Infiltration Tactics

Infiltration Tactics

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Infiltration tactics was an idea developed by General Oskar von Hutier in 1917. Instead of following Preliminary Bombardment with a massed infantry attack, small forces of experienced troops were sent forward to slip between enemy strong-points on the front-line. Once these soldiers were in a position to surprise the defenders, the infantry was ordered forward in a mass attack across No Man's Land.

Infiltration tactics

Willy Rohr developed successful in 1915 the Shock-Troops-Taktiks in the Western Front. They had been used in the Battle of Verdun. His Bataillon became independent and was first named as Sturmbataillon Rohr and became about one year later renamed by the Prussian Minister of War to Sturm-Bataillon Nr. 5 (Rohr).

Oskar von Hutier was another one of Germany's most successful and innovative generals of World War I. He did the same for the Eastern Front

After rising to army command early in 1917, Hutier began to apply the lessons learned from his three years of commanding troops, along with his study of tactics used by other armies. He devised a new strategy for the Germans to break the stalemate of trench warfare. These tactics were to prove so successful in 1917 and 1918 that the French dubbed them "Hutier tactics", although the more commonly used term today is "infiltration tactics".

In the Spring Offensive of 1918 the first of five parts was called Michael. At the beginning on 21 March 1918, they took three armies, for a total of 42 divisions. The aim was to break through the salient at the junction point between the French forces (south) and the English (north), with operations between Bapaume and Saint Simon, intending to then create a wedge between the two contingents, pushing the British Expeditionary Force out towards the sea. On the first day the defensive lines were already smashed against both Allies, and the Germans completely succeeded in advancing 65 kilometers long into a salient of approximately 80 km. In their sweeping advance the German troops met greater resistance against the English than the French. But although the Germans were successful at first, after a few days the German offensive was suddenly exhausted, and beginning March 27, when the French began to engage their strategic reserve near Amiens, the Germans had no more substantial territorial gain. So the Germans failed to achieve a strategically important victory, and indeed, it had lengthened the battle line and created a salient exposed to Allied counter-offensives.

9 The Spartan Sikhs

When you think of the Sikhs (provided you know what Sikhs are), you wouldn&rsquot normally think of violence . . . unless you looked into one of the few battles the Sikhs actually fought&mdashin which 48 soldiers held off 100,000 men.

The Sikhs had been fleeing the Mughal Empire for days after taking Anandpur Sahib. After seeking shelter in a mud fort, they were awoken by the Mughal forces, who had surrounded them. For most, this would mean surrendering before the horde had the chance to knock on the front gate. But for the Sikhs, it meant leading a defense against a vastly superior enemy long enough for their Guru to escape. Somehow, the 48 men defended the fort through the night, distracting the enemy, killing 3,000 of them, and ensuring the survival of their religion.

Topics similar to or like Infiltration tactics

In warfare, infiltration tactics involve small independent light infantry forces advancing into enemy rear areas, bypassing enemy frontline strongpoints, possibly isolating them for attack by follow-up troops with heavier weapons. Wikipedia

Skirmishers are light infantry or light cavalry soldiers deployed as a vanguard, flank guard or rearguard to screen a tactical position or a larger body of friendly troops from enemy advances. Irregular open formation that is much more spread out in depth and in breadth than a traditional line formation. Wikipedia

Direct, full-force attack to the front line of an enemy force, rather than to the flanks or rear of the enemy. It allows for a quick and decisive victory, but at the cost of subjecting the attackers to the maximum defensive power of the enemy this can make frontal assaults costly even if successful, and often disastrously costly if unsuccessful. Wikipedia

Infantry tactics are the combination of military concepts and methods used by infantry to achieve tactical objectives during combat. Achieved. Wikipedia

Name of an offensive maneuver which attempts to place the enemy under psychological pressure by a rapid and fully-committed advance with the aim of causing their combatants to retreat. Intrinsic to shock actions. Wikipedia

Hit-and-run tactics are a tactical doctrine of using short surprise attacks, withdrawing before the enemy can respond in force, and constantly maneuvering to avoid full engagement with the enemy. Not a decisive victory against the enemy or a capture of territory but the weakening enemy forces over time through raids, harassment, and skirmishing and limiting risk to friendly forces. Wikipedia

Offensive maneuver in battle in which combatants advance towards their enemy at their best speed in an attempt to engage in a decisive close combat. Dominant shock attack and has been the key tactic and decisive moment of many battles throughout history. Wikipedia

Military tactic or operational warfare mission which has a specific purpose. The raiders do not capture and hold a location, but quickly retreat to a previous defended position before enemy forces can respond in a coordinated manner or formulate a counter-attack. Wikipedia

Military tactic of seizing objectives in the enemy's rear with the goal of destroying specific enemy forces and denying them the ability to withdraw. Enemy head-on as in a frontal assault an envelopment seeks to exploit the enemy's flanks, attacking them from multiple directions and avoiding where their defenses are strongest. Wikipedia

Offensive tactic used in naval warfare, to come up against an enemy marine vessel and attack by inserting combatants aboard that vessel. To invade and overrun the enemy personnel on board in order to capture, sabotage or destroy the enemy vessel. Wikipedia

Exploration outside an area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about natural features and other activities in the area. Examples of reconnaissance include patrolling by troops (skirmishers, long-range reconnaissance patrol, U.S. Army Rangers, cavalry scouts, or military intelligence specialists), ships or submarines, manned or unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, satellites, or by setting up observation posts. Wikipedia

Physical confrontation between two or more persons at very short range (grappling distance, or within the physical reach of a handheld weapon) that does not involve the use of ranged weapons. Generic and may include use of melee weapons such as knives, sticks, batons, spears, or improvised weapons such as entrenching tools. Wikipedia

Movement of ground-based military forces by vertical take-off and landing aircraft—such as the helicopter—to seize and hold key terrain which has not been fully secured, and to directly engage enemy forces behind enemy lines. Sometimes designed or field-modified to allow better transportation within aircraft. Wikipedia

The main strategy and tactics of guerrilla warfare tend to involve the use of a small attacking, mobile force against a large, unwieldy force. Largely or entirely organized in small units that are dependent on the support of the local population. Wikipedia

Military tactic of bringing a large portion of one's own force to bear on small enemy units in sequence, rather than engaging the bulk of the enemy force all at once. Entire enemy force. Wikipedia

Battlefield feature that projects into enemy territory. Surrounded by the enemy on multiple sides, making the troops occupying the salient vulnerable. Wikipedia

Military tactics encompasses the art of organizing and employing fighting forces on or near the battlefield. They involve the application of four battlefield functions which are closely related – kinetic or firepower, mobility, protection or security, and shock action. Wikipedia

Military term for the situation when a force or target is isolated and surrounded by enemy forces. Highly dangerous for the encircled force: at the strategic level, because it cannot receive supplies or reinforcements, and on the tactical level, because the units in the force can be subject to an attack from several sides. Wikipedia

Military maneuver in which forces simultaneously attack both flanks of an enemy formation. Army that responds by moving its outside forces to the enemy's flanks to surround it. Wikipedia

Occupier, or for use by rebels against an established government. One type of insurgency weapon are "homemade" firearms made by non-professionals, such as the Błyskawica (Lightning) submachine gun produced in underground workshops by the Polish resistance movement. Wikipedia

Classic naval warfare tactic used from the late 19th to mid 20th centuries, in which a line of warships crosses in front of a line of enemy ships, allowing the crossing line to bring all their guns to bear while receiving fire from only the forward guns of the enemy. It became possible to bring all of a ship's main guns to bear only in the late 19th and the early 20th centuries, with the advent of steam-powered battleships with rotating gun turrets, which were able to move faster and turn more quickly than sailing ships, which had fixed guns facing sideways. Wikipedia

Small, well-armed reconnaissance team that patrols deep in enemy-held territory. The concept of scouts dates back to the origins of warfare itself. Wikipedia

Kingpins Made Millions Each Year

The demand for illegal beer, wine and liquor was so great during the Prohibition that mob kingpins like Capone were pulling in as much as $100 million a year in the mid-1920s ($1.4 billion in 2018) and spending a half million dollars a month in bribes to police, politicians and federal investigators.

Making money was easy, says Abadinsky. The hard part was figuring out what to do with all the cash. Money laundering was another way in which organized crime was forced to get far more organized. When gambling was legalized in Nevada in 1931, loads of Prohibition-era mob money was funneled into the new casinos and hotels. Underworld accountants like Meyer Lansky wired money to brokers in Switzerland who would cover the mobster’s tracks and reinvest the cash in legitimate business. Others, like Capone, weren’t as savvy and got sent up river on tax evasion charges.

Al Capone immediately after his arrest in 1931.

Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

When Prohibition was finally repealed in 1933, the cash grab was over, but the sophisticated black-market business schemes and money-laundering tactics of organized crime were here to stay. The biggest gangs shifted their operations away from alcohol and into secondary businesses like drugs, gambling and prostitution. They also profited greatly from the Great Depression.

“The gangs had cash in a cash-starved economy,” says Abadinsky. “If you wanted to set up a legitimate business, have to go to organized crime. Loansharking becomes a major industry.”

In hindsight, it’s clear that Prohibition, a national temperance campaign aimed at reforming America&aposs worst tendencies, that gave birth to one of the nation’s worst criminal traditions. 

Dave Roos is a freelance writer based in the United States and Mexico. A longtime contributor to HowStuffWorks, Dave has also been published in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and Newsweek.

German Infantry Tactics of World War II

All battles fought in history have depended to a greater extent on the technique of foot soldiers and World War II was no different. Infantry tactics simply refer to military techniques and strategy employed by a nation’s infantry on the battlefield to achieve set goals and tactical objectives.

Foot soldiers typically make up the larger portion of a nation’s army strength, as a matter of fact most military training programs begin with direct combat training modules before going on to more specialized training operations.

Being frontline commandos of sorts, they become endangered species in a sense because they are exposed to greater dangers and damage from enemy defenses, so one might say they bear the brunt of the battle and their experiences on the battlefield however vivid, paint a rather holistic and realistic picture of actual battle events compared to any other viewpoint, they are commonly known as cannon fodder.

West German Mechanized Infantry. 1960s

Therefore good infantry tactics are vital and will comprise strategic military approaches and techniques that serve to minimize risk and casualty to foot soldiers and conversely those that increase risk and casualty to infantry can be considered bad infantry tactics.

The more efficient infantry tactics overall may depend on such things as battle terrain, weaponry and technology in play, relative might and number of soldiers, and possibly availability of support from other fronts like naval and air force.

German infantry on the battlefield, August 7, 1914.

German Infantry in WWII

The German infantry was also known as the Wehrmacht with a strength estimated at 10 million soldiers at the time. Contrary to popular opinion, the Wehrmacht was not so mechanized or technologically sophisticated, they often were left to navigate their terrain on horses, and their mechanized and tank formations accounted for about 20 percent of their capacity.

Men of the Volga-Tatar Legion, one of the Wehrmacht’s Ostlegionen (“eastern legions”). Photo:Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1981-059-12 / Philipps / CC-BY-SA 3.0

German infantry tactics in WWII emphasized an aggressive offense with the element of surprise as a recipe for success. They focused on such aspects as speed of attack, relying on novel and sensational weapons notable amongst which is the machine gun MG 34 and MG 42. They depended significantly on the use of automatic weapons, often at the expense of accuracy.

The Germans instilled discipline via training in soldiers much like any other, emphasizing responsibility and encouraging subordinates to use initiative and this was responsible for several bold decisions made by German infantry soldiers in WWII.

Machine gun team with MG34 at the Eastern Front.Photo BreTho CC BY-SA 4.0


The Wehrmacht often operated in small specialized groups of about ten men. In terms of role, a squad comprised of a leader, his assistant or second in command, a machine gunner, and his assistant who often carried ammo and continued to fire rounds if the machine gunner took a bullet, and others who were given rifles and collectively referred to as riflemen. Some of the riflemen had expertise in explosives and carried hand grenades and so were sometimes referred to as grenade carriers and or throwers.

The squad leader gave the group purpose, communicating orders from command as well as mission objectives and targets. It was also his responsibility to meet the needs of his teammates ensuring that ammunition and other necessary supplies were made available as needed whilst ensuring the safety of his squad on the battlefield.

Wehrmacht’s “foot-mobile” infantry, 1942. Photo:Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-217-0465-32A / Klintzsch / CC-BY-SA 3.0

The assistant squad leader coordinated the group and deputized in the absence of the squad leader or while pinned down on the battlefield, he was also a liaison to other squads in the platoon in the event of a joint mission. Each platoon typically comprised of four squads.

The machine gunner operated a light machine gun (LMG) and was responsible for his weapon. His objective was usually to get within range of his target and open fire, he was also needed to provide cover while his teammates advanced or to distract the enemy by drawing fire while his teammates infiltrated their ranks.

A German Waffen SS soldier involved in heavy fighting in and around the French town of Caen in mid-1944. He is carrying an MG 42 configured as a light support weapon with a folding bipod and detachable 50-round belt drum container. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1983-109-14A / Woscidlo, Wilfried / CC-BY-SA 3.0

His assistant would help with ammo changes and jam fixes and if necessary step up to assume the role of machine gunner in the event of a casualty, he also carried a pistol.

The riflemen formed the assault part of the squad, usually opening fire on enemy combatants once, within range, they were more mobile than many other squad members. The grenade throwers were often riflemen who had the additional responsibility and skill of launching grenades from respectable distances at the enemy, the massive explosion had a greater impact on enemy forces while the smoke provided some cover that allowed them to navigate without significant opposition.

Tripod mounted MG 42 set up for its low level anti-aircraft role with an auxiliary anti-aircraft “spider web” ring sight mounted.Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-J14917 / CC-BY-SA 3.0


The German squad operated using a combination of three basic formations including the squad line or Reihe, the squad column or Kette and the squad in march order. The Reihe consisted of squad members spread out in a horizontal line advancing towards the enemy with gaps in between, whilst in this formation the machine gunner designed Schutze 1 or infantryman number one was positioned in the middle, giving him sufficient spread against his target. This formation was commonly employed in offensives that caught the enemy by surprise and without cover.

The Kette consisted of squad members advancing on a single file that may or may not entirely be at ninety degrees usually in stealth or under cover of night to quickly get into position of an unsuspecting enemy. In this formation, the machine gunner is often positioned in front, ready to open fire on the enemy if things went south. The Kette could very easily be modified into schützenkette or a skirmish line.

“German Infantry Division – Chart” 1941-1945

The squad in march formation was essentially a mix of the Kette and Reihe that was employed when advancing towards an expectant enemy possibly under siege or in the event of an invasion. The machine gunner may not be centrally positioned for this and his main objective was to provide superior firepower during an attack.


A German offensive attack took place in five stages development, deployment, advancement, attack, and penetration. These various stages took place in rapid succession and the transition between each has been described by some as blurry.

German troops in the Soviet Union, October 1941.Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1989-030-27 CC-BY-SA 3.0

The development comprises the series of events leading to the dispatch of infantry soldiers to designated battlefields. In deployment, soldiers are briefed on their objectives and quickly get into formation. On the battlefield, advancement commences with the squad operating under a formation as earlier discussed whilst systematically closing in on enemy forces. Depending on the nature of the mission, this stage may or may not see major gunfire.

In attack, tension is broken and there is an all-out firefight, riflemen fire in all directions whilst covering their flanks, machine gunners provide fire cover for squadmates and strive to achieve fire superiority. There is usually not much forward movement at this point and the squad members engage enemy defenses in an attempt to break through it.

German Soldiers at the Polish Border.

Penetration sees the Germans far into enemy lines, it is usually initiated at about a hundred meters from the enemy’s position and often is an indication of a good offense as enemy soldiers may begin to fall back or retreat at this point.


In defensive operations, German infantry were dispatched to hold the main line of defense, the machine gunners and grenade throwers are deployed to the left and right flanks to initiate a counterattack or offensive whenever possible. The riflemen were spread out across the front in defense of their occupied territory.

German SS soldiers from the Dirlewanger Brigade, tasked with suppressing the Warsaw Uprising against Nazi occupation, August 1944.Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-97906 / CC-BY-SA 3.0


The Germans may have lost WWII but military strategists agree across the board that they operated an efficient military infantry that was swift, surprising, and superior at the time earning them the aura of invincibility that afforded them several victories during the war.

Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel signing the unconditional surrender of the German Wehrmacht at the Soviet headquarters in Karlshorst, Berlin. 8 May 1945

They were formidable and known for their aggression that served them quite well until the USSR invasion that led to the battles of Stalingrad and Kursk in 1943, after which they suffered major defeats that forced them into retreat until their eventual surrender in May 1945.

Infiltration Tactics - History

Unlike the main troops, who saw themselves as professional soldiers, local Vietcong groups tended to be far less confident. For the most part, recruits were young teenagers, and while many were motivated by idealism, others had been pressured or shamed into joining. They also harbored real doubts about their ability to fight heavily armed and well-trained American soldiers.

Initially, local guerrillas were given only a basic minimum of infantry training, but if they were recruited to a main force unit, they could receive up to a month of advanced instruction. Additionally, there were dozens of hidden centers all over South Vietnam for squad and platoon leader, weapons and radio training. To ensure that the guerrillas understood why they were fighting, all training courses included political instruction.

By the mid-1960s, most main force Vietcong troops were armed with Chinese versions of the Russian AK-47 submachine gun. They also used a range of effective Soviet and Chinese light and medium machine guns, and infrequently, heavy machine guns. In particular, heavy machine guns were valued for defense against American helicopters.

For destroying armored vehicles or bunkers, the Vietcong had highly effective rocket propelled grenades and recoilless rifles. Mortars were also available in large numbers and had the advantage of being very easy to transport.

Many weapons, including booby traps and mines, were homemade in villages. The materials ranged from scavenged tin can to discarded wire, but the most important ingredients were provided by the enemy. In a year, dud American bombs could leave more than 20,000 tons of explosives scattered around the Vietnamese countryside. After air-raids, volunteers retrieved the duds and the dangerous business of creating new weapons began.

The Vietcong, following the example of Chinese guerillas before them, had always given the highest priority to creating safe base areas. They were training grounds, logistics centers and headquarters. They also offered secure sanctuaries for times when the war might go badly.

Hiding the base areas had always been a high priority for the Vietcong. Now, with American spotter planes everywhere, it was more vital than ever to protect them. In remote swamps or forests, there were few problems, but nearer the capital, it was much more difficult. The answer was to build enormous systems of underground tunnels.

The orders coming from NLF headquarters were absolutely clear. Tunnels were not to be treated as mere shelters. They were fighting bases capable of providing continuous support for troops. Even if a village was in enemy hands, the NLF beneath were still able to conduct offensive operations.

At the deeper levels, there were chambers carved out for arms factories and a well for the base's water supply. There were store rooms for weapons anad rice, and there was sometimes a hospital or forward aid station. Long communication tunnels connected the base with other distant complexes.

How McCarthyism Worked

Mass hysteria has reared its ugly head for as long as humans have existed. Adolf Hitler worked enough people into a frenzy to justify the murder of millions of Jews. Jesus Christ, known by all as peaceful, if controversial, was brutally nailed to a cross because a few high-ranking officials felt threatened by him. Although one would hope that people would learn a lesson or two from the mistakes of the past, it seems that history, as the old cliché goes, is forever doomed to repeat itself.

Enter Senator Joseph McCarthy. While he may not have caused genocide or murdered a prophet, he was able to whip up hysteria in America in the early 1950s. McCarthy's issue of choice? Communism. The American Heritage Dictionary defines McCarthyism as "the political practice of publicizing accusations of disloyalty or subversion with insufficient regard to evidence."

Communism, in simple terms, is an economic system designed to equally benefit everyone in the society. The idea is that everyone contributes to the society and gets an equal share of property and goods. Communist systems are generally controlled by dictators and totalitarian governments — think China, Cuba and North Korea.

By the '50s, communism wasn't exactly a new worry for the United States. In the aftermath of World War I, the country had experienced the First Red Scare ("red" is slang for communism). Russia had a new communist government as a result of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, and dictator Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin) had brutally slaughtered about 9 million of his people for resisting his ideals [source: The History Guide]. All of this upheaval upset Americans, so lawmakers decided to prevent the spread of communism to the United States by enforcing the Sedition Act and the Espionage Act. The First Red Scare was characterized by the ferocity with which the U.S. government identified and attacked suspected communists.

By the time McCarthy won a Senate seat in 1946, World War II was over and the Cold War was beginning. Communist governments had gained hold in Eastern Europe and China, and Americans were increasingly concerned about it — and about rumors of high-ranking U.S. government officials who were secret communists. McCarthy took advantage of the mounting fear, but because it isn't actually illegal to be a communist, he started charging people with the act of subversion — the "systematic attempt to overthrow or undermine a government or political system by persons working from within" [source: Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law]. Then he got to work prosecuting them for selling or giving American security secrets to communist governments.

In this article, you'll learn about the basics of communism, McCarthy's interview tactics, and recent evidence about the communist presence in the United States at the time of McCarthyism. You'll also learn about the impact of McCarthy's accusations on the lives of the accused, the country as a whole and his own family name.­

Infiltration Tactics - History


During World War II, major parachute assaults fell well short of expectations, in some cases with personnel being dropped thirty miles from their intended target areas. The shortcomings of these operations identified the need for effective guidance and control of these aircraft. So, on 24 March 1945, the U.S. Army Air Forces specially trained and outfitted a hand-picked group of men to precede Airborne forces into objective areas and provide critical intelligence, visual guidance, and control of inbound aircraft. These men became known as Combat Control Teams.

The first test of these newly formed teams would be Operation Varsity, the 1945 airborne invasion of Germany, when two Combat Control Teams infiltrated thirty minutes ahead of the main Airborne invasion. The Combat Control Teams mission and Operation Varsity were major successes and a dramatic improvement over previous Airborne operations.

Throughout the remainder of World War II and the Korean War, this elite team had been so successful at infiltrating enemy locations to guide aircraft, that they began to mark strategic targets for bomber and attack aircraft as well. In 1953, the group of men tasked with these missions were reorganized under the U.S. Air Force and officially given the title of Combat Control Team. CCT, as they were sometimes called, revolutionized the effect of air power on the battlefield.

As early as 1961, Combat Controllers began operating in Southeast Asia. Their extensive involvement in the Vietnam War helped form the basis of Combat Control operating methods in use today. Inserting via parachute and other infiltration techniques, Combat Control Teams established numerous assault and landing zones for follow on forces. Combat Control also continued to be at the forefront of what is now called Terminal Attack Control. Working in small teams or alongside other government and special operations counterparts, Combat Controllers operating in South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Loas improvised new procedures for guiding bomber and attack aircraft onto priority targets with devastating effects.

It was also during Vietnam, that Combat Controllers began to immerse themselves in clandestine and "secret" missions such as their involvement in MACV-SOG and the CIA-led Butterfly operations. In these early years, some Combat Controllers would turn in their uniforms and be supplied with false identification so they could work in civilian clothing. This process was designed to preserve the fiction of American non-involvement dubbed 'plausible deniability'. True to their motto, a Combat Controller would be the last American airman to leave Vietnam in the last days of April 1975.

Combat Control Teams continued to prove critical in the coming years with their role in the formation of the Joint Special Operations Command, and in the invasions of Grenada and Panama. CCT was also key to several humanitarian missions during this time. When earthquakes devastated parts of Guatemala, Peru and Nicaragua, Combat Controllers were the first there to provide aid to thousands of suffering people.

Combat Control Teams, by now organized as Combat Control Squadrons, were also essential during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm with a wide-ranging involvement from air traffic control and terminal attack operations, to the SCUD hunting missions and assault actions that liberated Kuwait from Iraq. Combat Controllers also provided extensive air traffic control for the airlift and humanitarian relief to Kurdish refugees fleeing into northern Iraq.

The Combat Control legacy continues to grow in modern day conflicts such as Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Combat Controllers were among the first forces on the ground in both Afghanistan and Iraq, conducting reconnaissance and advanced forces operations, terminal attack control, airfield seizures, combat search and rescue, as well as conducting joint operations with other special operations units. In the first few years of Operation Enduring Freedom, it is estimated that 85 percent of the air strikes were called in by Air Force Combat Controllers.

In the 1940's, several U.S. Army Air Forces pilots and crew members had crashed or bailed out of disabled aircraft over uncharted jungles in Southeast Asia. So remote were the crash sites that the only means of reaching the survivors was by inserting parachute-qualified medical personnel. These incidents sparked the creation of an Air Rescue Service that could insert small teams of men into any area with the capability of rendering medical aid and evasion assistance. The men that joined this all-volunteer group worked together in Para-rescue Teams.

In 1947 these teams were officially designated Army Air Forces Pararescue, and were specially designed for insertion into areas inaccessible to other modes of rescue. Pararescue, under the Air Rescue Service, would involve the air survey of rescue sites, parachute infiltration, emergency medical care, use of survival procedures, and evacuation by either ground or air.

The first opportunity to employ the new Pararescue force was during the Korean War, and jump missions were conducted at least peripheral to the combat zone. During this time, Pararescue members also began to fly on board amphibious aircraft and helicopters, acting as medics and combat swimmers.

The duties of Pararescue units continued to grow into the 1960's, when a contingent of Pararescue personnel were integrated into Air Force Air Commando units to act as specialized medics in a variety of roles. Pararescue was also tasked to support the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Air Force space and missile programs for recovery of personnel and materials.

The Vietnam War was a defining conflict for Pararescue. The increased ground threat and scope of operations became so great that Pararescue began flying as teams on helicopters in order to defend against the enemy while conducting rescue operations. Pararescue teams would be inserted to conduct searches while escort aircraft remained nearby to provide instantaneous support. Sometimes the search for personnel who were being forced to escape and evade would last for several days.

Pararescuemen in Southeast Asia earned a notoriety for their selfless actions and valorous rescue attempts for the duration of the war. Throughout Vietnam, Pararescue conducted numerous recovery operations in hostile environments via parachute, ground and helicopter insertion, and hoist techniques. These Pararescue teams saved the lives of countless service members, and laid the foundation for combat search-and-rescue tactics that are still in use today.

Pararescue units continued to refine their role into the 1980's, and became an integral part of several operations during that time. Their combat and medical expertise was heavily utilized during the invasion of Panama, where by using specially modified vehicles, they recovered and treated the majority of U.S. casualties. In Operation Desert Storm, Pararescuemen were tasked with combat rescue missions involving downed aircrew members and injured combatants throughout the entire region.

Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Pararescuemen were among the first to begin rescue operations, searching for and recovering hundreds of isolated and injured personnel. The storied history of Pararescue continues today in modern conflicts such as Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. In Afghanistan and Iraq, Pararescuemen have performed countless combat search-and-rescue missions, as well as conducting advanced forces operations, airfield seizures, and joint operations with other special operations units.


After the large scale combat and major offensives of the Vietnam War were over, a new threat began to arise that would require a change in military tactics. By the late 1970’s, small skirmishes, terrorist organizations, and hostage scenarios emerged world-wide, creating the need for small, specially trained units capable of conducting clandestine and quick reaction missions. In 1977, the Army had created the 1 st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta, to act as a full-time counter terrorism unit. Shortly after it's inception, a small team of Combat Controllers had been assembled to work in conjunction with the newly formed Delta Force. Since this team of Combat Controllers had no official designation, they were known as “Brand-X”, and were the beginning of what would later become Air Force Special Tactics.

In April 1980, President Jimmy Carter tasked Delta, Brand-X, and various other units, to rescue fifty-three American citizens held hostage in Iran. Operation Eagle Claw, as it was called, encountered many obstacles and was eventually aborted. As the U.S. force prepared to leave the staging area known as Desert One, a helicopter crashed into a transport aircraft resulting in the death of eight servicemen. The failed rescue attempt had prompted the formation of a new command to oversee these specially trained units called the Joint Special Operations Command.

The JSOC mission grew rapidly with the invasion of Grenada, and in 1984, Pararescue began to integrate with the Combat Controllers of Brand-X. By 1987, several Pararescuemen had been assigned to Combat Control Squadrons, and on October 1 st of that year, the combined teams of Combat Control and Pararescue were officially designated as Air Force Special Tactics. One Special Tactics Squadron remained under the JSOC umbrella while five other Squadrons were under control of what would become Air Force Special Operations Command.

Just two years later, the newly integrated Special Tactics Squadrons would receive their first test when President George H. W. Bush ordered the invasion of Panama and the removal of it’s leader Manuel Noriega. Combat Controllers and Pararescue were among the first forces to parachute into Panama, seizing the airfield at Rio Hato and working air traffic control to infiltrate the rest of the joint task force. Combat Controllers also conducted direct action missions with several of the assault force elements, while teams of Pararescuemen moved through hostile areas recovering and treating casualties.

Special Tactics, and the melding of Combat Control and Pararescue, had proven to be a brilliant combination of capabilities, and would soon be tested again in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Special Tactics were among the first to arrive, taking control of the King Fahd airfield in Saudi Arabia and paving the way for additional forces. Working with other U.S. and British special operations teams, Combat Controllers destroyed numerous communication and satellite cells, as well as SCUD missile sites. Combat Controllers and Pararescuemen also conducted combat search-and-rescue missions throughout the entirety of both operations.

In October of 1993, a joint task force comprised of Special Tactics and other special operations forces in Somalia were involved in, what was then, the deadliest U.S. firefight since the Vietnam War. Although the operation resulted in the death of eighteen American servicemen, Combat Control and Pararescue were integral to the mission, as well as the rescue and evacuation of numerous U.S. casualties.

After the attacks on 9/11, Special Tactics was once again among the first units to be called upon. Combat Control and Pararescue were some of the first on the ground in both Afghanistan and Iraq, being involved in nearly every aspect of ground and air combat since the onset of both operations. Special Tactics operators have conducted thousands of missions as a team and in conjunction with other U.S. and coalition forces, and continue to operate in this capacity in theatres around the world.

Since September 11, 2001, Air Force Special Tactics have been involved in nearly every major operation, and average a member being killed or wounded-in-action every 1.15 months. Special Tactics airmen have received 10 Air Force Crosses, 34 Silver Stars, over 600 Bronze Stars, along with hundreds of Bronze Stars with Valor and Purple Hearts. Special Tactics is among the most highly decorated units in the United States Armed Forces, and is the most decorated organization in the Air Force.

A Short History of U.S. Law Enforcement Infiltrating Protests

When Harry, George, Tom, and Joe showed up at a warehouse outside Philadelphia rented by protesters, organizers were immediately suspicious. The men claimed to be “union carpenters” from the Scranton, Pennsylvania, area who built stages — just the kind of help the protesters needed. They were preparing for the Republican National Convention in 2000, where the party would be nominating George W. Bush. Across the country, allied organizers were planning similar protests for the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.

One of the hallmarks of the social justice movement at the time was its puppets. Organizers were coming off successful protests in Seattle in November 1999 against the World Trade Organization, and in Washington, D.C., in April 2000, against the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, and had managed to reshape the politics of globalization. Soaring papier-mache puppets, rolled through the streets on individually constructed floats, projected a festive air, capturing sympathetic media coverage and countering the authorities’ narrative that the protesters were nihilists simply relishing in property destruction.

The four carpenters were good with a hammer, but much about them had protesters wary they were in fact infiltrators. In conversation, “they were not very political or well informed,” recalled Kris Hermes, an organizer, in “Crashing the Party,” his memoir of the affair. They were older and more muscular than most protesters, he wrote, and they insisted on drinking beer while working, despite the organizers’ ban on drinking in the warehouse. In discussions and meetings, they asserted the right of protesters to destroy property and to physically resist arrest. The movement’s intentional lack of hierarchy left organizers with little ability to act on their suspicions of infiltration, even as they were becoming more deft at sussing out such provocateurs.

On August 1, the first full day of the Republican convention, police surrounded the warehouse, known as the “Ministry of Puppetganda,” executed mass arrests, and confiscated the puppets, floats, signs, and other materials to be used in upcoming marches. The police lied, publicly saying that organizers had been planning violent demonstrations and hinting darkly at bomb-making materials being hidden in the warehouse. That roundup presaged other mass arrests of protest leaders throughout the week, followed by beatings inside the jail and even a $1 million bond.

When the warrant for the warehouse raid was unsealed, it finally confirmed that Harry, George, Tom, and Joe had been state troopers assigned to infiltrate the group and produce a pretext for a raid. All of the charges against the puppeteers were eventually dropped, and the saga would eventually cost the city millions in lawsuit settlements (with much of the legal work led by radical attorney Larry Krasner, who is now Philadelphia district attorney).

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It is a historical fact, as this episode illustrates, that law enforcement frequently infiltrates progressive political movements using agent provocateurs who urge others to engage in violence. It is also a historical fact that, more rarely, such provocateurs commit acts of violence themselves.

The media pays little attention to such infiltrators, for a variety of reasons. On the one hand, corporate media has never taken much enthusiasm in questioning government action in the midst of riots or major demonstrations, unless that action goes wildly over the line or targets members of the media. The subject of provocateurs is also fraught from the perspective of protesters and movement organizers, as it can lead to paranoia that undermines solidarity and movement building. It is often conflated with the trope of “outside agitators” and used by authorities or other opponents of the protesters to delegitimize the anger on display, giving some protesters or their supporters an incentive to downplay the reality of the provocations.

The intensity of the conversation around protests that turn violent, and the life-or-death consequences of winding up on the wrong side of public opinion, leaves little room for a nuanced discussion. Were such a conversation possible, it would be easy to talk about the difference between the anger of a crowd and the actions it ultimately takes. An angry crowd that remains nonviolent and engages in zero property destruction is no less legitimately angry than one that does. Often the only difference is in whether and how the anger is triggered and escalated.

In protests across the country over the past week, the clear actor escalating the violence generally hasn’t been a protester or even a right-wing infiltrator, but the police themselves. In rally after rally, people have observed that looting and destruction only began after police charged and beat a crowd, or fired tear gas or rubber bullets into it. In other cases, it can take just one act by a protester to light the spark. Given the chaotic nature of the protests, it’s probable that everyone being blamed for property damage has played some role. But as the protests continue, and President Donald Trump calls for ever more violent methods of repression, the possible role of police provocateurs in protests is worth bearing in mind.

President of the Senate of the Italian Republic Francesco Cossiga attending the 16th National Congress of the Christian Democratic Party in Rome in February 1984.

Photo: Alberto Roveri/Mondadori Portfolio by Getty Images

In 2008, Francesco Cossiga, one of the most important political figures in post-World War II Italy, provided a rare glimpse behind the curtain at how the world looks to people at the top of governments facing large-scale protests.

Cossiga had served as prime minister and then president of Italy. Before that, in the late ’70s, he led the Ministry of the Interior. During that period, he was notorious for the brutality with which he put down left-wing demonstrations led by students. This is how the New York Times reported the situation in 1977: “Extremists among the students have created chaos in a number of Italian cities with a wave of shooting and destruction.”

As Silvio Berlusconi’s administration faced similarly threatening protests, Cossiga urged them to rerun his playbook:

[They] should do what I did when I was interior minister. … Pull back police from streets and colleges, infiltrate the movement with provocateurs ready for anything [emphasis added], and for ten days let protesters devastate shops, burn down cars, and set cities aflame. Then, emboldened by popular support … police should have no mercy and send them all to the hospital. Not arrest them, because prosecutors would just free them right away, but beat them all and beat the professors that encourage them.

The Times appears to have mentioned the possibility that government provocateurs were behind some of the violence once — and then not as fact, but as an accusation of “leftwing parties and newspapers.”

Cossiga had been a professor of constitutional law and was a centrist Christian Democrat. When he became prime minister in 1979, Jimmy Carter’s ambassador to Italy saw this as an “excellent development,” and Cossiga maintained a strong relationship with America. There is no direct line between Cossiga and today’s protests in the U.S. But his example indicates that it’s no fevered conspiracy theory to believe reasonable, reputable figures see provocateur tactics as legitimate — even if most of them are more circumspect in public.

The best documented use of provocateurs by the U.S. government occurred during the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Counter-Intelligence Program, or COINTELPRO, from 1956 to 1971. The reason the documentation is available is because a group of citizens broke into an FBI office in Pennsylvania — coincidentally, just a short drive from the warehouse targeted by police in 2000 — and stole files that they then passed to the media. This, in turn, led to congressional investigations, which pried loose more information.

In one notorious example in May 1970, an informant working for both the Tuscaloosa police and the FBI burned down a building at the University of Alabama during protests over the recent Kent State University shootings. The police then declared that demonstrators were engaging in an unlawful assembly and arrested 150 of them.

In another well-known case, a man nicknamed “Tommy the Traveler” visited numerous New York State colleges, posing as a radical member of Students for a Democratic Society. He encouraged acolytes to kidnap a congressman and offered training in Molotov cocktails. Two students at Hobart College acted on his suggestions and firebombed the campus ROTC building. Eventually it came out that his full name was Tommy Tongyai, and he had worked both for local police and the FBI.

The list goes on and on from there. An FBI informant, who said he was also a member of the John Birch Society, helped assemble time bombs and placed them on an Army truck. (The John Birch Society now says it has no record of his membership.) An FBI informant in the radical political organization Weather Underground took part in the bombing of a Cincinnati public school. A prominent member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War — and FBI informant — pushed for “shooting and bombing,” and his advocacy apparently did indeed lead to a bombing and a bomb threat. An FBI informant in Seattle drove a young black man named Larry Ward to a real estate office that engaged in housing discrimination and encouraged him to place a bomb there the police were waiting and killed Ward. Thirteen Black Panthers were accused of a plot to blow up the Statue of Liberty after receiving 60 sticks of dynamite from an FBI informant. After 28 people broke into a federal building to destroy draft files in 1971, an FBI informant bragged, “I taught them everything they knew.” All 28 were acquitted when his role was revealed.

The FBI also allowed informants within right-wing organizations to participate in violence against progressive activists. Gary Thomas Rowe, who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in 1960, provided the FBI with three weeks warning that the Klan was planning attacks on Freedom Riders arriving in Alabama from the north. The FBI stood by and allowed the attacks to occur. Local police gave the Klan 15 minutes to assault the activists. In those 15 minutes, the white supremacists — including Rowe — set the Freedom Rider bus on fire in an attempt to burn them alive.

Rowe may also have played a role in the infamous 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, which killed four young girls. He was in the car with three other Klansmen in 1965 when they chased down and murdered Viola Liuzzo, a mother of five from Detroit who’d traveled to Selma. Rowe received immunity for testifying against his compatriots, and was given a job as a U.S. Marshall by Lyndon Johnson’s attorney general.

Local police informants without apparent connections to the FBI got into the act too. A deputy sheriff enrolled as a student at SUNY Buffalo and helped students build and test bombs. Another informant posed as a student at Northeastern Illinois State College, led sit-ins for Students for a Democratic Society, and encouraged compatriots to sabotage military vehicles.

Soon after COINTELPRO was uncovered in 1971, the FBI announced that it was halting all such activities. Mark Felt, the assistant FBI director now also known to be the infamous “Deep Throat” source for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, later said that the bureau had made no effort to see that “constitutional values are being protected.”

When and whether the FBI ever stopped, however, is an open question. In 1975 an informant told the New York Times that he had engaged in COINTELPRO-like activities until he’d left the previous year. This included encouraging a Maoist group to blow up a bus at the 1972 GOP convention in Miami.

In any case, police forces in the U.S. continued the same tactics. In 1978, an undercover officer encouraged two hapless young activists to seize control of a television tower in Puerto Rico. When they arrived, they were gunned down by 10 policemen. Tellingly, when Puerto Rican government asked the FBI to investigate what happened, the FBI gave the government a clean bill of health. A top FBI official later called this a “coverup.”

After 9/11, the FBI got back in the business of encouraging violent acts in a big way — although they were generally much more careful to step in before the violence actually occurred. When journalist (and Intercept contributor) Trevor Aaronson examined U.S. prosecutions for international terrorism in the decade after the attacks, he found five examples of actual plots. By contrast, 150 people were indicted in sting operations that existed only thanks to the encouragement of the FBI and its informants. According to Aaronson, “the FBI is much better at creating terrorists than it is at catching terrorists.”

The same tactics have been used to generate purported domestic terrorism plots. In 2008 environmental activist Eric McDavid was sentenced to 20 years in prison for plotting to damage the Nimbus Dam in California. Eight years later, a judge ordered him released because the FBI had withheld evidence regarding a government informant. In 2012, the FBI and its informant essentially created a plot to blow up a bridge in Cleveland out of whole cloth, and dragged five Occupy activists into it.

Most recently, the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division invented something called the “Black Identity Extremism” movement. As portrayed by an FBI report, the threat from the imaginary movement reads as strikingly similar to that allegedly posed by black organizations during the days of COINTELPRO. The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives said this “resurrects the historically negative legacy of African American civil rights leaders who were unconstitutionally targeted and attacked by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.”

That brings us to the present day. On the one hand, this history doesn’t mean that the FBI or local police are currently acting as provocateurs during the current unrest. But it does mean that such activity is clearly one avenue that is open to U.S. police forces looking to undermine protests and escalate violence.

Update: June 10, 2020
After publication, a representative of the John Birch Society told The Intercept that the society had no record of George Demmerle having been a member. Demmerle, an FBI informant, had told FBI and others that he was a society member. The piece has been updated to reflect this.

Watch the video: Infiltration Tactics (August 2022).