I love reading about Special Operations history. It’s amazing what information can be found in published sources if you’re prepared to dig around. There’s a whole hidden history that can only be compiled by doing some deep research and really looking for sources.
Thankfully, some former operators penned books that are well worth tracking down. Here are four of my favorites that aren’t necessarily promoted in mainstream media but are well worth your time.
One Green Beret: Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Beyond by Mark Giaconia
I was fortunate to interview Giaconia for SOFREP Radio before reading his book. I was expecting some stories about how he supported the Kurds, calling in some airstrikes and such during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. However, Mark’s experiences go far beyond that.
He participated in Operation Viking Hammer: a CIA led mission to shore up what would be the coalitions rear areas prior to the invasion. To my surprise, Giaconia was also involved in what is probably the only joint U.S. Special Forces/Russian Spetsnaz mission in history.
Recce: Small Team Missions Behind Enemy Lines by Koos Stadler
The South African Recces performed some of the most audacious missions in Special Operations history that you’ve never heard of. This is largely due to political reasons. Although Recce teams combined white and black operators, the South African Defence Force served South Africa’s (then) apartheid regime.
Nonetheless, this is a history worth exploring, and Stadler wrote an amazing first-hand account of his time in this unit, including experiences with long range small team Recce patrols.
One Thousand Days with Sirius by Peter Schmidt Mikkelsen
Few people have ever heard of Denmark’s Sirius Sled Patrol— Slædepatruljen Sirius—which is a division of the country’s special operation component along with the Frogman Corps and the Jaeger Corps. Sirius deploys two-man dog teams for long durations to Greenland, where they have to constantly patrol the frozen wastelands. Due to a treaty obligation, they essentially have to provide a presence in Greenland and wave the Danish flag.
Additionally, they have a recon mission to ensure bad actors aren’t messing around in Denmark’s backyard. One Thousand Days with Sirius is an obscure but fascinating book, as Mikkelsen, a former Sirius member, explains the ins and outs of his profession—one that primarily relies on dog sleds to this day.
I’ve been able to interview Pecora twice now. He was a member of the CIA’s protective detail for case officers operating in high-risk environments. This detail started off as the POC and over time, evolved into what’s now called GRS. Pecora worked there long before 9/11, and afterwards in some very dicey parts of the world.
His book is a narrative history of these experiences as well as America’s fight in the Global War on Terror. This is the first book ever written on this particular subject, and I suspect it will be the last for at least some time.
I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of these books, but let me know what other recommendations you might be interested in. For instance, I have a pretty extensive collection of hard-to-find books about contemporary warfare in Africa.
And finally, a shameless plug for my own memoir, Murphy’s Law: My Journey from Army Ranger and Green Beret to Investigative Journalist. It includes my experiences serving in 3rd Ranger Battalion and 5th Special Forces Group in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of my adventures in Syria, Iraq, and the Philippines reporting as a journalist are also highlighted.