By Richard H Dick James
58 years ago, late October 1962, I was a recently promoted Private First Class E-3. I had been in Special Forces Training Group (Provisional), in Fort Bragg NC, for close to a month, waiting to begin training to be a “Green Beret.” I was assigned to Company B, Special Forces Training Group (Provisional).
The cadre suggested that each of us study the tactics and tenets of Mao Tse Tung (Red Chinese Army) and Che Guevara (Cuban guerrilla leader), both considered to be experts in guerrilla warfare. The PX (Post Exchange) carried “Mao Tse-Tung on Guerrilla Warfare” and “Che Guevara on Guerrilla Warfare,” so I immediately purchased them both, and began reading.
Mao Tse Tung had decreed that there would be three phases to any war. The first phase would entail the formation of a safe base, situated in an isolated area. This was to be where volunteers were to be trained and indoctrinated. Those same volunteers were to spread out from the base, agitating and propagandizing against the government in power. Once a protective belt of people sympathetic to the movement was formed, from which food, information, and recruits could be obtained, the second phase could begin.
During the second phase the violent part of the conflict would begin, with sabotage and terrorism increasing. It was at this time that raids and ambushes on vulnerable targets began, to procure arms, ammunition, medical supplies, and other essential materials. This was, essentially, a guerrilla warfare. As the guerrilla forces grew in stature and quality, political activists could be sent out to nearby areas to indoctrinate and “liberate” the populace.
Phase three followed, wherein orthodox military operations were utilized to annihilate the enemy, with guerrilla warfare taking a subsidiary role. Mao always stressed that a guerrilla war would fail, without a clearly defined political goal. He equated guerrilla warfare to revolution, admitting that it could not exist or flourish without the support and cooperation of the masses.
The communists in Southeast Asia were happy about the Japanese-allied war during WWII. They were so because the war weakened government forces in the countries fighting the Japanese. They were confident that the allies would win and knew that taking control of the weaker governments would be much easier after the war.
Mao Tse Tung was known as the world’s foremost authority on guerrilla warfare. His publication Red Star Over China originally came out in 1939. In the publication, his “Rules for Conduct” was thought to be one of the best list of tenets to be followed by guerrillas or soldiers wanting the civilian populace to be supportive of their presence. The rules were, in fact, put to music and became a daily official Red Army song.
Special Forces used their own version of Mao’s rules when interacting with indigenous personnel. We would be formally taught to treat the indigenous people with respect, as our lives would be in their hands. It’s a shame our country’s conventional troops weren’t taught the same credo, as it might have led to a different outcome in the Vietnam War.
Mao’s rules were to be memorized by all his troops, and were strictly enforced, to the point where violating them would result in severe punishment, and in some cases execution. Mao’s Rules of Conduct included:
- All actions are subject to command.
- Do not steal from the people. Pay for everything you purchase.
- Be neither selfish nor unjust.
- Confrontation is not permitted with the poor peasantry.
He explained further with eight remarks:
- Replace the door when you leave the house. (They often used doors as beds.)
- Roll up the bedding on which you have slept.
- Be courteous.
- Be honest in your transactions.
- Return what you borrow.
- Replace what you damage or break.
- Do not bathe in the presence of women.
- Do not without authority search the pocketbooks of those you arrest.
Mao borrowed many of his ideas and tenets from another warfare expert, Sun Tzu. It was Sun Tzu who wrote that “Guerrilla strategy must be based primarily on alertness, mobility, and attack. It must be adjusted to the enemy situation, the terrain, the existing lines of communication, the relative strengths, the weather, and the situation of the people. In guerrilla warfare, select the tactic of seeming to come from the east and attacking from the west; avoid the solid, attack the hollow; attack; withdraw; deliver a lightning blow, seek a lightning decision. When guerrillas engage a stronger enemy, they withdraw when he advances; harass him when he stops; strike him when he is weary; pursue him when he withdraws. In guerrilla strategy, the enemy’s rear, flanks, and other vulnerable spots are his vital points, and there he must be harassed, attacked, dispersed, exhausted and annihilated.”
Che Guevara was the son of a left-wing Argentinian. He had been part of several unsuccessful attempts to depose Argentina’s dictator, Juan Perón. In 1954 he was part of Arbenz’s Guatemalan Communist government, until its overthrow. After that he went to Mexico, where he met Fidel Castro, in 1955. Che was an expert on Marx and Lenin, prominent Communists. He was also anti-American.
Che Guevara became Fidel Castro’s prime strategist and Central American Communist revolutionary. He was generally considered to have masterminded the Cuban revolution, as well as being a prime adviser to Central and South American communist revolutionaries. Che’s forces entered Havana, Cuba in early 1959, taking control of the Cuban government for Castro. Another book I purchased was “150 Questions for a Guerrilla” by General Alberto Bayo, a top Fidel Castro adviser and instructor.
From my Book #1, of my four-book set of SLURP SENDS! Book #1 (“SLURP SENDS! On Becoming a Green Beret Book 1”), #2 (“SLURP SENDS! Experiences of an A-Team Green Beret Book 2”), #3 (“SLURP SENDS! Experiences of a Green Beret In Vietnam Book 3”) and #4 (“SLURP SENDS! A Green Beret’s Experiences In Vietnam Book 4”) are all available on Amazon or from me.
PHOTOS: My copies of “Mao Tse-Tung on Guerrilla Warfare” and “Che Guevara on Guerrilla Warfare,” which I still have (my photos).