For All Nails #45: A Paper Tiger Revealed

By Henrik Kiertzner

After the less than stellar success of the hurriedly-mounted CNA operation in Porto Rico, a number of collections of documents were put together by the Confederation Armed Forces Higher Command and Staff College to provide an account of certain aspects of that operation. The following represent a tiny proportion of the whole.

Extracts from documents in the personal possession of Lt Colonel Richard Hurley-Pugh (H-P) CSC Royal Marines, British Observing Officer, Operation FAST BOWLER FN1, made available by him in holograph. The documents have been certified as accurate replications by the Ministry of War, London.

Source Document: Private letter H-P to Mrs Marian Hurley-Pugh, written from Prince William of Derby Barracks, Jacksonstown, Georgia, SC, 21 January 1973:

" should not be concerned. I have no intention whatsoever of putting myself more in harm's way than necessary during this adventure. I have scant confidence in the ability of my hosts, whose enthusiasm is untempered with judgement, to perform the ambitious task they have set themselves and will thus take measures to minimise the exposure of my party FN2 to hostile action...."

Source Document: Operation FAST BOWLER GREEN Op Order 1.3 Friendly Forces FN3:

"...Tps depl on Op FAST BOWLER will form 3 Prov Asslt Div:

1 Regt RCMC FN4

2 Regt RCMC

14 Asslt Bn RVR (FS) FN5

1 AR FN6


2 Fd Regt RCA FN8

1 Regt RCHA FN9

Add assets depl in advance of S-time FAST BOWLER GREEN:

600 Prov Bn FN10"

Source Document: Operation FAST BOWLER GREEN Op Order 1.2 Enemy Forces:

"...elms 77 GREEN FN11 Inf Regt in likely bn str depl area MOCA. Possible involvement of BROWN FN12 611 Mech Bn depl AGUARDILLA..."

Source Document: Operation FAST BOWLER GREEN Op Order 3.1 Execution - Summary:

"...3 Prov Asslt Div will asslt MOCA, PORTO RICO by simultaneous sea and fs coup-de-main from Task Force CORNWALLIS FN13, RCN. 2 Prov Asslt Div will take and hold the towns of MOCA, VICTORIA and AGUADILLA until withdrawn (expected NLT 23JAN1973). Local assets (600 Prov Bn) will take and hold sus GREEN missile positions 1 mile NE MOCA until relieved by adv elms 14 Asslt Bn RVR."

Source Document: Post Action Report by H-P to Admiralty, 16 February 1973:

"Initial disembarkation was difficult for the lead assault echelons of 1 Regt RCMC, which was transloaded into assault craft from the Task Force and moved onto the beaches (as noted, fully overlooked by cliffs) across rough sea. A degree of disorganisation was noted and it was clear that a number of junior leaders at the company commander level found it difficult to exercise control over their troops...."

"The fallscreen assault by 14 Asslt Bn RVR was catastrophic. The battalion jumped from low-flying transport airmobiles, directly on the town of Moca. At the time of the jump, the irregulars of 600 Prov Bn had not concentrated in the area (having had up to 100 miles to cover in a covert manner). 14 Asslt Bn had taken significant casualties from ground fire before leaving their airmobiles (estimated at 25%, including all organic heavy weapons teams, which were concentrated in single chalks) and suffered significant further loss when landing, under fire, in the town (Perhaps as high as another 25%). An immediate counterattack on the landing area by a scratch company-size unit of German administrative and logistic personnel drove the survivors of 14 Asslt Bn out of Moca. It was only at this stage of the battle that the irregulars of 600 Prov Bn joined the action, mounting a series of very keen assaults on the town. It was unclear why the town was selected as the target of the action, rather than the missile site, which was some way outside -- it is my surmise, based on interviews (summarised at Annexe DD), that 600 Prov Bn found itself sucked into the battle for Moca by inertia and found it impossible to disengage.

It was at this point, with 14 Asslt Bn effectively down to 30% or fewer effectives and the light infantry irregulars of 600 Prov Bn similarly damaged, that the armoured locomobiles of 611 Mech Bn and I/Infanterieregiment 77 mounted their attack on the Moca Road and eliminated the Moca Assault Force. The enemy took up their positions blocking the Victoria-Moca road, from which it fell to the Marines to dislodge them, at such a cost..."

"...while the dash and elan of the individual CNA soldier and Marine was all that could be expected, the quality of planning, individual and unit training and command and control was poor. A number of fundamental errors were made, ranging from a very complicated plan which depended upon a huge number of space, time, distance and personal variables, to a failure to maintain the aim of the operation -- the elimination of the German missiles -- to a failure by commanders at all levels to maintain a grip on the operation (especially when going badly adrift) and of their units. Particularly notable was the poor appreciation for the quality of the likely opposition. The odds mustered against what proved to be a full-strength German infantry regiment and a Porto Rican mechanised battalion were barely 2:1 overall; at no time did the CNA forces achieve tactical superiority against an enemy far better trained and deployed. The lack of ammunition resupply as a result of the decision to land further troops rather than stores was a significant factor in this."

"...of particular concern was the decision by the commander of TF CORNWALLIS to cease close air support during the enforced withdrawal phase and the resultant teleson argument, which was audible to most friendly and enemy troops, as it was conducted in clear speech on the unencrypted command channel..."

"...the colours of 1 Regt RCMC, which were brought from the beach by the Regimental Serjeant Major as the regiment stayed to cover the evacuation, have been laid up in the Corps Chapel at Bayonne...."

"...I should particularly like to commend my Deputy, Major Peter de Gruchy, 1st Foot Guards, for his gallant rescue of two wounded CNA Marines under fire during the rapid withdrawal to the beaches after the dislodgement from the Victoria position. A full account is despatched under separate cover..."

" summary, it was a gallant effort by the troops, of whose personal courage and dedication there can be no doubt, but a disastrous showing by their commanders, who were unprepared, in almost every respect, for offensive operations against a modern Power's forces.

I remain, My Lords, Your obedient servant,

Richard Hurley-Pugh Lieutenant Colonel, Corps of Royal Marines"

Source Document: The London Gazette 1 June 1973

"His Majesty is graciously pleased to assent to the award to Lieutenant Colonel R Hurley-Pugh, Corps of Royal Marines, of the Conspicuous Service Cross for gallantry in an operational theatre..."

"Promotions: Royal Navy: Corps of Royal Marines: Hurley-Pugh, R., CSC, to be Colonel, Brevet Brigadier, with date of rank 1 January 1974"

Source Document: Report to the Governor-General "Casualties Incurred during Operation FAST BOWLER" dated 6 February 1973

"...Casualties in this operation were not disporportionate to the scale and risk of the undertaking and should be viewed in that context. The following chart breaks down by major unit the numbers killed, injured and missing plus unit strengths on recovery to Georgia:"

Casualties Incurred during Operation FAST BOWLER
Strength Strength
22 Jan 73 Killed Injured Missing 23 Jan 73
1 RCMC 3112 1899 312 784 117
2 RCMC 3075 612 577 651 1235
14 Asslt 811 433 161 106 111
1 AR 803 54 53 8 688
3 TARL 432 16 29 36 361
2 Fd 610 38 104 12 556
1 RCHA 411 64 221 39 151
Div Tps 1307 155 234 211 707
600 Prov 363 277 - 86 -
RCN 102 411 29
RCAF 34 6 12
CBI 7 2 11
Conf Police 1 1 -
TOTAL 3692 2111 1985

Source Document: Minutes of CNA General Staff Chiefs' Committee 8 March 1973:

"...CoS Army reported that diplomatic efforts were ongoing to establish the status of the nearly 2000 troops still missing on Porto Rico after Op FAST BOWLER. Reconnaissance overflights had suggested the construction of camps in the uplands behind San Juan was ongoing; analysis of imagery gives a theoretical maximum capacity of all guarded camps combined of under 1000."

Source Document: Georgia Examiner, 30 January 1973. Page 1 Headline:


Forward to FAN #46: NUBS Presents "Insight".

Forward to 22 January 1973 (CNA Politics/Caribbean): A Speech Never Given.

Return to For All Nails.

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