A commando is a soldier or operative of an elite light infantry or special operations force often specializing in amphibious landings, parachuting or abseiling. Originally "a commando" was a type of combat unit, as opposed to an individual in that unit. In other languages, commando and kommando denote a "command", including the sense of a military or an elite special operations unit.
In the militaries and governments of most countries, commandos are distinctive in that they specialize in assault on unconventional high-value targets. However, the term commando is sometimes used in relation to units carrying out the latter tasks (including some civilian police units).
In English, occasionally to distinguish between an individual commando and the unit Commando, the unit is capitalized.
- 1 Green Berets and training origins
- 2 Etymology
- 3 History
- 4 World War I
- 5 World War II
- 6 After 1945
- 7 In popular culture
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Green Berets and training origins
Since the 20th century and World War II, commandos have been set apart from other military units by virtue of their extreme training regimes; these are usually associated with the green beret which originated with British Commandos. The British Commandos were instrumental in founding many other international commando units during World War II. Some international commando units were formed from members who served as part of or alongside British Commandos, such as the Dutch Korps Commandotroepen (who still wear the recognition flash insignia of the British Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife), Belgian 5th Special Air Service, or Greek Sacred Band (World War II). In 1944 the SAS Brigade was formed from the British 1st and 2nd SAS, the French 3rd and 4th SAS, and the Belgian 5th SAS. The French Army special force (1er RPIMa) still use the motto Qui Ose Gagne, a translation of the SAS motto "Who Dares Wins."
In addition, many Commonwealth nations were part of the original British Commando units. They developed their own national traditions, including the Australian Special Air Service Regiment, the New Zealand Special Air Service, and the Southern Rhodesian Special Air Service, all of whom share the same insignia and motto as their British counterparts. During the Second World War, the British SAS quickly adopted sand-colored berets, since they were almost entirely based in the North African theatre; they used these rather than the green berets to distinguish themselves from other British Commando units. (See History of the Special Air Service. Other Commonwealth commando units were formed after the Second World War directly based on the British Commando green berets, such as the Australian 1st Commando Regiment (Australia), distinct from the Australian special operations 2nd Commando Regiment (Australia), who originated with the jungle-fighting 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment during the Second World War.
The US Rangers were founded by Major General Lucian Truscott of the US Army, a liaison officer with the British General Staff. In 1942, he submitted a proposal to General George Marshall that an American unit be set up "along the lines of the British Commandos". The original US Rangers trained at the British Commandos centre at Achnacarry Castle. The US Navy SEALs' original formation, the Observer Group, was also trained and influenced by British Commandos. The US Special Forces originated with the First Special Service Force, formed under British Combined Operations.
Malaysian green beret special forces PASKAL and Grup Gerak Khas (who still wear the Blue Lanyard of the Royal Marines) were originally trained by British Commandos. The Brazilian marine special operations COMANF also originated with Royal Marines mentoring. Other British units, such as the SAS, led to the development of many international special operations units that are now typically referred to as commandos, including the Pakistani Special Services Group, Indian MARCOS, and Jordanian special forces.
The word stems from the Afrikaans word kommando, which translates roughly to "mobile infantry regiment". This term originally referred to mounted infantry regiments, who fought against the British Army in the first and second Boer Wars.
The Dutch word has had the meaning of "a military order or command" since at least 1652; it likely came into the language through the influence of the Portuguese word comando (meaning "command"). (In Dutch, "commando" can also mean a command given to a computer, e.g., "het mkdir-commando" (= "create a directory").) It is also possible the word was adopted into Afrikaans from interactions with Portuguese colonies. Less likely, it is a High German loan word, which was borrowed from Italian in the 17th century, from the sizable minority of German settlers in the initial European colonization of South Africa.
The officer commanding an Afrikaans kommando is called a kommandant, which is a regimental commander equivalent to a lieutenant-colonel or a colonel.
The Oxford English Dictionary ties the English use of the word meaning "[a] member of a body of picked men ..." directly into its Afrikaans' origins:
1943 Combined Operations (Min. of Information) i. Lt. Lieutenant-Colonel D. W. Clarke... produced the outline of a scheme.... The men for this type of irregular warfare should, he suggested, be formed into units to be known as Commandos.... Nor was the historical parallel far-fetched. After the victories of Roberts and Kitchener had scattered the Boer army, the guerrilla tactics of its individual units (which were styled ‘Commandos’)... prevented decisive victory.... His [sc. Lt.-Col. D. W. Clarke's] ideas were accepted; so also, with some hesitation, was the name Commando.
During World War II, newspaper reports of the deeds of "the commandos" led to readers thinking that the singular meant one man rather than one military unit, and this new usage became established.
After the Dutch Cape Colony was established in 1652, the word was used to describe bands of militia. The first "Commando Law" was instated by the original Dutch East India Company chartered settlements and similar laws were maintained through the independent Boer Orange Free State and South African Republic. The law compelled Burghers to equip themselves with a horse and a firearm when required in defense. The implementation of these laws was called the "Commando System". A group of mounted militiamen were organized in a unit known as a commando and headed by a Commandant, who was normally elected from inside the unit. Men called up to serve were said to be "on commando". British experience with this system lead to the widespread adoption of the word "commandeer" into English in the 1880s.
During the "Great Trek", conflicts with Southern African peoples such as the Xhosa and the Zulu caused the Boers to retain the commando system despite being free of colonial laws. Also, the word became used to describe any armed raid. During this period, the Boers also developed guerrilla techniques for use against numerically superior but less mobile bands of natives such as the Zulu who fought in large complex formations.
In the First Boer War, Boer commandos were able to use superior marksmanship, fieldcraft, camouflage and mobility to expel an occupying British force (poorly trained in marksmanship, wearing red uniforms and unmounted) from the Transvaal. These tactics were continued throughout the Second Boer War. In the final phase of the war, 75,000 Boers carried out asymmetric warfare against the 450,000-strong British Imperial forces for two years after the British had captured the capital cities of the two Boer republics. During these conflicts the word entered English, retaining its general Afrikaans meaning of a "militia unit" or a "raid". Robert Baden-Powell recognised the importance of fieldcraft and was inspired to form the scouting movement.
In 1941, Lieutenant-Colonel D. W. Clarke of the British Imperial General Staff, suggested the name Commando for specialized raiding units of the British Army Special Service in evocation of the effectiveness and tactics of the Boer commandos. During World War II, American and British publications, confused over the use of the plural "commandos" for that type of British military units, gave rise to the modern common habit of using "a commando" to mean one member of such a unit, or one man engaged on a raiding-type operation.
World War I
The first country to establish commando troops was Italy, in the summer 1917, shortly before Germany.
Italy used specialist trench-raiding teams to break the stalemate of static fighting against Austria-Hungary, in the Alpine battles of World War I. These teams were called "Arditi" (meaning "daring, brave ones"); they were almost always men under 25 in top physical condition and, possibly at first, bachelors (due to fear of very high casualty rates). Actually the Arditi (who were led to the lines just a few hours before the assault, having been familiarised with the terrain via photo-reconnaissance and trained on trench systems re-created ad hoc for them) suffered fewer casualties than regular line infantry and were highly successful in their tasks. Many of them volunteered for extreme-right formations in the turbulent years after the war and (the Fascist Party took pride in this and adopted the style and the mannerism of Arditi), but some people of left-wing political persuasions created the "Arditi del Popolo" (People's Arditi) and for some years held the fascist raids in check, defending Socialist and Communist Party sections, buildings, rallies and meeting places.
During the Liberation of Rome in 1944, US troops broke into the Italian Ministry of Defence building in Rome and seized all World War I materials and documents pertaining to Arditi units in the archives.
In World War I in 1918, raiding troops called "Sturmtruppen" or Storm Troopers carrying submachine guns, mostly the MP-18, were sent by the Germans to try to disrupt or even break into no man's land and into the trenches of British and French lines.
World War II
In December 1939, following the success of German infiltration and sabotage operations in the Polish campaign, the German Office for Foreign and Counter-Intelligence (OKW Amt Ausland/Abwehr) formed the Brandenburger Regiment (known officially as the 800th Special Purpose Training and Construction Company). The Brandenburgers conducted a mixture of covert and conventional operations but became increasingly involved in ordinary infantry actions and were eventually converted into a Panzer-Grenadier Division, suffering heavy losses in Russia. Otto Skorzeny (most famed for his rescue of Benito Mussolini) conducted many special operations for Adolf Hitler. Skorzeny commanded Sonderlehrgang z.b.V. Oranienburg, Sonderverband z.b.V. Friedenthal, and SS-Jäger-Bataillon 502, all SS commando units.
In 1944–45, Japanese Teishin Shudan ("Raiding Group") and Giretsu ("heroic") detachments made airborne assaults on Allied airfields in the Philippines, Marianas and Okinawa. The attacking forces varied in size from a few paratroopers to operations involving several companies. Due to the balance of forces concerned, these raids achieved little in the way of damage or casualties, and resulted in the destruction of the Japanese units concerned. Considering that there were no plans to extract these forces, and the reluctance to surrender by Japanese personnel during that era, they are often seen in the same light as kamikaze pilots of 1944–45.
The navy had commando units "S-toku" (Submarine special attack units, see Kure 101st JSNLF(in Japanese) ) for infiltrating enemy areas by submarine. It was called the Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces of Kure 101st, Sasebo 101st and 102nd.
Italy's most renowned commando unit of World War II was Decima Flottiglia MAS ("10th Assault Vehicle Flotilla"), which, from mid-1940, sank or damaged a considerable tonnage of Allied ships in the Mediterranean.
After Italy surrendered in 1943, some of the Decima Flottiglia MAS were on the Allied side of the battle line and fought with the Allies, renaming themselves the Mariassalto. The others fought on the German side and kept their original name but did not operate at sea after 1943, being mostly employed against Italian partisans; some of its men were involved in atrocities against civilians.
In post-war years the Italian marine commandos were re-organised as the "Comsubin" (an abbreviation of 'Comando Subacqueo Incursori', or Underwater Raiders Command).They wear the green Commando beret.
In 1940, the British Army also formed "independent companies", later reformed as battalion sized "commandos", thereby reviving the word. The British intended that their commandos be small, highly mobile surprise raiding and reconnaissance forces. They intended them to carry all they needed and not remain in field operations for more than 36 hours. Army Commandos were all volunteers selected from existing soldiers still in Britain.
During the war the British Army Commandos spawned several other famous British units such as the Special Air Service, the Special Boat Service and the Parachute Regiment. The British Army Commandos themselves were never regimented and were disbanded at the end of the war.
The Special Operations Executive (SOE) also formed commando units from British and displaced European personnel (e.g., Cichociemni) to conduct raiding operations in occupied Europe. They also worked in small teams, such as the SAS, which was composed of ten or fewer commandos because that was better for special operations. One example is Norwegian Independent Company 1, which destroyed heavy water facilities in Norway in 1941.
The Royal Navy also controlled Royal Navy Beach Parties, based on teams formed to control the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940. These were later known simply as RN Commandos, and they did not see action until they successfully fought for control of the landing beaches (as in the disastrous Dieppe Raid of 19 August 1942). The RN Commandos, including Commando "W" from the Royal Canadian Navy, saw action on D-Day.
In 1942, the Royal Navy's nine Royal Marines infantry battalions were reorganized as Commandos, numbered from 40 to 48, joining the British Army Commandos in combined Commando Brigades. After the war the Army Commandos were disbanded. The Royal Marines form an enduring Brigade-strength capability as 3 Commando Brigade with supporting Army units.
The Royal Air Force also formed 15 commando units in 1942, each of which was 150 strong. These units consisted of trained technicians, armourers and maintainers who had volunteered to undertake the commando course. These RAF commandos accompanied the Allied invasion forces in all theatres; their main role was to allow the forward operation of friendly fighters by servicing and arming them from captured air fields. However, due to the forward position of these airfields, the Royal Air Force Commandos were also trained to secure and make safe these airfields and to help defend them from enemy counterattack.
The Australian Army formed commando units, known as Australian independent companies in the early stages of World War II. They first saw action in early 1942 during the Japanese assault on New Ireland, and in the Battle of Timor. Part of the 2/1st Independent Company was wiped out on New Ireland, but on Timor, the 2/2nd Independent Company formed the heart of an Allied force that engaged Japanese forces in a guerrilla campaign. The Japanese commander on the island drew parallels with the Boer War, and decided that it would require a 10:1 numerical advantage to defeat the Allies. The campaign occupied the attention of an entire Japanese division for almost a year. The independent companies were later renamed commando squadrons, and they saw widespread action in the South West Pacific Area, especially in New Guinea and Borneo. In 1943, all the commando squadrons except the 2/2nd and 2/8th were grouped into the 2/6th, 2/7th and 2/9th Cavalry Commando Regiments.
Later in the war the Royal Australian Navy also formed commando units along the lines of the Royal Naval Commandos to go ashore with the first waves of major amphibious assaults, to signpost the beaches and carry out other naval tasks. These were known as RAN Commandos. Four were formed—lettered A, B, C and D like their British counterparts—and they took part in the Borneo campaign.
Z Force, an Australian-British-New Zealand military intelligence commando unit, formed by the Australian Services Reconnaissance Department, also carried out many raiding and reconnaissance operations in the South West Pacific theatre, most notably Operation Jaywick, in which they destroyed tonnes of Japanese shipping at Singapore Harbour. An attempt to replicate this success, with Operation Rimau, resulted in the death of almost all those involved. However, Z Force and other SRD units continued operations until the war's end.
New Zealand formed the Southern Independent Commando in Fiji 1942. Its primary function was to wage a guerrilla war on any Japanese forces should they attempt to capture the strategically important Fiji islands. 200 native Fijians were recruited and organised by 44 New Zealanders. Training focused intensely on jungle warfare, and many successful 'mock' raids were made on American garrisons who awoke to find dummy time bombs placed on their ammunition dumps, or chalk crosses drawn on the equipment of their guards.
When it became apparent that a Japanese invasion of Fiji was no longer likely, the commando was deployed to undertake scouting tasks for US forces around Guadalcanal and New Georgia. Recruiting was further expanded to include men from other pacific islands such as the Solomons and Tonga, and occasionally British or American personnel took part in training or accompanied the commandos on missions. After many successful operations and engagements, the harsh conditions of extended jungle living took their toll, and many men began to suffer from ill-health. As a result, the commando was reduced in strength until it was declared unfit for further service, and was disbanded in May 1944.
The commando's contribution to the Solomon Island campaign was significant, with senior American officers referring to the unit as "most capable", "invaluable" and "unquestionably ... of great aid in the campaign".
A joint Canadian-American Commando unit, the 1st Special Service Force, nicknamed the Devil's Brigade, was formed in 1942 under the command of Colonel Robert Frederick. The unit initially saw service in the Pacific, in August 1943 at Kiska in the Aleutians campaign. However most of its operations occurred during the Italian campaign and in southern France. Its most famous raid, which was documented in the film Devil's Brigade, was the battle of Monte la Difensa. In 1945, the unit was disbanded; some of the Canadian members were sent to the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion as replacements, and the American members were sent to either the 101st Airborne Division or the 82nd Airborne Division as replacements or the 474th Regimental Combat Team. Ironically they were sent to service in Norway in 1945, the country they were formed to raid.
The Sacred band (Greek: Ιερός Λόχος) was a Greek special forces unit formed in 1942 in the Middle East, composed entirely of Greek officers and officer cadets under the command of Col. Christodoulos Tsigantes. It fought alongside the SAS in the Libyan Desert and with the SBS in the Aegean, as well as with General Leclerc's Free French Forces in Tunisia. It was disbanded in August 1945.
During 1941, the United States Marine Corps formed commando battalions. The USMC commandos were known collectively as Marine Raiders. On orders from President Franklin D. Roosevelt through a proposal from OSS Director Colonel William J. Donovan and the former Commander of the United States Marine Detachment Major Evans F Carlson, directed the formation of what became the Marine Raiders. Initially this unit was to be called Marine Commandos and were to be the counterpart to the British Commandos. The name Marine Commandos met with much controversy within the Marine Corps leading Commandant Thomas J. Holcomb to state, "the term 'Marine' is sufficient to indicate a man ready for duty at any time, and the injection of a special name, such as commando, would be undesirable and superfluous." President Roosevelt's son James Roosevelt served with The Marine Raiders. The Raiders initially saw action at the Battle of Tulagi and the Battle of Makin, as well as the Battle of Guadalcanal, the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay, and other parts of the Pacific Ocean Areas. In February 1944 the four Raider battalions were converted to regular Marine units. Additionally, as parachuting special forces units, Paramarines arguably also qualified as commandos- though they too were assimilated into regular Marine units in 1944.
In mid-1942, the United States Army formed its Army Rangers in Northern Ireland under William O. (Bill) Darby. The Rangers were designed along the similar lines to the British Commandos. The first sizable Ranger action took place in August 1942 at the Dieppe Raid, where 50 Rangers from the 1st Ranger Battalion were dispersed among Canadian regulars and British Commandos. The first full Ranger action took place in November 1942 during the invasion of Algiers in Northwest Africa in (Operation Torch), again by members of the 1st Ranger Battalion.
After World War II there was much publicity about the deeds of "the commandos"; many civilians reading these accounts, guessing a meaning from the context, thought in error that the singular "a commando" meant one man, and that usage became general.
1st Commando Regiment (1 Cdo Regt), a regimental structure for the reserve commando companies—and 126 Signal Squadron (Special Forces)—was formed during the 1980s. It adopted the green berets worn by its World War II predecessors.
In 1997, the Australian government ordered the conversion of 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (4RAR) into a permanent, non-reserve commando battalion, with instructors from 1st Commando Regiment and Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SASR). 126 Signal Squadron was reassigned to 4RAR and 301 Signal Squadron re-raised to join 1 Cdo Regt. In 2009, 4RAR was renamed 2nd Commando Regiment (2 Cdo Regt).
1 Cdo and 2 Cdo utilise identical selection and training courses. One company of 2 Cdo is responsible for counter-terrorism operations and response in eastern Australia and is officially known as Tactical Assault Group-East (TAG-E). This company mirrors its sister unit (the original Tactical Assault Group) in the West (TAG-W), which is part of the SASR.
Commando units belonging to Belgium are the Para-Commando Regiments and Brigade Immediate Reaction Cell.
Canadian commando forces were disbanded and recreated at various times in the post-war years, and in 1968 the Canadian Airborne Regiment was formed. It was divided into three Airborne Commandos each of company strength. This resulted in a ceiling of about 750 members in all ranks, organized into three smaller company-sized commandos. The three airborne commandos took shape around the three regimental affiliations: 1 Commando with the Royal 22e Régiment, 2 Commando with Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, and 3 Commando with The Royal Canadian Regiment. The Canadian Airborne Regiment was disbanded after the torture and murder of Shidane Arone, a Somalia civilian, in 1993, and other allegations of wrongdoing within the Regiment. Later, parliamentary investigations questioned why such an elite commando unit was sent on a peacekeeping mission. The Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) is known as a commando unit but is a special forces unit and Canadian Joint Task Force Two, or JTF2, is also sometimes referred to as a "commando" unit, but it is technically a specialist counter-terrorism unit.
Brazil created its special operations forces in the 1950s. There are commando units in the Brazilian Army and in the navy. In Brazilian Army the main unit is the Brazilian Special Operations Brigade. Brazilian Navy have the COMANF Amphibious Commandos of Brazilian Marine Corps.
In Chile the Army Special Forces, Navy and Air Force commando units are characterized by their black berets and for their use of a special type of knife called a Corvo. The Chilean commandos are also known for their military bearing and discipline, thorough preparation and for their rich historic traditions. The Army's motto is: "ever victorious, never defeated."
The former Belgian Congo had one Commando company at independence in 1960 and this was soon expanded to a battalion, becoming known as the 1st Para-Commando Battalion. A 2nd Para-Commando Battalion was added a few years later. From 1963, the Congolese-manned 3rd and 4th Commando Battalions were formed but were little more than normal infantry units. In 1964, the 5th and 6th Commando Battalions were formed mainly with mercenaries, and the 7th to 15th Commando Battalions mainly with Congolese but with some white NCOs and officers. Again, there was no actual commando training and the units were more akin to motorized infantry, with some armour. The 5th to the 15th were all disbanded by 1967.
The Finnish Defence Forces (FDF) do not train any commando units in the traditional sense, but the FDF and the Finnish Border Guard (under the Ministry of the Interior) have units which are trained specially, like commandos, with tactics to perform in the Arctic wilderness against enemy FDF trains only some tens of paratroopers in a year in the Utti Jaeger Regiment for Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol and special forces tactics. However, FDF and Finnish Frontier Guard have their own Sissi (Finnish light infantry) training regiments (thousands in reserve) in which some hundreds of highly motivated volunteers, per year, are trained to operate behind enemy lines with asymmetric tactics and with light and some times improvised weapons. The role of the troops is reconnaissance, ambushes, to hit supply, logistics and command and control. Also, any special gear (like bridge carriers) and weapons are preferable targets for these units.
French Army (Armee de Terre):
- French Army Special Forces Brigade: Army component of Special Operations Command (France):
- 11th Parachute Brigade:
- Commando Parachute Group: Pathfinders and Recon Group.
- 27th Mountain Infantry Brigade (France):
- Commando Mountain Group (Groupement de commandos de montagne): Recon. Group.
- Engineer divers (Plongeur de combat du Génie, DINOPS): Demolition, bomb disposal, and urban warfare teams found in most engineering regiments, specially Foreign Legion and parachute (17th RGP, 1st REG, 2nd REG.)
- Centre national d'entraînement commando (CNEC). National Commando training Center: Similar to US Ranger School.
French Navy (Marine Nationale):
- Commandos Marine: Navy component of Special Operations Command (France):
- Commando Hubert (also named Commando d'Action Sous-Marine Hubert, CASM, "underwater operations commando"): Submarine action (combat divers).
- Commando Jaubert: Assault at sea, exfiltration, close quarters battle at sea.
- Commando Trepel: Assault at sea, exfiltration.
- Commando de Penfentenyo: Reconnaissance, Intelligence Operations (recon swimmers)
- Commando de Montfort: Long range neutralisation (missile launchers, light mortars, heavy sniper rifles), fire support designation
- Commando Kieffer: C3I, military dogs
French Air Force (Armee de L'Air):
- Commando parachutiste de l'Air n°10 (CPA 10): Air Force component of Special Operations Command (France):
- Fusiliers Commandos de l'Air
- (CPA 20): Bases Protection Squads
- (CPA 30): RESCO
National Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Nationale):
- National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (GIGN): performs counter-terrorist and hostage rescue missions in France or anywhere else in the world
- The Centre Parachutiste d'Entraînement Spécialisé (CPES, "Paratrooper Specialised Training Centre") in Cercottes for clandestine operations
- The Centre Parachutiste d'Instruction Spécialisée (CPIS, "Paratrooper Specialised Instruction Centre") in Perpignan for special commandos.
- The Centre Parachutiste d'Entraînement aux Opérations Maritimes (CPEOM, "Paratrooper Training Centre for Naval Operations") in Quelern, which instructs combat divers.
The KSK is stationed in Calw, in the Black Forest area in southern Germany. It consists of about 1,100 soldiers, but only a nucleus of these are in fighting units. Exact numbers are not available, as this information is considered secret. The KSK is a part of the Special Operations Division (Div. Spezielle Operationen or DSO).
The fighting units are divided into four commando companies of about 100 men each and the special commando company with veteran members, taking supporting tasks. Each of the four commando companies has five specialised platoons:
- 1st platoon: land insertions
- 2nd platoon: airborne operations
- 3rd platoon: amphibious operations
- 4th platoon: operations in special geographic or meteorologic surroundings (e.g. mountains or polar-regions)
- 5th platoon: reconnaissance, sniper and counter-sniper operations
- Command Platoon
There are four commando squads in every platoon. Each of these groups consists of about four equally skilled soldiers. One of each group is specially trained as weapons expert, medic, combat engineer or communications expert respectively. Additionally a group can contain other specialists, e.g. heavy weapons or language experts.
The Para Commandos are a special forces unit of the Indian Army. Formed in 1952, the Para Commandos are the largest and most important part of the Special Forces of India. They are highly trained units of the Indian Army, meant to operate behind enemy lines.
The Special Frontier Force is a paramilitary special force of India created on 14 November 1962. Its main goal was to conduct covert operations behind Chinese lines in the event of another Indo-China war. SFF was raised with covert operations in mind, mainly along the Indo-China border, however SFF has been fielded by R&AW and the Indian government in various covert and overt operations.
The Garud Commando Force is the Special Forces unit of the Indian Air Force. The unit derives its name from the word for eagle in Sanskrit. Garud is tasked with acting as quick response teams during attacks on critical Air Force bases and installations, search and rescue of downed pilots, forward air control and carrying out strikes against enemy air defences and radar installations.
National Security Guards is a special force in India that has primarily been utilised for counter-terrorism activities. (NSG) personnel are popularly known as Black Cat Commandos. There are 2 main units of the NSG, The Special Action Group (SAG) and The Special Ranger Groups (SRG). The Special Action Group is the strike force in anti-terrorist and hostage rescue operations. The Special Rangers Group (SRG) is tasked with providing VVIP security for high-risk VVIPs in India.
Ghatak Force is a battalion-level special unit in the Indian Army, with one in each battalion. They are used as elite infantry to spearhead attacks, carry out reconnaissance and further the objectives on the battalion in the battlefield.
The Force One is an elite commando force, which is a specialised counter terrorism unit to guard the Mumbai metropolitan area, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world, formed by Government of Maharashtra on the lines of National Security Guards (NSG).
Special Tactical Unit is an urban counter terrorist unit based in Odisha, India. They specialise in urban warfare scenarios including hostage situations.
Shayetet 13 is the elite naval commando unit of the Israeli Navy. S'13 specializes in sea-to-land incursions, counter-terrorism, sabotage, maritime intelligence gathering, maritime hostage rescue, and boarding.The unit is respected as among the best of the world's special forces.
"Kopassus" (a portmanteau of "Komando Pasukan Khusus" or "Special Force Command") is an Indonesian Army special forces group that conducts special operations missions for the Indonesian government, such as direct action, unconventional warfare, sabotage, counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism, and intelligence gathering.
Kopassus was founded on April 16, 1952. On April 15, 1952, Colonel Alexander Evert Kawilarang laid the foundation for Kesatuan Komando Tentara Territorium III/Siliwangi (Kesko TT), the early name of Kopassus.
The impetus for building this special force was provided from an experience of frustration when fighting against the troops of the RMS (Republik Maluku Selatan or Republic of the South Moluccas), who were supported by two companies of Dutch Korps Speciale Troepen (KST). The Indonesians were amazed and hampered by KST's sniper ability and skills—which the Indonesian armed forces of the time did not possess. They were inspired to build a similar force for Indonesia. However, at that time, there were no Indonesian commanders with the necessary experience or special operations skills. However, Lieutenant Colonel Slamet Riyadi's dream was not realized due to his death in a battle against the troops of the separatist RMS.
Not long after, Colonel Kawilarang with the use of military intelligence located and met with Major Rokus Bernardus Visser—a former member of the Dutch Special Forces who had remained a peaceful and law-abiding citizen in newly independent Indonesia, settled in West Java, married an Indonesian woman, and adopted an Indonesian name, Mohamad Idjon Djanbi. He was the first recruit for the Indonesian special forces, as well as its first commander. Due to him, the unit later to become Kopassus adopted the distinctive Red Beret similar to that of the Dutch Special Forces.
At that time, Indonesia's special force name was Third Territorial Command: Komando Teritorium Tiga (KTT). Kopassus was the final result of five name changes: KTT, KKAD, RPKAD, and Kopasandha. The first generation of Indonesian Forces was only around a hundred soldiers or one company, headquartered in Bandung.
As TNI members, the Kopassus are/were legally exempt from civil law jurisdiction trial and a military inquiry found them innocent of all charges. The principal members of the alleged "murder" were all of Group V (Jakarta) and not based in Jayapura nor West Papua, and the "supposed ring-leader Let-Col Hatono got three and a half years jail and two other officers were not even discharged. The ruling Jakarta perspective on the "murder" was affirmed by army Chief Ryamizard Ryacudu: "accepted the men had to face sentence because Indonesia is a State based on law. However he said the men are heroes to [sic: if they did] kill a rebel leader. Defense lawyers who [sic: are] appealing the verdicts, have also described the alleged "killers" as heroes"
Kopassus is alleged by external media and human rights-affiliated NGOs to have committed violations of human rights in East Timor, Aceh, Papua and the capital Jakarta. Notably in the Western press, published articles even in mainstream media may include epithets such as "the notorious Kopassus" . Four members of Kopassus were convicted of the strangulation killing of Theys Eluay, the former chairman of the Papuan Presidium Council. After admitting the killing after ambushing him and his driver, two received prison sentences of 31/2 years and two others received three years.
Special Service Group (SSG) is an independent commando division of the Pakistan Army. It is an elite special operations force. Official numbers are put at 2,100 men, in 3 Battalions; however the actual strength is classified. Based out of Cherat and Attock, the SSG was created in 1956 with active support from U.S. Special Operations Forces. That year the 19th Battalion of the Baloch Regiment (19 Baloch) was selected for conversion to a Special Operation Force.Now the SSG is having one of the best specialized and experienced Anti Terrorist squad in the World known as Al Zarrar
The SSG also has a unit in the Pakistan Navy known as Special Service Group Navy (SSGN). The SSGN currently maintains headquarters in Karachi headed by Pakistan Navy Commander. The SSG in 2001 created a special forces unit for the Pakistan Air Force called the Special Service Wing (SSW). This new component to the Special Forces of Pakistan is still being trained and built up. In 2006 SSGN created two new groups, the Pak Seals and VBSS. The Pak Seals will operate at sea, air, and land.
The first modern commando type force created by the Portuguese Army was the Sapadores de Assalto (Assault Sappers), a small assault sub-unit organized inside the Army School of Engineers, by the then captain Kaulza de Arriaga, in 1947. However, the majority of the Army was opposed to the existence of special forces and the Sapadores de Assalto were soon extinct.
Later, Kaulza de Arriaga, would be appointed the first Secretary of the Air and - in this role - created the Portuguese Parachute Troops in 1956, with commando features, as part of the Portuguese Air Force and not of the Army.
In 1960, the Army created again a commando type unit, the Caçadores Especiais (Special Rifles). The Caçadores Especiais would fight in the beginning of the Portuguese Overseas War in Africa. However, the Army faction opposed to the existence of special forces prevailed again and the decision was taken to extinct the Caçadores Especiais and to extend the training given to those units to all the field units of the Army.
It was soon found impossible to train all units as Caçadores Especiais. This originated the creation of the Comandos. The first of these forces were created in Northern Angola in 1962, initially as shock sub-units of regular field battalions and later as independent units. The Comandos were designed to conduct special actions in the Portuguese territory or abroad, to fight as assault infantry / shock troops and to provide the high political and military commands with a force able to conduct irregular operations.
Beyond the above-mentioned, the Portuguese Armed and Security Forces organized and employed several other commando type forces in the Overseas Wars in Angola, Mozambique and Portuguese Guinea, including the Fuzileiros Especiais (Special Marines) of the Portuguese Navy, the Flechas (Arrows) of the International and State Defense Police and the Grupos Especiais (Special Groups) of the Government of Mozambique.
During the Rhodesian Bush War of 1965–1980, the Rhodesian military increased its usage of commando type of operations in fighting against insurgents until the formation of Zimbabwe. In the Rhodesian Light Infantry a Commando was also the name given to its company sized units.
While the use of the word commando came to refer to various elite special operations forces units in other countries in the world, South Africa retained its original name as both a well regulated quick response militia as well as a special operations forces unit defined in the world-wide fashion. From the end of the 19th until the early 21st centuries, the Commando units in the form of its original structure were used in both urban and rural areas until the end of white rule in South Africa as part of a nationwide South African Commando System. Today, the old system has been completely purged by the democratic government which considered the old system as serving and protecting the interests of whites and white privilege. Many Commando veterans, however, argue that crime has risen dramatically as a result of this move.
When white rule was replaced with majority rule, the new democratic ANC led government demanded the disbandment of the commandos which they considered an obstacle to further democratic control as well as complaints of abuses. Thus, with the integration of white cities with black townships, the new ANC led urban governments immediately disbanded the urban militia commando units.
With the election of Thabo Mbeki, the process of de-arming white militias again commenced and it was announced in 2003, that the rural commandos would be disbanded. The last rural commandos were ordered disbanded by the central government over constitutional arguments.
The ANC government directed its attention toward the Reconnaissance Commandos which were the first mixed-race unit in the old SADF. During the period of rationalisation, reorganisation and integration, some Reconnaissance Regiments (Numbers 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6) were disbanded and the members absorbed into the remaining 4 Special Forces Regiment (SFR) at Langebaan and 5 SFR at Phalaborwa as part of the South African Special Forces Brigade.
According to 2008 formations there are 5 commando brigades in the Turkish Army. The most notable are the 1st Commando Brigade and the Hakkari Mountain and Commando Brigade. Turkish commandos typically wear blue berets.
The 1st Commando Brigade was involved in the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, and fought beside airborne commandos (Bolu) and the Naval Infantry Brigade (Izmir). In 1988, 7000 commandos received training from the United States.
The Hakkari Mountain and Commando Brigade was founded as a subunit of the 2nd Commando Brigade and is stationed in Hakkâri Province at south-easternmost Turkey. With the rise of the Kurdish insurgency, the existing formation has been enlarged from the size of a battalion to a brigade.
3 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines is under the command of the Royal Navy's Commander-in-Chief Fleet. All Royal Marines (other than the Royal Marines Band Service) are commando trained on entry to the Corps, with supporting units and individuals from the other services undertaking the All Arms Commando Course as required.
The Brigade is made up of 30 (IX) Commando, 40 Commando (home base: Taunton), 42 Commando (Bickleigh, South Hams, Plymouth) and 45 Commando (Arbroath, Scotland), the Commando Logistic Regiment, 539 Assault Squadron Royal Marines, 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, 24 Commando Regiment Royal Engineers and 1 Rifles. The Royal Marines are the largest force of its type in Europe and the second largest in NATO.
The United States continues to have no designated "commando" units; however, the closest equivalents remain the U.S. Army's 75th Ranger Regiment and United States Marine Corps Reconnaissance Battalions which specialize in many of the same tasks and missions.
During the Vietnam War the U.S. Army's 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) instituted, "Special Operations Augmentation Recondo School," an acronym for Reconnaissance Commando. The school was at Nha Trang Air Base, north of the massive U.S. Navy and Air Force Base at Cam Ranh Bay. Recondo School trained small, heavily armed long-range reconnaissance teams the art of patrolling deep in enemy-held territory. All students were combat veterans and came from the ranks of the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps Force Recon Battalions, and the Army of the Republic of South Korea. The Army of the Republic of Vietnam had their own school. Currently the training mission of LRRPs type units is by the U.S. Army Ranger Training Brigade, Reconnaissance and Surveillance Leaders Course, Fort Benning, Georgia.
The North Vietnamese produced some of the most effective commando units of the post World War II era. Called đặc công, these units represented a force economy measure for the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) and the Viet Cong. With large scale conventional attacks increasingly untenable, small commando operations came into their own, particularly after the Tet Offensive, and at times inflicted severe damage to US and ARVN troops and bases.
Sappers were originally supporting adjuncts to regular formations prior to 1967, but in time, independent formations were created throughout the Vietnam arena. Sappers could operate in support of a larger regular infantry formation, or as the main spearhead themselves, with regulars as backup. In the spearhead mode, they represented their most potent threat. A typical raiding operation was divided into 4 elements: Assault, Fire-Support, Security and Reserves. Assault teams were generally broken down into three-five man cells. Fire-support was critical, as it forced defenders to keep their heads down, while infiltrating assault elements made their final penetrations. One of the most devastating attacks was against the US Firebase, FSB Mary Ann in 1971. See chart for detailed breakdown of a typical sapper raiding party.
While small in terms of total men deployed throughout the Vietnam theater, sapper attacks had a significant impact for the NLF/PAVN effort. As one US Army history puts it:
From the beginning of 1968 until mid-1969, sappers were essential to the North Vietnam war effort. Although they participated in only four percent of all assaults, these made up twelve percent of all significant assaults—those that inflicted serious damage. In 1969, the average raid inflicted more than $1,000,000 damage and accounted for more allied casualties.
In popular culture
- Commando was a 1985 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rae Dawn Chong
- "Going commando" comes from the Royal Marines Commandos who do not wear underwear in their sleep or often choose not to wear in day to prevent chaffing with their amphibious nature.
- A line of women's underwear with the brand name "Commando," for similar reasons
- Commando Comics, a line of action/adventure comic books
- Tiny Commando, a comedy series featuring the adventures of Tiny Commando, a wealthy military-trained crimefighter
- The 1968 film Commandos, starring Lee Van Cleef, depicts a commando raid during World War II.
- "The Word 'Commando'",Dobbie, Elliott V. K., American Speech,19 2 Apr. 1944,81-90,http://www.jstor.org/stable/487007
- Meyers, Bruce F (2004). Swift, Silent, and Deadly: Marine Amphibious Reconnaissance in the Pacific. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-484-1.
- Encyclopædia Britannica (14th ed.), Vol. 6, p. 106
- "Commado". Oxford English Dictionary (online ed.).
- "On Commando", Dietlof Van Warmelo, Methuen, 1902
- "Commandeer - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Mw4.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 2012-04-19.
- Commando Country, Stuart Allan, National Museums Scotland 2007, ISBN 978-1-905267-14-9
- Raids in the Late War and their Lessons, R. Laycock, Journal of the Royal United Service Institution November 1947 pp 534-535
- it:Xª Flottiglia MAS (RSI)
- "World War II | Royal Naval Commandos in World War II". TheHistoryNet. Retrieved 2012-04-19.
- "Beach Organisation for the Invasion of Normandy, 1944". Archived from the original on January 13, 2009.
The Royal Navy Beach Commandos controlled the arrival and departure of vessels that were landing their cargoes on the beaches. In each RN Beach Commando was a Principal Beachmaster (PBM), an Assistant Principal Beachmaster and two or three beach parties each consisting of a Beachmaster, two Assistant Beachmasters and about 20 seamen.
- Neillands, Robin. The Raiders — the Army Commandos 1940-46. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 0-297-79426-4.
- http://www.raf.mod.uk/dday/scus.html Archived September 15, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
- Colin R. Larsen. "Pacific Commandos: New Zealanders and Fijians in Action. A history of Southern Independent Commando and First Commando Fiji Guerrillas". NZETC.
- Thomson, W.R., "Massacre at Dieppe," History of the Second World War, BPC Publishing, LTD, London, GB, 2nd ed., 1972.
- "Constitution of Commando Force" (Press release). Press Information Bureau, Government of India. 18 December 2003. Retrieved 2008-07-25.
- "Eagles have landed". MiD DAY. 2009-11-09.
- Mahnaimi, Uzi; Jenkins, Gareth (2010-06-06). "Operation calamity". The Times (London). Retrieved 2010-06-07.
- Damien Kingsbury Power Politics and the Indonesian military, Routledge: 2003, ISBN 0-415-29729-X, 280 pages Google books reference: 
- Sydney Morning Herald, November 15, 2002 [dead link]; Transcript from an Australian Broadcasting Corporation broadcast, 12/08/2003 
- "The Age". The Age. 2003-04-22. Retrieved 2012-04-19.
- "Tim Richardson". Tim Richardson. Retrieved 2012-04-19.
- Special Forces League, SA. "1 RR/1 SFR History". Special Forces League. Retrieved 2014-04-28.
- "1 RIFLES - British Army Website". Army.mod.uk. Retrieved 2012-04-19.
- Plaster, John (Sep 7, 2010). SOG: The Secret War of America's Commandos in Vietnam. New York: NAL Trade.
- United States Army Center of Military History, Vietnam Studies, "FIELD ARTILLERY, 1954-1973", by Major General David Ewing Ott, (DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY: WASHINGTON, D.C., 1975) p. 1-13
- US Army, 'FIELD ARTILLERY" op. cit
- Keith William Nolan, Sappers In the Wire: The Life and Death of Firebase Mary Ann, (Texas A&M University Press: 1995) pp. 23-119, 200-245
- United States Army Center of Military History, Vietnam Studies, "FIELD ARTILLERY, 1954-1973", op. cit
- Wear Commando
- Commando Comics
- Tiny Commando home page