by David C. Isby
London: Wiedenfeld & Nicholson, 2004. Pp. 416.
Illus., maps, notes, gloss., index. $32.95. ISBN:0-297-84674-4
Leave No Man Behind tells the story of U.S. special operations forces in action on over a dozen occasions, in which the mission was either the liberation of prisoners of war or hostages or the capture of specific individuals.
The incidents covered range from the famous Los Baños in the Philippines in 1945 through several recent operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some were great successes, such as Los Baños or Grenada or the capture of Saddam Hussein in December of 2003. Others were mixed success, such as the Son Tay Operation in 1971, where the mission went off superbly well, but the prisoners-or-war to be liberated had been moved elsewhere, or the Mayaguez incident, in which the objective was secured but at great cost. And some were failures, costing lives and prestige, such as the abortive Iran hostage rescue mission in 1980 or the “Black Hawk Down” incident in Mogadishu in 1980.
Whatever the outcome of the operation, Isby provides a detailed, very focused tactical narrative, that discusses the reasons for the operation, preparations, and the course of the action. Isby provides an analysis of the factors that contributed to the success or failure of each of the operations discussed. In addition, clear, informative maps have been provided for almost all of the missions covered.
The book concludes with a long analysis of lessons learned and some thoughts on the future of SOF. A good read for anyone interested in special operations, the U.S. armed forces, or any of the conflicts with which it deals.