Thursday, July 24, 2008

{Review} SAS: Phantoms of War: A History of the Australian Special Air Service by David Horner:

While many people with an interest in military history will instantly associate "SAS" with the British Special Air Service, fewer are aware that Australia also formed her own SAS back in the 1950's. In this book Horner relates the history of the unit, from the earliest discussions among politicians and military leaders about the need for such a unit through their deployment to East Timor in 1999-2000. Note that the book doesn't include any information on the ASAS deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. This sizable book not only deals with their military operations, but with matters as mundane as government funding, building refurbishments and recruiting standards. As such, at times the book can get a bit dull for those looking for an excitement military history read.

However, if you bear with the book through the more tedious parts, or just skim or skip them altogether, you will find some truly fascinating stories of combat operations in Borneo, Malaysia, South Vietnam and East Timor. The author interviewed many active service and retired members of the regiment and as a result the stories of the patrols in these theaters of war are written at the level of the experience of the individual soldier. Combat operations almost always consisted of patrols of no more than four or five men, staying on ops for days at a time, moving in silence for hours. The narrative of the combat patrols have that "you are there" feel to them and will be appreciated by those who wish to understand how these special forces types worked in ways so different than traditional infantry.

Link to LibraryThing entry for this book

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