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Behind The Lines

This book was a long time in getting accepted. At first, Michael's idea was to gather some of the articles he had written in the past about operations in World War II, some published and others not, and see what he could make of it. That was in 1997. Michael shopped the proposal to a few publishers. Mark Gatlin, then at Naval Institute Press,​ suggested that it was a good idea but should not just be another telling of special operations, that Michael should find something different to center the articles around. That was when he had the idea to use the operations as a basis for critical analysis, even in shortened form. Some of the articles already had a paragraph or so at the end to determine how successful he thought they had been. He decided to expand on that. He recalled having read two books that did what he was looking for but in a more limited way - one looked for commonalities in what the author called successful operations and one in what the author called not-so-succesful or failed operations. Michael had some ideas of his own and combined all of them to form this book's criteria. After getting many rejections for the proposal, it was accepted by Casemate Publishers of Havertown, PA. It was published as a hardback in late September 2013 in the U.S. and the UK; it is also available as an e-book. 

Behind The Lines - A Critical Survey of Special Operations in World War II


ISBN: 978-1-612001-83-8 (hardcover)      eIBN: 978-1-612001-84-5

This book contains discussions of the employment of various special purpose, special mission units during World War II. These units operated in Allied and Axis countries and in various theaters of war, including Europe, North Africa, Pacific, China-Burma-India, and the continental United States. The forces discussed in this book represent Japan, Britain, Russia, the United States, Germany, India, France, Belgium, and Holland. The operations include various kinds of raids, intelligence gathering missions, support to partisan/guerilla groups, prisoner rescues, direct action missions, and at least two where the object is to steal something. Some operations would have been officially denied if the operators had been caught in the act. The book is divided into two parts: Behind Enemy Lines and Behind Friendly Lines. This is to demonstrate that special purpose, special mission units can be employed wherever needed, even in areas controlled by military units of their own or allied countries.

​"...stories are well writen and cover a wide variety of mission types...makes this book well worth reading...excellent history...should have a wide appeal beyond historians and World War II students."

                                                       Joseph Spuckler (four out of five stars)



"...contains excellent stories that illustrate all the points made in the introductory chapers...These vignettes provide the reader so much more than a history lesson; the author has added an objective critique for each mission, what went right and wrong from planning to execution to follow up...I believe it would make a good addition to any military history library."

                                                       Janet (four out of five stars)



"For students of military history, particularly World War II and special operations, this is a title you will want to add to your library. I wish I had this book thirty years ago when I was researching the airborne mission prior to the D-Day landings in Normandy for my undergraduate degree in histrory."

                                                       Randy Marcoz

                                                       GeoSource Capital Solutions


" staid retelling of history nor boring academic falling out or dozing, crisp writing style..."

                                                       Lance Zedric

                                                       Alamo Scouts Historical Foundation


"The no-nonsense way in which each case study is presented not only keeps each example short and succinct, it also provides the reader with enough information to picture each scenario in their mind's eye."

                                                       Defence Focus


"It is stories such as these that have provided material for the comic strips, novels and films of behind-enemy-lines daring and bravery for more than half a century. Michael F. Dilley brings his considrable knowledge to this excellent publication, which will thrill boys, dads and granddads alike as we approach the seventieth anniversary of the end of WWII. An important addition to the vast library of already published material on special ops groups, one that brings a fresh perspective on their activities and methods. Superb."

                                                      Books Monthly


"...a high production value book that sheds light on a number of units and missions that have faded from collective memory, from the perspective of case studies..."

                                                       The Military Reviewer


"But even when dealing with operations and units with which we might think we are familiar, Dilley gives us new perspectives, new insights, and new and often fascinating details."

                                                        Kenn Miller

                                                        Southern California Sentinel


"Behind the Lines looks 3D and 360 degrees at some very unique course changing and directing special operations. The reading comes easy, interesting, and compelling."

                                                        James Pyle (five out of five stars)



"...Dilley brings to the fore several important ideas. For example, one-of-a-kind formations such as the British special reconnaissance unit known as Popski's [Private] Army and the American Alamo Scouts inspired some aspects of what is now understood as strategic reconnaissance. This book is useful in understanding one important aspect of the development of special operations forces: training to explicit tasks. Dilley specifically assesses cases that required specialized training and, often, specialized conditions for rehearsal."

                                                         Army magazine


"...Dilley, a writer and editor for Behind The Lines magazine, returns to the modern origins of these elite units and their vast proliferation...useful as an introduction to the multiplicity of special forces units that fought in World War II and their varied missions..."

                                                         Naval Historical Foundation


"...gets my highest praise for this much needed work on a subject dear to every world war history buff."     

                                                         Kepler's Military History

                                                         Book Reviews


"A relevant discussion about the possibilities, limitations and strategic effects of SOF during WWII. This should result in important reflections for the present day defense professional in whose hands lie decision making processes which at some point may [involve] the employment of special operations forces."

                                                          Cesar (five out of five stars)



"The size and scope of the operations range from the multi-brigade campaign [in Russia] to the three- or four-man insertions in enemy-held locations for various purposes, such as reconnaissance, intelligence gathering or sabotage...Dilley is master of his topic...he relates well the adventures of all the individual units and operations...this book is recommended to JAMP readers as an informative and intertaining addition to any World War II library."

                                                          Russell K. Brown

                                                          Journal of America's Military Past


"I was pleasantly surprised to find that the author was willing to make positive judgements, in some cases on entire organizations. Often 'critical surveys' are overwhelmingly negative, but here the author uses the full meaning of 'critical' as an analysis of something's merits and faults. That makes this a very interesting book, providing a balanced view of the activities of the many and varied Special Forces units of the Second World War, giving clear reasons for both their succsses and their failures."










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