When discussions come up about military operations overseas, if you hear that they are sending in the “special forces”, you know what that means. While special forces operate with some degree of secrecy, their reputation as being the force that can go into an unwinnable situation and win it is legendary.
Many times it is the special forces that military intelligence sends into a potential combat situation to perform the undercover spy work or execute a commando raid to soften the target in preparation for the larger military operations to come.
It takes a soldier’s soldier to be part of this kind of elite fighting machine. Not only are special forces like the famous Delta Force fierce in combat, they can penetrate the enemy virtually without notice and accomplish the near impossible with a minimal of equipment or support. Even in the movies, the kind of soldier’s solider we think of brings up images of Rambo or the famous World War II movie, The Dirty Dozen.
While those are fictional movies, it is true that a very special unit of commandos was organized in World War II that became the origins of what we now know as the special forces units of our armed services. On July 9, 1942, Lieutenant Colonel Robert T. Frederick organized a very special 1800 man unit called the 1st Special Service Force which was made up of a combination of Canadian and American forces. Their mission was to conduct commando operations as part of the World War II military effort.
The recruitment requirements for these commandos were highly particular. All recruits had significant experience in survival and harsh conditions so the recruitment included lumberjacks, forest rangers and veterans of World War II who had distinguished themselves in difficult combat situations. It was made clear from the outset that these were very special commando units and their selection and training was geared toward being able to accomplish virtually superhuman feats of espionage and subterfuge to make military operations more successful.
The Lieutenant the 1st Special Service Force came to be known as the Devil’s Brigade and everything about these special commandos was unique. Their training was intense and grueling learning every skill necessary for wilderness or artic survival. They learned how to operate every weapon on both army’s arsenals as well as all enemy weapons. Every skill necessary for an assault on an enemy in every setting was taught in their training including becoming experts in high explosives, hand to hand combat, mountain and aquatic combat and precision parachuting techniques so they could pinpoint a target with amazing precision.
The Devils Brigade was a fierce and highly feared combat unit because they were ferocious, fearless, highly trained and they struck without warning and seemingly nothing stopped them. They created chaos in the enemy not only because of how bloody their attack were but because they disrupted the otherwise orderly combat plan of the enemy. Often when they hit an German position and left behind nothing but death and destruction. But they also left notes on the bodies that read in German, “Das dicke Ende kommt noch”. When the Germans discovered that the Devils Brigade and read that note which translates as “The Worst is yet to Come”, the terror that was inspired was just as devastating to the enemy as the killing that these commandos were capable of. Small wonder the Devils Brigade went on to be celebrated in legend long after World War II was over.