Desperate times calls for desperate measures, sounds like a cliche but when its the final option. High risk commandos and warriors were conceived with best laid plans to execute. However, not all were successful but the skills and valor of these operators (warriors of the past) involved were unbelievable.
Here are some the most daring commando raids in history:
The Sea People
They raided ancient Egypt and the Mediterranean at the end of the Bronze Age. Not much have we heard of this group of ancient seafaring people. Historians theorized they came from Anatolia or Southern Europe, and it is thought that they invaded Canaan, Syria, Anatolia, Cyprus, and Egypt at the end of the Bronze Age. They were known as Lukka, Sherden, Sheklesh, Akawasha, and Tursha.
There are three narratives from Egyptian records that refer to nine tribes described as the Sea People. Possible records date to two campaigns of Ramesses II around the Nile Delta.
An attack by the Sherden on the Nile Delta was repulsed and defeated by Ramesses, who managed to capture some of the raiders. The event is recorded on the stela from Tanis. The raiders, called the Sherden, were described as sailing boldly in their warships.
They were considered formidable adversaries, and Merenptah was noted to have been greatly prideful in having defeated them in 1209 BCE. Around this time, the Sea People were not just looting and harassing the coast, but they also started to bring in tools and household items, looking to develop settlements in Egypt. They were known for their quick raids and retreat to the Nile Delta.
To this day it remains a mystery as to who the Sea People really were. The Egyptian documents never stated that they were foreigners, so it could be that they were known neighbors and even sometime allies.
Perhaps one of the earliest examples of a successful commando raid can be found in the 12th century B.C. during the legendary siege of Troy. Though some historians doubt its certainty, both Homer’s Illiad and Virgil’s Aeneid histories point to a daring operation conducted by a select cadre of up to 30 Greek warriors who sealed themselves into the hollow body of an enormous wooden horse statue.
The symbol of the walled city of Troy, the horse was cunningly offered as a gift to the Trojans as the Greek fleet disembarked for home. Seen as a sign of good luck and an offering to the goddess Athena, King Priam of Troy accepted the gift over the objections of several in his court. That night, the Greek commandos emerged from the horse, opening the gates to the rest of the Greek army that clandestinely returned to shore and sacked the city.
Whether its truth or myth, the Greek raid of Troy using subterfuge and disguise still lives on as one of the most cunning and dangerous special operations raids of all time.
Operation Flipper was also known as Rommel Raid carried out by the British Commandos No. 11 who were mainly Scottish during the second World War. The operation included an attack on the headquarters of Erwin Rommel, the commander of Panzergruppe Afrika in North Africa. It was timed for the night of 17/18 November 1941, just before the start of Operation Crusader. The operation failed as Rommel had left the target house weeks earlier and all but two of the commandos who landed were killed or captured.
The goal of the raid was to kill or capture Rommel, to disrupt German organisation before the start of Crusader. Rommel’s headquarters was believed to be at Beda Littoria, because Captain John Haselden had reconnoitred the area disguised as an Arab and reported that Rommel’s staff car came and went from the former Prefecture.
To summarize what had happened, the mission was a failure. Only three German supply colonels and a soldier were killed at the villa. And only a fuel supply depot was destroyed. After 37 days avoiding Axis patrols, Col. Layton and Sgt. Jack Terry reached British lines. They were the only ones; everyone else was either captured or killed.
Operation Gunnerside – Mission that Thwarted a Nazi Atomic Bomb
A daring Commando raid kept the Nazis from building the the atomic bomb first. This operation was not a success on the first go, due to the magnitude level of urgency, the British and ally Norwegian did not give up. Originally, in the first attempt (coined Operation Freshman) was mounted by British paratroopers; they were to rendezvous with the Norwegians of Operation Grouse and proceed to Vemork. This attempt failed when the military gliders (along with one of their tugs, a Handley Page Halifax) crashed short of their destination. Excepting the crew of one Halifax bomber, all the participants were killed in the crashes, or, captured, interrogated, then executed by the Gestapo.
In February 1943, a team of SOE-trained Norwegian commandos succeeded in destroying the production facility with a second attempt.
This operation was later evaluated by SOE as the most successful act of sabotage in all of World War II.
Assault on Eben-Emael
The first modern military to embrace the concept of special operations, the German army of World War II conducted one of the first commando raids of the 20th Century in the opening days of the invasion of France. Rehearsed in minute detail over a year, the raid by German paratroopers, or Flieger-Jaeger, on the Belgian fortress at Eben Emael is still considered one of the most thoroughly-planned and executed commando operations in history.
A nearly 80-man team of specially-selected paratroopers, including engineers and assaulters commanded by Capt. S.A. Koch, flew aboard nine gliders to the heavily armed fortress built as a part of the famed Maginot Line intended to blunt an anticipated German invasion after World War I. In the early morning hours of May 10, 1940, and despite severe damage to their gliders from anti-aircraft fire and not a few servings of bad luck, the German commandos were able to neutralize the fort’s more than a dozen heavy guns. Though unable to penetrate the fort itself and forced to fight off harassing attacks for more than a day before the Belgians surrendered, the paratroopers rendered Eben Emael’s guns useless within minutes of the assault.
The paratroopers were eventually relieved by German infantry supported by Stuka dive bombers and each of the participants was awarded a medal of valor for the successful — and daring — raid.
A C-130 is seen parked on the runway at Entebbe airport in Uganda during a raid to free Israeli passengers of a hijacked Air France flight.
In one of the most iconic hostage rescues ever — and one that served to epitomize the cunning grit of the fledgling Jewish state — the operation by Israeli commandos to seize a hijacked Air France jetliner in the Ugandan city of Entebbe perhaps epitomizes how special ops could successfully blunt terrorist attacks.
On June 27, 1976, an Air France flight out of Tel Aviv bound for Paris was hijacked by four terrorists, including two West German revolutionaries and two attackers from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. After a brief stop in Athens and Tripoli the plane eventually landed into the open arms of Idi Amin’s Uganda. The terrorists demanded $5 million and the release of 40 Israeli-held Palestinian militants and threatened to kill the Israeli passengers of the flight.
When negotiations eventually broke down several days later, the Israeli military began planning a raid that would eventually involve nearly 100 men, including 29 assaulters from the legendary Sayeret Matkal — which was modeled off the British Special Air Service — who would fly into Entebbe airport via C-130 Hercules transports and rescue the hostages held in a nearby terminal building.
In the late hours of July 4, the C-130s carrying the assault team commanded by Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu lifted off from the Sinai bound for Entebbe. After landing at the Ugandan airport, the Sayeret Matkal assaulters stormed off the plane in a series of vehicles similar to a motorcade used by Idi Amin. The team eventually secured the hostages, killed the hijackers and held off Ugandan army attacks until they lifted off from Entebbe 90 minutes later.
In all, three hostages were killed, one Israeli commando was killed and five were wounded.
Operation Neptune Spear
It may not be surprising to some that probably the most complex and dangerous commando raid in modern times was pulled off by Navy SEALs. A nearly 400 mile round trip into a nuclear armed country who has no idea you’re coming? Check. A terrorist target who’s been running from you for a decade and has a team of fanatical followers rigged to blow you to smithereens if he gets even a whiff of your plan? Check. A super-secret stealth helicopter? Check. A team of spies backing you up? Check. A commando dog? Check.
“Sounds like a job for SEAL Team 6.”
It’s no longer much of a secret that the operation to kill or capture Osama bin Laden was one of the ballsiest raids ever launched by special ops troops. From the months of practice on full mock-ups of the Abbottabad, Pakistan, bin Laden compound to the clandestine attempts to get DNA samples of the terrorist mastermind, Operation Neptune Spear will surely remain at the top of the list of most daring commando raids for years to come.
On the night of May 1, 2011, a select team of about 24 SEALs from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group flew aboard previously unknown stealth Black Hawk helicopters and assaulted bin Laden’s sprawling compound deep in Pakistani territory. After a crash nearly threw the operation sideways, the SEALs successfully assaulted the compound, killing bin Laden, his son Khalid, his courier Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, al-Kuwaiti’s brother Abrar and his wife. The raid took a total of 38 minutes, with more than half the time devoted to plundering the compound’s trove of intelligence, including computers, hard drives and documents.
The almost unimaginably complex raid was a complete success, with all operators successfully exfiltrating the compound without a single casualty. And if you remember anything from the raid, it’ll probably be the radio call from bin Laden’s room: “For God and country … Geronimo EKIA.”
In one of the most public commando raids in history, two teams of British Special Air Service operators conducted an early evening assault on the Iranian embassy in London in front of hundreds of television cameras and reporters who broadcast the operation in real time.
Dubbed “Operation Nimrod,” the SAS assaulters repelled from the roof of the embassy and crashed through the ground floor to rescue 26 hostages taken by an extremist Arab independence group. For six days in April and May of 1980, a team of six terrorist besieged the embassy, deadlocking on negotiations with British officials.
On May 5, the SAS was called in after the terrorists killed one of their hostages and the raid was launched in broad daylight. More than 30 assaulters were involved in the raid, which killed all but one of the terrorists. One hostage was killed in the crossfire.
While the entire raid lasted only 17 minutes, the SAS was embroiled in controversy over its tactics, with some questioning whether the commandos used excessive force. One of the terrorists escaped with the hostages but was discovered by an SAS operator later and served a 27-year prison sentence.
Moscow Theater Rescue
Assaulters from the Russian Spetznaz Alpha group rescued hundreds of hostages from terrorists who besieged a Moscow theater.
In one of the boldest terrorist hostage takings in history, Chechen separatists besieged a Moscow theater holding more than 800 people captive for nearly a week.
Up to 40 Chechen terrorists, including female suicide bombers strapped with explosives and detonators, held theatergoers for days, demanding the withdrawal of all Russian forces from the Republic of Chechnya. Negotiations broke down, two hostages were killed and the Russian government spooled up the elite Alpha Group of the Federation’s Spetznaz.
On October 26, 2002, using a specialized gas to knock out both the terrorist captors and their hostages pumped in through the theater’s air ducts, the Alpha troops stormed the theater guns blazing. No quarter was given to the terrorists, some of whom lay unconscious with bombs still strapped to them and thumbs on their detonators. The Spetznaz commandos shot nearly 40 Chechen terrorists and captured several more.
While most of the hostages were rescued, more than 130 eventually died from poor care after the assault, the gas causing many to suffocate. Some of the Alpha troops also suffered injuries due to exposure to the gas. The raid was aggressive, cunning and was the first known major commando assault to use a still unknown gas to suppress the target before the assault.
The Raid on Son Tay Prison Camp
Dubbed “Operation Kingpin” and commanded by legendary Army Special Forces Col. Arthur D. “Bull” Simons, the commando raid on the Son Tay prison camp in North Vietnam ranks up with one of the riskiest missions in spec ops history. And while ultimately unsuccessful in its primary mission of rescuing the camp’s American prisoners of war, the mission serves as a prime example of joint special operations planning and support.
Planning for the mission began in early May 1970 after Air Force aerial photos confirmed the camp’s existence, which for years had been suspected of housing more than 60 POWs. Simons selected a team of 130 Special Forces Soldiers from about 500 volunteers to begin training at a secret base in Florida. Over several months, the commandos and Air Force Special Operations air crews flying HH-3E Jolly Green Giants rehearsed the raid on a scale model of the camp.
Finally, in the late hours of November 20, support aircraft including A-1 Skyraiders, F-4 Phantoms and F-105G Wild Weasels and the assault force of six Jolly Green Giant helicopters lifted off for the rescue from bases in Thailand and South Vietnam. At about 2:00am local time, the main assault force of some 50 Green Berets deliberately crash landed its helicopter into the main courtyard of the prison camp guns blazing. After a methodical search of the prison barracks and multiple engagements with guards, the assault force boarded a second helicopter for its exfiltration, empty handed.
Though the mission didn’t recover any of the POWs (intelligence later found they had been moved in July), the raid was a major success, involving a host of joint service assets — including a Navy decoy mission using A-7 Corsairs and A-6 Intruders that tied up North Vietnamese air defense assets as cover for the raid — and resulting in only one injury.
Operation Eagle Claw
Operation Eagle Claw, known as Operation Tabas in Iran, was a United States Armed Forces operation ordered by U.S. President Jimmy Carter to attempt to end the Iran hostage crisis by rescuing 52 embassy staff held captive at the Embassy of the United States, Tehran on 24 April 1980.
Though the mission failed – Operation Eagle Claw helped transform U.S. military internal operating procedures. After investigations concluded that the weaknesses of Operation Eagle Claw arose from a lack of coordination between the military services—evidenced in part by compartmentalized training and inadequate equipment maintenance—the military embraced the “joint doctrine” under which it operated in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Operation Eagle Claw also signaled a rebirth of special operations forces within the U.S. military (United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM). The mission marked the debut of the U.S. Army’s Delta Force, and it led to the development of elite counterterrorism forces such as Seal Team Six.
There are many more campaigns from the past that aren’t mentioned here such as Operation Oak, Raid on the Medway and others from way way past, let us know what some of those were.