", perhaps the subtitle of this book should have been "The STORY OF THE U.S. ARMY RANGERS". That would have been truth in advertising.
Lt. Colonel Robert A. Lynn, Florida Guard