Special Operations Forces and Elusive Enemy Ground Targets

Lessons from Vietnam and the Persian Gulf War

by William Rosenau

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This research brief describes work documented in Special Operations Forces and Elusive Enemy Ground Targets: Lessons from Vietnam and the Persian Gulf War (MR-1408-AF).

Excerpt: During both the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf conflict, U.S. political and military leaders confronted strategically important but elusive ground targets. Political and other considerations prevented the deployment of conventional ground units, and air power alone proved unable to eliminate the targets. In both cases, policymakers turned to special operations forces (SOF) to conduct reconnaissance operations to locate the hidden targets. During the Vietnam conflict, SOF teams crossed the border into Laos to search for truck parks, storage depots, and other critical targets along the Ho Chi Minh Trail that were obscured by triple-canopy jungle and camouflage. During the Gulf War, British and American SOF patrolled vast areas of western Iraq searching for mobile Scud launchers that had escaped coalition strike aircraft.

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