The “Enemies” in Our Army (Mar, 1962)

The Army used Aggressor for a number of years.  Here is a 1960’s episode of the TV show Big Picture devoted to Aggressor Forces.  Aggressor was replaced by the OPFOR (Opposing Force) concept some time ago.

<< Previous
1 of 5
<< Previous
1 of 5

The “Enemies” in Our Army

The first massive attack on the United States came at dawn. A Panama-based invasion fleet steamed up the Pacific coast to rendezvous with bombers from the Caribbean. Just off California they met; 12,000 foreign soldiers stormed the beaches while 7500 paratroopers plummeted from the sky. For the first time in more than a century, enemy troops trod U.S. soil.

Our fighting men were ready; the enemy, bloody with massive defeat, withdrew to bases in the West Indies. But the war wasn’t over.

A year later, thousands of crack troops attacked the East Coast from Florida to North Carolina. American soldiers again defended bravely, but this time the invader held on.

Today, our enemy is still here. He occupies other sections of our country as well: parts of Texas, Alaska, California, most of New England. He is likely to hold the areas for some time.

Who is he? Where did he come from? Why has he attacked us? Here, for the first time, is the full story of the invader. Here are the Aggressors …


A SHORT while ago, an Army colonel and I lay flat on our bellies, hiding and waiting atop a roadside embankment a few miles from Fort Riley, Kans. Parting the grass, we took a cautious look at the road below. Suddenly, from around the bend marched a strange company of soldiers. Their helmets bore curious, 2-in.-high ridges down the center. Their uniforms were dark green, almost black, and their insignia were unrecognizable. Marching robot-like to a chant of “Uno, duo, tri, kvar,” arms swinging straight, knees lifted high, they looked utterly foreign.

“The enemy,” the colonel whispered. “Shhh . . . we could be captured.” And as the eerie band marched past us and out of sight, I noticed that my heart was beating just a little harder, that my shoulder muscles were bunched.

These formidable-looking soldiers were “Aggressors,” an enemy home-grown by the Army, an enemy part fiction, mostly fact. The soldier is real, but his country is mythical. He speaks in a strange tongue. His weapons are often superior to ours. His tactics are despicable. To him, the use of thermonuclear bombs and germ warfare is perfectly justified. It’s even rumored that his arsenal soon will hold the neutron bomb.

Who Are These Aggressors? Simply: American troops dressed up in offbeat garb. But if you think they’re kidding with their funny uniforms and odd speech, just meet them face to face during a war game. You’ll find them as much fun as poison ivy. They’re tough and dirty, and they sharpen the fighting edge of U.S. troops as no other training gimmick ever has.

Why all this elaborate make believe? Here’s the answer one U.S. officer gave me. “Before Aggressor came on the scene, young soldiers couldn’t grasp what war was all about. We’d say, in effect, ‘Let’s pretend there are enemy soldiers on the other side of that hill.’ Only combat vets took the games seriously.

“Today the ‘enemy’ is real. Over that hill are the strangest looking soldiers our trainees ever saw. And that first look scares hell out of them. Everything in the war games is real except the bullets. The improvement in spirit, interest, and seriousness is fantastic.”

Reported an Army private after his first involvement with Aggressor: “I was tired from two days of crawling around the woods, so I took a nap. These Aggressors prodded me awake with their rifle barrels. Kind of shook me, their Mohawk helmets and weird insignia and all. But I figured they were really from an- other unit on the post, so I didn’t much care. Then they started talking together in this foreign language. Suddenly I thought, these guys aren’t kidding; they really are foreign soldiers!”

Full-Time War. Until a few years ago, Aggressor and all he stands for was merely a gleam in the eye of now-retired Army officer Col. C. C. Sloane Jr., a combat vet with a chestful of battle ribbons. Part of Sloane’s job after World War II was training adolescent hot-rodders to be soldiers. But he got fed up with the way fleshy-pink inductees were being prepared for the fine art of killing. Maneuvers consisted of two exactly similar teams pretending to fight each other. Only difference between the two: One—the bad guys—called themselves Red Forces. “Americans” were the Blue.

But with the cold war revving up, Pentagon officials didn’t cotton to announcing that American troops had just smashed the Reds. After all, what would Izvestia say?

Col. Sloane’s solution: a permanent enemy force which would devote its whole time to waging war against the United States. The “foreign” soldiers—to be called “Aggressors” —would have their own uniforms, own the most modern weapons, try experimental tactics, fight in all large-scale maneuvers. They’d be as different from Americans as it was possible to make them.

Some Subversive Work. With a go-ahead from the Defense Department, and with a group of other imaginative men, Sloane set about creating a new nation. It would have to be completely mythical (mustn’t jump on anyone’s instep, you know), but for full effect, the history, political set-up, and aims must be logical, should remind soldiers of a potential enemy. (The Pentagon insists that “the country, people, forces, and individuals . . . are fictious, any resemblance is inadvertent and coincidental.”) When Sloane and his men completed their subversive work, this was “The Aggressor Republic”:

• The nation was founded (in Sloane’s fiction)” at the close of World War II. One of Hitler’s deputies, Martin Bormann, and a few fanatic friends escaped the Allies, gained a following; and set up a dictatorship “in southeast Europe.”

• The government today is run by the totalitarian “Circle Trigon Party” which hand-picks a “Triumvirate” to officially run the government. The nation’s economy is completely controlled by the state.

• The national language: Esperanto, adopted to unify various native tongues of the Aggressor Republic and its satellites. (Esperanto is a real, international language, scientifically constructed from simplified Italian, Spanish, French, and German. It has been around for 75 years, is understood by nearly two million people.)

• The armed forces of the Aggressor are really tough. They use the newest techniques of war, are experts in conventional and guerrilla tactics—are, in fact, superior to our forces in many respects. Our experts haven’t set a fixed number of troops, but one manual lists more than a thousand Aggressor officers by name, designation, and personal and unit history (Fig. 6).

• The individual soldier has not been specifically characterized. Says one Army manual: “Observers cannot agree. Some depict him as a formidable fighter, highly disciplined and superbly trained; others visualize him as a slovenly, uneducated, semi-barbaric peasant. Both estimates may be partially correct.” Recently, an imaginary report filed during a Watertown, N.Y., exercise stated that townswomen had been raped during a short occupation. This bit of information was added to the picture of an arrogant enemy, § and additional precautions for civilian safety will be taken during the next war game.

Outfoxers Extraordinary. One thing about Aggressor is certain: He is sneaky, wiry and persistent, and he frequently is able to outfox us, hands down.

During one battle in Texas, for example, an Aggressor spy with faked documents walked into the command post, trotted off with troop location maps. During another exercise, two Aggressor photographers posed as newspapermen, entered the U. S. War Room and snapped photos of the master situation map. As a result, a battalion was wiped out.

In a third foul-up—this one near Ft. Hood, Tex.—the U. S. unit commander misplaced a whole forestload of tanks. Seems an Aggressor signalman entered the U. S. Forces radio net and issued an order sending the tanks down the road, out of radio distance. Nobody changed the order, so they just kept going and were still travelling when the maneuver was declared over.

Actually, when Aggressor isn’t engaged in combat, the force consists only of a couple dozen of officers holed up at Aggressor GHQ, Ft. Riley. Here is the Aggressor War Room, where are stored voluminous files of past campaigns, data of forces, and records of individual men. Walls are lined with 10 by 12-ft campaign maps, dominated by a giant master map showing U.S. land now under enemy domination—at present, some 15%.

The Best Teacher. Next door is the storage depot where some 600 pieces of equipment and 100,000 uniforms are held in readiness.

Much of the time the War Room is quiet. Comes a maneuver, though, and GHQ becomes as active as the control tower of New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

Some maneuvers are all-out wars, with much of the U.S. Armed Forces coordinated to smash the enemy. Three exercises, in fact, employed upwards of 50,000 men. Most of the time, however, exercises are small-scale. A commander feels that his men are lacking in something—communications, infiltration, plain realism—and decides that the best teacher would be a bloodless war.

With an OK from the Pentagon, Aggressor Center Commander Col. Roy W. Marcy and his men go to work.

Old Glory zips down from the mast atop GHQ, and up zooms the white and green Circle Trigon. Col. Marcy and his officers change their names to conform to the enemy roster. An arbitrarily-selected Army group—anything from a company to a regiment (each Aggressor often represents six or seven men) —is drafted into the Aggressor army. Cadre work like crazy for four to six weeks, teaching the recruits Esperanto, drilling them in Aggressor tactics, outfitting them with uniforms and insignia. Comes mock war time, the new Aggressors are battle-calloused vets.

Typical Mock War—but on a larger scale than most—took place last August over a 100-mile-long front in North and South Carolina. This was Exercise Swift Strike, involving some 40,000 men.

Main purpose of this particular exercise was to give realistic training for the 82nd and the 101st Airborne Divisions, and to test combat-readiness of reserve and National Guard units (put on emergency alert by order of President Kennedy).

Much was learned about general tactics, but as in all maneuvers, a barrackful of offbeat instances added to commanders’ headaches. A couple of examples: …. An Aggressor helicopter landed in a farmer’s field, flew off with a ‘copterload of watermelons. The farmer billed the Army.

…. A TV reporter who lost his pass was captured, placed in a PW compound, and spent two miserable days trying to convince the CO that he was not an Aggressor spy in disguise.

…. A woman in a tiny South Carolina town took one look at an outlandish Aggressor squad, thought an actual invasion was taking place, hysterically phoned the local. American Legion post.

…. Pretty young actresses, borrowed by Aggressors from a summer playhouse, accosted U.S. trainees and coaxed information from them over cold beers. The soldiers told all and were still smiling as they were led off to the stockade.

Bites of Fortress America. Once during a particularly trying period, one of “our” men suddenly broke ranks, started swearing, ripped identification from his uniform, and yelled, “I’ve had enough. I’m quitting! Who wants to join me?” His comrades were astonished. The rebel finally confessed he was an Aggressor in disguise.

From a helicopter, Aggressors dropped candy bars to U.S. forces. Stickers on them stated, “Compliments of the Aggressor.” The troops thought the candy was contaminated. As an observer, I didn’t. It was delicious.

At the end of the exercise the results were incorporated into the official war history, and the situation remained dormant until the next maneuver.

As a whole, Aggressor seems to be doing pretty well against us. It all started (on paper) right after World War II when the enemy, based in Cuba, seized the Antilles and the Panama Canal, then launched an assault in California.

Aggressor advances through the past few years have given the enemy good-sized bites out of Fortress America (Fig. 3), results of nearly a hundred exercises carried out since that first invasion attempt. Right now the war is cold—no fighting, no enemy movement, no guerrillas. The people at Ft. Riley, however, aren’t loafing—they’re planning another attack (S&M’s spies report an attack called Exercise Great Bear will be held in Alaska during February, with Exercise Bristle Cone slated for March at Camp Irwin, Calif.) and they’ll be incorporating some radically new ideas from the Pentagon—guaranteed to fully test the adaptability of our officers and men.

  1. Hirudinea says: April 4, 201211:21 am

    I’ve heard of these guys before, actually saw an army manual on Esperanto printed for them, but as it became obvious that the Soviet Union was going to be the main enemy they transformed into the present OpFor with its Soviet style arms, tactics and ranks. Still its a good idea to have a dissimilar force to train against in wargames.

  2. Hirudinea says: April 5, 20125:20 pm

    Here’s some more stuff about those evil Circle Trigonists!


Submit comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.