There are a lot of books out there about close combat, a few are even worth reading, but the quintessential close quarters combat and defensive tactics book is Kill or Get killed. If you want to get an inside look at the skills that will help you survive real combat you need to read Kill or Get killed. in the pages of this classic work is everything you need to know about close combat and self defense as well as how to handle riots and firefights. First published in 1943 to help Allied soldiers in their fight against the Axis powers, it has been revised several times. Even to this day it still helps police officers and soldiers in countless situations. its author Colonel Rex Applegate learned close combat from the best, and what he wrote cannot be ignored by anyone serious about being a modern warrior.
Born in Oregon on June 21 1914 Applegate’s family tree includes heroes of the American Revolution and pioneers who settled in the Pacific Northwest. Applegate grew up in Oregon and early on he developed a love for the wilderness. one of his first teachers was his Uncle Gus Peret, an employee of Remington firearms, who taught the young Applegate not to aim at targets, but to point and shoot instinctively and convulsively. by the time Rex Applegate graduated the University of Oregon with a business degree he was already a crack shot. The 6’3″ and powerfully built Applegate excelled at football. But it was here Applegate began his military career when he took part in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). his first assignment would be with the 3rd Infantry Division, an Army Reserve unit that was based out of Fort Lewis Washington.
Prior to the outbreak of World War II Applegate spent his spare time doing research into firefights. his thirst for knowledge about real hand to hand gun fights began extensive research that included police reports and accounts of gunfighters in the old west. The research supported what he already believed; police officers and soldiers weren’t being taught what they needed to know to survive a real life gun fight.
Applegate was openly critical of the training the military provided, but instead of getting the proverbial “shaft” he was given an opportunity. Col. Applegate received a commission in the regular Army. when the United States joined the fight against the Axis powers Applegate was eager to go, but he would instead be recruited into America’s fledgling clandestine intelligence community.
Before WWII there were no elite military units or intelligence gathering agencies. any units that had existed prior to the war had long since been disbanded. there weren’t even facilities to train new personnel. in the wake of Japan’s 1941 attack the military rushed to adapt to meet the new threat, so the Allies began from scratch, setting secret training camps like Camp Richie in Maryland all over North America and England. Applegate along with others was called in to make the best recruits even better, so the Allies could take the war to the Axis.
Before any recruits could be trained, the instructors had to be trained. They were given a crash course in combat martial arts by British Colonel William E. Fairbairn. At the start of training most of the American instructors thought they had little to learn from the British who had only been losing the war up to that point. though Fairbairn was a veteran police officer and Royal Marine he looked too many like a kindly gray haired school teacher and was hardly intimidating. Fairbairn put an end to any of the misconceptions the American instructors might have had when Fairbairn took on the much stronger and larger Applegate tossed with him with ease into a crowd during a self defense demonstration. From that point forward everyone was willing to listen to what Fairbairn had to say when it came to hand to hand combat.
Though exact numbers are unknown it is believed that some 10,000 recruits trained at Camp Richie where they learned how to take out enemy sentries, hand-to-hand combat, close combat shooting, and other espionage techniques. it was at Camp Ritchie that Applegate and Fairbairn discovered they shared similar views on shooting. Col Applegate quickly learned the importance of martial arts in close combat situations. A point should be made that both men and women received the same training at Camp Ritchie. many of those men and women were deployed throughout Europe and the Pacific. Commandos and secret agents would help turn the tide of the war, and would set the ground work for Special Forces units in the future.
After the war Applegate would continue to have adventures and keep learning. He would go south of the border as a representative for several American firearms manufactures, and would advise Mexican soldiers and police officers on how to deal with riots and guerilla fighters. At first they didn’t think they could learn much from a gringo, but is short time Col Rex Applegate’s skills impressed and training were so effective that to this day, his methods are still taught in Mexico.
When Applegate returned to the United States, he would travel and lecture about tactics and training for both law enforcement and military organizations. He would advise the military in during the Korean and Vietnam wars. He authored a number of books and even helped design a number of combat knives (the most famous is the applegate-fairbairn fighting knife). He would continue to update his master work Kill or Get killed, incorporating changes in technology, but the fundamentals always remained sound. If you’re serious about learning about close quarter combat tactics then you’d better pickup a copy.