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Thread: All matters Rhodesian / Rhodesia (merged thread)

  1. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jslade0 View Post
    But to take your bait, was the Rhodesian Strategy really failed? I think its one thing to say your strategy is failed, when you have the best funded military in the world making little progress, but its something else to say an isolated country in an underdeveloped part of the world had a failed strategy, with almost zero trade partners, and borrowed or stolen equipment.
    Actually, as I've argued elsewhere, I think it can be argued that Rhodesia's remarkable tactical and operational successes actually were strategically disadvantageous—obscuring, as it were, the inevitable political writing on the wall.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    a.) The "Train high, to fight low," is a product of post WW1 British Army training. What you are saying about the Rhodesians applied exactly to British across 20-odd insurgencies and rebellions they fought from 1919-1978. The IDF has, post 2006, gone back to training to fight high-end to be prepared for low end. It's normal. It's obvious. Why folks DO NOT do it, needs enquiry.
    Is this what he meant?

    I read his position as being that fighting a counter insurgency war while holding the ability to switch to HIC (convention warfare) should the circumstances change was the plan.

    b.) What you see in Rhodesia is close what you see in Oman or Dhofar, where you have imaginative British trained officers freed from senior over sight. Point being the idea is not uniquely "Rhodesian."
    There is still a war in Dhofar? Thought that wound up in 1975? (Rhodesians were actively recruited for the Oman forces after 1980)

    c.) While the Rhodesians were uniquely skilled at the sub-unit level, I very doubt that they had the resources or training to fight effectively at the formation level. If you could find documented proof that they did train and resource this level of operation, and how they aimed to do it, that would be an extremely important find.
    The best we could put together were a number of battle groups which could operate independently or I suppose if there was a concentrated threat as a brigade. Certainly the RLI exercised as a battle group in 1979 when there was much talk of possible ZIPRA invasion from Zambia.

    Also if you read up on Operation Quartz brigade orders were issued (I was the scribe for one of the brigades orders - as a GSO3 Ops - under direction of the Brigade Major) which were a series of attackes on insurgent Assembly Places which if looked at natonally could be seen as a divisional action.

    Then if you read up on the history of the war in 1979 you will find that as the insurgent bases (in Zambia and Mozambique) became better defended (thanks to Russian and Cuban advisors) the actions against these bases became more conventional in nature. So one day the whole battalion would be gathered for these camp attacks (using conventional tactics) and a few days later sub-units were back to operating in four man "sticks". The ability to switch instantaneously between the two became second nature.

    d.) JMA may have a conflicting or additional view point.
    Indeed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    I would simply note that there is no country named Rhodesia today.

    Makes ya think.
    What exactly does it make you think?

    ...that poor little Rhodesia could stand up to Russian and Chinese supported and supplied insurgents but not also against Jimmy Carter and Andy Young?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jslade0 View Post
    I understand there were a few incidents where either the SAS or RLI encountered armored units. And while fighting camps with populations in the low thousands, wouldn't it be fair to say there were at least vs. company sized engagements going on?

    My thesis is roughly that the US should try learn several lessons from the Rhodesian Security Forces, mainly don't train whole brigades in COIN while neglecting HIC, keep cadre fresh from the fight, focus on Small unit tactics (like start printing 7-8 again), scouting is important to COIN, and again, scouting is important to COIN.
    I suggest that one should learn to differentiate between HIC and COIN in that HIC is fought by battle groups and formations while in COIN it becomes a "corporals war" except where through risk aversity no operations are carried out in less than platoon strength.

    Units should have the ability to switch from one form of warfare to the other without having to undergo training or a refit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    As I said, "Sub-unit." Units are Battle Groups or Battalions. Do you have a military background? If not this would be an extremely challenging area for you to study. Challenging. Not impossible. Does your supervisor have a military background?


    So the US should learn sub-unit tactics from the RLI? Sorry, but my opinion is that you should train to fight as a Brigade (Formation.) Formation level skills are essential. You cannot fight a bunch of clowns like Hezbollah without them.

    Sub-unit Tactics are easy. It's a couple of weeks of Coy level training. It's all skills and drills stuff. This is extremely important, but it's cheap and easy to become proficient in this area - IF you know what you are doing to begin with.

    Fighting at the Formation level is a whole game up, and the one most folks cannot do.
    Not sure a I agree that it is more difficult to operate at formation level. For whom would that be? Only for the brigade commander ... for the rest it is IMHO easier.

    Sub-unit operations down to fire team level (four men) is not easier for the Brit forces. Corporals and Lance Corporals are not trained to apply the required degree of operational leadership and discretion that is required for such independent operations. How a typical US fireteam would perform independently on a (say) five day patrol I can't say.

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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Well that's not tactics. It's Policy and Strategy. Those are all direct products of the British "Committee system". You may also want so study how the Committee system was used in Malaya, and Northern Ireland.


    Sorry, but you are very mistaken. Formation level skills are about practising fighting as a formation. You can be very skilled at the Company level and utterly fall down at the Formation level.

    Yes, a well trained brigade staff is essential. For example, the IDF has allocated considerable resources to training Brigade Staffs since 2006. You cannot do without them. - and CPX's (TOC-X?) do not cut it, when it comes to doing a Battle Group passage of lines to launch another Battle Group, into an opposed obstacle crossing. - and plan and execute that in < 4 hours. You actually need to go and get cold and wet out on the ground, and know how long it takes to move the bridging kit from the hide area into the launch site, and who moves when and where.
    I'm sure now you have missed the plot. Brigade staff don't carry out patrols and ambushes.

    Why would you need bridging kit to facilitate a 4-man fireteam crossing a river? They can float it (watermanship) or get dropped by chopper.

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Apart from scouring the various threads on SWC, their links and recommendations I would recommend a PM to those who have studied Rhodesian training, or undergone it.

    Then I'd look at the literature written after 1980, by those who did serve; I say after 1980 as it will cut out the Soldier of Fortune material and the PR.

    Have a look at some of the well known texts: Reid-Daly on the Selous Scouts, the two tomes on the RLI and RAR. Then 'No Mean Soldier' by Peter McAleese, a British professional NCO who served there.

    I expect Rhodesian training was far more than a local variant on UK training, for example what was the impact before 1974 of the Portuguese? Plus South Africa, where after 1965 I expect much of the higher training took place.

    Quite a few here would be interested in seeing the end product.
    The Rhodesian Training evolved to meet local circumstances and was certainly based on British TTPs. Trained Brit soldiers who joined up were required to attend the "COIN phase" of recruit training (the last 7 weeks of the 19 weeks core training programme) the first 12 weeks being what we termed "conventional warfare" training which which the Brits knew all about.

    The Portuguese taught us much about the basics of fire force operations as they had gunships with side mounted 20mm canons and were conducting heli bourne sweeps. We adopted those but realised that unless you have a stop line or cut-off groups that you sweep the insurgents into the sweep exercise is pointless (hence mowing the lawn futility in Afghanistan).

    Also operating with the Portuguese and independently in Mozambique honed the fighting skills the SAS, RLI and the RAR would need later when the war came home.

    South Africa's value was that Rhodesians attended their Command and Staff College (as did some Israelis), and they provided training in armour, artillery training and attached airforce choppers and crews and allowed use of strike craft and submarines for insertion of small teams into Mozambique up the coast. And in fact in late 1979 they had battalions in the South of the country operating and doing fire force ops. They were great friends (mostly) until the US (Carter) got them to sell Rhodesia out.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-09-2010 at 06:09 PM. Reason: At authors request convention warfare became conventional warfare

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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Word. Tactical acumen cannot compensate for a failed strategy. Afghanistan anyone?
    Cute soundbite.

    Are you talking about military strategy or political?

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    So one day the whole battalion would be gathered for these camp attacks (using conventional tactics) and a few days later sub-units were back to operating in four man "sticks". The ability to switch instantaneously between the two became second nature.
    1) I have not written the paper. I am in the very early stages of it, thats why I came to this body, to ask for advice, and direction.

    2) I've not gotten any conclusions already, but there are a few facts that I see as pretty telling.

    3) As just having gone through standing up a US army brigade, and its now apparently ready to fight, I'm very curious as to the training done by other successful forces. Most interesting to me is the Rhodesia experience.

    JMC, thanks for your input. What strikes me most is the "ability to switch". I've seen staff officers who have no idea what maneuver warfare is. Intel officers who don't know how to analyze terrain. Captains. Because thats not what they're being taught. Basic training doesn't even teach squad attack anymore, its all traffic control check points, search detainees etc. I never dug a fog hole, (and no one in my company did either) in my semi-recent experience at basic. It seems, which I seek to get a clearer picture of, that the US army is slow to change, but when it does, it's total.

    The ability to balance COIN with conventional seems to be pretty interesting, and I don't know of many armies in the world that did it as well has the Rhodesians. Maybe it's not true; but I hope whatever research I come up with will give me a clearer idea about it.

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    This paper isn't an analysis of Rhodesian COIN fighting. That's been done plenty. I think the Rand Corp did a fairly authoritative study on it. It's comparing the Rhodesian ability to train HIC and COIN to the US's ability to balance both today.

    Some interesting things I found out so far:
    -Training cadre spent cycle breaks at the front.
    -All Officers had to be NCOs first.
    -Scout makes intel, which drives ops. US seems to understand Intel drives ops, but where does it come from?
    -Rhodesians won almost every contact without support of Field Artillery.
    -Combat tracking is an essential skill in COIN.

    These are interesting facts, (maybe JMC or others could dispell some of them as untrue) and I'm curious to see what they could mean in a broader context, specifically as contrasted to the US army training and doctrine production machine.

    Did Rhodesians read their own printed doctrine? how often was it updated? What were battle drills that were trained? Was there the concept of the "strategic corporal"?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Totally true on all counts.The Rhodesians showed great tactical competence in an existential war, a really rather common occurrence.
    Yes in that it was indeed an existential war. Remind me of some other existential wars?

    In our last existential war, 1942-45, the US showed tactical competence. I have little doubt we will again when needed -- right now for most people, it simply is not needed, adequate will suffice. That's unfair to the guys and gals on the ground now but that's the way it has always been and is likely to stay. Democracies will not invest in really good and hard training short of existential wars -- the Mothers get too upset at the 2-5% casualty rate caused by rigorous training. So does Congress, it's expensive to pay those folks for the damage to their little bods thus incurred and in a tight recruiting market, unnecessary (in the eyes of the budgeteers and politicians) losses are frowned upon.
    Maybe

    All the lessons from Rhodesia are readily available and have been studied, some are applicable, some are not. Those that have applicability have already been adopted. Ever notice how the US Troopie carries a weapon now versus say 15 years ago? That may be why some of us cannot understand what you're trying to do.
    Studied by whom?

    Carries his weapon? Hanging a weapon on a sling around your neck (hands free) is called carrying a weapon?

    In any event, the tactical side isn't a problem, the politics of restraint, risk avoidance and getting out of Dodge are the problem. Regrettably, the Rhodesian tactical lessons don't cover that. Their strategic error let down all those great tactical moves. Ours looks about to repeat the flaw...
    Every aspect deserves study as competence is required at every level. Regardless of Carter's success in defeating Rhodesia politically any tactical lessons as there may be still stand.

    If you do not get the strategy right, you are not going to succeed tactically even though there will be (and are, in Afghanistan; were in Iraq...) a number of great tactical ploys, moves and operations. The TTPs aren't the problem, the politics are.
    "Tactically" means what happens at tactical level. Success there like "they never lost a battle" is meaningful (even if not fully true) regardless of what the politicians foulded up or they could not withstand in terms of international pressure.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    Actually, as I've argued elsewhere, I think it can be argued that Rhodesia's remarkable tactical and operational successes actually were strategically disadvantageous—obscuring, as it were, the inevitable political writing on the wall.
    Where have you aruged this?

  13. #33
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Best Tactics and great training undermined by poor strategy...

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Studied by whom?
    Many in the US. Not least the Infantry School and RAND (as Jslade0 mentioned).You miss that?
    Carries his weapon? Hanging a weapon on a sling around your neck (hands free) is called carrying a weapon?
    No. That's called hanging your weapon around your neck (hands free). The pictures below shows the new and the old carry. The Recruiting Poster is from whence we learned it. You miss that, too?
    "Tactically" means what happens at tactical level. Success there like "they never lost a battle" is meaningful (even if not fully true) regardless of what the politicians foulded up or they could not withstand in terms of international pressure.
    It's meaningful to those who fought those battles -- to others, not so much. And as you say, even if not fully true. Add that if, in the end, for whatever reason if the tactics were great and Rhodesia is no more, then the strategy was flawed. Rightly or wrongly, the actions of the US , UK and moist of the Europeans were fairly predictable -- as were those of Russia and China.

    You guys did good because you had to, that lends an impetus missing today. That simple.
    Last edited by Ken White; 10-27-2011 at 01:20 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Many in the US. Not least the Infantry School and RAND (as Jslade0 mentioned).You miss that?
    Must have.

    You see I am researching for a book on the RLI right now and have found there are very few published sources on this topic. I should be forgiven for asking what source documents they are using for this study?

    No. That's called hanging your weapon around your neck (hands free). The pictures below shows the new and the old carry. The Recruiting Poster is from whence we learned it. You miss that, too?
    Well what you may have missed was that when I arrived in Rhodesia in 1973 most weapons were carried on the shoulder (hunting style) and the RLI operated in shorts and t-shirts with no camo cream. Once the war got hotter and the casualty rate increased and the dots were connected we moved into full camo with all exposed skin camo'd. There were some hold outs who insisted on wearing shorts and Tshirts and camo'd their legs and arms.

    And of course the weapons moved to the ready at all times. (Daily "pokey drill" was done when in camp to strengthen the required muscles in this regard.)

    It's meaningful to those who fought those battles -- to others, not so much. And as you say, even if not fully true. Add that if, in the end, for whatever reason if the tactics were great and Rhodesia is no more, then the strategy was flawed. Rightly or wrongly, the actions of the US , UK and moist of the Europeans were fairly predictable -- as were those of Russia and China.
    Competence at every level is meaningful. For the private soldier skill at arms and combat competence are the most important thing for him and his mates. All armies should provide the training at that (and all levels) which will allow their soldiers to have the skill at arms edge over the enemy of the day.

    That said the political issues may be a whole lot more complicated and problematic but that does not diminish the personal skill of the soldiers nor the combat effectiveness of fire teams/sections/platoons.companies/battalions when viewed separately and specifically.

    I will leave the comment on the geopolitics as the Rhodesian military can be studied with only limited reference to the political mistakes and who screwed who...

    You guys did good because you had to, that lends an impetus missing today. That simple.
    There was a wide variation in quality between the regular units, the national service (conscripts), the Territorial units (reserves), the police and the various militias. Everyone can carry a weapon but not everyone makes a good fighting soldier. Yes, when going the extra mile is directly motivated by keeping families, wives, children and the lot safe (when they live an hour or twos drive from the "operational area") it is not too difficult to get the troops up for that.

    Having a low grade enemy also helped.
    Last edited by JMA; 11-09-2010 at 10:39 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    What exactly does it make you think?

    ...that poor little Rhodesia could stand up to Russian and Chinese supported and supplied insurgents but not also against Jimmy Carter and Andy Young?
    I suspect he means that efforts to delay or avoid black majority rule were ultimately doomed to failure.

    As Steve said:

    Word. Tactical acumen cannot compensate for a failed strategy. Afghanistan anyone?
    Quite right. Nor can it substitute for a lack of realism at the national level about what is, or is not, achievable.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Competence at every level is meaningful. For the private soldier skill at arms and combat competence are the most important thing for him and his mates. All armies should provide the training at that (and all levels) which will allow their soldiers to have the skill at arms edge over the enemy of the day.

    That said the political issues may be a whole lot more complicated and problematic but that does not diminish the personal skill of the soldiers nor the combat effectiveness of fire teams/sections/platoons.companies/battalions when viewed separately and specifically.
    Totally agree on both counts. That we -- the US -- do not really provide such competence in peacetime is to an extent an indictment of the politicians and senior military leadership who preclude better training. In their defense, the anti-military tradition in the anglosphere generally is huge part of that problem. That is likely not going away.

    Your comment on the political issues not taking away from the performance of the troops is spot on.

    On the topic of what sources were used in the study of Rhodesion tactics and methods, the RAND study (LINK / .pdf) has a bibliography. You may have already seen the report or parts of it. The bibliography cites Cilliers, Cocks, Moorcraft, Venter, Reid-Daly and Stiff. As for the US Army and the Infantry school, a combination of FAOs, Defense Attaches from RSA and other neighboring nations and probably dispatched observers at the time. While paying attention to events there was not politically correct at the time, the Army's been known to cheat on policies emanating from D.C. Serving in the US Army at the time, I can recall great interest in what was being done and how you were operating at all levels. Mostly, reliance at the time was on media reports, though I can recall seeing a Benning printed copy of a manual purporting to be, IIRC, the Rhodesian Forces Counterinsurgency and Anti-Terrorist Operations (or something like that) shortly before I retired in '77. You've probably seen and may recall these LINK, LINK / .pdf. They came later but the interest at the time was significant. Still is...

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Is this what he meant?

    I read his position as being that fighting a counter insurgency war while holding the ability to switch to HIC (convention warfare) should the circumstances change was the plan.
    If so, then correct. The default setting for all UK training from 1919 (till very recently) was major combat operations. "COIN" was seen as a "restriction" of violence, with other skills thrown in.
    There is still a war in Dhofar? Thought that wound up in 1975? (Rhodesians were actively recruited for the Oman forces after 1980)
    Dhofar ran from 62/63. Point being it ran almost concurrently with Rhodesia, and mirrored it in many ways, as concerns UK training and doctrine. Point being folks say "Look at Rhodesia," and I agree, but also "look at Dhofar." As concerns tactical and operational skill, they have common routes.

    Also if you read up on Operation Quartz brigade orders were issued (I was the scribe for one of the brigades orders - as a GSO3 Ops - under direction of the Brigade Major) which were a series of attackes on insurgent Assembly Places which if looked at natonally could be seen as a divisional action.
    I would submit that this would be very good evidence of the Rhodesian Army operating at the formation level, or at least planning to.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Sub-unit operations down to fire team level (four men) is not easier for the Brit forces. Corporals and Lance Corporals are not trained to apply the required degree of operational leadership and discretion that is required for such independent operations. How a typical US fireteam would perform independently on a (say) five day patrol I can't say.
    Formation level operations require practising skills to that have a major flow down effect. For the fire team, there may not be a lot of difference, but for Coy Commanders on up, there will be, and very little can be adequately practised doing a CPX.

    EG: A Formation level passage of lines, at night to launch to one battle group into an opposed obstacle crossing.

    Training fire teams is cheap and easy. Training formations is vastly expensive and very complicated.

    Why would you need bridging kit to facilitate a 4-man fireteam crossing a river?
    You need bridging kit for all the vehicles, plus you need multiple bridging sites
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    I suspect he means that efforts to delay or avoid black majority rule were ultimately doomed to failure.
    Circa. 1960 to delay was the (historically proven) intelligent approach but to avoid would have been futile.

    Perhaps your attention (and that of a few others around here) should be drawn to the Southern Rhodesia proposed Constitution 1961 where the "Europeans" (meaning whites) accepted a qualified franchise system which would have led to an "African" (meaning black) majority in parliament within 7-8 years (soonest) or 10-15 years (more likely).

    But the Brits - Alec Douglas-Hume and his flunky Duncan Sandys (Commonwealh and Colonial Secretary) - being led by the nose by that other "great" African democrat and champion of one-party elections Julius Nyerere - whose country (Tanzania) under his "enlightened" leadership went from the largest exporter of agricultural products in Africa to the largest importer of agricultural products - demanded that one 5 year term of parliament leading to a one-man-one-vote... once ... was the best they could offer and the best that - "great" body of democrats and human rights activists - the Commonwealth would accept.

    In addition those two liberal authors (by the US definition) of Rhodesian military history - Moorcraft and McLaughlin - state in the preface of their 2008 edition:

    ... Nevertheless, after nearly three decades, and in the light of the near-total destruction of the state by Robert Mugabe, many will look back and reflect that the Rhodesian rebellion, although doomed, was perhaps not so damned.
    That make one think?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Totally agree on both counts. That we -- the US -- do not really provide such competence in peacetime is to an extent an indictment of the politicians and senior military leadership who preclude better training. In their defense, the anti-military tradition in the anglosphere generally is huge part of that problem. That is likely not going away.
    Glad we agree on this.

    I can only hope that the US can somehow maintain a core cadre of competent NCOs to pass on the skill at arms until this is once again needed on a grand scale.

    Your comment on the political issues not taking away from the performance of the troops is spot on.
    I got bitten twice (Rhodesia and South Africa) and promised myself I would never trust a politician - any politician - again. How many times in the average military career do US servicemen get bitten by the politicians? Must be damn infuriating.

    On the topic of what sources were used in the study of Rhodesion tactics and methods, the RAND study (LINK / .pdf) has a bibliography. You may have already seen the report or parts of it. The bibliography cites Cilliers, Cocks, Moorcraft, Venter, Reid-Daly and Stiff. As for the US Army and the Infantry school, a combination of FAOs, Defense Attaches from RSA and other neighboring nations and probably dispatched observers at the time. While paying attention to events there was not politically correct at the time, the Army's been known to cheat on policies emanating from D.C. Serving in the US Army at the time, I can recall great interest in what was being done and how you were operating at all levels. Mostly, reliance at the time was on media reports, though I can recall seeing a Benning printed copy of a manual purporting to be, IIRC, the Rhodesian Forces Counterinsurgency and Anti-Terrorist Operations (or something like that) shortly before I retired in '77. You've probably seen and may recall these LINK, LINK / .pdf. They came later but the interest at the time was significant. Still is...
    Thank you. The first pdf I had not yet seen. Am reading at this moment. The other two I have seen and also the references you mention.

    Likewise I tried to read as much stuff out of Vietnam as I could. Too much happened there for a soundbite comment.

    Good heavens... been retired for 32 years! What did you do with all that time?

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