Charles W. Sasser

Charles W. Sasser
Charles W. Sasser is a decorated Vietnam veteran and Green Beret as well as one of the most respected military writers in the field. He is the author of more than fifty books, including None Left Behind: The 10th Mountain Division and the Triangle of Death; Predator: The Remote-Control Air War Over Iraq and Afghanistan, A Pilot's StoryOne Shot, One Kill; First SEAL; and Raider.
Focus On: Iraq
Carnivore’s Deadly Commander
By: Charles W. Sasser | July 12, 2013

Dubbed “one of the deadliest American soldiers of all times,” Platoon Sergeant Dillard Johnson says he fought so savagely during Operation Iraqi Freedom out of love for his fellow soldiers—and out of his fear of failure.

“I was afraid if I didn’t do everything I could to destroy the enemy that I would fail,” explains Johnson (author, with James Tarr of Carnivore: A Memoir by One of the Deadliest American Soldiers of All Time), “and if I failed one of my soldiers or friends would die.”

The official study of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, commissioned by the U.S. Army Chief of Staff, credits the crew of the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle Johnson commanded with more than 2,000 enemy KIAs during the dramatic push of the 3rd Infantry Division from Kuwait across Iraq to Baghdad in March and April of 2003. Actually, Johnson says, the credit goes to “Crazy Horse” Troop, 3rd Squadron, 7th U.S. Cavalry (General Custer’s old outfit), 3rd Infantry Division. Crazy Horse Troop spearheaded the movement and therefore engaged in the operation’s first major combat.


Focus On: Intel
Chris Kyle: A Navy SEAL’s Guns
By: Charles W. Sasser | June 5, 2013

For Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in U.S. history, it wasn’t only about guns when he wrote American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms with William Doyle (read an excerpt). Guns are merely tools. For him, it was about how guns influenced and changed events.

“More than any other nation in history, the United States has been shaped by the gun,” he wrote. “Colonists used firearms to secure their land, then turned them on the king and his men to win their independence. Cowboys and plain folks used revolvers and rifles to survive the West, putting food on the table, fighting off Indians, and occasionally settling squabbles. After America came of age as a world power, we used guns to beat Hitler, and to subdue terrorists across the world.”

A humble, soft-spoken Texan, and a Christian, Chris was a straight shooter, literally and metaphorically. If you couldn’t handle the truth, you needn’t ask him.


Focus On: Afghanistan, Iraq, Special Operations Teams
Leading the Way: One Ranger’s Battle to Get Back in the Fight
By: SFC Joseph Kapacziewski and Charles W. Sasser | May 1, 2013

I hustled frantically back uphill on my boot toes and one free hand, my rifle in the other. I was done for if he got my range. From the ridge crest, Timmy Bowman, Smitty, Housner, and the new private laid down a base of cover fire. The exchange between them was one-sided; my guys knew how to turn on the lead faucet. I was panting like a steam engine trying to reach the safety of the ridge before the Talib nailed me.

Things went from bad to worse. The stump of my right leg where it had been amputated below the knee slipped out of its prosthesis cuff and dumped me on the ground. My heart almost stopped beating when I heard my artificial leg bouncing off rock and sliding back downhill toward the enemy. This guy was in for some shock and awe of his own when my steel-and-carbon-fiber leg with the boot still attached landed in his lap.

The only one-legged Ranger in combat with the U.S. Army wasn’t going to be walking, running, or fighting without that hunk of metal, carbon fiber, and gears strapped to his stump. Maybe Ranger Regiment had been right all along: War was no place for an amputee.


Seeing the Elephant: With the “Most Lethal Wild Weasel in Air Force History”
By: CommandPosts | October 15, 2012
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“Seeing the elephant.” A term that has been a symbol of combat since Hannibal crossed the Alps. It means to look death in the face, to catch a glimpse of immortality.

U.S. Air Force Pilot Lt. Colonel Dan Hampton (Ret) has seen the elephant.

After 151 combat missions flying F-16 “Vipers” over Iraq since 1991, he has been called the most lethal “Wild Weasel” in Air Force history. A “Wild Weasel” hunts and kills enemy SAMs (Surface-to-Air missiles), a business as dangerous as cornering a saber tooth tiger in its den.

“In the end, if you make it,” Hampton says, “you’re left with the greatest prize of all: the quiet respect of your peers and the knowledge that you have nothing left to prove to anyone but yourself.”


Focus On: Intel
The Last Full Measure: An Interview with Historian Michael Stephenson
By: Charles W. Sasser | August 18, 2012

“Funny thing about history, you’re very close to it but it can pass you by,” says writer/historian Michael Stephenson, author of The Last Full Measure: How Soldiers Die in Battle (read an excerpt). “I reflect on how often we miss it completely.”

He recalls how he once encountered a very old sparrow of a man perched on a park bench staring across at a naval base on the British coast. Seating himself next to the elderly gentleman, Stephenson asked him if he had served during World War II.

The veteran nodded. He had been aboard the HMS Hood when the German battleship Bismarck sank her at the Battle of the Denmark Strait. One shot exploded the ammunition magazine and sent the ship straight to the bottom of the sea within three minutes, taking 1,415 crewmembers with her. Only three men survived. The old man on the park bench was one of the three.

“What was it like to be sunk?” Stephenson asked him.

“I don’t know. I have no recollection of it at all. I was on lookout in the tower. The next thing I knew I was in the sea.”

He had survived a historic event with little recall of what it was actually like. Those in the midst of wars rarely see the big picture. What they see of history is the destruction that immediately impacts them. They see the dying of their comrades and fellow warriors—and the killing of enemy not so very different from themselves.


Focus On: Intel
Technology vs. Boots on The Ground: Son Tay to Abbottabad, and Beyond
By: Charles W. Sasser | April 30, 2012

“Both raids were Special Operations classics,” says U.S. Air Force Colonel (Ret) John Gargus, a key air operations planner for the Son Tay raid. “There is no doubt but what the guys who pulled Son Tay could have done bin Laden—or the other way around. The biggest difference is not in the operation, nor in the caliber of men. The biggest difference forty years made is in new warfighting technology and its incorporation into military training.”

The men of Son Tay who trained for their mission at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, used a “mock-up” of the prison constructed of wooden stakes and canvas cloth. They depended on flyovers for intelligence on the target, which meant the information was days to even weeks old. They launched the mission tactically blind as to what might await them on-target.

In contrast, the Navy SEALs mission-trained on almost an exact replica of bin Laden’s compound, using live-fire and realistic scenarios. Their intel, supplied by satellite technology and unmanned drone aircraft, arrived almost in real-time. The SEALs knew bin Laden was home before they went calling. The President of the United States in Washington D.C. watched live video feed of the raid as it unfolded.


Focus On: Fiction Fridays
A Thousand Years of Darkness
By: Charles W. Sasser | March 16, 2012

Police Detective James Nail is wounded and his daughter murdered in an attack that also kills "right-wing" TV personality Jerry Baer.

As Nail and Baer's producer, Sharon Lowenthal, team up to track down the shooters, they discover a conspiracy that leads to an international cartel of "One Worlders" and may implicate the President of the United States.

Falsely accused of terrorism, they must keep one step ahead of Homeland Security to stay alive, bring down the traitors, and save the nation.


Focus On: Iraq, Special Operations Teams
Chris Kyle: al-Shaitan of Iraq
By: Charles W. Sasser | March 14, 2012

Three things you must know about Navy SEAL Chris Kyle: he’s a family man; he’s a Christian; and, third, he’s capable of snuffing out your lights at 2,000 yards if you pose a threat to American warriors under his protection.

So feared was he by Islamic terrorists and insurgents that they christened him al-Shaitan, “the Devil,” and placed a bounty on his head.

He was known to other combat soldiers as The Legend.


Focus On: Special Operations Teams, Vietnam War
On Tay Raiders return to Fort Bragg. Photo: US Army.
Son Tay Raid: For the POWs, Beyond Mixed Reactions at Home
By: Charles W. Sasser | November 22, 2011
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About a year after North Vietnam released what it claimed to be the last 566 American prisoners held in the North, the former POWs were asked to complete a survey of "returned prisoners of war." In one part of the survey, they were asked how certain events affected their morale while in prison.

Two events aided morale most: the Son Tay POW raid in 1970 and the bombing of Hanoi in 1972.


Focus On: Command Posts Salutes, Vietnam War
Ray Hildreth (L) presents Colonel Hoang Minh Tien with personal items recovered for intelligence purposes from the bodies of dead Vietnamese soldiers after the Battle of Hill 488. Tien led a platoon of North Vietnamese Army regulars against the Marines. The interpreter in the middle is Phan Van Vinh. The woman to the right is Nguyen Thi Xuan, a former Viet Cong radio operator who participated in the battle. Photo credit: Don Buatte
Hill 488 Revisited
By: Charles W. Sasser | November 11, 2011

Hundreds of veterans driven by horrific memories of war return to Vietnam each year on spiritual quests to close old wounds.

Most are in their sixties and at a point in life when people search the past for meaning and understanding. When this generation is gone, their memories will be buried as well.

“I felt drawn,” former Marine Ray Hildreth explains. “I felt I had to come back to prove to myself that the war is really over.”


Focus On: Iraq
Predator: The Remote-Control Air War over Iraq and Afghanistan: A Pilot's Story by Matt J. Martin with Charles Sasser.
Target: Rocket Man
By: Matt J. Martin and Charles W. Sasser | September 29, 2011

The “Rocket Man,” as we dubbed him, was the most notorious of these lone wolves. Like a rat, he slithered through the slums of Sadr City armed with 100mm supersonic rockets equipped with 5-pound high-explosive warheads, killing and maiming GIs, marines, and Iraqi bystanders. He wasn’t that accurate with his rockets, or apparently too particular who he targeted, which accounted for his high rate of collateral damage against civilians. He must have trained with The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.

The Rocket Man quickly rose to the top of our Most Wanted list. We finally got lucky. Either that or he got careless. He popped a rocket at a U.S. Army squad patrolling an alley. He missed and took out the front of a nearby house. What he didn’t know was that I was watching through the camera of the Predator soaring ten thousand feet above his head.

“We finally got the perp!” I exclaimed.


Focus On: Special Operations Teams
A U.S. Navy SEAL team member, with Special Operations Task Force – South, provides security overwatch via hilltop during the early morning hours of a village clearing operation in Shah Wali Kot District, June 25, 2011, Kandahar province, Afghanistan. Missions such as these are conducted in order to hinder Taliban influence and improve overall security throughout the province. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel P. Shook. Caption credit: DVIDSHUB.
Genesis of Navy SEALs—Today
By: Charles W. Sasser | September 23, 2011

CP Note: This is the third article in the three-part "Genesis of Navy SEALs" series from Charles Sasser. The first post is Genesis of the Navy SEALs—The Concept. The second post is Genesis of the Navy SEALS—The Early Years.

Hardly had the Navy SEALs been formed than they were combat tested in Vietnam. Two instructors from Team One arrived in-country on 10 March 1962 to teach the South Vietnamese how to conduct clandestine operations. A month later, the first SEAL mobile training team (MTT) of 19 enlisted men and one officer, Lieutenant (j.g.) Philip P. Holtz, left for Vietnam on a mission to train the South Vietnamese Coastal Force in reconnaissance, sabotage and guerrilla warfare.

During this early period of the war, SpecOps SEALs and Green Berets were “advisors.” It was not until February 1966 that the SEALs entered the war for active combat duty when Team One sent Detachment Golf, consisting of three officers and 15 enlisted men, into the Rung Sat Special Zone near the capital city of Saigon.


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