From Academic Kids

For other uses, see Commando (disambiguation).
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The French Navy commando Jaubert storm the Alcyon in a mock assault.

In military science, the term commando can refer to an individual, a military unit, or a raiding style of military operation. In certain contexts, the term is synonymous with light infantry or "special forces". They should be distinguished from special force units which specialise in extended, long range ground-level reconnaisance and patrol missions, behind enemy lines (such as the various Special Air Services).


Elite soldiers

Commandos are generally seen as "elite" soldiers; they tend to meet relatively high physical and intellectual requirements, are formed into combat units (from squad to brigade strength), and often operate in conjunction with more traditional military formations.

Tactics common to the modern commando are the product of experience gained over centuries, but which were brought to the fore and developed in guerilla warfare during the 20th century. Commandos are normally trained for assault by land, sea or air and most are parachute qualified. Training also includes unarmed combat, infiltration, counterterrorism, patrol, reconnaissance, jungle, desert, arctic, and mountain terrains with an emphasis on both teamwork and self reliance. Individuals specialise in various aspects such as explosives and communications. Commando hallmarks are speed, mobility and stealth. Many operations are conducted at night and Commandos are not intended to remain continuously in the line for long periods.

The word commando comes from the Portuguese and first came to international attention when adopted by the Afrikaners of South Africa in the late 19th century. In Afrikaans, one meaning of the word kommando is "command" (including a command given to a computer). It was therefore used in the sense of a particular military command. Similarly, in English, "a commando" originally meant a small military unit devoted to raiding tactics. Eventually the word came to mean an individual within such units.

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Members of the commando Jaubert covering each other


Afrikaner communities formed kommandos among themselves, in their conflicts with other southern African peoples like the Xhosa, and during and after the Great Trek, with others like the Zulu. Communities and farmsteads provided self-equipped, mounted men whenever a commando was mustered. (A form of mobilisation similar to the original Texas Rangers.)

By the time of the Second Boer War against the United Kingdom, the Afrikaner commandos fought one of the classic guerrilla campaigns. The initial phases of the war were fought conventionally, but in the final phase, 8,000 Afrikaner commandos occupied the attention of the 450,000 British Army personnel — ten times as many British soldiers as during the first phases of the war. During the court martial of Breaker Morant, the commando strategy of the Boer resistance — clearly a concept both new and startling to British military thought — was cited as mitigation for the summary execution by Morant and his comrades of prisoners of war.

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Weapons of the modern commando Jaubert are clearly visible

The British armed forces revived the word "commando" in 1940, during World War II with the creation of their Army Commandos, and the later Royal Marine Commandos, from 1942. The original intention was for them to be small, highly mobile raiding and reconnaissance forces. Commandos were not intended to remain in field operations for more than 36 hours and carried all they needed. Army Commandos were all volunteers selected from existing soldiers still in Britain.

The same volunteer selection process was observed for the formation of No. 40 Commando from the Royal Marines. Subsequent Royal Marines Commandos were formed by remustering existing Royal Marines battalions into Commandos. As the war progressed, some selection and training took place in respective theatres of operation. The Army Commandos were disbanded in 1946 though the Royal Marines Commandos continued to exist.

Following the British example, the Australian Army formed commando units, known as Independent Companies in the early stages of World War II. They first saw action in early 1942 at the Battle of Rabaul, and the Timorese campaign. On Timor the 2/2nd Independent Company formed the heart of an Allied force which engaged Japanese forces in a guerilla campaign. The Japanese commander on the island drew parallels with the Boer War, and decided that it would take a numerical advantage of 10:1 in order to defeat the Allies. The campaign occupied the attention of an entire Japanese division for almost a year. Australian Army commandos, as they were known later in the war, saw widespread action in the South West Pacific Area, especially in New Guinea and Borneo.

During 1941, the United States Marine Corps formed commando battalions, inspired by both the British commandos and the tactics used by Chinese Communist forces, from whom they acquired the war cry "gung-ho". The USMC commandos were known collectively as Marine Raiders. The Raiders initially saw action at the Battle of Tulagi and the Battle of Makin, as well as the Battle of Guadalcanal, the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay, and other parts of the Pacific Ocean Areas. In February 1944 the four Raider battalions were converted to regular marine units.

In mid-1942 the US Army formed the Rangers, in Northern Ireland, under Bill Darby. The Rangers were designed along the similar lines to the British Army commandos, who supervised their training. The first sizeable Ranger action took place in August 1942 at Dieppe, in France (Operation Jubilee) where 50 Rangers were dispersed among the British Commandos. The first full Ranger action took place during the invasion of North West Africa (Operation Torch) in November 1942.

Otto Skorzeny
Otto Skorzeny

The German Office for Foreign and Counter-Intelligence (OKW Amt Ausland/Abwehr) formed the Brandenburger Commandos (800th Special Purpose Construction Training Battalion) in December 1939. They conducted a mixture of covert and overt operations, but became increasingly involved with line infantry actions and eventually became a Panzer-Grenadier Division, suffering heavy losses in Russia. Otto Skorzeny (most famed for his rescue of Benito Mussolini) conducted many special operations for Adolf Hitler but no Commando organisation was developed from this and technically he remained a Waffen-SS Sturmbannführer(Major).

Italy's Commandos of World War I, the Arditi, were not reformed in World War II, and their most renowned Commandos became the Decima Flottiglia MAS who were responsible for the sinking and damage of considerable Allied tonnage in the Mediterranean. After the division on Italy in 1943, those fighting with Germany retained the original name and those fighting with the Allies retitled as the Mariassalto.

Post-World War II

Britain now maintains one brigade of Commandos as part of the Royal Marines; this includes three Royal Marines infantry Commandos (battalions), one Army Royal Artillery Commando Regiment, one Army Royal Engineers Commando Squadron, and a Commando Logistic Battalion consisting of both Royal Marines and soldiers.

Australia recently revived, within the Royal Australian Regiment, the 4th (Commando) Battalion (4RAR), to perform a primarily counterterrorist role.

Other points

William B. Cushing, a daring young U.S. Navy officer during the Civil War, was anachronistically called "Lincoln's commando" by his biographers.

See also

da:Kommando (militęr) de:Kommando (Militär) it:Commando fi:Erikoisjoukot


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