A Book Review
of Lance Zedric's
Silent Warriors of World War II:
The Alamo Scouts Behind Japanese Lines
By Michael F. Dilley
It would seem unlikely that after 50 years there would be new information surfacing concerning World War II. But Lance Zedric breaks new ground in his book Silent Warriors of World War II: The Alamo Scouts Behind Japanese Lines.
The Alamo Scouts have been overlooked by history except for a few historians and military writers who have mentioned them in educational articles or books and dissertations dealing with broader subjects. Silent Warriors changes all that. Finally, the Alamo Scouts receive the recognition they deserve for their two years of service behind enemy lines. Now everyone can discover what only a few of us have known—that Alamo Scouts were among the best special operations units of the United States or any other army during World War II.
General Walter Krueger, commander of the Sixth Army, created the Alamo Scouts because “he was determined to have a first rate unit at his disposal.” He had seen, in the fiasco of the Kiska invasion, what kind of operation resulted from poor intelligence, and he was determined that it would not happen to him. On November 28, 1943, Krueger activated the Sixth Army Special Reconnaissance Unit, the official designation of the Alamo Scouts. He established a training center which would, over the next two years, conduct eight six-week classes. The Alamo Scouts Training Center moved forward as Sixth Army conquered territory in New Guinea and on Leyte and on Luzon.
It is the operations of the Alamo Scouts that form the centerpiece of Zedric’s book. These 100+ missions run the gamut of special operations, from intelligence-reconnaissance patrols to raids on POW camps to training and leading local guerrilla units. Zedric’s descriptions of these missions have the immediacy of being there, whether it is the first mission by the McGowen Team trying to get aboard the plane that will exfiltrate them, or the early June mission of the Dove Team which got off to a shooting start almost from the beginning, or the Thompson Team (reinforced) mission that infiltrated by submarine, or the Sumner Team mission to Ormoc Bay on Leyte, which was in almost constant contact with the Japanese.
This is not a dry retelling of missions. Zedric spent a lot of time interviewing those who were on the many missions and puts the “up close and personal” feeling in his writing. He also paints the larger picture, so we understand how the missions of the Alamo Scouts fit into the overall Sixth Army plan.
In the last year or so there has been a lot of attention given to the European phase of World War II. The Alamo Scouts fought in the “backwater” of the Pacific. Behind the lines for them meant operating on Japanese-held islands where there was no backup or on-call air or fire support when help was needed. It was just them, their own ingenuity, their training and their trust in one another. They were there to collect information, not to fight the Japanese. And, of all the units in Sixth Army, they were the first: first to see, first to know, and sometimes first to make contact. Zedric makes all of this come alive in his book.
Whatever your plans are for buying books, put Silent Warriors on top of the list.