The OSS In Burma, 1942-1945

Title:                      The OSS In Burma, 1942-1945

Author:                  Troy J. Sacquety

Sacquety, Troy J. (2013). The OSS In Burma, 1942-1945: Jungle War Against The Japanese. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas

LCCN:    2012045114

D767.6 .S27 2013


  • Before the storm — The fall of Burma — Laying the groundwork: 1941-January 1943 — Creating the detachment out of an undefined problem — Deconfliction — OSS and SOE — Finding a location — Detachment 101 sets up the Jungle School — Communications — Moving toward the first operations — Long-range penetration operations — A Group — B Group — W Group — BALLS, BALL’s #1, and REX — The evaluations — Short-range penetrations meet success — The first short-range effort, Operation FORWARD — Group — KNOTHEAD — Rethinking operations: the detachment evolves, February 1943-January 1944 — The detachment reevaluates its personnel situation — Finances — Communications and coding — Developing liaison — Supplies remain a problem — New additions to Detachment 101 — Peers takes over: Detachment 101 comes of age, January-May 1944 — Existing force structure — New OSS branches arrive — Detachment 101 and the campaign for Myitkyina: February-August 1944 — Postscript — Peers continues his reforms: June-August 1944 — Existing force structure — New OSS branches arrive — Reorganizing after Myitkyina: September-December 1944 — Existing force structure — A new organization of sorts — The last OSS branches arrive: January-March 1945 — Existing force structure — New branches arrive — The Shan states: August 1944-March 1945 — The push after Myitkyina — The Arakan field unit: February-June 1945 — The Arakan field unit (AFU) — Rangoon — The last months: April-July 1945 — Field operations — The detachment — Detachment 101 disbands.

LC Subjects

Date Posted:      January 18, 2018

Reviewed by LTC (Retired) Rick Baillergeon[1]

There are relatively few windows of opportunity for authors to pursue in regards to unexplored World War II subject matter. Yet, there are still some gaps existing in the body of knowledge. Troy Sacquety has seized on one available opportunity in his volume, The OSS in Burma: Jungle War against the Japanese. In it, he focuses on one of the organizations of the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), Detachment 101.

For those unfamiliar (perhaps, many) with the operations of Detachment 101, let me offer a brief synopsis. As part of the OSS, Detachment 101 operated in the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater from April 1942 to July 1945. During this period, the tasks executed by the unit included gathering intelligence on the Japanese, conducting guerrilla operations, and being utilized in conjunction with conventional forces to assist them in accomplishing objectives. It was a unit which clearly was far more successful than anyone could have anticipated. It is also a unit which has seen little mention in historical accounts of World War II.

For prospective readers, you must know what Sacquety’s volume “is not” and what it “is.” In regards to what it is not, the title may be a bit misleading. As referenced earlier, the author has narrowed his focus to a unit within the OSS—Detachment 101. Those looking for a broader perspective will not find it in this volume (this is a good thing). This more overarching view is available in other volumes and resources.

Sacquety has also narrowed his focus in another characteristic. As he emphasizes in his introduction, the author keys on the organizational aspects of Detachment 101. Consequently, specifics on the tactical operations the unit conducted in the CBI Theater are minimal. This will disappoint some who were seeking a volume detailing the fascinating missions of Detachment 101. This is another gap that should be filled by another opportunistic author.

What Sacquety does achieve is providing readers with a comprehensive look at the organizational make-up of the unit during its existence. He obviously dedicates many pages to the formation of Detachment 101 and its early days in theater. However, Sacquety continues this in-depth analysis of the organizational structure until it was disbanded in the summer of 1945. In his introduction, the author states his aim is to present “how” Detachment 101 accomplished their missions. He has achieved this purpose in his volume.

There are many strengths within The OSS in Burma. Readers will find it highly readable, exhaustively researched and well structured. Perhaps, what will stand out most is the notes section of the volume. Sacquety has placed a meticulous 70-page appendix at the conclusion of the book. It provides details on the sources utilized and in many cases, tells the “rest of the story.” Those searching for more information regarding Detachment 101 will undoubtedly find potential resources in this section.

As in most volumes, a reader will find areas that could have been improved upon by an author. In regards to the OSS in Burma, I feel the one weakness of the volume is its lack of maps and charts. Within the book, Sacquety has added only one organizational chart of the unit (November 1944) and one large scale map of the theater. In a book emphasizing organizational structure, additional organizational charts would have added significant clarity and understanding. Moreover, the addition of further smaller scale maps would have been a great complement to Sacquety’s verbiage.

I believe the value of Sacquety’s volume lies in two areas. First, it is an excellent link between past and future studies tied to Detachment 101. In regards to the past, it provides a solid backdrop for those who have read some of the excellent personal memoirs written by members of Detachment 101. In reference to the future, I believe it will spark interest in other authors (or Sacquety himself) to study the tactical operations of the unit. As stated previously, there is a clear need for further examination of the missions of Detachment 101.

Second, Sacquety has provided an excellent case study of how an organization adapted its structure in combat. The author superbly describes how Detachment 101 leadership understood its environment and adapted to meet it. Sacquety’s ability to articulate this makes it added value for leaders in both the military and civilian sectors.

In summary, Troy Sacquety has not rehashed the works of other authors. He has filled in one of those existing gaps in the study of World War II. In doing so, his volume also highlights that there still exists many holes in our understanding of the role of Detachment 101 in the CBI Theater. This combination makes The OSS in Burma a valuable contribution to current and future World War II scholarship

[1] Baillergeon, Rick, LTC, online pdf file, accessed January 18, 2018

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