Of Courage and Determination: The First Special Service Force, "The Devil's Brigade," 1942-44
by Bernd Horn & Michel Wyczynski with a foreward by Charlie Mann (2013)
Price: $35.00 408 pages Soft cover with maps and photographs
The authors describe the history of forerunner of the Canadian and American Special Forces, the First Special Service Force, in this thorough study of its short existence. The authors cover the FSSF from the planning stages of the commando concept, to their grueling training, through the abrupt change of their major objective, to their tough, gory campaigns and subsequent disbandment before the end of the war.
The joint American-Canadian force represented a unique partnership between the Allies, on both a political level and a personal one. The authors describe the rise of the commando and the raiding concept, the proposed assault on German held Norway, the process of recruiting and selecting the members of the Force, the battle to maintain Canadian participation in the Force, the tough, multi-disciplined nature of the training, the “almost” battle for Kiska Island in the Aleutians, the tough mountain fighting in Italy for Mount La Difensa and Mount Majo, the breakout from Anzio and the race to Rome, Operation Dragoon and the invasion of the coast of southern France, and the final disbandment of the FSSF.
This is a scholarly yet very readable text and presumes readers' familiarity with basic concepts of infantry warfare. Rare period photographs and extensive quotes from military leaders and Forcemen acquaint readers with the very human characters behind the black boot polish that contributed to the FSSF's well-deserved nickname: the ‘Black Devils.'
The authors are both are from Ontario and offer a Canadian perspective on the FSSFand some ot the unique issues the unit confronted in trying to mesh soldiers from two different countries with very different histories, traditions, and personnel policies, that impacted esoteric issues such as pay, promotion, rank, and award of medals that impacted unit morale. Colonel Bernd Horn is an experienced Canadian Forces infantry officer and military educator who has served both in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has authored, co-authored, or edited more than 35 books. Michel Wyczynski has worked at Library and Archives Canada for more than three decades, primarily in political and military archives.