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America’s most secret Special Forces unit does not even have a name. Formed as the Intelligence Support Activity,” the group has had a succession of innocuous titles to hide its ferocious purpose: to operate undercover in the world’s most dangerous places and penetrate such enemy organizations as Al Qaeda, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad. Here is the first detailed account of its history, and it traces the I.S.A. from its very beginnings to the present day, when it has accomplished such missions as locating Saddam Hussein. By translating intelligence information into direct action, it is well on its way to becoming the most effective and feared force in the U.S. military.
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Sunday Times Defence Correspondent Michael Smith is an expert on intelligence and special forces operations and was named Specialist Writer of the Year in the 2006 British Press Awards. Smith served for ten years with the British Army's Intelligence Corps before leaving to join the BBC. He lives near Henley with his wife and family.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Chapter One DEBACLE AT DESERT ONE Sitting in the forward operations centre in a filthy Egyptian Air Force hangar at the Wadi Qina air base, 300 miles south of Cairo, Colonel Jerry King was powerless to prevent the debacle at Desert One. As chief of staff to Major General James “Hammer” Vaught, the man in charge of the Delta Force attempt to rescue 53 American hostages held captive in Tehran, King could only listen with mounting anger to the frantic satellite radio messages coming out of Iran in the early hours of 25 April 1980. Not that anyone out there at the Desert One staging post, 250 miles southeast of the Iranian capital in the Dasht-e-Kavir desert, could do any better. Even Chargin’ Charlie Beckwith, the former Green Beret colonel who set up Delta and was leading Operation Eagle Claw on the ground, couldn’t prevent what was by any measure “a total goat-fuck” that left eight US servicemen dead. The operation had been called off after three of the eight US Navy helicopters taking part in the mission developed technical problems that left the joint task force with too few to get both the hostages and the rescue team out. One was abandoned in the desert after an indicator light warned a rotor blade might snap, a second had to pull out of the mission when its gyroscope malfunctioned and the third was declared unserviceable after landing at Desert One. After some argument among the task force commanders over whether or not to go ahead, the mission was called off. It was then that a helicopter and one of the C130s collided, killing the eight US servicemen. There was a whole bunch of reasons why they died and why the task force failed in its mission—the interservice rivalry that meant every one of the four armed services wanted some involvement in the mission regardless of the fact that they had never worked together before, and all used different operating procedures; the decision to fly the helicopters off an aircraft carrier rather than in from a neighboring country; the navy’s poor maintenance of its helicopters; and the strange decision not to have air force pilots with experience of special ops fly all the aircraft, a move that would have at least ensured the mission got beyond Desert One. But even if it had, there was another major problem that could have led to the mission failing at its most dangerous point, inside Tehran itself, and afterward Jerry King, a straight-talking veteran of Army Special Forces operations along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, was not slow to make his views known. The CIA had fucked up big time. It had claimed, falsely as it later turned out, to have no one in Tehran who could help Delta prepare for what was always going to be a tricky task. King’s disparaging view of the Agency’s contribution was shared by virtually everyone else involved in Eagle Claw, not least the task force commander General Vaught. “Intelligence from all sources was inadequate from the start and never became responsive,” he said. “The CIA did not, would not or could not provide sufficient agents to go in country and get the information we needed.”1 whatever the reasons for the failure of Eagle Claw, it certainly wasn’t a lack of detailed planning. Preparations for the raid had begun six months earlier on 4 November 1979, the very day a mob of Iranian Revolutionary Guards and militant students, supporters of Ayatollah Khomeini, forced their way into the US embassy in Tehran and seized the hostages. Jerry King, who was then chief of unconventional warfare for special operations in the Joint Chiefs of Staff operations directorate, was called in by Air Force General David C Jones, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, together with the chief of current operations, Brigadier General Johnson. “We were told about the embassy seizure and I was ordered to develop some military options by the following morning,” King recalled. “I was forbidden to inform or involve anyone else, including my immediate superior.” Jones eventually backed down slightly to allow King to bring in two of his special operations colleagues so there were at least navy and air force representatives involved in his special planning cell, which was set up in the Pentagon’s Eighth Corridor close to the River entrance. Those three men were to become the nucleus of the task force commanded by Jim Vaught, who was described by John T Carney, one of the US Air Force special operations officers brought in to set up the Desert One forward operating base, as “a tall, lean, scraggly, quiet, gravely voiced but soft-spoken infantryman.”2 The unit Vaught and King picked to execute the actual rescue mission was the newly formed Special Forces Operational Detachment—Delta, the counterterrorist force that Beckwith had just recently set up, modeling it on the British Special Air Service (SAS), to provide the US with a counterterrorist team. Delta was based at the Pope air force base—in what became known as “the Stockade”—right next door to the Army Special Forces headquarters at Fort Bragg, Fayetteville, North Carolina. Beckwith and King were both veterans of special ops in Vietnam and had learned a lot about their trade serving alongside members of the SAS. “I had an SAS sergeant assigned to me at Fort Bragg in the early sixties,” King recalled. It was part of the exchange mission that provided the inspiration for Delta. The sergeant and an SAS officer were sent to Fort Bragg while Charlie Beckwith and a Green Beret sergeant went to the SAS base at Bradbury Lines, Hereford, in England. For Jerry King, time spent with the highly experienced SAS sergeant was deeply rewarding. “I was wet behind the ears,” King said. “He taught me how to walk.” Born in Canton, North Carolina, in 1937, Jerry King was an army brat, brought up at military bases in Germany, Korea and the Philippines. His stepfather was a career noncommissioned officer in the US Army. King enlisted into the army’s airborne infantry and after swift promotion through the ranks was picked out as a potential officer. The rookie lieutenant’s first posting was as a platoon commander in Germany. “Facing the Fulda Gap and the possibility of a Soviet thrust, I began to realize that my survival was dramatically enhanced when I had more control over my unit’s actions,” he said. “The arrogance of the young but a belief reinforced over time.” As a direct result of that conviction, Jerry King developed a hard-nosed attitude that would win him a great deal of respect, and quite a few enemies, in his chosen field of special operations. At 6 foot 2 inches and weighing in at just under 196 pounds, King was a born winner. There might be others who were fitter, but very few could outlast him. Whether it was swimming underwater in preparation for covert approaches on targets or running marathons, he had the kind of mentality that meant he wouldn’t give in. He joined the 77th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg and was sent to Laos at the head of one of the White Star mobile training teams, which were training local forces to counter North Vietnam’s use of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the Viet Cong supply route that ran through Laos and Cambodia into South Vietnam. King subsequently led a Special Forces detachment in Vietnam and helped to set up the training program for the Studies and Observations Group (SOG), the euphemistically named special operations command which, between January 1965 and March 1973, mounted several thousand highly success- ful cross-border reconnaissance missions into Laos, Cambodia and North Vietnam. At 28, King was deemed “too old” for the gruelling missions but on a couple of occasions he managed to bypass the naysayers and went across the border anyway.3 He had known Charlie Beckwith when they were both young lieutenants and was not the Delta commander’s greatest fan, but that didn’t affect his judgement that Delta was “the obvious choice for the entry force.” The first suggestion was that the raid to rescue the hostages should be mounted from eastern Turkey, which seemed a sensible option, allowing total flexibility in the type of aircraft used on the rescue mission and a safe base just across the border from Iran. But inexplicably General Jones ruled out the use of Turkey and two other friendly Middle East countries. “What I considered a purely political and unreasonable decision by the Chairman forced us to look for an alternative launch platform,” King recalled. “Carriers were the only feasible option available.”4 Eventually it was decided that the MC130 Combat Talon aircraft carrying the Delta personnel and a small security force of US Rangers would take off from Wadi Qina, making a brief stopover at the British air base on the island of Masirah, off Oman, while the helicopters that were to carry the Delta teams into a hide site close to Tehran and exfiltrate them, along with the hostages, would launch from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the Gulf of Oman. That last decision created a whole raft of problems that would ultimately lead to the failure of the mission. “The choice of a carrier as a launch platform virtually dictated the type of aircraft,” King said. They would be US Navy RH53 Sea Stallions, normally used for mine-clearing operations but big enough to carry the hostages and the Delta rescue team out of Iran to safety. It didn’t take long for King to realise that the navy pilots who flew the aircraft were simply not good enough. “I recommended we bring in air force pilots who flew the same helicopter with considerable long flight experience, including one who had participated in the Son Tay raid.” But the senior officer he had to ask for authorization to replace the navy pilots was a US Marine general and the interservice rivalry that would bedevil the Eagle Claw mission took over. “Before I fini...
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Book Description Cassell, 2007. Paperback. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0304367273
Book Description Cassell, 2007. Paperback. Condition: Brand New. 352 pages. 7.64x5.04x0.94 inches. In Stock. Seller Inventory # zk0304367273