Steven L. Ossad

writer, historian, technology analyst, and Wall Street staff ride guy

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Selected Works

Finalist, 2011 Army Historical Foundation Distinguished Writing Award A hero who faced down Pancho Villa with only a pistol and turned the tide of battle during the Salerno Operation in late 1943, John Lucas discovered at Anzio that his comrades were more dangerous than his enemies.
Brevet Colonel, Commander of the 30th Indiana Volunteers, and recipient of the Medal of Honor - all by the age of 23 - Henry Lawton's career spanned four decades until he fell in battle "bringing democracy to a distant land."
Featured on the Center of Military History Civil War Website
The only American armored division commander to die in battle, Maurice Rose was the son and grandson of rabbis who rose from private to general to lead the premier American armored force to victory over the Nazi empire.
Winner, 2003 Army Historical Foundation Distinguished Writing Award
Creator of the modern American Rangers, Darby led his men to great victories and a catastrophic defeat, but was always in the thick of the action.
Martin Blumenson spent his life writing the history of an institution he respected greatly and knew intimately, the United States Army. He inspired generations of his students and successors to the highest standard of excellence.
Soldier, historian, biographer, memoirist, "novelist", and companion of Socrates, at the end of his life Xenophon wrote a small book proposing reform of the Athenian cavalry. A discussion of specific suggestions, the Hipparchicus reflects decades of the author's experience as an army commander. The wily survivor of battles, court intrigues, assassinations and staggering betrayals offers subtle insights on leadership - as well as observations valuable to modern theorists and practioners of the "mounted service" that will always resonate.
The Battle of Kadesh, the greatest chariot clash in all recorded history - and the arche-type for maneuver warfare - pitted the war-hardened Hittites against a young, untested Pharaoh. The struggle that followed shaped the destinies of the two dominant empires of the early Iron Age. Recorded by Rameses as a great Egyptian victory, it is a case study of how a brilliant and well-executed public relations campaign can trump performance - and reality.
More than 3,500 years ago, Abraham, the leader of the Hebrews, led his battalion on a daring, long-distance, commando raid to rescue hostages. Hidden in a very brief passage of Genesis is the story of the first organized military action and victory of the Jewish people, a tale of courage, inspired leadership and battle far from their borders. It is as if God wrote the prequel to Operation THUNDERBALL, the Israel Defense Forces dramatic rescue of Jewish hostages at Entebbe, Uganda on July 4, 1976.
Does it make any sense to talk about a "philosophy of war?" What kinds of things would be discussed in such an academic sub-category? Whose works would make up the canon of study? On that point, why is it that Carl von Clausevitz's early 19th century book "On War" is virtually the only work generally accepted as a work of war philosophy? In a world where war is so common, why is there so little systematic examination of its "first principles?" These are only a few of the questions that spark this general inquiry.

Reading the Bible as Military History

Abraham: The First 'Special Forces' Commander
Genesis, Ch. 14

Sutton Place Synagogue, November 7, 2009

Abraham's Journey From Southern Mesopotamia to Canaan

The Carivan of Abraham, James Tissot, @1904

Hamurrabi's Invasion Route

The Text, Genesis, XIV, 13-15

13) And there came one who had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew – now he dwelt by the terebinths of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshkol and brother of Aner; and these were confederate with Abram. 14) And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued as far as Dan. 15) And he divided himself against them by night, he and his servants, and he smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus.

Description of the Commando Raid at Dan

He took his men out to battle organized into three companies of a hundred men each, divided into ten platoons, and grouped by households. Abram and 18 of his closest companions formed the headquarters section and commanded the operation in the field. Eliezer, trusted steward of his household, remained behind to coordinated logistics. The elder, experienced men led the companies, the gifted young led the platoons; the best, were scouts and silent killers. All - free men and slaves - were in some way related.

Mid Bronze Age Weapons @1,800 BC

Armed and trained as light infantry, their weapons were typical middle bronze-age: metal-tipped battle axes, curved swords, and thrusting daggers, but the key was intelligence. Each platoon had a reconnaissance section, of 2 or 3 men, trained in commando tactics and gathering information.

For days, they shadowed the long enemy column, its rear encumbered by loot and moving slowly. Abram’s alliance with the Amorites meant he could travel quickly, supplied along the march by friends, without risk to his rear, or his flanks. At night, the Hebrews drew closer, observing the enemy forces, the location of the prisoners, how they were guarded, where the gaps in the columns were, and other tactical information. The enemy was spread out in widely separated trains, and at the rear, the prisoners were under the guard of the Elamites.

When he was ready, Abram struck from three directions simultaneously and quietly. It was probably late in the night – rather than near dawn. That would maximize the surprise and help delay the enemy from reorganizing. Sentries were dispatched silently and then the real horror began. It was not combat, but butchery – killing sleeping men up close. The pitch hauled from Sodom was particularly effective, spreading a vicious fire, like modern napalm. Vehicles were wrecked, horses scattered, the captives and loot quickly secured. Shock and fear among the enemy gave way to panic followed by a rout. The pursuit, by half Abram's men, lasted for days and secured the withdrawal south. The mission was a complete success, an overwhelming victory. There is no mention of casualties, but Hebrew losses must have been light.

The outcome that really mattered was political. When Abram returned, kings welcomed him as a great hero and vaunted ally, toasted him with wine, offered him his rightful reward – the slaves and loot - which he declined. What I read here is the first source of the modern Israel Defense Forces concept of “the purity of arms”. It holds that wielding weapons as a soldier is such an awesome obligation, laid on us by God, terrible in its effects on the innocent, and subject to strict rules. There can be no material gain in it. Abram is no mercenary; he asks his new allies simply to resupply his forces. The slaves are set free. The loot goes back to Sodom.

Abram’s life or death gamble paid off. His influence in the counsel of the Canaanite kings grew directly from the victory. The alliance with the Amorites made the military action possible. That was at the heart of his long-term strategy. Time. Time for his people to become strong enough to conquer Canaan and hold it. He succeeded. He became Abraham. Never again in his lifetime were the Hebrews in mortal danger. He emerges from the story as the ‘patron saint’ of Special Forces, especially America and Israel’s reconnaissance and commando units.

Hebrew & English Texts

The War of the Kings, 1800 BC

Art and Artifacts from the 2nd Millenium BC

Foundation peg in the shape of the forepart of a lion, Akkadian, Tish-atal of Urkish; 2200–2100 B.C.

Head of a ruler; 2300–2000 B.C. Iran or Mesopotamia

Cylinder seal: hunting scene, Akkadian, late; 2250–2150 B.C.

Molded plaque of a king or god carrying a mace, Isin-Larsa or Old Babylonian; 2000–1700 B.C.

Terracotta Woman, Old Babylonian Period, 2000-1700 BC, Mesopotamia

'Golden Calf', Middle Bronze Age, 1900-1800 BC, Byblos, the Levant

Three-footed bowl with ibex, 2000-1940 BC, Susa, Elam

Gudea, Prince of Lagash, 2100 BC, Palace at Girsu

Plaque with a harpist, 2000 BC, Eshnunna, Mesopotamia