David Stirling “lacked the most basic military discipline, could not march straight, and was so lazy his comrades had nicknamed him ‘the Giant Sloth.’” Yet somehow, he came up with the idea for a commando unit that became the prototype for special operations teams, including America’s Delta Force and Navy SEALs.
The 25-year-old “sloth,” temporarily paralyzed after a failed parachute jump during World War II, was trying to wiggle his toes in a hospital ward when he dreamed up a scheme to send small groups of commandoes behind enemy lines to attack high-value targets. This kind of asymmetric warfare was a completely new concept 75 years ago.
On Nov. 16, 1941, Britain’s Special Air Service carried out its first mission. Since then the SAS has become the template for special ops units around the world.
— Adapted from “How a lousy soldier devised a revolutionary wartime tactic,” Mary Louise Kelly, The Washington Post.