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

By Dominic Oto

Click to purchase the PVC 1st Special Services Force Patch


Risk, grit, daring and doing impossible missions are the trademark of America’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, aka “The Devil’s Brigade.” 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 volunteers with outdoor experience.


Memories of the First Special Service Force resonate in the wintry outside of Helena Montana. The first volunteers arrived at Fort William Henry Harrison in the summer of 1942. The men of the Devil’s Brigade began their secret and intensive training program for their battle to come.

The men were trained in what was considered a suicide mission. The First Special Service Force would become one of the most remarkable fighting units in modern history.

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

The First Special Service Force brought together men of the Canadian Army and the U.S. Army under a unified command. They wore a shoulder patch- a brilliant red spearhead with “USA” across the top and “CANADA” down the spine.


The first mission of the First Special Service Force was “OPERATION PLOUGH.” It was a secret plan using a yet to be snow vehicle and ski troops. The selected soldiers would parachute into Nazi-occupied Norway, Italy and Romania. They would carry out daring strikes against oil refineries and hydroelectric plants.

The plan was conceived by eccentric British scientist Geoffrey Pyke. Pyke worked under Lord Louis Mountbatten, along with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill persuaded the Americans to develop OPERATION PLOUGH. The operation was to be a diversion for a cross-channel invasion under consideration for 1943.

If the mission had been carried out, they might have become throw away troops. It’s unlikely many of the men of the Devil’s Brigade would have returned home.

Colonel Frederick

At the War Department in Washington, D.C., staff officer, Colonel Robert T. Frederick, was assigned to analyze OPERATION PLOUGH. Frederick was a one-time artillery officer, recommended that the mission not be undertaken. He considered the mission “unworkable.”

Mountbatten and Churchill were insistent. OPERATION PLOUGH was approved despite its shortcomings. Mountbatten met with Frederick. Ironically, he saw in the plan’s harshest critic, its ideal commander. Mountbatten sent word to Frederick’s boss in the War Department, a senior staff planner named General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower agreed and ordered Frederick to take over. Frederick was stunned and happy for the new challenging assignment.


In the summer of 1942, six months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Colonel, and later General, Frederick set to work at Fort William Henry Harrison, Montana. His job was to build train facilities, which at the time, were nearly non-existent.

Frederick’s men, both Canadian and American, held him in high esteem. Frederick was an officer with no combat experience, but his abilities were immediately apparent to the men he led. The camp was resurrected practically overnight. Material and manpower rolled in quick.

The Men

The First Special Service Force or “The Force” would be operated as a unit of the U.S. Army. Soldiers of the Canadian army were recruited partly for their outdoor and snow skills. American soldiers were recruited asking for men with outdoor experience like hunters, game wardens North woodsman and lumberjacks. Bringing Canadian and Americans together in the Force produced a new breed of soldier.

The unit started out with 1,800 strong and aggressive volunteers. All of them were men who were willing to extreme danger and bitter hardship. Men motivated to fight. Many of the troops saw the war in terms of good versus evil. Volunteering for the Force was an opportunity to stop Hitler and defend freedom.

Dedicated as they were Force volunteers would later be burdened with a public image that was far different from the truth. In 1966 actor William Holden, starred in a movie called “The Devil’s Brigade.” The picture depicted the American recruits as criminals and rejects from Army stockades from across the country. “The Devil’s Brigade” was an entertaining war movie, but most of the American soldiers were volunteers, not criminals.

Devils Brigade Part 3/

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.

If you haven’t watched this movie, you need to

This Nonprofit Gets Gear To Soldiers That They Need Downrange

From time to time you get a group of individuals that put together something great.

The generous men and women of Support a Soldier have put together a nonprofit organization dedicated to giving soldiers the gear that they REALLY need downrange.

This is how it works:

1. Soldiers request gear they need for their deployment through

2. Support a Soldier takes the requests and finds a donor to fill the request.

3. Support a Soldier packages and sends the paid for gear to the soldiers downrange so they can use it to help put boot to face in the name of freedom.

If you would like to donate or even put in a request for gear go to It’s a great way to give back and an awesome nonprofit that allows you to help get in the fight

Best WWII Airplane Nose Art

Nose art originally began with Italian and German pilots during WWI.  The first recorded nose art was seen on an Italian seaplane in 1913.

During WWII the United States military pushed nose art to a new level as it became a tradition to paint the aircraft with unique, unsanctioned art projects.  While the command did not officially allow nose art, it was still embraced and allowed to continue throughout the war.  Below are a few of our favorite nose art pieces.

Boeing B-29 “Bockscar” nose art, which was added after the Nagasaki atomic bombing mission. (U.S. Air Force photo)

North Korea’s Kim Dynasty Explained

By Dominic Oto

North Korea’s Government Explained- The Kim Dynasty

In this post, we take a look at North Korea’s government by looking at the Kim Dynasty. Since its formation in 1948, North Korea has been controlled by the Kim Family.

What do we know about the Kim dynasty?

Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and today, Kim Jong Un, have each, in their own way made North Korea the most secretive and repressive country in the world. Little is known about North Korea’s ruling family. All three leaders are marked by the extreme cult of personalities.

Portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il hang side-by-side in every North Korean home, office, factory and public space. There are an estimated 35,000 statues of Il Sung alone.

Who is Kim Il Sung?

In school, North Korean children are taught they were clothed, fed and nurtured by Il Sung’s god-like grace. They are told that he liberated their country from Japanese aggressors by single-handedly shooting down warplanes. In reality, Kim Il Sung didn’t fight in Korea’s anti-Japanese resistance or the Korean War.

This propaganda was created by the Soviet Union after World War II. The Soviets instituted Kim as the first leader of what would later become North Korea. Kim continued this propaganda war for decades. He used it to solidify his position as the country’s “Great Leader.”

Over the decades after the Korean War, he slowly shifted away from Soviet socialism. He replaced it with his own political philosophy called “Juche.” Juche means “self-reliance” in Korean. It’s the idea that a country can succeed without any military or economic help from foreign powers. This has been North Korea’s defining policy since 1972.

Who is Kim Jong Il?

In 1994, after the death of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il came to power. The second Kim is often described as North Korea’s most secretive and ruthless leader. Kim Jong Il believed that the less was known about him, the less could be used to undermine him.

What does a war with North Korea look like?

Kim didn’t make a single public speech during his 17-year tenure. He even spread false rumors about himself to remain elusive. To this day, significant details about his life, including his date and place of birth, remain unconfirmed. Kim was called “Dear Leader.”

He strictly limited North Korea’s access to information and freedom of movement. He exacerbated the effects of a drought that killed as many as three and half million of his people. Kim expanded political prison camps. These camps became known for torture, hard labor, and sexual abuse.

Who is Kim Jong Un?

When Kim Jong Il died in 2011, his third son, Kim Jong Un, became “Supreme Leader.” Kim Jong Un is best known as the dynasty’s spoiled young prince.

Kim is thought to be in his early 30s. He reportedly spent millions of state dollars on imported luxuries. These include designer cigarettes, expensive cognac, Japanese Kobe beef and a custom-designed yacht.

The third Kim has introduced some economic and political reforms. He allowed limited foreign tourism, reducing punishments for returning defectors and allowing a handful of media organization to open North Korean bureaus.

However, Kim has largely continued his father’s and grandfather’s oppressive policies. Most unsettlingly, Kim has aggressively expanded his country’s nuclear weapons program while millions of his citizens starve.

North Korea’s Nuclear Program

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.

What Would a War With North Korea Look Like?

By Dominic Oto


North Korea is believed to have 20 nuclear warheads. Kim’s military has tested a variety of missiles. According to some intelligence sources, NK is close to developing an intercontinental missile capable of reaching North America and a nuclear warhead that can ride on it.

In 2016, NK scientists conducted a 10 kiloton underground nuclear test.  That is almost as powerful as the U.S. 15 kiloton bomb dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945. In 2017, the Hermit Kingdom increased its intercontinental ballistic missile testing. Some of those test-launched missiles ended up in the Sea of Japan.

What would a war with North Korea look like?

There are thousands of North Korean artillery pieces just over the border from South Korea. Some are hidden in an elaborate network of tunnels underground. Other pieces are out in the open. Much of the ammunition and weaponry of North Korea is old. But it doesn’t need to be new to be effective.

Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is less than 40 miles from the border of North Korea. Seoul has over 20 million citizens living there. 

How will the attack start?

The U.S. could launch a pre-emptive surgical strike. Kim will likely respond. The attack will start with a devastating artillery barrage- thousands of rounds per hour. Without moving one soldier in its 900,000 man army, the North could attack Seoul leaving the city devastated.

North Korean Propaganda Posters

A medium-range NK missile can deliver a nuclear payload to Seoul in under 60 seconds from the time of launch.  Hundreds of chemically armed Scud missiles would be fired on key South Korean train stations, airports, and seaports. This would make it impossible for South Korean civilians to escape. The North’s arsenal of medium-range missiles can also be fitted with chemical warheads and launched at Japan. The goal would be to delay the flow of U.S. reinforcements. These reinforcements would be needed in a hurry on the Korean Peninsula. 

North Korean forces would try to overrun South Korea’s defenses. Their goal would be to capture Seoul before the U.S., and South Korea could respond with overwhelming force.  Imagine over 2 million soldiers with tanks, airplanes and infantry fighting in a space the area between Los Angeles and San Francisco. 

How will the U.S. respond?

The U.S. and South Korea have a new war plan since 2015 (Powell, 2017). The strategy is called OPLAN 5015. It centers on attacks on the NK’s nuclear and missile facilities. The plan also calls for “decapitation attacks” on Kim Jong Un and the surviving North Korean leadership (Powell, 2017).

Who is Kim Jong-un

In April 2017, the U.S has beefed up the defense of Seoul with an elaborate defense system. The U.S. put in a terminal high altitude defense system. The defense system shoots down incoming missiles in the final phase of descent (Powell, 2017).

The U.S. has 28,000 troops in South Korea. Seoul’s armed forces, is far better trained and equipped than the North’s, has 660,000 men, over 80% of them are conscripts. The South Korean forces are 300,000 smaller than NK’s military.

If NK attacked, the U.S. would send four to six ground combat divisions of up to 20,000 soldiers each (Powell, 2017). The U.S. troops in South Korea would only be a speed bump to the attacking tank and infantry divisions of the North Korean horde. On the sea, four to five aircraft carriers would be sent to the Sea of Japan. Almost immediately 10 Air Force wings of 20 fighters each would begin a relentless air campaign against NK.

What is Kim’s goal?

Kim’s primary goal is the reunification of the two Koreas under Pyongyang’s rule (Powell, 2017). It was something his grandfather and father were not able to do. NK has seen hard times recently. A bad famine in the late 1990s killed tens of thousands of North Koreans. Relentless poverty followed. Over 80% of NK is fed with U.N. aid and food. Looking at the satellite images of Seoul and Pyongyang at night, you see one is blazingly lit and the other dark. Half of Korea is strong, and the other is weak.


In Korean culture, each negotiation is a long haggling process. Giving into concessions too early is seen as a sign of weakness, something to take advantage of. Koreans, both North, and South, aren’t afraid to wait patiently until a frustrated “opponent” gives in. Kim’s regime is dying because his country is starving. Kim a desperate man and a clever poker player. His last card is his nuclear arsenal.

In April 2017, President Trump started working with China to deter Pyongyang from developing more nuclear weapons. That same month the U.S. installed a missile defense in South Korea. The Chinese hate having the system’s capabilities in their backyard.

China is NK’s only significant trade partner. China has suspended its coal purchases from NK. China is reluctant to push too hard because it doesn’t want a collapse of the NK government. Meanwhile both South and North Korea have hundreds of thousands of troops on either side of the border.

NK has a long history of escalating and de-escalating tensions over the last 60 years. NK does this game of cat and mouse to broker deals of economic and concessions of U.N. sanctions.

Why does North Korea hate America?

This leaves the U.S. and its allies in a tricky position. Most diplomatic situations call for a carrot or stick approach. Unfortunately for NK, neither the aid in the form of a carrot or stick in the form of sanctions has worked in the last decade.

What are the options?

Ever stronger sanctions. The downfall of the Kim regime or military confrontation that risks enormous casualties.  Doing nothing is dangerous especially considering Kim’s erratic behavior. Kim has executed top advisors including his uncle. As long as Kim is in power, NK will never give up its nuclear weapons (Powell, 2017).

What is the outcome?

Even following an artillery barrage and push into the South, there is no question, America, and South Korea will win in a second Korean War. The U.S. and South Korea can annihilate NK militarily but at great cost.

What about Pre-Emptive Strikes?

If the U.S. acts early, it must get all six of the known nuclear and ballistic missile tests sites in NK. There will be no second chances. The real dilemma is something “asymmetric retaliation.” This means that the NK can get a decisive punch off with its short to medium- range missiles (Sherman, 2017).

The war could result in over a million dead and $1 trillion in economic damage to South Korea, an important ally in the Pacific. A war with North Korea would mean the end of Kim’s regime, even if he doesn’t know it. This is diplomatic chess with global consequences.

DMZ Train
May 21, 2014
From Seoul Station to Dorasan Station
Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism
Korean Culture and Information Service (
Official Photographer: Jeon Han
평화열차 DMZ Train

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.


Powell, B. (2017, April 25). What a War with North Korea Looks LIke . Newsweek.

Sherman, W. (2017, February 17). How To Stop Kim Jong Un. Time Magazine.

Who is Kim Jong Un?

By Dominic Oto

Who is Kim Jong Un?

Kim Jong Un is a third generation dictator of North Korea (NK).  He has been in power for six years. Kim conducted two nuclear tests in 2016 and more test this year along with numerous missile launches.

How does Kim treat family?

Kim had his own uncle arrested during a party meeting. Kim had him shot shortly afterward. Kim has purged “traitors” with any connection to his uncle. Kim has murdered more than 300 people of his inner circle. Kim has killed these “traitors” in public with firing squads.

North Korean Propaganda Posters

Earlier this year Kim killed his half-brother Kim Jong Nam with a VX nerve agent in the Kuala Lumpur airport. One of the two female assassins wore a t-shirt that had text lingo on it saying, “Lol.” I wonder if this is a part of Kim’s warped sense of humor?

What do we know about Kim?

Much of the early life of Kim Jong Un has been shrouded in mystery since his birth. It’s presumed that Kim was born in North Korea. Kim is the youngest son of the previous leader Kim Jong Il and his favorite wife Ko Young Hee, an opera singer. Kim Jong Il was the dictator leader of North Korea for over a decade until his death in 2011. As a child, Kim was sent to a prestigious boarding school in Switzerland. He attended the school under an assumed name, claiming to be the son of a diplomat.

North Korea’s Kim Dynasty Explained

Kim attended a military academy named after his grandfather Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea. He was quickly promoted up the military’s ranks, mostly because of his family connections. Within days of his father’s death in 2011, Kim was transitioned into power. He had the support of his country’s ruling elite and military.

A strange unidentified woman has accompanied him since 2012 when he took power. She may be one of two singers, either Hyon Song Wol or Ri Sol Ju. Kim’s decision to appear openly with his wife was unprecedented. His father and grandfather kept their wives and mistresses out of the public eye.

Kim has executed some economic and agricultural reforms. His human rights violations and brutal suppression of opposition have continued under his rule, the same as his father and grandfather.

A Cult of Personality

North Korea is famous for creating a cult of personality around the leaders of the country. Kim Jong Un is no exception. Kim is a master of cultivating the godlike persona of his father and grandfather. Wherever Kim goes he is met with fanatical devotion from North Korean citizens.

Why does North Korea hate America?

North Korean soldiers wade into waist-deep water to get a glimpse of him as women cry at his arrival at different locations. This devotion may or may not be real. Crowds of citizens look like teenage girls at a Beatles concert in the 1960s. Kim is treated like a rock star everywhere he goes. The “Cult of Kim” is alive and well in North Korea.

The international community is angry at Kim for his nuclear program and human rights abuses. Since he took power prison camps in NK have expanded and a serious of crackdowns on would-be defectors.

No matter what NK does it’s still seen as one of the most opaque countries in the world. The jovial and smiling face of Kim Jong Un masks a dark reality of the intentions of the North Korean dictator. Kim is a man desperate enough to stay in power by threatening the world’s remaining superpower with nuclear weapons. His nuclear card is the last refuge of a man who wants to stay in power more than anything, despite the fact his citizens are starving to death.

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.

Dear Leader: My Escape From North Korea

Military bands cost the government $260 million/year

A new report released from the GAO stated that the 6500 uniformed personnel serving as band members cost an annual $260 million dollars.  The Army employs the most band members with 99, followed by the Air Force with 14, the USMC has 12 and the Navy has 11.

The military bands are now a point of scrutiny for government spending as the US military weighs the band’s effectiveness on troop morale.  At present, the Pentagon is looking to make a more lethal, fighting military force and in many cases, the bands, who do not typically engage in combat operations, are seen as an unneeded luxury.

The military band’s mission is typically to increase morale, patriotism and uphold military traditions.

Top 15 Military Movies to Watch

We’ve spent a lot of time downrange which means we’ve spent a lot of time watching movies and TV Shows.  After years of being held up in some shack in the middle of the desert, we have put together a list of our favorite war movies.  A lot of these you have probably seen already, but there may be a few gems mixed in there that you will want to add to your watch list.

  1. Black Hawk Down: IMBD Score 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes 76%

2. Apocalypse Now: IMBD 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes 98%

3. The Green Beret: IMBD 5.7, Rotten Tomatoes 27%

4. Saving Private Ryan: IMBD 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes 92%

5. Fury: IMBD 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes 77%

6. Platoon:  IMBD 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes 88%

7. Full Metal Jacket: IMBD 8.3,  Rotten Tomatoes 95%

8. Born on the 4th of July: IMBD 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes 90%

Top 5 Navy Seal Movies

9. Inglorious Bastards: IMBD 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes 89%

10. We Were Soldiers:  IMBD 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes 63%

11. Heartbreak Ridge:  IMBD 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes 83%

12. The Hunt for Red October: IMBD 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes 86%

Top 5 Army Movies

13. Unbroken: IMBD 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes 51%

14. Gallipoli: IMBD 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes 90%

15. Dunkirk: 8.5 IMBD, 93% Rotten Tomatoes

Top 5 Marine Corps Movies

North Korean Propaganda Posters

As the US and North Korea exchange verbal threats of war, there is no better time to pause and take a look at the North Korean propaganda that fuels their citizens.  There is no doubt that the North Korean propaganda machine is a little more forthcoming than that of the United States.  That being said, we’re not sure if these belong on the streets or just in a kid’s comic book.  It’s a great reminder that while there is a lot of rhetoric, the North Korean military and government are no match for the United States and allied powers.  Many of the images depict North Korean soldiers wearing the same uniforms and using the same weaponry that they did when we fought them back in the ’50s.


A poster depicting North Korea’s military power is displayed in the communist state and released by North Korea Central News Agency January 31, 2003. North Korea announced on Friday an anti-U.S. poster campaign to incite people of the isolated communist state to back their army in a “sacred struggle” with the United States over its nuclear programme. JAPAN OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVES REUTERS/Korean News Service


North Korean’s Kim Dynasty Explained



Why Does North Korea Hate America



What would a war with North Korea look like?


National Geograpic: Inside North Korea


Dear Leader: My Escape From North Korea