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Speak of the Devil
By AlphaNews
5/5/2015 6:25:00 AM
Devil's Brigade 1st special service force

"Enterprises must be prepared, with specially trained troops of the hunter class, who can develop a reign of terror…leaving a trail of German corpses behind them." Winston Churchill spoke these words to inspire the Allies to engage in offensive operations against German troops in WWII. It was this type of sentiment that laid the groundwork for the creation of combat units such as the 1st Special Service Force.

The 1st Special Service Force (FSSF), also known as the Devil’s Brigade, was a joint American-Canadian commando unit. The 1800-man force was made up of servicemen from throughout North America who were selected for their outdoor skills and experience. The unit was officially activated in July 1942. The FSSF underwent intense training in stealth tactics, hand-to-hand combat, explosives, parachuting, and amphibious and mountain warface. They were trained at Fort Harrison, Montana. The Montana location was chosen because of its flat terrain for airborne training and its proximity to mountains for ski and winter training.

After almost a year of training the unit, now an elite group of soldiers who were versatile and effective, began what would go on to be two and a half years of tough combat missions in Italy and France. Throughout their operations the 1st Special Service Force lived up to their training and quickly gained a reputation for being able to take targets that others could not. In Dec 1943, the unit successfully wiped out an enemy defensive position atop a mountain surrounded by steep cliffs that previous divisions had failed to secure. The mission was the basis for the 1968 motion picture titled "The Devil's Brigade."

It was during operations in Anzio, south of Rome, in February 1944 that the unit earned its infamous name Devil’s Brigade. It has been written that the diary of a dead German soldier contained a passage that said, "The black devils (Die schwarzen Teufel) are all around us every time we come into the line." The soldier was referring to them as "black" because the brigade's members smeared their faces with black boot polish for their covert operations in the dark of the night.

The 1st Special Service Force continued operations in Italy and France for the next ten months. On December 5, 1944, the unit was disbanded in Southern France. During their years of missions the Devil's Brigade was said to be responsible for 12,000 German casualties and 7,000 captured prisoners. Both U.S. and Canadian modern-day special operation forces trace their heritage to this unit of the U.S. Fifth Army.

In February 2015, the 1st Special Service Force received the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony at the U.S. Capital in Washington, DC. The U.S. Mint produced a one-of-a-kind gold medal for the unit. Veterans of the brigade accepted the medal on behalf of all the members of the unit. Watch a short clip from the presentation.

Tags: 1st Special Service Force, Devil's Brigade, WWII, Army, FSSF
Categories: Military History
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