Jeff Sanders' Blog

Return to

Home > December 2016 > Colonel Rex Applegate

Colonel Rex Applegate
By Dr. Jeff Sanders

I love reading and writing about little known heroes who creatively did their job, and whose work had great impact.  Rex Applegate is one of the unsung American heroes of World War II.  He developed what would become the standard "close quarter combat" system for all our spies and special forces during that era.  

In the beginning stages of WW2 President Roosevelt saw it was necessary to get our nation on a war footing.  Before Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, Congress instituted the first peacetime draft in 1940.  In 1941 FDR and Congress created the Office of Strategic Services (the OSS); a precursor to the modern CIA.  Well, these spies who would be parachuted into enemy territory had to learn extremely effective hand to hand combat, knife fighting, and accurate pistol shooting.

Enter Colonel Rex Applegate.  The Colonel had already studied for years a rugged and effective system created by William E. Fairbairn, a British officer who had learned to fight with the British military police in Shanghai, China.  Fairbairn called his system "Defendu" a remarkable set of skills drawn heavily from Japanese jiu jitsu, western boxing and wrestling, and just good old fashioned dirty tricks.  Applegate actually worked with Fairbairn during WW2 to improve the system.  The great thing about Fairbairn and Applegate's systems is that, unlike most traditional Asian martial arts (Karate, Kung Fu, etc), one does not need to put on a gi (traditional costume for many Asian martial arts) and practice rather arcane or obsolete techniques for years until you are proficient.  

The spies needed to know deadly stuff to protect themselves and/or assassinate, and they needed it now.  Applegate taught them personally and turned out a whole army of OSS agents who worked very effectively behind German, Italian, and Japanese lines in World War II.  Applegate's knowledge and skills were so impressive that he was FDR's personal bodyguard for a while.  

If you want to know what his philosophy of fighting was, all of his books on hand to hand combat, knife fighting, and pistol shooting are still in print.  In fact, his 1943 Army manual, "Kill or Get Killed" is a classic among martial artists, law enforcement, and the military today.  In 1976, he revised the book and it became the official handbook of close quarter combat for the US Marine Corps.

Rex Applegate.  He never killed a single Nazi during the war.  But he sure taught a whole bunch of our spies how to do it.  

Thank you Rex.  

Saturday, December 31, 2016, 11:02 AM

Email to a Friend  |  Printer Friendly Page  |  Permalink | Comments

Bookmark and Share

Jeff Sanders' Bio


Past Posts

December 26
Christmas 1942
The Ghosts of Christmas Past -- 1941
The Ghosts of Christmas Past--1776
Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation (Part 2)
George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation
The Contributions of Luther's Reformation
The Valley of Vision
Why ISIS Lost in Syria and Iraq...For Now

December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009

Search this blog:

Copyright 2008 American Policy Roundtable