Beyond Hell and Back

Courage beyond reason. Loyalty beyond faith. Perseverance in the face of overwhelming adversity. These are just some of the qualities of the members of the U.S. Special Operation Forces.

BEYOND HELL AND BACK details the seven defining Special Ops missions that have made the Special Operation Forces the best fighting unit in the world, including:

THE RESCUE OF BAT-21: The largest and longest Combat Search and Rescue mission in the Vietnam War lasted 17 days and cost the lives of 13 Americans—all to rescue one man and the invaluable knowledge he alone possessed.

TASK FORCE NORMANDY: Planned in secrecy and executed with flawless efficiency, Task Force Normandy was an Army/Air Force Special Operations joint op that fired the opening shots behind enemy lines in Operation Desert Storm.

OPERATION EAGLE CLAW: The devastating Special Forces operation mounted to retrieve 52 American hostages in Iran resulted in the deaths of
eight members of the rescue team. This failure ultimately led to the creation of Special Operations Command.

BASHER 52: Captain Scott O’Grady was shot down over the “no fly” zone above Bosnia, and his daring rescue was one of the Marine Corps’ finest operations ever.

These are a few of the dramatic true tales that represent the defining moments that helped shape the operational methods, planning, and deployment for all future Special Ops missions. BEYOND HELL AND BACK is the greatest collection of Spec Ops missions ever assembled.



“From the audacious Son Tay raid, to the tragedy of Desert One, to the remarkable successes in Afghanistan and Iraq, Dwight Zimmerman and John Gresham have compiled a remarkable history of the missions that span the full spectrum of SOF capabilities. BEYOND HELL AND BACK is an excellent beginning to providing insight into some of the hundreds of historical missions that have helped forge today’s modern Special Operations Forces.”

—Sgt. 1st Class Frank Antenori,
US Army (retired), bestselling author of ROUGHNECK NINE ONE: The Story of a Special Forces A-Team at War


“Once regarded as the red-headed stepchild of the armed forces, special operations has become the point of the spear in the global war on terrorism. This book records the recent feats of America’s special operations troops—Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Delta Force, others—in a clean, crisp narrative that often reads more like a riveting screenplay or novel than military history. It shows that even in an age of high-tech gizmos, the human element—the warrior with guts and skill—is as important as it was in the days of Alexander the Great. A must-read for military professionals and laymen alike.”

—Philip Caputo, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist
and author of the bestselling A Rumor of War.


“Desert Storm’s success depended on the integration of special operations and conventional air power. Task Force Normandy became the pattern that led to much larger operations in Afghanistan and again in Iraq. To understand how we now fight, you must read BEYOND HELL AND BACK.”

—General Chuck Horner, USAF (Ret.),
former Commander in Chief, SPACECOM and co-author with Tom Clancy of EVERY MAN A TIGER.


“When I need to know something fast about the operational and technical aspects of the military today, I reach for the phone and call John Gresham. His decades of working closely with the military, here in Washington, DC and in the field are why I and others trust him regularly to give us the roadmap to what we need to know for our own work. BEYOND HELL AND BACK is just the latest reason for keeping his number close.”

—Larry Bond, New York Times bestselling author


“I was there from the beginning of modern American Special Operations, so for me the stories in BEYOND HELL AND BACK are more than just history. They are some of the threads of my life, and those of the community I served in for more than three decades. Ably told by Zimmerman and Gresham, this is the story about how we made the force that is today America’s tip of the spear in the Global War on Terror.”

—Colonel Lee Mize, USA (Ret.), Medal of Honor Recipient

Product Details

ISBN-10: 0312363877
ISBN-13: 978-0312363871
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Language: English
Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches

ISBN-10: 031238467X
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Language: English
Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches

Dwight Jon Zimmerman – Author

Dwight Jon Zimmerman is author of the critically acclaimed young-adult military history, First Command: Paths to Leadership. Zimmerman also contributed substantially to a series of successful young-adult military history books. This includes a book on World War II, The Good Fightby Stephen E. Ambrose (2001); a Civil War volume, Fields of Fury by James M. McPherson (2002); a volume on the American Revolution, Fight for Freedom by Benson Bodrick (2003); a volume on the Vietnam War, 10,000 Days of Thunder by Philip Caputo (2004); and a volume on Reconstruction, Into the West: From Reconstruction to the End of the Frontier by James M. McPherson (2005). 

He has written on military-history subjects for American Heritage, the Naval Institute Press, Vietnam magazine, and numerous military-themed publications for Faircount International. In 2006, his essay on challenges faced by the Coast Guard was selected by the Naval War College for use in its curriculum. Zimmerman was the co-executive producer of the Military Channel’s miniseries, First Command, based on his book. The miniseries won the 2005 Aurora Platinum Best of Show Award for Historical Programming. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. 

John D. Gresham – Author

John D. Gresham is an author, researcher, game designer, photographer, and military commentator. He is the primary researcher and partner to Tom Clancy on his best-selling series of nonfiction “guided tour” books about military units. These include Submarine (1993), Armored Cav (1994), Fighter Wing (1995), Marine (1996), Airborne (1997), Carrier (1999) and Special Forces (2001). He also is the award-winning co-designer of Supermarina I and Supermarina II (Clash of Arms Games, 1996 and 1997), a naval war game based upon Larry Bond’s award-winning “Command at Sea” game system. 

He has also provided interviews, commentary, and production assistance for various documentary series produced for the History, Learning, and Discovery channels. Gresham began his writing career full time with work on Desert Storm (1991), and then moved into his current role as researcher and partner to Tom Clancy. His latest book, Defcon-2 (with Norman Polmar, 2006), has been acknowledged as perhpas the best single-volume history of the Cuban Missile Crisis. He currently resides in Virginia. 

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