As the North Korean Army slashed its way down the Korean Peninsula in 1950, 15-man units inflitrated South Korean lines to ambush convoys and demolish bridges. America sought to respond in kind, forming Ranger units with skills like low-altitude parachuting and sabotage. Americans fell in love with these elite warriors. One reporter wrote that each Ranger “is a one-man gang who can sneak up to an enemy sentry, chop off his head, and catch it before it makes noise by hitting the ground.”
The country, and its presidents, have been enamored with special operations forces ever since Franklin Roosevelt created the first unit in 1942. John F. Kennedy expanded the Army Special Forces from 2,000 to 10,500 soldiers and founded the Navy SEALs. Under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, special operations forces grew from 38,000 in 2001 to 70,000 in 2016.
Will President Trump follow suit? He has already used special operations forces in several Middle Eastern countries. And the units seem custom-made for a president intent on both combating terrorism and avoiding large-scale war.