Skip to comments.Army Awards Bronze Star to Canadian ‘Devil’s Brigade’ Vets
Posted on 08/18/2006 6:37:48 PM PDT by SandRat
WASHINGTON, Aug. 18, 2006 The Army has authorized award of the Bronze Star Medal for Service to the living Canadian veterans of the 1st Special Services Force for their service to the U.S. Army during World War II. The unit was known as the Devils Brigade during the war and was one of the first U.S. special operations forces units in the war. The unit included U.S. Army soldiers and soldiers of the 2nd Canadian Parachute Battalion and 2nd Canadian Special Service Battalion of the Special Operations Group.
From 1942 to 1944, about 2,500 soldiers served in the unit under U.S. Army command. Members from both nations were assigned interchangeably to the squad level and below. The Canadians wore U.S. Army uniforms and carried American weapons. The unit deployed to the Aleutian Islands in 1943 and then moved to Italy. The force participated in actions at the Anzio beachhead, the liberation of Rome and into southern France. The unit took so many casualties that officials disbanded it in January 1945.
The unit earned the name the Devil's Brigade during the Italian Campaign from words found written in the diary of a dead German officer: "The black devils are all around us every time we come into line and we never hear them."
The award of the Bronze Star Medal for Service is a conversion award of the Combat Infantryman Badge authorized for almost 1,200 Canadian veterans in 2005. Under Army policies, only Combat Infantryman Badges and Combat Medic Badges awarded during World War II may be converted to the Bronze Star Medal for Service. This is an added award to these Canadian veterans, said Shari Lawrence, a spokeswoman for the Armys Human Resources Command.
Although approved for the unit as a whole, the almost 120 eligible veterans must submit verification documents showing their complete name, rank, service number and dates of service when they apply for the medal.
Force veterans are meeting in Helena, Mont., this week for their last reunion. Its only fitting we make this announcement this week, Lawrence said. The unit trained in at Helenas Fort William Henry Harrison before leaving for war.
Eligible veterans may send their request and copies of their verification documents to: U.S. Army Human Resources Command; 200 Stovall Street, ATTN: AHRC-PDO-PA; Alexandria, VA 22332-4000.
Properly designated as the 1st Special Service Force, the Devil's Brigade was a joint World War II American- commando unit trained at near Helena, Montana in the United States. Many modern American and Canadian Special Forces units trace their heritage to this unit.
The volunteers for the 1600 man force consisted primarily of enlisted men recruited by advertising at Army posts, stating that preference was to be given to men previously employed as lumberjacks, forest rangers, hunters, game wardens, and the like. The 1st Special Service Force was officially activated on July 20 1942 under the command of Lt. Colonel Robert T. Frederick. Force members received rigorous and intensive training in stealth tactics, hand-to-hand combat, the use of explosives for demolition, amphibious warfare, rock climbing and mountain fighting, and as ski troops. Their formation patch was a red arrowhead with the words CANADA and USA. They even had a specially designed fighting knife made for them called the V-42.
The 1st Special Service Force was activated on July 9, 1942 as a joint Candian-U.S. force of three small regiments and a service battalion. Following its initial training period in Montana, the 1st SSF relocated to , Vermont, on April 15, 1943, and to Fort Ethan Allen, Vermont, on May 23, 1943. On July 4, 1943, it arrived at the San Francisco Port of Embarkation, and on July 10 sailed for the Aleutian Islands. On August 15, 1943, 1st SSF was part of the invasion force of the island of Kiska, but after the island was found evacuated, it re-embarked and returned to Fort Ethan Allen, arriving September 9.
A scheduled operation code named "Project Plough," a mission to parachute into German-held Norway to knock out strategic targets such as hydroelectric power plants, had to be abandoned but in October of 1943 the commander of the U.S. Fifth Army, Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark, brought the 1st Special Service Force to Italy where its members demonstrated the value of their unique skills and training. The 1st SSF arrived at Naples on November 19, 1943 and immediately went into the line with the U.S. 36th Infantry Division.
At December 3 and December 6, 1943, they immediately earned a reputation for being able to take impenetrable objectives when no one else could. Here, in the dead of winter, the Special Force wiped out a strategic enemy defensive position sitting high atop a mountain surrounded by steep cliffs. Previously, American and British forces had suffered many casualties in futile attempts to take the important target. This incident was the basis for the 1968 motion picture titled "The Devil's Brigade.", located in the ancient town of (about 10 miles south of Cassino), between
The 1st SSF immediately continued its attack, assaulting December 6 to December 9. It captured on December 25, and assaulted on January 8, 1944. During the mountain campaign the 1st SSF suffered 77% casualties.from
During Operation Shingle at Anzio, Italy, 1944, the Special Force were brought ashore on February 1st, after the decimation of the U.S. Rangers at Caserta, to hold and raid from the right-hand flank of the beachhead marked by the /Pontine Marshes, which they did quite effectively.
It was at Anzio that the Germans dubbed the 1st Special Service Force as the "Devil's Brigade." 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. During Anzio, the 1st SSF fought for 99 days without relief. It was also at Anzio that the 1st SSF used their trademark stickers; during night patrols soldiers would carry stickers depicting the unit patch and a slogan, written in German: "Das Dicke Ende kommt noch," said to translate to "The Worst is yet to Come", placing these stickers on German corpses and fortifications. Canadian and American members of the Special Force who lost their lives are buried near the beach in the Commonwealth Anzio War Cemetery and the in Nettuno, just east of Anzio.
When the 5th Army breakout offensive began on May 25, 1944, the 1st SSF was sent against Wehrmacht. During the night of June 4th, members of the 1st SSF entered Rome. After they secured the bridges, they quickly moved north in pursuit of the retreating Germans., and attacked on May 27. The 1st SSF was given the assignment of capturing seven bridges in the city to prevent their demolition by the withdrawing
On August 14, 1944, the 1st SSF landed at Îles d'Hyères during Operation Dragoon, the invasion of southern France. On August 22, it was attached to the 1st Airborne Task Force, a provisional Seventh Army airborne division, and later made part of the Task Force. On September 7, it moved with the 1st Airborne Task Force to defensive positions on the Franco-Italian border. During the war the 1800-man unit accounted for some 12,000 German casualties, captured some 7,000 prisoners, and sustained an attrition rate of over 600%.
The 1st SSF, a unique military unit that never failed to achieve its objective, was disbanded December 5th, 1944. The Canadians would return to other Canadian units (most of them became replacements for the Col. Aaron Bank created another elite unit using the training, the strategies, and the lessons learned from the Devil's Brigade's missions. This force evolved into specialized forces such as the Green Berets, Delta Force, and the Navy SEALs. In Canada, today's elite and highly secretive JTF2 military unit is also modeled on the Devil's Brigade. As in World War II, Canadian JTF2 members and American Delta Force members were united once again into a special assignment force for the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.), some American members were sent to the Airborne Divisions as replacements, and others formed the 474th Infantry Regiment, which served with the Third Army and performed occupation duty in Norway. However, in 1952,
In September of 1999, the main highway between the city of Lethbridge, Alberta Canada and Helena, Montana in the United States was renamed the "First Special Service Force Memorial Highway". This highway was chosen because it was the route taken in 1942 by the Canadian volunteers to join their American counterparts for training at Fort Harrison.
A large number of the Devil's Brigade members were honored for their acts of valor, including Tommy Prince, Canada's most decorated aboriginal soldier of WW II.
Get the word out to all our Canadian Freepers, the Devil's Brigade Vets to be Honored.
Never heard of these guys before. They rock(ed).
Hail to our Canadian brothers in arms!
Granted it's a Hollywood movie and probably is more fiction than fact, but it's entertaining and "inspired by history". William Holden in one of his best roles.
Strongly suggest you go the Video Rental joint nearest you and Get the Movie and Popcorn sit back and go WOW!!!
My Father survived his tour with the FSSF from Helena Montana to France then onto the Princess Pat's. Remarkable man...still alive @ 81 and sharp as can be.
Fellow Freeper SingleTrack and I are blessed and honoured to have him as a Father.
They don't make 'em like this anymore.
He might enjoy reading this thread.
there were so many Texans, who volunteered for service in the RCAF during WW2, that TEXAS became "our favorite province" according to one Canadian Colonel! (MANY Americans volunteered to join the RCAF because American services required a college degree to attend flight school. Canada, otoh, required only high school AND a desire to "get into the fight".)
when i was a member of the TX ARNG in 1972, i discovered something else interesting. CANADA had a RCAF Pursuit Training Base in Terrill, Texas. (a bronze plague, commemorating the Canadians & Americans who died while stationed there, is set into the concrete floor of the "drill hall".)
Just pulled this book off the shelf in my office ... read this book a few years back ... time to read it again, or at least portions of it ... great story.
btw, WHY can't we get movies made like those again & WHERE are the "Richard Widmarks, William Holdens & John Waynes" of today???
the so-called "movie stars" of the 21st century are PUNY midgets, when compared to those MEN!
They're in Iraq, Afghanistan, heck around the golbe wearing cammies. They have a more important job to do.
he pointed out that the USMC had "Flying Sergeants" & that the USN had "Gold Stripe Aviators", who were NON-commissioned officers & served with DISTINCTION/HONOR/BRAVERY throughout WW II. (neither the USN or USMC required their "long-service EM" to attend college.)
ONLY the USAAF required a degree to attend flight school.
"my correspondent" is 100% CORRECT. (my apologies to any readers, whom i misinformed.)
Their politics may often seem strange to us but the USA could not have a better, more faithful or reliable ally than Canada.
i, too. have numerous friends in the RCAF, as a result of their participation in Junior Officer's Little NATO in the late '60s.