Devil's Brigade commandos HISTORY
Posted: 17 Mar 2017, 18:11
-The elite commando unit was made up of American and Canadian soldiers
-Said to have laid the foundations for the modern day special forces
-Nicknamed 'Devil's Brigade' by Nazis due to their blacked-up faces
-Captured 27,000 enemy prisoners and saw 251 days of combat
-Surviving members set to receive Congressional Gold Medal
With their faces smeared with boot polish these are the men who made up one of the deadliest commando units of the Second World War.
They are all members of the 1st Special Service Force - an elite unit made up of American and Canadian soldiers who captured 27,000 enemy prisoners between 1942 and 1944.
The legendary special force was tasked with creating havoc behind enemy lines through sabotage and slaughter and laid the foundation for the U.S. navy SEALS and the modern day special forces in Canada.
The troop were so feared by the Nazis that they earned the nickname the 'Devil's Brigade' because of their painted faces and stealth tactics.
They were the subject of the 1968 movie, 'Devils' Brigade,' starring William Holden and Cliff Robertson and were also said to have inspire Quentin Tarantino's 2009 movie Inglorious Basterds.
Surviving members of the crack commando unit are set to be given the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony in Washington today — the highest civilian honour the United States Congress can bestow.
Canada's Department of Defence released the latest photos of the squad in advance of the ceremony.
The Black Devils were formed in 1942 and the 1,800 strong force was primarily made up of volunteers who were previously lumberjacks, forest rangers, hunters and game wardens.
At their base in Fort Harrison near Helena, Montana in the United States, they received rigorous and intensive training in stealth tactics, hand-to-hand combat, the use of explosives for demolition, parachuting, amphibious warfare, rock-climbing, mountain warfare, and as ski troops.
They even had a specially designed fighting knife made for them called the V-42.
During the war they fought across Europe, in the Aleutian Islands, the Pacific and later in Italy and southern France before being disbanded in December 1944.
The first operation in 1942 was codenamed 'Project Plough,' and was described as a 'suicide mission.'
They had parachute into German-held Norway to knock out strategic targets such as hydroelectric power plants.
But it was during Operation Shingle in Anzio, Italy, in 1944 that they earned the nickname the 'Black Devil's.
They were brought ashore to hold and raid the beachhead, which they did.
A journal of a German officer which was found by allies, read: 'The Black Devils are all around us every time we come into the line. We never hear them come.
After each successful raid they left a card depicting their unit patch and the phrase 'Das dicke Ende kommt noch' or 'The worst is yet to come
In total they saw only 251 days of combat but the force suffered 2,314 deaths, captured 27,000 prisoners and won five U.S. campaign stars and eight Canadian battle honors.
The unit joins the ranks of George Washington and Nelson Mandela as recipients of the highest civilian honour the United States Congress can bestow.
Around 175 surviving members will receive the gong to honour their battlefield heroics and sacrifices 70 years ago.