Alamo Scouts: Lessons in Leadership

By | January 30, 2021

[January 30, 2021]  The Great Raid (2005) is a war film about the Raid at Cabanatuan prisoner of war camp on the island of Luzon, Philippines, during WW2.  I saw it again, for the fifth time, last night.  The film tells us about “the most daring rescue mission of our time.” The rescue included American soldiers, Alamo Scouts, and Filipino guerilla groups.

This article is not a war film review.  Nevertheless, the movie comes with its share of Hollywood inaccuracies, glaring omissions, and inexplicable fictionalization.  I mention this because it underplays the vital role played by the Alamo Scouts.  These scouts were a special reconnaissance unit of the Sixth U.S. Army in the Pacific during the war.1

While organized as an intelligence-gathering and reconnaissance unit, the Alamo Scouts were credited with liberating 197 Allied prisoners in New Guinea.  Their mission was greatly expanded as they played a central role in organizing large-scale guerrilla operations, establishing watch stations, capturing or killing Japanese Flag Officers, and performing direction-action missions like the one as the Cabanatuan POW Camp on this date, January 30, 1945.2  During this daring raid, 513 POWs were rescued.

The Alamo Scouts performed 110 known missions behind enemy lines without losing a single man. These men have the finest record of any elite unit of WW2 and, arguably, one of the finest in the United States military’s history.3

Where are the lessons learned from WW2 days regarding the Alamo Scouts?  I argue that these lessons were indeed recorded and classified Top Secret (as was the unit itself), and no one asked for a declassification.

There are higher-level lessons we can gain from the successes of the Alamo Scouts.  They were a small group of elite, adaptable, highly motivated men using innovative tactics.  Here is how they did it:

  • Operate inside your enemies’ decision cycle and in their area of expertise and strength.
  • Make contact with the locals (just the average person), gaining their trust, training them to resist, and supporting their efforts.
  • You can’t do it alone. Allies are invaluable.
  • Take care of your men but remember that the mission comes first.
  • When all else fails, click your weapon off safe and make something happen.
  • Elite units are looking for leaders, not friends. The difference between victory and defeat often comes down to the will power of a leader.4

For those interested, I recommend Lance Q. Zedrick’s Silent Warriors of World War Two: the Alamo Scouts Behind Japanese Lines (1995).

—————

  1. U.S. Army Lieutenant General Walter Krueger, commander of the 6th Army, sought to create an all-volunteer elite unit consisting of small teams that could operate deep behind enemy lines. Their primary mission was to gather intelligence for the Sixth Army. Information from Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alamo_Scouts
  2. https://www.theleadermaker.com/great-raid-january-30-1945/
  3. http://www.alamoscouts.com/special_forces/history.htm
  4. Some ideas were taken from an article by Baz Khan, USMC: https://havokjournal.com/nation/14-leadership-lessons-from-a-marine/
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

20 thoughts on “Alamo Scouts: Lessons in Leadership

  1. Lance Zedric

    Gentlemen, nice to read about the Alamo Scouts! I am the author of “Silent Warriors of WWII: The Alamo Scouts Behind Japanese Lines,” the first published history of the Alamo Scouts (1995), and the historian for the Alamo Scouts Historical Foundation. If truly interested in the Alamo Scouts, may I suggest my 2013 book, “Silent No More: The Alamo Scouts in Their Own Words,” which is available on Amazon via an ebook (no photos). It is an oral history containing decades of research and interviews with the Alamo Scouts. The hardcover version (no longer in print), was 716 pages. Thank you for your time!

    Reply
    1. Douglas R. Satterfield Post author

      Mr. Zedric, a pleasure to hear from you and to know that your works on the Alamo Scouts are available. As a career soldier, I remain interested in this part of our WWII history. I’ll be purchasing one of these shortly and write a review. Thanks.

      Reply
    2. Rev. Michael Cain

      Mr. Z, I bought your first book on the Alamo Scouts several years ago and enjoyed it immensely. Thanks!!!!!

      Reply
  2. corralesdon

    Great article on some of the greatest heroes of WWII. I like this kind of history. I know there are many who would disagree but I do learn a great deal from these articles and it gives me the chance to read more about them. Keep these kind of articles coming our way.

    Reply
    1. Don Snow

      Good point, corralesdon. I too love history but I’m also aware that history is not longer taught properly in school. It seems like history teachers are more interested in teaching us to be ‘protestors’ and learning liberal talking points about the ‘racist’ USA. Too bad.

      Reply
  3. Shawn C. Stolarz

    Thanks for a great article on an important part of WW2 history.

    Reply
  4. H. M. Longstreet

    I’d like to see an article that deals directly with this topic sometime in the future:
    Operate inside your enemies’ decision cycle and in their area of expertise and strength.

    Reply
    1. Eduardo Sanchez

      Agree with you HM. I don’t think – altho I might be wrong – that the topic is covered in the past.

      Reply
  5. Karl J.

    Thanks Gen. Satterfield for another in your long-running series of historical articles with leadership lessons. These are invaluable to me. I would recommend that you publish more articles that directly deal with leadership lessons.

    Reply
  6. Jerome Smith

    Good article, thanks Gen. Satterfield for a story worth remembering. I’d never heard of the Alamo Scouts before today. Your words have inspired me to dig a little deeper into their history and why they were formed as a special unit in the first place.

    Reply
    1. The Kid 1945

      Same here. Several books out on them, one referenced by Gen. S. at the bottom of the article. I plan on placing an order for the book soon. As a side note, I will no longer order anything from Amazon. They are starting to censor books they don’t agree with politically. This goes against my grain as a free American. That means now I will have to find a website – maybe Goodreads – that can sell me the book. It’s okay to be inconvenienced. I will not support evil and Amazon is EVIL.

      Reply
      1. José Luis Rodriguez

        Good for you The Kid 1945. I too am boycotting Amazon. I’m not even a grain of sand to them and that is okay with me. At least I’m an honest person and don’t support such evil deeds. Even if I stand along, at least I stand.

        Reply
      2. Jonathan B.

        Go for it, the kid. Thanks for standing up to be counted on the right side of mankind (oops, am I sexist for using “man” kind?). Not. Of course, only the weak minded would think so.

        Reply
        1. The Kid 1945

          Thanks guys! Your feedback makes me feel like I have actually made a contribution.

          Reply
  7. Dead Pool Guy

    The Great Raid is a story that should be told and talked about with all our kids. It has all the elements of being not just a GOOD person but a GREAT person, leader, and ultimately HERO.

    Reply
  8. Roger Yellowmule

    Another important history lesson with “lessons learned” along with it. That is what is so great about this website. You not only get a little history, a little entertainment, but a great deal of leadership lessons to contemplate.

    Reply
    1. Greg Heyman

      Right, Roger. Good call. Like you, I’m a long-time fan of Gen. Sattefield.

      Reply
    2. Audrey

      Like we all are, big fans. All the LESSONS LEARNED articles are good. Easy to follow and understand.

      Reply
  9. Silly Man

    A friend of mine’s uncle was one of the Alamo Scouts. I got to meet him when I was a kid back in the 1960s. He was a great guy and told us some exciting stories about the war. All the kids wanted to be just like him and some of us did grow up and joined the US Army to become Rangers.

    Reply

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