Formed as the U.S. Sixth Army’s special reconnaissance unit in World War II, the Alamo Scouts were organized on Fergusson Island, New Guinea, on 28 November 1943. The Scouts conducted reconnaissance and intelligence gathering in the Southwest Pacific Theater under the personal command of then LTG Walter Krueger, Commanding General, U.S. Sixth Army.
Named for his life-long association with San Antonio, Texas, and the Alamo, Krueger envisioned that the Alamo Scouts, consisting of six or seven man teams of highly trained and motivated volunteers, would operate deep behind enemy lines. Their mission would be to provide intelligence on the enemy and tactical reconnaissance in advance of Sixth Army landing operations. Intensive training stressed waterborne infiltration and extraction via U.S. Navy PT boats.
All Scout candidates went through an intense six-week advanced training program in a multitude of subjects at the Alamo Scouts Training Center (ASTC). Major skill areas were rubber boat handling, intelligence gathering, report writing, scouting and patrolling, jungle navigation, communications, weapons training, and physical conditioning. The class size ranged from forty-five to one hundred junior officers and enlisted men.
The initial field operation on Manus Island utilized a PBY Catalina flying boat to drop off and pick up the team. This means of transportation, however, required daylight operations, giving the enemy more time to react to the landing party. Later, a landing party comprised of eleven men, including the Scouts team, was put ashore by submarine in western New Guinea for extensive exploration of a possible new air base to support future amphibious landings. Planning was discarded as the pace of landing operations bypassed the area and switched to Moritai Island.
From their first operational mission in the Admiralty Islands in February 1944, until the end of World War II, the Alamo Scouts conducted 106 intelligence collection missions behind Japanese lines in New Guinea, offshore islands, and the Philippines, totaling 1,482 days. This was accomplished without a single man killed or captured.
During their two years of service, the Alamo Scouts liberated 197 Allied prisoners in New Guinea. Two teams provided forward reconnaissance and tactical support for Company F, 6th Ranger Battalion, in the Ranger assault on the Cabanatuan prisoner of war camp on Luzon, twenty-five miles behind enemy lines. The Cabanatuan raid, a three- day operation in January and February 1945, freed 516 Allied prisoners. Additionally, in eighteen months, the Scouts captured eighty-four Japanese soldiers and sailors for interrogation.
As the Sixth Army advanced, a new Alamo Scouts Training Center was established and the old one closed. Six training centers were eventually established during the war, with the last one on Bataan, Luzon, Philippine Islands. From December 1943 to September 1945, approximately 250 enlisted men and seventy-five junior officers were graduated in eight training classes. Only 117 enlisted men and twenty-one officers were retained to form a total of ten field operational teams. Those graduates not retained returned to their parent units for utilization in a scouting and patrolling role.
In July 1945, the Alamo Scouts were training to conduct pre-invasion reconnaissance of Kyushu, in preparation of Operation Olympic, the first landing operation for the invasion of the Japanese home islands. During this period, Scouts teams conducted eleven missions in support of the U.S. Eighth Army. Following the Japanese surrender in August 1945, the Scouts landed in Wakayama and became part of the occupation forces.
For their wartime service, the Alamo Scouts received credit for four campaigns: New Guinea, Bismarck Archipelago, Leyte, and Luzon. Two teams (Rounsaville and Nellist) were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for their role in the liberation of POWs at Cabanatuan. In addition to unit honors, members of the Scouts earned forty-four Silver Stars, thirty-three Bronze Stars, four Soldier’s Medals, numerous Purple Hearts, and other awards. Several members of the Scouts also earned foreign decorations for their part in the liberation of civilian internees at Cape Oransbari, Dutch New Guinea.
The Scouts were disbanded without ceremony at Kyoto, Japan, in November 1945, never to be reconstituted. In 1988, the Alamo Scouts were awarded the Special Forces shoulder tab for their wartime service and included in the lineage of the today’s U.S. Army Special Forces.
© The Army Historical Foundation