This book was interesting, but disappointing. It focuses entirely on the training of the First Special Services Force, aka The Devil's Brigade. That moniker comes from the movie starring a too-old-for-the-job William Holden as Fredrickson, the Force commander. The Germans actually referred them as the Black Devils, a name they acquired for missions after the famous taking of M. Le Difensa.
The movie got a few things right and a lot wrong. Actually, the Americans and the Canadians did not fight each other, but they did fight a lot… ditto drinking and whoring. They did not take an Italian village to prove their worth. And they did not climb a huge vertical face with ropes.
The FSSF was a combined American/Canadian unit. Part of the reason for the Canadians being there was their familiarity with cold conditions and winter sports. They trained a lot. Imagine walking 25 miles in a day. Now imagine doing it with 60-80 lbs of gear. They were undoubtedly the most fit unit in WWII. They were held back waiting for an opportunity to use their had-acquired winter skills, and their specially designed snow-cats. But that never happened.
The famous assault on M. La Difensa did not require any scaling of sheer walls with rope, although they were prepared to exactly that.
I was disappointed with the book because it did not discuss their other missions at all. Rather, the focus was on the human side of creating the FSSF and its first action. Technically, its first action was to take an island in the Aleutian Islands. But, as it turned out, the Japanese had abandoned the island a few days before.
I learned less than I would have liked.
Leave a Reply.
Lee Moller is a life-long skeptic and atheist and the author of The God Con.