Impossible Missions: The Devil’s Brigade – WWII’s First Special Service Force Part 1 – Int

By Dominic Oto

Risk, grit, daring and doing impossible missions are the trademark of American’s Special Operations Forces (SOF). Many American SOF units trace their lineage to the “Devil’s Brigade.”

During World War II the Allies were struggling to strike out at their enemies. A secret unit of soldiers was created to carry out deadly actions in the face of impossible danger. The unit was called the First Special Service Force.

The Devil’s Brigade was a special fighting unit from World War II. This secret fighting outfit combined crack Canadian soldiers and a collection of U.S. Army misfits, many of serving time in military jails before they were recruited. At first, there was conflict between the men of two different armies. Over time hostility turned to friendship and respect. The commando unit was sent to Italy to attempt a dangerous mission which was previously considered impossible to successfully complete.

The Canadians were the handpicked best of the best-trained army in the world, veterans of the fighting at Dunkirk. The Canadians volunteers are the very best of the Canadian army: spit and polish, experienced and multiskilled soldiers. The Americans were a rough bunch. The Americans are the bottom of the barrel of the U.S. Army: oddballs and troublemakers lacking discipline. Over time, Colonel Robert T. Frederick forges the brass-knuckled Americans and the brass button Canadians into a unified, crack commando fighting force.

Impossible Missions: The Devil’s Brigade – WWII’s First Special Service Force Part 2 – Training and Men

The unit’s name disguised the lethal fighting skills of its men. On the battlefield, their Nazi opponents called them “Die Schwarzen Teufeln” (the Black Devils). Too much of the public, they became known as the Devil’s Brigade. To their admirers, they were no less than super commandos.

They were a fighting force like no other. Men of the outdoors attuned to the rigors of rough terrain. They struck with stealth by night. The enemy feared them. They were a force trained to confront danger. They became known as the “Devil’s Brigade.”

They were a hellish band of men that hated each other more than the enemy until they met the enemy.  The unit is sent to Italy where they distinguished themselves in numerous combat actions. A band of men the enemy soon called the “Devil’s Brigade.”  The First Special Service Force is the most unusual group of men ever brought together to win a war.

Devil’s Brigade- Part 3- More Training, First Deployment

About the author:

Oto holds a BS in History from Oregon State University and a MMA in Military History from American Public University. He served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Company Commander and Staff Trainer to the Afghan National Army. He was wounded once and decorated three times. Oto is an Infantry Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve.

Amazing Photos of Pre-war Afghanistan

Today we know Afghanistan as an impoverished country, rife with violence, turmoil, and Islamic extremism.  Kabul, the nation’s capital, experiences daily violence initiated by terrorist organizations.  Buildings are bombed out, sewage runs in the streets, trash litters every corner and there seems to be no end in sight to the constant state of misery.

While Afghanistan’s history remains mostly violent, the ’60s will remain a time of relative peace and prosperity for the country.  This period prior to the US invasion, the Soviet/Marxist invasion and the Islamic extremist, promoted a culture of capitalistic tendencies with a democratically elected government.  While this period of peace only lasted a short time, these photos illustrate a much different country that we know today.

Locals dressed up in western style clothing
Flight Attendants stand in front of Ariana Airlines
Girls walk to school in moderate dress
A local government printing facility
Tribal female defense forces
Sound infrastructure
Afghan Nurses
A local park
The Afghan Army
Women dressed in skirts and high heels
Rush hour

If you’re looking to learn more about Afghanistan we highly recommend this read:

Special Operations Truths- Rough Men, Ready 

Special Operations Truths- Rough Men, Ready 

Army Capt. Zakary Long jumps out of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter into Victory Pond during a helocast event as part of the Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning, Ga., April 17, 2016. The three-day competition tested competitors’ physical, mental and technical capabilities. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Colville McFee

By Dominic Oto

“People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would do them harm.”

– George Orwell

Special Operations Forces (SOF) are certified jumpers, divers and survival experts. They can go anywhere on any mission. SOF are dropped behind enemy lines to train foreign fighters and to carry out dangerous raids. SOF soldiers carry out covert missions that prevent future conflicts. SOF troops live for a challenge. They are highly trained and highly intelligent.

They pass a grueling and rigorous selection process that makes sure they are the “best of the best.”

In the Special Forces Qualification Course, they hone their core soldiering skills like rifle marksmanship, first-aid and outdoor survival skills. All of it to earn the right to join a Special Missions Unit. Their history is a storied one.

Rogers’ Rangers

Even before the American Revolution those in charge of the British Army wanted to employ a special kind of soldier. In the middle of the French and Indian War (1754-63), Robert Rogers is tasked with assembling a Special Purpose Force.

The British Army had several setbacks fighting the French and their Indian allies. They realize they need help. Rogers is looking for any and all volunteers willing to operate under terrain and conditions very different from the British regulars.

Where The Hell did The Word “Recondo” Come From?

Roger’s Rangers” becomes the British Army’s ace in the hole. The Rangers’ mission is scouting and collecting intelligence. Their contribution to the war effort allowed the British to extract a victory in the French and Indian War.

The tenacity, cunning, and fearlessness exhibited by Rogers’ Rangers will become an inspiration for the U.S. Army Rangers in later wars. Rogers’ “28 Rules of Ranging” are still used in the training of Army Rangers today. Rogers’ Rangers heroic combat record is the foundation that the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is built.

Today, SOCOM is focused on counter-terrorism efforts to combat dangerous radical organizations like ISIS and Al Qaeda and terrorist masterminds like Osama Bin Laden. These enemies operate overseas and at home.

Who Are the Night Stalkers?

SOF commandos operating with SOCOM are tasked with using unconventional tactics like Rogers’ Rangers. These tactics protect the safety and well-being of American citizens and our allies in combat and emergency situations. The United States Special Operations Forces carry out this mission by operating under a set of guidelines known as the “Five Truths”.

Truth One- Humans are more important than hardware. Soldiers are not equipment meant to make the critical difference. The right soldiers, highly trained and working as a team, can do any mission with the right equipment. The best equipment doesn’t take the place of the right soldiers.

Truth Two- Quality is better than quantity. A small number of soldiers, carefully selected, well-trained and well-led are preferable to large numbers of troops. A select number of SOF troops specially trained for special tasks can do almost anything.

Truth Three- SOF cannot be mass-produced. It takes years to train a SOF operator to the exacting level of proficiency needed to accomplish difficult missions. Intense training, both in SOF schools and units is needed to make motivated soldiers qualified for capable units. This process takes time and there are no shortcuts.

Truth Four- Competent SOF cannot be created after emergencies occur. Creation of competent, mission-ready units doesn’t happen overnight. Employment of SOF on short notice requires available and mission-ready SOF units must be ready at all times.

Truth Five- Most Special Operations require non-SOF assistance. The operational readiness of SOF units needs joint service partners and support personnel. The support of all five services, technicians, engineers, and intelligence analysts all enhance the capabilities of SOF units.

The Requirement

Exceptional soldiers are needed to serve in SOF. These talented soldiers are “quiet professionals.” They respond to our nation’s most complex, demanding and high-risk challenges. To build a “special operations” soldier is a demanding and time-intensive process.

The Secret Soldiers of Afghanistan and Iraq

This is not a job for the faint of heart. It requires an extraordinary level of effort and personal sacrifice. The SOF soldier will endure physical and mental demands in training and on dangerous missions. They are rough men and women who stand ready to protect our great nation.


About the author:

Oto holds a BS in History from Oregon State University and a MMA in Military History from American Public University. He served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Company Commander and Staff Trainer to the Afghan National Army. He was wounded once and decorated three times. Oto is an Infantry Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve.