The Levant: The Assyrian Annexation

Judaean King Hezekiah and Jerusalem endured a siege led by Assyrian king Sennacherib.

The Levant c. 830 BCE

Tiglath-pileser’s policy was innovative not because he introduced new organizational elements but because he carried through on a large scale an already existing practice: annexation. Over the course of twelve years (743-732 bce) and eight campaigns, several states lost their independence and were incorporated into the Assyrian empire. In 743 bce, Tiglath-pileser marched to the Levant to confront an anti-Assyrian coalition made up of Urartu, Arpadda, Meliddu, Gurgum, and Kummuhu. The submission of Arpadda, the capital of Bit-Agusi, proved particularly challenging. All together, three campaigns against the city are attested (in 742, 741, 740 bce). Only after the third attempt, in 740 bce, did Tiglath-pileser succeed in conquering the town. In Arpadda, the victor received tribute from Gurgum and Kummuhu, which were members of the enemy coalition, from Gargamis and Que, which had perhaps been part of the coalition and, finally, from Damascus and Tyre. After taking rich booty, the Assyrians annexed Bit-Agusi. The new province was named Arpadda, after her capital; the local name, Bit-Agusi, is not attested in the Assyrian texts after this point. The annexation of Arpadda must have put the whole area on the alert, particularly the people of the neighboring states Unqi and Hamat, who must have asked themselves whether it was a special measure or the beginning of a greater enterprise. With a wave of annexations starting in the regions west and south of Arpadda, they were soon to find out.

The campaign of 738 bce was a large-scale operation that resulted in the establishment of three new provinces, Kullania, Hatarikka, and Simirra, districts within the land of Hamat that had plotted against the Assyrians. The rest of Hamat managed to maintain a limited independence as a vassal state. According to a tribute list from 738 bce, all countries located north of the Assyrian provinces Arpadda, Unqi, and Hatarikka, up to the distant Tabalu and Kasku, paid tribute to Tiglath-pileser. So did again Tyre and Damascus, and also Hamat, Byblos, the Arabs, and Israel.

In 734 bce, after three years of absence, Tiglath-pileser marched for the fifth time to the Levant. In Pilistu, the Assyrian army conquered the city of Hazzat (Gaza). From here, Tiglath-pileser marched further southwest until he reached the “Brook of Egypt,” where he set up a stele. Probably in the same year, the submission of the Arabian tribe Mu’na took place, as well as the appointment of Idibi’ilu as a supervisor in the area of the “Brook of Egypt.” According to a tribute list from the same year, Ammon, Moab, and Edom, the Philistian cities Hazzat and Ashkelon, Judah, as well as Arwad on the northern coast, paid tribute after this campaign. Moreover, Tiglath-pileser earned the loyalty of the southern states without annexing them. The entire Levant seems to have been under direct or indirect Assyrian control at this point.

In 733 and 732 bce, Tiglath-pileser carried out two campaigns against Damascus, the strongest enemy in the region, which ended with its annexation. Tiglath-pileser’s opponents were Rezin of Damascus, Pekah of Israel, Hiram of Tyre, and Mitinti of Ashkelon. After the siege of Damascus and the devastation of its surrounding area in the year 733 bce, military actions were undertaken against Galilee and Gilead, ending with the annexation of some territories in Israel. Israel’s southern part, around the capital Samaria, was allowed to continue existing as a vassal state. In 732 bce, the city of Damascus was eventually conquered and the country was annexed. As a consequence of these events, two new provinces were created, namely Megiddo and Damascus. The province Qarninu, whose establishment is not attested, probably originated at this time as well, when Tiglath-pileser conquered territories in the Transjordan area.

Between 740 and 732 bce, a large part of the Syria and the Levant was thus annexed by the Assyrian empire. Newly established provinces included Arpadda (in 740 bce), Hatarikka, Kullania, and Simirra (in 738 bce), probably Mansuate and Tu’immu (in 740/738 bce), as well as Megiddo, Damascus, Qarninu, and Subat (in 732 bce). The formerly independent states of Bit-Agusi, Unqi/Pattinu, and Damascus ceased to exist, while Hamat and Israel suffered substantial territorial losses. The remaining states and city-states submitted to the Assyrian ruler and paid tribute. In spite of all this, the region was not yet defeated completely and the danger of uprisings and the formation of anti-Assyrian coalitions not yet eliminated.

During the short reign of Shalmaneser V (726-722 bce), no annexations took place. At the end of Tiglath-pileser III’s reign, the Israelite territory around Samaria had bordered on the provinces of Megiddo and Qarninu, which had been established on the former territories of Israel and Damascus. The refusal by Israel’s king Hoshea to pay tribute was a risky decision under such circumstances, but apparently, Assyria’s military presence in the new provinces was not yet strong enough to prevent rebellions in the region. Samaria resisted Shalmaneser’s siege for three years until it fell in the fall of 722 bce. When Shalmaneser died in the winter of 722/721 bce, the Assyrian army returned to Assyria, and the annexation and reorganization of Samaria was postponed. Sargon II (721-705 bce), who ascended the Assyrian throne in 722, must have been involved with the conquest in some manner because his annals ascribe this success to him. When the Assyrians left the region, Hamat, followed by the provinces of Arpadda, Simirra, Damascus, and the newly conquered Samaria, used this unexpected opportunity to break away from Assyrian rule. In 720 bce, Sargon II marched to the Levant and reestablished the previous order. The population of Samaria was deported, and some years later (in 715 bce), Arabs and people from Babylonia and Hamat were settled there.

With Sargon II, Assyria’s second extensive annexation phase in the west began. Sargon led half of his campaigns to Syria and the Levant, where the northwestern region, in particular, required his attention. During his reign, the provinces of Samaria (in 720 bce) and Ashdod (in 711 bce) were established. Hamat was annexed in 720 bce, either as a district or as a province. In the north, the provinces of Marqasa (on the territory of Gurgum) and Kummuhu (on the territory of Meliddu and Kummuhu) were created in 711 and 708 bce, respectively, and in 717 bce Gargamis was probably annexed. A province established in 713 bce in the territory of Hilakku and Bit-Purutas was short-lived; in 711 bce, the area was newly conquered, and a new province was created, with Til-Garimmu as its center, which served as a bulwark against the menace of Urartu, Kasku, and Musku. This province, too, was lost at the end of Sargon’s (or in the first years of Sennacherib’s) reign. Whether the provinces of Que and Sam’alla were established by Sargon or by Shalmaneser V is unclear. During the following decades, the political map of the Levant underwent no important changes, but uprisings in the region did not stop and prompted more than ten Assyrian campaigns.

The Levant did not play a special role during Sennacherib’s reign (704-781 bce); his main problem was Babylonia. Sennacherib’s campaign in 701 bce, often referred to as the campaign “against Judah” and attested in the Bible (2 Kgs 18: 13-19: 37, 2 Chr 32: 1-22, and Isa 36-7: 37; also Mic 1: 8-16), was neither a military action directed exclusively against Judah nor as important as the extensive secondary literature seems to suggest. It concerned, rather, an episode within a campaign that targeted Phoenician, Philistian, and Judaean towns. Even if the Judah episode did not end with the conquest of Jerusalem, it was successful: Sennacherib devastated Judah, he conquered Lachish, one of the most important Judaean towns, and handed conquered Judaean territories over to the Philistians. Hezekiah capitulated and paid a high tribute. Jerusalem was not conquered because it was not necessary to do so after Hezekiah’s capitulation. It is not known why Sidon, the Philistian cities (Ashkelon and Ekron), and Judah revolted at that time, but it is clearly that anti-Assyrian sentiments led the political elites of Ekron to ask for help Egypt, an action sufficient to prompt an Assyrian intervention.

Like his father Sennacherib, Esarhaddon (680-669 bce) suffered territorial losses in the northwestern regions as well as uprisings in the southern Levant during his reign. In 677 bce, a campaign against Abdi-Milquti of Sidon took place, which ended with the establishment of the last Assyrian province in the Levant. Abdi-Milkuti had not felt obligated to follow the foreign policy of his predecessor and wanted to shake off the Assyrian yoke. Thereupon, Assyrian troops conquered Sidon, looted and destroyed it, and deported the royal family and members of the elite to Assyria. The territory of Sidon was annexed, and the city was replaced as the capital by a new settlement called Kar-Assur-ahu-iddina, “Esarhaddon’s Harbor.” The new capital was settled with inhabitants from Sidonian cities and deportees from the eastern areas of the empire. In addition, Esarhaddon handed the Sidonian cities of Ma’rubbu and Sariptu over to king Ba’al of Tyre. The well-known treaty between this king and Esarhaddon may have been concluded in 676 bce, after the conquest of Sidon. When in 671 bce, only five years after the treaty, Ba’al betrayed the Assyrian king, Esarhaddon besieged Tyre, accusing the city of having an alliance with the Egyptian ruler Taharqa. The town was conquered and looted and the king of Tyre lost all of his cities. But Tyre itself was not annexed and its king was not deposed.

During Esarhaddon’s reign, the situation in the northwestern areas became unstable under increasing pressure from Musku and Tabalu. The territory of Meliddu, which belonged to the province of Kummuh? u, was lost. The provinces of Que and Sam’alla may have come under pressure as well, when uprisings took place in Hilakku, Kundu, and Sissu.

The most important intervention in the Levant during the reign of Esarhaddon’s successor Assurbanipal (668-631 bce) occurred in the course of his “third campaign” against Ba’al of Tyre, which seems to have taken place between 663 and 657 bce. After the military actions of 671 bce, which ended with territorial losses for Tyre, Ba’al observed the treaty at least until 667 bce, at which point he is still listed among other loyal vassals. But, as in the past, his loyalty did not last for long. Warnings from the Assyrian king did not seem to have impressed him, so Assurbanipal was forced to take harsher measures. Only a siege of Tyre brought about Ba’al’s submission: he handed his daughter, his nieces, and his son over to the Assyrian king along with heavy tribute. However, the city of Tyre was not annexed.

The last known Assyrian intervention in the Levant was a limited military operation in the 640s against Usu (a city on the mainland opposite of Tyre) and Akku, which took place on the march back from a campaign against Arabian tribes. The inhabitants of Usu refused to continue to pay their annual tribute, as the inhabitants of Akku probably did as well. In both cases, the insubordination was punished with executions and deportations. The corpses of the rebels of Akku were impaled and put on exhibit around the town. The survivors were deported to Assyria and incorporated into the Assyrian army.

In spite of a relatively weak Assyrian presence in the Levant, it is remarkable how few uprisings occurred there between the late eighth century and the 640s. The situation in the Assyrian provinces was stable; they served, among other things, as bases for military operations against the Arabs, which took place partially on the land of the Transjordanian vassals, and – in the case of Moab – even with their support.

The Assyrian kings were met with a complicated geopolitical situation in the Levant. A look at the political map reveals that they dealt with the region in different ways. During the course of some 200 years, the Assyrian army campaigned in the Levant sixty-seven times. Although not every state lost its independence, twenty-one provinces were created there, based on the principle of “territorial continuity,” which meant that only provinces whose territories bordered on already existing ones were established. Three of them (Hilakku/Bit-Purutas, Til-garimmu, and Ashdod) were lost shortly after they were created. Tabalu, some Phoenician cities (Arwad, Byblos, Samsimurruna, and Tyre), Philistia (Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, Hazzat), Judah, and the Transjordanian states (Ammon, Moab, and Edom), as well as some princedoms in Cyprus (Yadnana), remained Assyrian vassals.



Garford-Putilov Armoured Cars were produced in Russia during the First World War (starting with 1915). They were built on the frames of Garford Motor Truck Co. lorries imported from the United States.
In 1909, the Garford Motor Truck Company was established in Elyria, Ohio, a small town 30 miles outside Cleveland.
By June 1912, the company was awarded a lucrative contract with the United States Post Office. The first order called for 11 trucks, the following for 20 trucks, for a total of 31 trucks. “This is very significant of the practical efficiency of this most advanced commercial car.” The post office had experimented for two years “with practically every truck made.” They tried not only all the leading American trucks, but the foreign trucks, as well. The test resulted in the Garford being awarded first honors. The Garford proved to be the most practical truck under all conditions.
Although considered to be a rugged and reliable machine by its users, the Garford-Putilov was severely underpowered. With a total weight of about 11 tons, and only a 30 hp engine, the vehicles had a top speed of approximately 10–11 mph (16–18 km/h). The design was also overloaded (top-heavy), and therefore had very limited off-road capabilities.

The original versions had separate drivers front and rear for going forward or backward. The front driver could not see anything to the rear, despite the fact that he had a mirror. The initial four Garford Putilov platoons returned to the Putilov factory with their recommendations. The improved version had a window out of the rear “pillbox” where the rear gunner sat in the comfort of something akin to an “armchair” and relayed driving commands via a communications tube to the front driver. This worked marvelously it seems, dispensing with the need for a rear driver or rear driver controls (accelerator, brake).
Besides the countries that emerged from the ruins of the old Russian Empire, Garford-Putilov armoured cars were also deployed by German forces. The Germans captured several of the vehicles, and put them to some use towards the end of World War I, and post-Armistice in the “Freikorps”. The armored cars also saw action in the Russian Civil War.
Armament: 76 mm (3 inch) mountain gun variant and two machine-guns.
Number produced: 48 (total)
Ammo: 60 shells
Armor: 6.5 mm.

Air Force Special Warfare Post WWII

A U.S. Air Force Helio U-10B Courier (s/n 63-13093) from the 5th Special Operations Squadron in flight over Vietnam in 1969.

A Farm Gate B-26B over Vietnam.

Air force had continued its special duty flight of transport planes with the Twenty-First Troop Carrier Squadron, during Korean War days familiarly known as the “Kyushu Gypsies.” The unit later moved to Okinawa and, when C-130 aircraft began rolling off the production lines in the late 1950s, some went to the Gypsies. At a stroke this development virtually quadrupled the distance over which clandestine air missions could be carried out. After tours with the CIA and with psychological warfare headquarters in Europe, Heinie Aderholt, perhaps the single most important figure in the evolution of air force unconventional warfare, returned to the Gypsies as a major, leading its special operations detachment. With the air force’s blessings he supported CIA operations in Tibet and Thailand. With the advent of the C-130 the air force had a capability for long-range covert missions.

Short hops into primitive airfields, which would characterize the air effort in Southeast Asia, were a different matter. In the late 1950s the air force introduced its twin-engine C-123 “Provider,” but that went to standard transport squadrons. The army was developing the C-7 as a short-haul light transport. The Provider could carry a bigger load but lacked the short-takeoff-and-landing capacity of its competitor. Conditions in Vietnam and Laos demanded aircraft capable of taking off and landing in these short spaces. In 1962 the air force deployed a Provider version modified for this. Colonel Aderholt took a hand too. During the interval he was assigned to the air branch of CIA paramilitary operations staff, Aderholt had learned of a new single-engine plane that could be ideal. He pressed for adoption of the HelioCourier and succeeded (CIA knew this craft by one name [L-28], the air force by another [U-10]). These three aircraft became mainstays of the air wing within the Studies and Observation Group as well as the CIA proprietary Air America. The war, particularly in Laos, could not have been conducted without them.

Combat capability began with the “Jungle Jim” unit. Partly a result of the air force responding to President Kennedy’s demands, and partly to the service’s dawning awareness that the US military as a whole was reconfiguring itself for counterinsurgency, chief of staff General Curtis E. LeMay moved ahead smartly. Identified with high technology throughout his career, here, in 1960, LeMay approved a unit outfitted with prop-driven T-28 fighter-bombers and B-26 light bombers. This was deliberate. Rapidly transitioning to supersonic aircraft, the air force realized that slow-flying prop planes would have more time to spot targets and strike them. The innocuous 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron ran its flag up at Auxiliary Field No. 9 of Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, in April 1961. At the time, Hurlbut Field, as it was renamed, consisted of wood-frame single-story barracks, plus sheds left over from World War II. It is today the headquarters of the Air Force Special Operations Command, descendant of the Special Air Warfare Center created there-and rivaling Fort Bragg as an unconventional war mecca-in 1962. Soon enough Jungle Jim left for South Vietnam, where it was given the code name Farm Gate and stationed at Bien Hoa. Officially the aircraft trained crews for the South Vietnamese air force. In actuality they flew strike and bombardment missions, with American pilots accompanied by South Vietnamese observers.

In Laos the strike capability began with Project “Mill Pond,” a CIA operation utilizing B-26 bombers with air force crews seconded to the agency and flying in civilian clothes The ubiquitous Aderholt organized Mill Pond too. And when he returned to the United States, promoted colonel, this officer briefly commanded the First Air Commando Wing, the air force’s initial venture with a full-scale counterinsurgency unit, along the lines of those who’d flown in Burma during World War II. Wing mixed together fighter-bombers, transports, and liaison aircraft, and it became the parent organization for Farm Gate.

A major innovation of air force special warfare during the Vietnam War was the gunship. This was a large aircraft-the C-47 would be the first used, followed by the C-119 and then the C-130-providing a stable platform for side- and/or front-firing heavy weapons and cannon, soon supplemented by electronic systems for targeting. The early C-47 version got the nickname “Puff the Magic Dragon.” When these aircraft entered the force they went to the First Wing. More advanced planes joined the Fourteenth and Twenty-Fourth Wings. All of them were redesignated special operations wings in 1968. The gunships were especially effective in helping to defend outposts or patrols that were under attack, and in armed reconnaissance missions along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The gunships became established elements of air Special Forces. By 1966 there were six thousand men and 550 aircraft assigned to air special operations.

After Vietnam

Air force special operations, reassigned to the Tactical Air Command, which remained dominated by a mafia of jet fighter pilots who had risen through the Vietnam air campaigns, had held on. It had even developed a new capability-unconventional warriors akin to the army’s old airborne “pathfinders,” airmen who would drop in to a target ahead of mission aircraft and mark it for aircraft landings, the insertion of troops, or be ground observers guiding air strikes. These warriors would not get their name of “Special Tactics Units” until the 1980s-at this time they were known simply as “Brand X”-but they already had the capacity to work alongside Navy and Army Special Forces. With the new units came new terminology, reflecting more closely the multiservice nature of the troops, no longer known simply as Special Forces but as “Special Operations Forces,” the name that is familiar today.

US Special Forces in Korea

With the beginning of the Korean War in June 1950 the US military quickly rediscovered its need for all the sorts of unconventional forces it had relied upon in the big war. The military activated a Ranger company for the Eighth Army command two months into the con? ict and then, in a frenzy of activity, sixteen more between that October and February 1951. These were direct action units, mostly assigned to infantry divisions. They were taken out of service in 1951, but Ranger training continued with the purpose of having a cadre of qualified experts in every army unit. About 700 Army Rangers, a couple of hundred marines in a provisional raider unit, a hundred UDT sailors, and nearly 250 British Royal Marine Commandos made up the United Nations special warfare force.

Almost simultaneously new entities appeared in Korea to focus on partisan activities akin to those of OSS Detachment 101 with the Kachin Rangers, or the British SOE with the Resistance in Europe. At least a half-dozen of these organizations materialized, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that a special operations capability was created and then existed under a succession of cover names. It morphed constantly, mixing military and CIA officers in a kaleidoscope of patterns.

The nature of the war in Korea led to a particular style of operations. The Korean peninsula’s relatively small expanse posed problems. North Korea’s tight political controls limited the ability to recruit partisans. In particular after the late 1950 intervention by the People’s Republic of China, enemy troop density was very high and impeded operations. The difficult terrain complicated supply problems for troops in action. On the other hand there were many offshore islands ringing the peninsula. Special Forces began making incursions onto the islands, establishing bases on them, and then mounting attacks on the mainland. Unconventional warfare more resembled the commando raids of World War II than it did the Resistance war.

By 1952 the island-based raiding force was known as the Far East Liaison Detachment (Korea). An army component the 8240th Army Unit, ran the offshore partisans. Sections Leopard, Wolfpack, and Kirkland were the feld commands. Typically an American leader, senior staff, and communications specialists squired forces of Korean partisans. For example, Section Wolfpack in March 1952 had seven Americans but planned to recruit 4,000 Korean fighters. Some months later there were a dozen Americans for 6,800 Koreans. At that time Leopard was reporting its strength at 5,500. A few months later the high command reorganized again, taking cadres from this force to create the United Nations Partisan Forces Korea, which it anticipated would attain a strength of up to 20,000 within a few months.

The air force also replicated its Carpetbaggers from the big war. This began with a detachment of the Twenty-First Troop Carrier Squadron. Captain Henry (“Heinie”) Aderholt led this unit, which made supply drops and inserted agents throughout the theater. He used volunteers from his and other squadrons to fly low-altitude night missions, employed them for a month, and then sent them back to their units. On the offshore islands that lacked airfields, planes would land on the beach at low tide, doff their loads, then fly away before the water came up. Throughout the war the Carpetbaggers lost only two aircraft.

Air commanders also created an Air Resupply and Communications Service, with wings stationed in Europe, in the continental United States, and at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. The wings moved supplies, dropped leaflets, broadcast propaganda on loudspeakers, and flew liaison missions, using a mixture of B-29 bombers, flying boats, transport planes, and early model helicopters. The best-known-if not much celebrated-mission over Korea took place on January 15, 1953, when “Stardust 40,” a 581st Wing B-29 piloted by wing commander Colonel John K. Arnold, was shot down near the Chinese border. Three men died. Arnold and seven other crewmen bailed out and were captured. Held as war criminals, they were put on trial in Beijing, accused of making germ warfare attacks on China. There has been a persistent controversy over the veracity of these claimed attacks. The US airmen were released in 1955. The air force had meanwhile deactivated the special warfare units.

Cold War

Cold War competition put a premium on propaganda, which in the US military was the province of “psychological warfare,” another unconventional technique that had been given a powerful impetus by World War II. President Truman had an abiding interest in these tactics. In 1951 Truman established the Psychological Strategy Board as the unit of his National Security Council apparatus responsible both for spurring propaganda plans of all types and for approving US covert operations. The conjunction of psychological and unconventional warfare would result in the revival of Special Forces.

In 1950 the army created a chief of psychological warfare at the headquarters level. Robert McClure, who would rise to be a major general, got the assignment. In World War II McClure had been the chief of psychological operations for the supreme allied commander, Dwight D. Eisenhower. McClure’s staff division not only supervised “psy-war” efforts in Korea, it took on the special operations portfolio. General McClure gathered a small group of offcers who had led partisan resistance in the Philippines, or had fought with Merrill’s Marauders or with the OSS in Burma, China, Yugoslavia, and elsewhere. These men reviewed the record, convincing themselves that fomenting partisan resistance in war should be the goal for an unconventional warfare force, and that peacetime preparation would optimize that function. They encouraged General McClure to propose the creation of “Special Forces.” The general, very receptive to the proposal, also had a good relationship with army chief of staff General J. Lawton Collins, who liked the idea and pushed it through army channels.

At Fayetteville, North Carolina, home to the army’s huge airborne base Fort Bragg, General McClure had a Psychological Warfare Center. There, on June 20, 1952, the army created its Tenth Special Forces Group (Airborne), under Colonel Aaron Bank, a veteran of OSS missions from World War II and one of the unconventional warfare advocates from McClure’s office. Colonel Bank began with just ten men in his group. They were relegated to an abandoned barracks at a back corner of Bragg known as “Smoke Bomb Hill.” Since that day more than six decades ago, the United States has never been without Special Forces. Indeed they outlived the original infatuation with psy-war-the Psychological Warfare Center at Bragg would be supplanted by a (still extant) Special Warfare Center toward the end of 1956.

Very early on the Special Forces adopted the basic pattern of organization they have ever since maintained. The term “operational detachment” was quickly adopted but not used in the field. There were four echelons of command. The field unit was the “A-Team” (hence the current nomenclature “Operational Detachment A”). These teams were to recruit, train, and lead partisans or to perform special missions. At the intermediate level the B-Team would command all the bands in a region and furnish supplies and support to the field units. The C-Team was intended to perform the same functions for all Special Forces in a country, and the D-Team, a regional command, would control forces in two or more countries. The C-Team could be likened to an infantry company. The B- and C-Teams could be divided between a forward headquarters in the field and a rear echelon organizing the support and located at a “Special Forces Operating Base.” With the aim of fomenting behind-the-lines resistance to an enemy-at that time Soviet-occupier, the Tenth Special Forces Group oriented itself toward Europe.

The A-Team was designed to function along lines similar to the techniques used by the partisan commands in Korea. Americans would work with bands of up to 1,500 fighters. To train and lead those partisans the US officers and noncoms needed to possess all the military skills present in a much larger organization. Intelligence, communications, weapons expertise, demolitions, and medical care were all required specialties. In addition, since men could be killed or incapacitated and not easily replaced, Special Forces very early began to cross-train its soldiers in other disciplines so an operator could step up to fill in for a fallen comrade. Depending on the popularity of Special Forces and the size of the US Army at different times, A-Teams have fluctuated in size from a half-dozen to fifteen operators, with a dozen (two officers plus ten non-commissioned officers) being the most typical size. At times when staffing was tight the problem of cross-training became particularly acute.

In June 1953 riots in East Germany suggested the possibility of more intense uprisings in Eastern Europe. The Tenth Group had finished its training and the Joint Chiefs of Staff had hashed out issues over its place in American war plans. The Tenth Group was posted to Bad Tölz, Germany, a month later. There it perfected its craft in maneuvers against the US Seventh Army-the American contribution to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), created in 1947 to defend against a Soviet invasion of Europe-the forces of other NATO members, and in field exercises.

Tensions persisted between Special Forces and the conventionally trained combat commanders whose horizons ended with a vision of Soviet tanks flooding across the East German and Czech borders to attack NATO. The Special Forces received little support from Seventh Army brethren. Over time the strength of the Tenth Group tumbled by half. Under pressure from conventional commanders, with their desire for boots on the front lines, and without a practicable partisan resistance to organize, the Special Forces tended to drift more to Ranger-style missions, that is, the commando-type role, which had more appeal for NATO commanders. Special Forces trained with or engaged in exercises against foreign paratroops, rangers, commandos, and clandestine units of Germany, France, England, Norway, Greece, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Pakistan.

Nevertheless the Special Forces concept had been established. Perhaps the concept had not flourished, but the force expanded. A new group formed at Fort Bragg, deployed to Hawaii, and after changes in name and base, wound up on Okinawa as the First Special Forces Group, focused on Asia and sending missions to Thailand, South Vietnam, South Korea, the Philippines, and Taiwan, where they helped train Rangers or unconventional warfare units in those lands. This expanded the Special Forces envelope, introducing a task that would become a mainstay of its activity. It was here, in the Pacific, that the shadow warriors first created “Mobile Training Teams” for these instructional missions.

The silent warriors who had left Fort Bragg were again replaced, by a re-formed Seventy-Seventh Special Forces Group. As the 1950s ended, Special Forces formed an experienced-typically ten years in service and with average age of about thirty-and well-trained corps of unconventional warfare specialists with a presence in both Europe and the Pacific. There were three Special Forces groups totaling roughly 2,000 soldiers. The air force maintained its Carpetbagger capability in the form of an air transport detachment, still under Heinie Aderholt, most recently distinguished by cooperating with a CIA covert operation in Tibet. The marines kept up a ranger capability with their Force Reconnaissance Battalions. The navy lagged behind somewhat, having permitted its frogman force to atrophy after the Korean War. But all that was about to change.

The Battle of San Jacinto – Santa Anna’s Folly

The Battle of San Jacinto-1895 painting by Henry Arthur McArdle (1836–1908)

The Mexican Province of Texas, 1836

In 1835 Santa Anna, one of the generals who had led the Mexican people in throwing out the Spanish, was elected president and almost immediately abolished the constitution, making himself a dictator. Like their neighbors to the north, many Mexicans felt strongly about their freedom and constitution. Within a year, the dictator Santa Anna Perez de Lebron reacted to the first resistance to his rule and his having abolished the constitution by leading an army into the formerly prosperous province of Zacatecas. It was an army that burnt, pillaged, and raped its way across the land until the province was both devastated and virtually unpopulated. Santa Anna then made sure that his statement “If you execute your enemies, it saves you the trouble of having to forgive them” was known to every person in Mexico. It was a stern warning, but also showed his total disregard for the “rights of man” and other freedoms lost when he abolished the constitution.

Now, if there was one part of all Mexico that was still willing to revolt against Santa Anna, it was Texas. It was far from the centers of the dictator’s power, and two-thirds of the thirty thousand citizens living in what was then the Mexican province of Texas were immigrants from the United States. The remainder were either established Mexican families with an independent spirit or men who had fled there when Santa Anna took over. The abolition of the constitution angered most Mexicans, and the “Texicans” more than most. Many of the men and officers who fought against Santa Anna, from the Alamo to San Jacinto, were of Mexican descent, and many risked lands that had been in their families for generations. By 1836, things had come to a head and a revolt started in Texas, with a few hundred ill-organized men easily driving out the local garrisons. So far this was all being done in the name of the abolished constitution. But revolution was revolution, and, having led a successful one against the Spanish that freed all Mexico only a few years before, Santa Anna knew he could not allow another revolt to start, even in the distant and relatively poor province of Texas.

The population of Texas was only a tiny fraction of Mexico’s; the Mexican army itself was nearly as large as the entire population of the distant province. Santa Anna had beaten the French army and suppressed much larger revolutions, so it took him several mistakes in Texas to lose both the battle and a war. That he lost at all is more surprising, since Santa Anna was leading battle-tested veterans against men who had no more than a few months at best to train together, and were much more independent-minded and difficult to lead than good soldiers should be. So how did, as Texans so proudly point out, Texas win its independence rather than end up the wasteland that Zacatecas had become?

Santa Anna had been called the Napoleon of Mexico, and he quickly took the name to heart. He was confident, or, as we shall see, overconfident, in the face of any “rabble” in thinly populated Texas. Still, he decided to bring against Texas an army of six thousand of his best troops, most having taken part in devastating Zacatecas the year before. Public statements assured everyone in Mexico City that Texas would meet the same fate as Zacatecas, and that every former citizen from the United States would be killed or driven out of that province permanently. Like Napoleon, Santa Anna felt maneuver was a most important part of warfare. So he carefully directed each march and the routes of every column in his army. Unlike Napoleon, the Mexican dictator took little interest in supplying his army. Determined to put down the revolt before any effective opposition could organize, the dictator ordered his army to move north with forced marches. It being winter, the journey soon took its toll, and more resembled the retreat from Moscow than the start of a new campaign. By the time the army neared the Rio Grande, only about four thousand effectives remained. Two thousand men had fallen from exhaustion, had gotten sick, or had simply deserted during the hard march from the capital to the Rio Grande. These remaining troops were reinforced to slightly more than the six thousand-man army Santa Anna had started with by adding to them the survivors of the Texas garrisons. This meant that there was one Mexican soldier for every five men, women, and children in all of Texas. No one, not even those who wanted it to, such as the president of the United States, expected the Texican revolution to succeed.

The first opposition came on February 23 at the abandoned mission near San Antonio de Bexar, known as the Alamo. As with Zacatecas, Santa Anna quickly made it known that he would take no prisoners. The defenders fought with desperate courage, but by March 6 were unable to hold the large length of walls and were eventually overwhelmed. Those who did survive the assault may have been executed; evidence is mixed. But the final result was that no defender survived.

A few weeks later a mixed force of cavalry and horse artillery caught the largest single force of rebels under Colonel Fannin near Goliad. Trapped in the open, the Texans formed a defense position and drove off the first attacks by the horsemen. Then the horse artillery unlimbered and began punishing them with shot and grapeshot, packets of hundreds of musket balls fired from the cannon like a giant shotgun. Seeing his position was indefensible, Fannin negotiated a surrender. His men would lay down their arms in exchange for being able to return to their homes and the promise to never take up arms against Santa Anna again. These terms being accepted, the Texans surrendered. At this point, Santa Anna ordered that they all be executed. The officers who accepted the surrender protested and were sent away. On March 27, the Napoleon of Mexico forced the prisoners onto an open area and had his men open fire: 342 died, but 28 escaped to spread the tale.

Having destroyed both the only fortress occupied by the Texans and their largest single force, Santa Anna seems to have decided that the revolt was over. Sam Houston was desperately trying to organize what remained of the resistance, but this force of less than a thousand men (at its peak) was being constantly forced north away from the centers of population and their families. So Santa Anna split his force into a number of “flying columns,” which mostly meant they were just small enough to march fairly quickly and live off the land. These columns began to recreate in Texas the atrocities of Zacatecas. You could follow their movement by the smoke from the homes and towns they burnt.

Leading the largest column, about a thousand soldiers, Santa Anna pursued and eventually drove the rebel government completely out of Texas (onto a ship). He continued moving in the general direction of Sam Houston, more concerned with driving the former U. S. citizens out of Texas and burning every building he found than fighting a battle against an already defeated foe.

This overconfidence, and the general exhaustion from a long march and months of campaigning, led to a relaxation of procedures that the real Napoleon would have never tolerated. Pickets and scouts were used only occasionally, and orders were often sent by unescorted couriers.

Sam Houston’s scouts captured a courier riding to the dictator’s camp. The message told him two things. One was that the column Santa Anna led was much closer than he had thought, less than a day’s march away. The second was that in less than a week the Mexican column was to be strongly reinforced. With his own men more than restive, and some ready to mutiny due to inaction, Houston knew that it was finally time to act. He had already stopped running and was marching closer to Santa Anna. Seeing that the weeks of retreating were over, the Texican army’s spirits rose as they marched to meet the men who were burning their homes and towns. When they realized that the battle was imminent, they cheered.

Unknown to Houston, the Mexican reinforcements had arrived earlier than expected. Sam Houston had at most eight hundred men ready to fight, and the additional arrivals meant that Santa Anna had under his command over fifteen hundred experienced soldiers, including mounted lancers and several guns. This gave Santa Anna, already convinced he was merely completing a mop-up following his victories at the Alamo and Goliad, a false sense of confidence. His army was nearly twice as large as Houston’s and in a good defensible position. His men were professionals, and he had heard of the dissention Houston’s constant orders to retreat had engendered. The Texans would never dare to attack, and all he had to do was wait until desertions, already a Texican problem, and frustration eliminated the opposition for him. Even though he knew the Texans were close, the dictator’s confidence was such that he ordered his army to stand down for the afternoon, relaxing in camp rather than preparing for battle. He joined his officers sipping champagne under the shade of a large tree in the center of the camp and soon everyone but a few guards were enjoying their siesta.

When Houston formed his army for the attack, it numbered 793 men. All were ready for a long-awaited fight, but few had ever really been in a battle. The potential for disaster was great, but the chance to defeat and capture Santa Anna was too great an opportunity to pass up. This was probably Houston’s last and only chance for victory. The Texan commander understood that if he held his men from battle much longer they would certainly mutiny or simply desert. So the decision to attack was made, and soon the double line of Texans waited behind a ridge that hid them from the Mexican army’s camp. Upon Houston’s signal, they moved silently forward.

As the men moved toward the Mexican camp, everyone expected to be spotted and hoped they could gain the relative advantage of the top of the ridge before having to face the Mexican regulars. Amazingly, they approached the ridgeline and nothing happened. No one, especially Sam Houston, could believe their luck. When they finally came into sight of the camp, it was a bare two hundred yards away, and still no alarm was being given. Finally, as the entire double line of Texans came into sight, a few cannonballs were fired at their approaching line, sailing safely overhead but alerting the Mexican soldiers that something was happening. A few musket shots rang out from the camp and drums rolled as men struggled to wake up and form into units.

At this point, a small party of men that Houston had sent to check ahead joined the battle and yelled out that the Texans’ only line of retreat, Vince’s Bridge, was down. Every Texan now knew it was most certainly victory or death, in a most literal sense. Santa Anna never took prisoners, and there was no way to escape. Just as this cry went up, the army being a mere eighty yards from the edge of the confusion-filled Mexican camp, Colonel Sidney Sherman bellowed, “Remember the Alamo and Goliad.” It was both a warning and a rallying cry. “Remember the Alamo” was repeated and he then roared it out in Spanish as the advancing Texans opened fire from only a few yards from where Santa Anna’s officers were struggling to bring order to a now panicky army. The galling fire (most of the Texans were frontiersmen, so many shots hit home) broke the morale of the disorganized men. Resistance stopped except in isolated pockets, and most of the Mexican soldiers ran or tried to surrender. These were the same soldiers who had pillaged and raped their way across Texas for the previous three months, and the units that had taken the Alamo, leaving no one alive. Few surrenders were accepted and panic took over, Santa Anna’s officers and men fleeing for their lives.

The battle took less than twenty minutes. The revenge went on for over an hour as Texans pursued and killed the remnants of the column. Riflemen fired into milling mobs and their small cavalry unit was everywhere, slashing the routing soldiers and ensuring no one was able to reform and offer any resistance. It was not until some hours later that Sam Houston was once more in control of his army and some prisoners were taken. But he was worried. While they had broken the column, this was less than a quarter of Santa Anna’s total army, and the dictator had escaped. Thanks to Santa Anna’s overconfidence, Houston had a victory, but the war was far from won.

The next day, among a few straggling prisoners brought in to join those already under guard, was a dusty, dirty man with a torn shirt that, if anyone had bothered to look closely, was of far higher quality than those of the common soldiers. It was not until his own men began saluting and muttering his name that the Texans realized this prisoner was indeed Santa Anna Perez de Lebron himself. The stained and filthy shirt was, it was later realized, actually held together with diamond studs. Quickly brought before Sam Houston, who was suffering from an ankle shattered in the initial attack, the dictator began negotiating for his life and freedom. Many of the Texans, still desiring revenge for the Alamo and Goliad, wanted to hang Santa Anna right there. But Houston held him prisoner until a month later, when a treaty was signed and Texas became a nation. The deal was that Santa Anna could go free if he let go of Texas. He agreed and returned to Mexico City. After that no one called him the Napoleon of Mexico anymore.

Texas was a thinly inhabited frontier and the Mexican army was nearly as large as the population of the former province. The year before, a much more populous province had been easily turned into a wasteland. Furthermore, Santa Anna was leading battle-tested veterans against men who had no more than a few months, at best, to train and work together. So how did Texas win its independence rather than end up the wasteland the other rebellious province had become? There is one simple reason for this nation-forming defeat: Santa Anna’s overconfidence led to a dispersion of forces, and an overly harsh response that rallied opposition. His real failures were to not maintain local security around his camp or even bother to locate the enemy. It all came down to misplaced confidence and a gross underestimation of the Texicans.

John Tiller’s Mexican-American War

Viking berserkers

Individual Viking warriors known during the eighth through eleventh centuries for their ferocity.

A sixth-century bronze matrix depicting berserkers. Berserkers were associated with shape changing or the wearing of animal skins, such as the wolf costume shown here.

The berserkers were the semi-mythological Viking warriors who foamed at the mouth and fought with a strength and frenzy that made their foes tremble with fear. It is the berserker that has given us the popular image of the Viking warriors. Some, however, dispute that they even existed. Still, stories about berserkers litter the Icelandic sagas, where they are both venerated as the most powerful of all Viking warriors, and also despised as ugly, unreasonable psychopaths.

The word “berserker” may stem from “bare of shirt”, for going into battle without armour, or “bear-shirt” because of the animal skins that they wore. In the sagas, berserkers were also often associated with shape changing, and could take the form of a bear or wolf, or at the very least assume the qualities of these beasts before they went into combat. In Haraldskvæði, a skaldic poem about Harald Finehair, his berserkers are called “wolf-skins” and in battle they “bear bloody shields and red with blood are their spears when they come to fight.”

Berserkers are often recorded as being immune to injury or having “weapons glance off them”. It is unclear if this is to do with the animal skins they may have worn or a greater tolerance to pain achieved by entering into a frenzied state. This state is often described as a fit of madness, a fury known as “berserkergang”.

Berserkergang seized men with a chill that caused shivering, chattering of the teeth, a hotheadedness and a red swelling of the face. The berserkers then entered a great state of rage, where they howled like animals, bit the edges of their shields and attacked anything that moved. A berserkergang warrior was scared of nothing and would cut down anyone who stepped in his way – friend, family or foe.

An incident where a berserker fails to recognize his family is told in Egil’s Saga. In the story, Egil’s father Skallagrim is taken by a berserkergang – called a “shape-strength” – as he played a ball game with his son and another boy, Thord:

Thord and Egil were set against Skallagrim in the game; and he became weary before them, so that they had the best of it. But in the evening after sunset it began to go worse with Egil and his partner. Skallagrim then became so strong and he caught up Thord and dashed him down so violently that every bone was broken and he died. Then he seized Egil. Now there was a handmaid of Skallagrim’s named Thorgerdr Brak, who had nursed Egil when a child; she was a big woman, strong as a man, and of magic cunning. Said Brak: ‘Dost thou turn thy shape-strength, Skallagrim, against thy son?’ Whereat Skallagrim let Egil loose, but clutched at her. She broke away and took to her heels with Skallagrim after her. So went they to the utmost point of Digraness. Then she leapt out from the rock into the water. Skallagrim hurled after her a great stone, which struck her between the shoulders, and she never came up again.”

– Egil’s Saga, translated by W.C. Green

According to Hrólf’s Saga, the great strength and immunity from pain experienced by the berserker was immediately followed by a depleted state, where the warrior was “so powerless that they did not have half of their strength, and were as feeble as if they had just come out of bed from a sickness. This lasted for about a day.” One way of killing a berserker, according to the sagas, was to wait until his fury had left and then attack him in the enfeebled state that followed. In the sagas, berserkergang was a condition that could seize men without warning. At other times it came over a warrior just before combat. There are many theories about how warriors harnessed the power of a berserkergang. Alcohol, hallucinogenic mushrooms or self-induced hysteria have all been suggested. It has also been hypothesized that warriors underwent a ritual, which included a sacrifice to Odin and the drinking of wolf or bear blood.

It is known that Harald Finehair used berserkers as shock troops within his army, and other Viking kings employed them as personal bodyguards. It may be that these elite warriors were able to induce berserkergang at the required moment through ritualistic means. Reports of berserkers in battle variously describe them as fighting naked, or dyed in blue or covered in bear or wolf-fur – the latter was known as ulfheðnar, or “men clad in wolf skins”. However valuable berserkers were within the theatre of conflict, outside of it they were often described as a blight on society. The Viking warrior code demanded loyalty and fidelity to one’s leader and comrades; berserkers, on the other hand, were known to turn indiscriminately on their friends and loved ones.

Outside of their role on the battlefield, the sagas often record berserkers as brutish murderers and sex offenders who lived outside the rules of Viking society. They are described as looking like trolls, with “black eyes and eyebrows joined up in the middle”, and being “more like monsters than men.” It is perhaps no wonder that as Viking Scandinavia converted to Christianity, berserkergang became unacceptable. In 1015, Erik Bloodaxe banned berserkers and made the practice of berserkergang punishable by outlawry. Later, the duels known as holmgang were also prohibited. This prevented berserkers challenging a warrior to a duel so he could take his property and women. The Icelandic Egil’s Saga records such an incident:

Gyda went to Egil and said: ‘I will tell you, Egil, how things stand here with us. There is a man named Ljot the Pale. He is a Berserk and a duellist; he is hated. He came here and asked my daughter to wife; but we answered at once, refusing the match. Whereupon he challenged my son Fridgeir to wager of battle; and he has to go tomorrow to this combat on the island called Vors. Now I wished, Egil, that you should go to the combat with Fridgeir’ … On the morrow Fridgeir made ready to go, and many with him, Egil being one of the party. It was now good travelling weather.

They soon came to the island… Soon came thither Ljot and his party. Then he made him ready for the combat. He had shield and sword. Ljot was a man of vast size and strong. And as he came forward on the field to the ground of combat, a fit of Berserk fury seized him; he began to bellow hideously, and bit his shield… Ljot sprang swiftly to his feet. Egil bounded at him and dealt at once a blow at him. He pressed him so close that he was driven back, and the shield shifted from before him. Then smote Egil at Ljot, and the blow came on him above the knee, taking off his leg. Ljot then fell and soon expired. Then Egil went to where Fridgeir and his party stood. He was heartily thanked for this work.”

– Egil’s Saga, translated by W.C. Green

There are few recorded accounts of berserkers from the mid-eleventh century onwards. Like all pagan traditions such as spell casting and shape changing, berserkergang was considered a dangerous heathen practice that had no place in Christian society. Berserkers, alongside the god Odin they were dedicated to, disappeared from view.

Macchi C.202 Folgore (Lightning)

An early Macchi C.202 (no radio mast) of 81ª Squadriglia, 6° Gruppo, 1° Stormo CT; this photo appears to have been taken in Libya.

C.202 of Regia Aeronautica 168ª Squadriglia, 54° Stormo CT c.1943

Although a sufficient improvement over the Fiat CR.42 and G.50 to have warranted production as a stopgap fighter, the Saetta was barely a match for the Hurricane and no match for the Spitfire. A closer examination of the C.200’s airframe, however, revealed an essentially clean design with an excellent combination of stability and maneuverability. All it needed was a better engine.
With that in mind, Castoldi privately approached the Daimler-Benz A. G. and purchased a twelve-cylinder air-cooled DB 601Aa engine. He then commenced work on an aerodynamically refined adaptation of the C.200 airframe to accept the German engine, at the same time abandoning the C.201, another project to reengine the Saetta. The result of his efforts, which took to the air at Varese on August 10, 1940, restored the racy appearance of the Castoldi floatplanes to the basic C.200 design, as well as to its performance potential. So successful were its tests that the Ministerio dell’Aeronautica immediately ordered the new fighter into series production—not only at Macchi’s Varese factory but also at Breda’s plant at Sesto San Giovanni, near Milan. While more DB 601 Aas were ordered to power the first production batch, Alfa Romeo acquired a license to manufacture the engine as the R. A. 1000 R. C. 41-I Monsone (Monsoon), which was rated at 1,040 horsepower at 2,400 revolutions per minute. The Macchi C.202 Folgore (Lightning), as the new fighter was designated, had a maximum speed of 372 miles per hour at 18,370 feet, featured self-sealing fuel tanks, a molded armor-plate pilot’s seat, and an enclosed cockpit, although it lacked an armor-glass windscreen. Armament was initially the same as the C.200—two synchronized 12.7mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns—but ammunition capacity was increased from 370 to 400 rounds per gun. Later-production series Folgores added two 7.7mm Breda-SAFAT guns in the wings.
The first C.202s were delivered to the 4o Stormo C. T. at Gorizia in July 1941. After accustoming themselves with the new fighter’s characteristics, pilots of the wing’s 9o Gruppo, comprised of the 73a Squadriglia (Fotoricognitori) and 96a and 97a Squadriglie C. T., commenced operations against Malta from their base at Comiso on September 29, 1941. On the following afternoon, Italy’s new lightning bolt struck for the first time when five Hurricane fighter-bombers of No. 185 Squadron, escorted by six other Hurricanes, attacked Comiso. Three C.202s of the 97a Squadriglia scrambled up to intercept them, and in the running fight that followed, Tenente Iacopo Frigerio shot down Pilot Officer Donald W. Lintern, who was last seen bailing out near Gozo Island.
After returning to their base to refuel, five of the Hurricanes accompanied a Fairey Fulmar of the Kalafrana Rescue Flight in a search for Lintern. They never found him, but they did come under attack by the C.202s. Tenente Luigi Tessari and Sgt. Raffaello Novelli were jointly credited with downing an enemy fighter, which they reported to have fallen into the sea and blown up ten kilometers south of Cap Scaramia. Their victim was the Fulmar, but it ditched relatively intact, and its crew, Lt. D. E. C. Eyres and Sub-Lt. Bernard Furlong, were subsequently rescued by a Fairey Swordfish floatplane of their flight. One of the Hurricane pilots, Flt. Lt. Charles G. St. David Jeffries, claimed to have probably downed one of the unidentified enemy fighters, while Pilot Officer Peter J. B. Veitch and Flt. Sgt. A. W. Jolly each claimed to have damaged one; Tessari returned with numerous holes in his fuselage.
The 9o Gruppo carried the fight back to Malta on the morning of October 1, as Capt. Mario Pluda led seven C.202s to escort two C.200s on a reconnaissance mission. At 1150 hours, eight Hurricane Mark IIAs of No. 185 Squadron took off to intercept, but as they reached an altitude of 24,000 feet, thirty miles northeast of the embattled island, they were jumped by the Folgori. Capitano Carlo Ivaldi, Tenente Pietro Bonfatti, and Sergente Maggiore Enrico Dallari claimed two Hurricanes shot down and two probables in their first pass; but only one Hurricane was lost along with its pilot, Squadron Leader P. W. B. Mould—the same “Boy” Mould who, as a member of No. 1 Squadron, had scored the first confirmed Hurricane victory in France on October 30, 1939. Mould’s total account stood at eight, plus one shared, when he became one of the C.202’s earliest victims. The Italians did not get off scot-free, however. Sergeant Ernest G. Knight scored hits on Ivaldi’s main fuel tank, and he only just made it to Sicily before the last of his fuel drained away, force landing on the beach near Pozzallo.
The Folgore quickly demonstrated its inherent mastery over the Hurricane, and by the end of 1941, at least one of the 9o Gruppo’s pilots, Teresio Martinoli, had been credited with five out of an eventual personal total of twenty-two victories (one of them German while flying for the Allies in Italy’s Co-Belligerent Air Force), including Peter Veitch, whom he shot down and killed off Malta on October 4. The C.202’s numbers were too small to have a decisive impact over Malta in the late months of 1941, however. By the time it was available in significant quantities in 1942, Spitfire Mark Vs had arrived to engage the Italian fighters on roughly equal terms. Nevertheless, the C.202 gave a much-needed boost to the confidence of Italian fighter pilots and became the Regia Aeronautica’s fighter mainstay until Italy capitulated on September 8, 1943. A more potent variant with a license-produced version of the DB 605 engine and heavier armament, the C.205 Veltro (Greyhound), would continue to be a formidable fighter thereafter, in the hands of both Allied Co-Belligerent pilots and the diehard Fascisti of the Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana.

Variants and production
Like its predecessor C.200, the C.202 had relatively few modifications, with only 116 modifications during its career, most of them invisible, externally. The total series production ordered was 1,454: 900 to Breda, 150 to SAI Ambrosini, 403 to Aermacchi. The amount produced was actually 1,106 and not 1,220 as previous stated. Breda built 649 (Series XVI deleted, Series XII and XV partially completed caused the difference); Aermacchi made 390 examples, SAI only 67.
One of the differences between prototype and series production was the lack of radio antenna and the retractable tailwheel (these differences resulting in a slightly higher top speed); the difference in speed was not so great and so, the series version had the fixed tailwheel and the radio antenna. The support for the engine, originally steel, was replaced with a lighter aluminium structure.

Starting with the Serie VII, the fighter had a new wing with a provision for two 7.7 mm (.303 in) Breda-SAFAT machine guns and an armored windscreen (previously, only the armored seat and the self-sealing tanks were provided). Serie IX’s weight was 2,515/3,069 kg with the 7.7 machine guns seldom installed.

Dust filters for operations in North Africa (AS – Africa Settentrionale, North Africa); they little affected the speed and so, almost all Folgores had them and thus were in C.202AS standard; finally, starting with Serie XI there was a provision for two 50, 100 or 160 kg bombs, small bombs clusters (10, 15, 20 kg) or 100 l drop tanks. These underwing pylons were rarely utilized, as Folgores were needed in the interceptor roles.

Underwing hardpoints for bombs or drop tanks (CB – Caccia Bombardiere, Fighter-Bomber)

probably meaning Esperimento Cannoni, it was another link between Veltro and Folgore. One aircraft (Serie III, s/n MM 91974) was fitted with a pair of gondola-mounted 20 mm cannon with 200 rounds each (it flew on 12 May 1943); later it was turned into a C.205V. Another four examples were so equipped, but, despite the good results in the trials (aimed to boost the Folgore’s firepower), there was no further production, because the cannons penalized the aircraft’s performance. There was, in the Folgore, no room to mount them inside the wings or the nose, so the MC.205V/Ns was developed. Nevertheless, the XII series could have introduced a new wing with MG 151 provisions. This is not well documented, as this series was produced by Breda after the Armistice, and was interrupted with the devastating USAAF bombings, together with many other aircraft; among them, also Macchi 205 production and the 206 prototype (30 April 1944; in five days, the USAAF destroyed both Fiat and Macchi facilities, eliminating all of Italy’s fighter production).

Equipped with cameras for photo-reconnaissance missions (R – Ricognizione, Reconnaissance), very few produced, later the recce role was covered by Veltros.

Prototype with a revised radiator, under the nose, similar to the P-40 (s/n. MM 7768)

C.202 AR.4
at least one was modified as “drone director” (coupled with S.79s), and it was planned to use Folgores also as ‘Mistel’, with an AR.4 “radiobomba” (a sort of remote-control kamikaze bomber).
C.202 with DB 605 and other engines
Macchi MC.202 with DB 605 were initially known as MC.202 bis; later as the C.205 Veltro. Macchi C.200, C.202 and C.205 shared many common components. The MC.200A/2 was a MC.200 with Folgore wings (MM.8238). After the Armistice, Aeronautica Sannita or the Co-Belligerent Italian AF began MC.205 modifying C.202s with DB 605s. These aircraft were known also as Folgeltro. Around two dozen were made. Another Folgore was modified with DB 601E-1 (1,350 PS) in summer 1944, but this hybrid with Bf 109F technology crashed on 21 January 1946. The MC.204 was a version with a L.121 Asso (1,000 hp); proposed early in the war (28 September 1940), but all the effort continued only with DB 601 engines. Early Folgores had original DB 601s, while from the Serie VII, RC.41s were available.
After the war, 31 C.202 airframes were fitted with license-built Daimler-Benz DB 605 engines and sold to Egypt as C.205 Veltros, with another 11 ‘real’ MC.205s (with MG 151 cannons in the wings).