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Spec Ops: Case Studies in Special Operations Warfare: Theory and Practice Paperback – June 1, 1996


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Product Details

  • Series: Case Studies in Special Operations Warfare: Theory and Pract
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Presidio Press (June 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0891416005
  • ISBN-13: 978-0891416005
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this well-organized and deeply researched study, McRaven analyzes eight special operations. Six are from WWII: the German commando raid on the Belgian fort Eben Emael (1940); the Italian torpedo attack on the Alexandria harbor (1941); the British commando raid on Nazaire, France (1942); the German glider rescue of Benito Mussolini (1943); the British midget-submarine attack on the Tirpitz (1943); and the U.S. Ranger rescue mission at the Cabanatuan POW camp in the Philippines (1945). The two post-WWII examples are the U.S. Army raid on the Son Tay POW camp in North Vietnam (1970) and the Israeli rescue of the skyjacked hostages in Entebbe, Uganda (1976). McRaven?who commands a U.S. Navy SEAL team?pinpoints six essential principles of "spec ops" success: simplicity, security, repetition, surprise, speed and purpose. For each of the case studies, he provides political and military context, a meticulous reconstruction of the mission itself and an analysis of the operation in relation to his six principles. McRaven deems the Son Tay raid "the best modern example of a successful spec op [which] should be considered textbook material for future missions." His own book is an instructive textbook that will be closely studied by students of the military arts. Maps, photos.-- should be considered textbook material for future missions." His own book is an instructive textbook that will be closely studied by students of the military arts. Maps, photos.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

This was an excellent read and very interesting from a historical perspective.
Amazon Customer
The author identifies certain principles that must be adhered to for success by special operations forces.
A Customer
Well, the book's a must for any serious student of military history or any Special Ops buff.
Jack Silkstone

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on July 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
In "Spec Ops" William H. McRaven has written a comprehensive, thoughtful, theory of special operations. In so doing, he has taken a field of arms that is shrouded and myth and bravado, and applied rigorous logic to it; the end result of which is both a useful tool for the analysis of past operations, and a guidebook for future ones.
The key to this work's success is that it cuts through the mayhem, and "seat-of-their-pants" view that most people have of special operations, and breaks them down using simple, constant analysis. First McRaven considers the overall mission: Was it worth the risk? Was it executed according to plan, and if not why? What could have been done better? He then goes on to identify six key components of any special operation: Simplicity, Security, Repetition, Surprise, Speed and Purpose. He correctly points out that weakness in any one of these areas can be compensated for, to a degree, by strength in the others, but they all must be present to some degree.
Finally he considers the most critical aspect of any special operation; Did/can the attacking force achieve and maintain relative superiority over the enemy? I say critical because by definition the special forces will never have absolute superiority, it is only in their ability to temporarily achieve superiority that they can have any hope of success. McRaven, observes that failure to achieve relative superiority must inevitably result in a failure to achieve objectives at the minimum, and disaster at the worst.
By analyzing eight classic special operations, McRaven proves the merits of his theory time and again. Over the course of fifty years and a host of political environments, he illustrates the overarching validity of his arguments. In so doing he has provided both the special warrior, and the military historian alike with a powerful, valuable tool.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Charles S. Heal on March 29, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is one of the most useful books on special operations I've ever encountered. McRaven is uniquely qualified to write this book, being both a practitioner and a student of the art. He succinctly and clearly outlines six underlying principles and how they interact with one another, as well as how they support special operations. The clear descriptions and graphs on the "area of vulnerablity" are especially insightful and allow the novice to understand when and why special operations succeed or fail. He then critques eight famous operations such as the Israeli hostage rescue at Entebbe and the U.S. raid on the Son Tay POW camp, using them to explain and illustrate how the six principles presented themselves. All in all, the BEST book on special operations I've ever read and would strongly recommend it to anyone who is a serious student of this particular type of operation, including domestic law enforcement tactical teams.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Douglas E. Raineault on January 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
William McRaven's book "Spec Ops" stands alone in the realm of military books as the only basic textbook for Special Forces operations. The book is a collection of Case Studies of special operations conducted by various internation militaries from The German Attack on Ebem Emael in 1940 to the Israeli Raid on Entebbe in 1976. While these case studies seem ancient with respect to the advances in Special Forces theory and practice and recent years their analysis is good as is as applicable today as ever. McRaven's thesis is that the success of a special operation depends on attaining superiority by surprise and intensity. This allows a small special forces contingent to defeat a much larger force. In fact McRaven actually graphs the operations and shows why each worked so well or so poorly. The analysis is so complete and clear that it seems obvious and simple. This book does for modern special forces doctrine what Rommel's Infantry Tactics did for warfare in the first half of the century. From the introduction to the conclusions the research and insight in this book are amazing. McRaven's credentials as a US Navy SEAL team commander are also impressive and lend authority to his ideas. This book should be required reading for all individuals involved in the conduct of modern warfare.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
I found it really useful in understanding the matters combined in Special operations. The theory which is also described in the doctrine of Spec. Ops. is here illustrated and explained in a less complicated way by using case studies. These case studies are randomly but carefully chosen by size, force, time, space, backgrounds of the participants, field of expertise and the end results. This way McRaven was able to prove his 6 basic principles of Special Operations, Speed, Security, Repetion, Surprise, Speed and Purpose. Succesfull execution of a special operation does not depend on ones field of expertise. It is more dependent on preparation, plannning, physical/ mental/ strategic training and capabilities of the executing group of determand people as discribed in the 6 basics by McRaven. Therefore I recommend this book to everyone who wants to understand these principles which are practised not only by Special Forces but also by Regular Armed Forces.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
McRaven is the first author that I have read that has develop theoretical models that explain the "how" and "why" of special operations. He is the first "operator" that has moved beyond the operational world into doctrinal theory. All other authors have made their attempt in the fictional world - McRaven does it in the "real" world. His detailed examination of selected SPEC OPS missions since 1940 is particularly effective. Having read many first person accounts of the historical missions that appeared in his book I could find minor fault with only one of his observations. With over 18 years of hands on experience in SPEC OPS almost everything he talks about tracks very closely with my personal experience. "SPEC OPS" should be required reading of all senior enlisted personnel and officers serving in USSOCOM and its subordinated commands.
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