Author Details UN Peacekeeping Assignment in Isreal

Author Details UN Peacekeeping Assignment in Isreal

Thursday, August 31, 2023

The American public is often unaware of the broad range of missions tackled by the US Army. To give just one example, US forces partner with the United Nations for peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations across the globe. While such missions are commonly overlooked due to a natural focus on using military force to achieve victory in war, history has demonstrated the importance of winning the peace.

The newest title in the AUSA Book Program gives a first-hand account of one such mission. In Yanks in Blue Berets: American UN Peacekeepers in the Middle East, retired colonel L. Scott Lingamfelter details his Army assignment as a military observer in Jerusalem during a time of heightened Arab-Israeli tension.

The Book Program sat down with Col. Lingamfelter to talk about, in his words, “a warrior’s book about peace.”


AUSA: How were you selected to serve in the UN peacekeeping operation?

Lingamfelter: It was actually serendipitous. The Army sent me to the University of Virginia to earn a master’s degree in Middle East and Soviet studies with a follow-on assignment to Iran. But in the middle of my studies, Iran “changed management” during its 1979 revolution. I was diverted to the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) in Jerusalem.

AUSA: What prepared you for the dramatic change in roles, going from combat officer to peacekeeper?

Lingamfelter: Nothing. There was no training in peacekeeping in the Army then and UNTSO offered rudimentary training, driver and equipment familiarization, and regulations. Nothing in conflict resolution or peacekeeping. The best training, we received was from UN military observers who had been there a while and taught us the ropes. That kept us alive.

AUSA: I was surprised that families were encouraged to accompany those sent to the region. What did your wife think of the experience?

Lingamfelter: We were both thrilled. I had just completed my Middle East studies, and Shelley was working on her PhD in education. The chance to see Israeli and Arab schools interested her. She would live in relative safety in Jerusalem when I would pull duty in southern Lebanon that we referred to as “the Wild West without a good saloon.” Whenever I said goodbye to her, I hoped it really wasn’t a last goodbye.

AUSA: You certainly faced your share of dangers. Do you think the signs of being unarmed observers--the blue berets, the UN vehicle markings -- kept you safe or made you a target?

Lingamfelter: In the book I wrote, “We in UNTSO had only the protection of our blue berets and our wits, the former useless in deflecting bullets, the latter vital in avoiding them.” We relied on our instincts and our wits to survive. We were warriors who were sentinels of peace for a season. But being an unarmed military observer was dangerous business.

AUSA: What lessons learned would you share with the Army for future peacekeeping efforts?

Lingamfelter: To be sure, the parties of the conflict must buy into the peace regimen. Additionally, any peacekeeping operation must be planned in detail. You can’t rush into a war zone similar to southern Lebanon like an ambulance answering an emergency call down the street. It takes planning, organization, trained soldiers, a clear mandate, and the will of the international community to attain peace. Think about Ukraine. Are we thinking ahead? I see nothing that suggests we are. We are totally unprepared to assist in implementing a peace, and our leaders should harvest the lessons in Yanks. You always go forward best by going back first.


To order a copy of Yanks in Blue Berets, please visit