Military Operations From the Last Century: Third Force Operation, Task Force Baum, Italy’s participation in World War II

Fareeha Arshad
Photo by Specna Arms on Unsplash

The last century saw some of the most brutal wars in history that cost many lives of soldiers and civilians alike. Though some of these military operations were necessary and resulted in positive outcomes, there were times when the army commanders sent their brave soldiers on pointless missions that resulted in some of the most devastating events in history.

1. The ‘Third Force’ operation

The Central Intelligence Agency, in 2007, released particulars related to their failed mission called the ‘Third Force’. This program began during the Korean War to monitor communist China and aimed to build contact between the Chinese exiles and the generals who did not want Mao Zedong as their leader. The operation planned to create a resistance network in China so that the Chinese would no longer remain a part of the Korean War. However, the plan failed terribly.

In 1952, a couple of CIA officials, John Downey and Richard Fecteau, were sent to China to meet those Chinese officials and extract information from them. However, their plane was shot in an ambush before they could land at their destination. Then, the CIA realized that none of their attempts to contact the Chinese generals were genuine. It was a ploy to get the CIA officials to China.

Downey and Fecteau were severely bruised during the ambush but survived, while the two pilots died immediately after. They were then arrested and separately interrogated. On the other side, the CIA tried covering up the mishap by claiming that the young men had passed away during a routine flight from Korea to Japan. China then released statements regarding their arrest and claimed that the men were spies and were put behind bars for a couple of decades.

Finally, at the end of 1971, Fecteau was released from the prison, while Downey remained behind bars for another year and a half. After returning to US soil, Fecteau became an assistant athletic director, while Downey went ahead and received a degree in law.

2. The Task Force Baum
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Before the second world war ended, in the March of 1945, a German camp was attacked during a raid by the members of ‘Task Force Baum’ to rescue the prisoners. General George Patton believed that his son-in-law was imprisoned at Hammelburg, so he sent hundreds of men on this campaign to free the prisoners. However, this operation was doomed to fail from the start.

Before the soldiers even reached the German camp, they had already lost many of their tanks and over thirty per cent of the soldiers because of heavy resistance on their way. When the soldiers arrived in the area, they realized they had underestimated the number of prisoners by several folds. They were told there were a few prisoners — about a few hundred. But upon reaching their destination, they realized there were over 10,000 prisoners in the German camp.

Within a couple of days, the Germans counterattacked the newly arrived soldiers. The leader of the Task Force, Baum, Abraham Baum was shot in the legs, while several soldiers were killed during the fight. The remaining were taken as prisoners. Only a few men managed to escape and return to the Allied lines.

3. Italy’s participation in the Second World War

When the former Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini decided to go to war against the Allies, it was not taken well by the people around him. Everybody requested him to consider his decision because their army was unprepared and ill-equipped. However, he refused to listen and was adamant about entering the war despite the lack of preparation.

In the June of 1940, France almost defeated the Germans when Italy entered the war. Over 300,000 unprepared Italian soldiers participated in the war. On many occasions, the Italians force faced opponents who were far fewer in number compared to them, yet they were very prepared and highly skilled as compared to them. Needless to say, the Italians were crushed by their opponents.

Still underprepared, Italy attacked Greece, which was neutral during the war. Unable to fight them for long, they requested the Germans to help them fight. This unexpected turn of events then created ripple effects in the years to come, especially Hilter’s plan to invade Russia was delayed for months and was finally called off in 1941.

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I am a scientist by profession and a historian by passion. I write about current affairs, history, science, and lifestyle.

Texas State

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