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Most Sucessful Guerilla Force In History?


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#1 Christian Lupine

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Posted 25 February 2005 - 0117 AM

Who ran the most sucessful guerrilla campaign? Insurgency, guerilla, underdog, whatever you want to call it, what groups were did the most with the least militarily?

North Vietnam?, Chechneya?, American Revolution?, I defer to the learned opinions of this fine forum.
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#2 tankerwanabe

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Posted 25 February 2005 - 0204 AM

Who ran the most sucessful guerrilla campaign?  Insurgency, guerilla, underdog, whatever you want to call it, what groups were did the most with the least militarily? 

North Vietnam?, Chechneya?, American Revolution?, I defer to the learned opinions of this fine forum.

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About N. Vietnam:
Hard to call, because of the lenght of the war itself. It started out as a guerrilla war with the Japanese during WW2. And the French campaign started as a guerrilla war that climaxed with a several Viet Minh divisions wiping out several mixed French regiments. Even the American years was a mixed guerrilla war in the South at the same time there was a regular war with N. Vietnamese regulars in central Vietnam. Almost a dual front. By the time the Easter Offensive, it was a full blown modern war complete with armored spearheads with almost no guerrilla action. I'm unclear as to where the guerrilla war ended and regular action took over.

Furthermore, by 1972, the Phoenix program had wiped out most of the military arm of the Viet Cong. But on the other hand, the Viet Cong espionage arm had penetrated the S. Vietnamese government, and American press at the highest level.

I don't know well enough about the American Revolution or Chechneya to give a qualified opinion.
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#3 gewing

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Posted 25 February 2005 - 0230 AM

I'd Guess the Scythians. IIRC they sent Darius a message when he dared them to come out and fight face to face.

"Go Weep"

:)

Who ran the most sucessful guerrilla campaign?  Insurgency, guerilla, underdog, whatever you want to call it, what groups were did the most with the least militarily? 

North Vietnam?, Chechneya?, American Revolution?, I defer to the learned opinions of this fine forum.

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#4 Christian Lupine

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Posted 25 February 2005 - 1100 AM

Hey I am not going to let a lack of knowledge keep me from commenting. B)

I just reread The Bear Trap. It is a great account of by a Pakistani Officer who helped interface between the CIA and the Mujahadine in Afganistan. I am inclined to think the Mujahs were one of the most sucessful, the USSR did leave, and the Mujahs did the fighting all on their own even if the were supplied by the US and friends. I know the entire Warsaw pact wasn't attacking them, but even in the face of total conquest, the Mujahs rebellous spirit would have caused trouble for the USSR occupation.

I would think that there were more US forces in Vietnam than USSR in Afganistan, but the NVA had the combined conventional, guerilla force that you described, the Mujahadines seemed much less powerful conventionally.
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#5 Paul F Jungnitsch

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Posted 25 February 2005 - 1136 AM

Hard to say, a lot to weigh up. Against a foreign occupying power a guerrilla army almost always won, against an indigenous power it almost always lost. Situations do vary, ie Castro and the Sandanistas succeeded, but the opposition was pretty corrupt and disorganized AFAIK. The Yugoslavs, OTOH, while being very effective as a guerrillas, never did manage to boot out the Germans.

Depends a lot on the determination and skill of the opposition and how much outside support the guerillas get. How far would the Muj have got w/o all the supplies pouring in?
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#6 Rubberneck

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Posted 25 February 2005 - 1300 PM

Chinese and Mao?
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#7 Cookie Monster

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Posted 25 February 2005 - 1311 PM

Hey I am not going to let a lack of knowledge keep me from commenting. B)

I just reread The Bear Trap.  It is a great account of by a Pakistani Officer who helped interface between the CIA and the Mujahadine in Afganistan.  I am inclined to think the Mujahs were one of the most sucessful, the USSR did leave, and the Mujahs did the fighting all on their own even if the were supplied by the US and friends.  I know the entire Warsaw pact wasn't attacking them, but even in the face of total conquest, the Mujahs rebellous spirit would have caused trouble for the USSR occupation. 

I would think that there were more US forces in Vietnam than USSR in Afganistan, but the NVA had the combined conventional, guerilla force that you described, the Mujahadines seemed much less powerful conventionally.

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I wouldn't go that far.

Political considerations were responsible for the Soviet pullout. In the first 5 years of occupation over Afghanistan, Soviet forces beat every guerrilla offensive at company level and higher without suffering significant casaulties. Only after the guerrillas became adept at better tactics and strategies and Soviet forces suffered battle monotony fatigue, they started inflicting more casualties. But still, they were not able to influence the dynamics in Afghanistan into their favor. The forces that affected dynamics into Afghan guerrillas' favor were Soviet forces, i.e., the political and economical climate back home. The Soviets killed 1 million for 10,000 deaths. That's over the span of 10 years. Moreover, when they pulled out, they left an Afghan communist force that was intact for 4 years before political infighting broke down and only then were the guerrillas able to take control of the country.

The story that Afghan guerrillas drove out the Soviets is a myth. The Soviets pulled out because of political opposition and economic realities back home, very similar to the circumstances that caused US to pull out of Vietnam. When US pulled out, they left a S. Vietnam force intact, and only fell after 3 years of political disunity and military incompetence.

If you want to know successful guerrilla campaigns, look at Castro and his movement, The LTTE against Sri Lankan forces, American militia against the British in the Revolutionary War, the Mexican revolution against the Spanish, the Serb campaign against the Germans during WWII.
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#8 ink

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Posted 25 February 2005 - 1648 PM

Most successful: KLA of Kosovo fame (plus they had the best air force)

But hats off to those Chechens for being the blood thirstiest, most determined fiercest son's o' bitches around.

As for the Yugoslav experience of WWII, I wouldn't list either Tito's Partizans or Cika Draza's Chetniks as successful guerilla forces. WWII in Yugoslavia was a very complex affair, effectively a foour-(or more)sided civil war combined with multiple occupations by several foreign armies and a couple of determined seperatist movements - with a bit more chaos thrown in with local warlords and local low-scale conflicts. That said, towards the end of the war the Partizans got it together and did manage to kick the Germans and Italians out, to some extent, on their own (all the while fighting Chetniks and Ustasas). The Soviets only swept through a very limited portion of the country although, in my opinion, this had an immense effect on German deployments in Yugoslavia and pretty much forced them to pull out (albeit with the Partizas at their heels thoughout).
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#9 Colin Williams

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Posted 25 February 2005 - 1733 PM

What about the original guerillas in Spain who fought against Napoleon's armies?
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#10 Rickshaw

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Posted 25 February 2005 - 2046 PM

Furthermore, by 1972, the Phoenix program had wiped out most of the military arm of the Viet Cong.  But on the other hand, the Viet Cong espionage arm had penetrated the S. Vietnamese government, and American press at the highest level.


Really? I find that amazing, as the objective of the Phoenix Programme had been aimed squarely at the political cadre of the NLF, not their military wing, its interesting that it managed to wipe out the military arm, according to you.

In reality, the Phoenix Programme was at best semi-successful. The corrupt nature of the RVN meant that all too often the Programme's victims turned out to be innocents with whom old scores were being settled. It was successful in attacking the low-level cadres but failed to reach very far up the chain of command. Generally, today, its considered to have been a good idea who's implementation was a failure, partially because of the aforesaid corrupt nature of the South, partially because it had no real way of evaluating its success and building upon where it had worked.

As for your other claim, I find that one even more far-fetched, particular as far as the American press is concerned.
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#11 Rickshaw

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Posted 25 February 2005 - 2051 PM

Depends a lot on the determination and skill of the opposition and how much outside support the guerillas get. How far would the Muj have got w/o all the supplies pouring in?

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The success of the Mujihadeen is rather over-rated. While they tended to be effective against the much more poorly led, equipped and corrupt Afghan government forces, just as in Vietnam, when the NLF came out to fight during the Tet offensive, when the Mujihadeen encountered the actual Soviet Army, they lost badly. Most of the success they are credited with, would I suggest actually be because of a combination of international and internal pressure on the USSR to withdraw, rather than necessarily any actual battlefield successes of the guerrillas. By most of the critical accounts I've read, the Mujihadeen tended to be a pretty amateur bunch, relying far more upon bravado, rather than necessarily good tactics or even a cohesive strategy, as such.
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#12 G. Stark

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Posted 25 February 2005 - 2239 PM

Most sucessful

My vote goes for the "german" (Cherkusker) under the lead of Arminius. They destroyed 3 roman legions under the lead of Varus in a guerilla style battle called "Die Schlacht am Teutoburger Wald" (battle at the Teutoburger forrest)or "Varusschlacht" (Varus battle)... not an open one... no roman soldier survieved. Sucess 100% ... it took 6 years till the romans again crossed the river Rhein.
Arminius won against the Roman Empire at its highest point of power and world domination, at the time of the battle (9year after christi) 25% of all humans on this planet lived under the controll of the romans. Their military strange was unbelivable 300.000soldier at this time.
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#13 Doug Kibbey

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Posted 25 February 2005 - 2302 PM

Furthermore, by 1972, the Phoenix program had wiped out most of the military arm of the Viet Cong.  But on the other hand, the Viet Cong espionage arm had penetrated the S. Vietnamese government, and American press at the highest level.


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I think this is several years behind the facts. Most of the "VC"...better characterized as the indigenous forces resident in the south, as distinguished from NVA regulars who came down the trail, had been decimated during Tet '68. From just after Tet forward, there was not even the illusion of a southern insurrection and war of national reunity....every aspect was completely orchestrated, and almost completely executed, by Hanoi.
At most, Phoenix, correctly or incorrectly, is credited with the elimination of some 20,000 persons.
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#14 gewing

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Posted 25 February 2005 - 2342 PM

Most sucessful

My vote goes for the "german" (Cherkusker) under the lead of Arminius. They destroyed 3 roman legions under the lead of Varus in a guerilla style battle called "Die Schlacht am Teutoburger Wald" (battle at the Teutoburger forrest)or "Varusschlacht" (Varus battle)... not an open one... no roman soldier survieved. Sucess 100% ... it took 6 years till the romans again crossed the river Rhein.
Arminius won against the Roman Empire at its highest point of power and world domination, at the time of the battle (9year after christi) 25% of all humans on this planet lived under the controll of the romans. Their military strange was unbelivable 300.000soldier at this time.

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I don't remember too many details, but
I wouldn't call that a guerilla war.

Didn't they lure them into an ambush in the woods, where the ROmans were unable to mass and use their vaunted tactical discipline?

And iirc, Arminius was trained by the Romans.
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#15 Sardaukar

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Posted 26 February 2005 - 0330 AM

Most sucessful

My vote goes for the "german" (Cherkusker) under the lead of Arminius. They destroyed 3 roman legions under the lead of Varus in a guerilla style battle called "Die Schlacht am Teutoburger Wald" (battle at the Teutoburger forrest)or "Varusschlacht" (Varus battle)... not an open one... no roman soldier survieved. Sucess 100% ... it took 6 years till the romans again crossed the river Rhein.
Arminius won against the Roman Empire at its highest point of power and world domination, at the time of the battle (9year after christi) 25% of all humans on this planet lived under the controll of the romans. Their military strange was unbelivable 300.000soldier at this time.

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After that they were not as effective against Tiberius and Germanicus that came to avenge that. They got those eagles back that Varus lost, even though Romans were still unable to pacify Germania and pulled out due to political and military reasons.

Cheers,

M.S.
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#16 Ssnake

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Posted 26 February 2005 - 0440 AM

After that they were not as effective against Tiberius and Germanicus that came to avenge that. They got those eagles back that Varus lost, even though Romans were still unable to pacify Germania and pulled out due to political and military reasons.

...which, of course, is the strategic aim of pretty much every guerilla campaign. You fight guerilla style because you can't beat the enemy at the operational level. You have to make it costly to him to occupy your country, so that, ultimately, the occupants come to the conclusion that
  • they didn't want this shitty place anyway ;),
  • that they're here because of the mistakes of the previous government, and
  • that they better spend their money elsewhere than pouring it down the drain of that shitty place in which they don't have any interest ;).
As a guerilla force, you want to attack the will of the enemy to continue his occupation. You don't seek military victory. The argument that during the war such and such the powerful side won pretty much any engagement at company level and above is totally missing the point - if that were not the case, you wouldn't need to wage war by guerilla style in the first place. You don't seek military victories, you just want to inflict losses (and maybe even provoke atrocities) to undermine the political will that backs the occupation. Whether or not the loss ratio is favorable is of secondary importance. What counts is the propaganda value.

To that extent, the mujahedeen have been very successful because most people today believe that they kicked the Soviets out of Afghanistan. Heck, even many Russians believe that they got their butts kicked - just like most Americans at the home front thought while most military experts and veterans think that it was just the other way, and that they had the NVA by the balls when they were forced to pull out with victory in reach.
In this context it's not important what the "objective truth" is - what counts is whether the propaganda had its effect on public opinion.

One may argue that neither the Roman emperors nor the Politbureau depended on public opinion. But even here we have the latent threat that wrong decisions may undermine the authority of the beloved leader. Therefore I still see some sort of public opinion mechanism at work, even if its limited to grapevine channels.
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#17 John Gillman

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Posted 26 February 2005 - 0539 AM

[quote name='G. Stark' date='Sat 26 Feb 2005 0339']
Most sucessful

My vote goes for the "german" (Cherkusker) under the lead of Arminius. They destroyed 3 roman legions under the lead of Varus in a guerilla style battle called "Die Schlacht am Teutoburger Wald" (battle at the Teutoburger forrest)or "Varusschlacht" (Varus battle)... not an open one... no roman soldier survieved. Sucess 100% ...

When I was based in Paderborn in Germany I spent quite a while researching my Regiment's involvement in the 7 years war (15th Hussars). About the biggest battle had been at Vellinghausen in 1761, with 120,000 British/Hannoverian/Prussian troops dug in along the Vellinghausen Ridge which runs south from Hamm and the important crossings of the Lippe river. I got hold of contemporary maps which marked out the positions and went out with Landrovers to see what could now be seen 240 years later. The ground had not changed and some battery firing positions for 6 pounders were easily found, covering the ground off the ridge towards Route 1. At the southern end of the ridge, at House Borg, the landowner came out and asked what was happening. We explained, so he then produced his maps, showing the communication trenches and shere scale of the defensive positions - 120,000 men had dug for 3 weeks and it resembled a WW1 trench system. The trench lines were visible, it being October and he had shown us where to look. The communication trenches were even zig-zagged! What was fascinating was the reference on his site maps to the "Field of Blood" between Route 1 and the Vellinghausen Ridge. The landowner explained that the 1761 battle was not the first time this important ridge had been fought over. Apparently the Roman supply trains supporting Varus had retreated down Route 1 after Arminius's initial victory. They were unable to get their wagons off Route 1 because of streams and ditches either side until they reached the Vellinghausen Ridge, which is where Arminius caught them. So the final (to make it a 100% wipe-out) battle was at the end of the Vellinghausen Ridge beside Route 1. Interestingly, the maps dated 1761 showed very accurately the problems the Romans must have had in retreat, as the maps emphasised not roads but water courses and any obstacles to horse drawn transport.

Incidentally, do the Chindit operations in Burma count?
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#18 Richard Lindquist

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Posted 26 February 2005 - 0704 AM

If you want to know successful guerrilla campaigns, look at Castro and his movement, The LTTE against Sri Lankan forces, American militia against the British in the Revolutionary War, the Mexican revolution against the Spanish, the Serb campaign against the Germans during WWII.



During the American Revolution, the American Militia were pretty crappy and mostly just ran away. They weren't fighting a guerilla war anyway. The only true geurillas during the revolution were in the Carolina mountains where they caused the Brits a bit of trouble to include wiping out Ferguson's Loyalists at King's Mountain. Success in the Revolution was based on keeping a reguilar force in the field, the Continental Line, which was the basis of Washington's army and the other standinfg forces.
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#19 toysoldier

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Posted 26 February 2005 - 0754 AM

look at Castro and his movement,

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like someone said, the overthrown regime was too inept, and had little outside support. plus, the real winner was the urban movement; the countryside guerrilla is highly overrated.
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#20 Redbeard

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Posted 26 February 2005 - 1236 PM

What about the original guerillas in Spain who fought against Napoleon's armies?

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They'll get my wote too, but Tito's partisans in WWII could be another candidate.

Regards

Steffen Redbeard
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