The First Special Service Force – A Canadian/American Wartime Alliance: The Devil’s Brigade



In the Second World War there was something called The First Special Force – a unique international undertaking at the time. This force was composed of Canadians and Americans distributed equally throughout its ranks, carrying the flags of both nations. They served under a joint command, were taught a hybrid close-order drill, and trained together as paratroopers, demolition experts, ski troops and, then, as an amphibious unit.

The First Special Service Force became famous for its high morale, its rugged abilities, and tough fighting in situations where such reputations were hard-earned. Alerted to their availability, General Eisenhower requested them for special reconnaissance and raiding operations during the winter advance up the Italian peninsula. They were involved in the Anzio Beachhead campaign in Italy and were at the spearhead of the forces that captured Rome.

The First Special Service Force made no distinctions when it went into battle – its men had the common cause of freedom at their side and the common denominator of courage in their hearts. They were neither Canadian nor American. They were, in General Eisenhower’s term, Liberators.