Home -> Encyclopedia -> Timelines – Special Forces
Inception of Special Forces: The Shinobi – 15th to 17th centuries
The inception of special forces can be traced back to the feudal period of Japan with the Shinobi, or the commonly known “ninja”. These elite warriors were skilled in espionage, guerrilla warfare, sabotage, and assassinations, laying the groundwork for the modern concepts of Special Forces.
Special Forces in the Revolutionary War: Francis Marion’s Brigade – 1780-1782
During the American Revolutionary War, Francis Marion, known as the “Swamp Fox”, led a militia in South Carolina. His irregular methods of warfare are considered early Special Forces tactics.
Establishment of the British Commandos: World War II – 1940
Winston Churchill established the British Commandos during World War II. These mobile forces were trained in raiding tactics to disrupt German operations, significantly shaping the modus operandi of future special forces.
Formation of the OSS: World War II – 1942
The United States formed the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to the CIA and Special Forces. Its purpose was to collect and analyze strategic information and conduct unconventional and guerilla warfare.
Birth of the Green Berets: The Vietnam War – 1952
The U.S Army formed the Special Forces, also known as the “Green Berets”. They trained local forces in unconventional warfare and counter-insurgency tactics, relying heavily on their ability to work with local communities, a crucial component of modern Special Forces operations.
Establishment of the Navy SEALs: The Vietnam War – 1962
Starting as the Navy’s Unconventional Warfare unit, the United States Navy established the SEALs (Sea, Air, and Land) Teams, known for their unrivaled abilities in sea, air, and land operations.
Creation of Delta Force: Late Cold War – 1977
Delta Force, formally known as 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D), was established. This elite U.S. Army unit specializes in counter-terrorism, hostage rescue, and direct action missions, marking significant development in the evolution of Special Forces.
Formation of the SAS: The Iranian Embassy Siege – 1980
Although formed during World War II, the British SAS (Special Air Service) gained universal recognition after successfully resolving the Iranian Embassy Siege in London. Their role underlined the expanding scope of special forces’ duties.
Modern Special Forces: Post-9/11 Era – 2001-present
Post-9/11, Special Forces have taken on a greater role in strategic military operations. They possess culturally sensitive training, operate in small teams, and are utilized for their ability to perform high-risk missions with minimal footprint. Notably, during Operation Neptune Spear in 2011, the U.S. Navy SEALs successfully eliminated Osama bin Laden, demonstrating the potency and surgical precision of modern-day Special Forces.