In the dark, early days of the Second World War, the Allies found themselves with their backs against the wall. With their armies, tactics, doctrine, and equipment in tatters, the Allies turned to special operations forces to carry the fight to the Axis enemy until their conventional forces could be built up once again. Specially selected and trained, these forces struck fear into the hearts of the enemy. One such unit, the First Special Service Force (FSSF) or Devil’s Brigade, was created for a hazardous mission in Norway. This unique formation was composed of both Americans and Canadians who served side by side without distinction of nationality.
A killer elite, the FSSF consistently demonstrated courage and determination and earned itself an unrivaled combat record at Monte la Difensa and Anzio in Italy and in the invasion of southern France.
1942. When the British generals recommend an audacious plan to parachute a small elite commando unit into Norway in a bid to put Nazi Germany on the defensive, Winston Churchill is intrigued. But Britain, fighting for its life, can’t spare the manpower to participate. So William Lyon MacKenzie King is contacted and asked to commit Canadian troops to the bold plan. King, determined to join Roosevelt and Churchill as an equal leader in the Allied war effort, agrees.
One of the world’s first commando units, the First Special Service Force, or FSSF, is assembled from hand-picked soldiers from Canadian and American regiments. Any troops sent into Norway will have to be rugged, self-sufficient, brave, and weather-hardened. Canada has such men in ample supply.
The all-volunteer FSSF comprises outdoorsmen — trappers, rangers, prospectors, miners, loggers. Assembled at an isolated base in Helena, Montana, and given only five months to train before the invasion, they are schooled in parachuting, mountain climbing, cross-country skiing, and cold-weather survival. They are taught how to handle explosives, how to operate nearly every field weapon in the American and German arsenals, and how to kill with their bare hands.
After the Norway plan is scrapped, the FSSF is dispatched to Italy and given its first test — to seize a key German mountain-top position which had repelled the brunt of the Allied armies for over a month. In a reprise of the audacity and careful planning that won Vimy Ridge for the Canadians in WWI, the FSSF takes the twin peaks Monte la Difensa and Monte la Remetanea by storming the supposedly unscalable rock face at the rear of the German position, and opens the way through the mountains.
Later, the FSSF will hold one-quarter of the Anzio beachhead against a vastly superior German force for ninety-nine days; a force of only 1,200 commandos does the work of a full division of over 17,000 troops. Though badly outnumbered, the FSSF takes the fight to the Germans, sending nighttime patrols behind enemy lines and taking prisoners. It is here that they come to be known among the dispirited Germans as Schwartzer Teufel (“Black Devils”) for their black camouflage face-paint and their terrifying tactic of appearing out of the darkness.
John Nadler vividly captures the savagery of the Italian campaign, fought as it was at close quarters and with desperate resolve, and the deeply human experiences of the individual men called upon to fight it. Based on extensive archival research and interviews with veterans, A Perfect Hell is an important contribution to Canadian military history and an indispensable account of the lives and battlefield exploits of the men who turned the tide of the Second World War.
From the moment they hit the beaches in North Africa to their last desperate struggle at Anzio, Darby’s Rangers asked for only one thing in World War II—the chance to fight. Experts at amphibious landings, night attacks, and close combat, the Rangers were the spearhead advancing U.S. forces. And at their helm was William O. Darby, a forceful, charismatic man who inspired, and was inspired by, his troops. Against overwhelming odds in Tunisia, through the concentrated hell at Gela, on to the final kill at Messina and the Italian mainland, Darby and his Rangers led the way. Darby’s Rangers is an authentic war story, as vivid as the action itself.
“Proud reading . . . of value to a new generation of military historians and ‘battle buffs.’”—Military Affairs Magazine
In Bloody River, first published in 1970, Martin Blumenson presents his view of how the “personal equation” figured into the debacle. Focusing on the generals responsible for the ill-fated attack, Blumenson traces key points in the personal profiles of the diffident 36th Division commander Fred L. Walker; Gen. Mark “Wayne” Clark, the imperious commander of American ground forces; and the tactful and tactically gifted former cavalry officer Gen. Geoffrey T. Keyes, commander of II Corps and Walker’s immediate superior.
Walker, serving under the younger Clark and Keyes, witnessed the destruction of villages and the exhaustion of the non-Regular Army soldiers in his division. Blumenson argues that Walker, relatively far down the chain of command, saw his soldiers’ and the civilians’ suffering and lost confidence and respect for his superiors and constantly questioned their fitness to devise appropriate strategy and tactics.
Despite reports of the severe situation in the Rapido Valley, General Clark, responsible for ensuring the success of the Anzio landing, would not cancel the 36th Division’s supporting attack across the Rapido. In two days, the two front-line infantry regiments of the division suffered severe casualties, as did the attached units of engineers, quartermaster troops, and artillerymen. Meanwhile, General Clark’s Anzio landing was accomplished with relatively little resistance. Blumenson argues that Walker’s pessimism about the Rapido attack plan may have permeated his troops and robbed them of their will to win.
This concise survey of the command situations that led to the Rapido tragedy should be of interest to all readers who wish to learn the high-priced lessons of war in affordable and accessible form.
Few generals achieved the reputation won by General Lucien Truscott during his time in the American Army during World War Two; it was the opinion of the future President General Eisenhower that Truscott was second only to the legendary General Patton as a battlefield commander. Refusing all personal accolades in press releases, General Truscott, was as tough as they come, determined and cool under fire. His autobiography stands as one of the great books written by any officer who served the Allied cause during the Second World War.
He led the 60th Infantry and 66th Armored Regiments during the invasion of French North Africa, his formations benefitted hugely from his tough training methods that saved lives under fire. His next command at the head of the 3rd Infantry Division would cement his reputation, forcing his troops over some of the harshest mountains in Europe in Sicily and routing pushing the Germans off the island. Truscott then led his men ashore the Italian mainland at Salerno and then again in the landings at Anzio...
By 1944 the Allied command considered that Truscott was the foremost amphibious expert in the European theatre and gave him command of the vital landings in southern France; his inspiring leadership and determined forceful handling of his troops led to such success that the Germans were bundled back out the French province very rapidly opening the port of Marseilles to Allied supply ships. Truscott was renowned for his abilities as a general, a motivator of men and a shrewd commander who was determined to seize and keep hold of the initiative; all of these qualities were needed when he took over command of the Fifth Army in Italy in Dec. 1944. Pushing his troops forward expertly to force the German defenders out of their entrenched lines in the mountains in Northern Italy and would have continued their victorious drive into Germany but by this time Nazi Germany had surrendered.
General Lucian K. Truscott was an American military giant: tough, resourceful, and devoted to the men under his command. Unlike the more flamboyant high-ranking European field commanders of the time, he was neither arrogant nor in pursuit of personal glory-but rather a loyal, humble man who led his troops from the front and fought every enemy with a tenacity that made him one of the most respected and revered commanders in the U.S. Army.
In Command of Honor, author H. Paul Jeffers chronicles the life of this American hero. For the first time, the life of Truscott is revealed: his ramshackle childhood in Texas and Oklahoma, his extraordinary combat service, and his peacetime duties. But above all, this is a story of leadership and sacrifice by a man who lived for duty, honor, and courage-a man who would become a legend in the annals of U.S. Army history.
AS A RECON SCOUT IN WORLD WAR II.
From Africa’s Sahara Desert, where he met Churchill, to the plains of Tunisia, where he served under Patton, Fred Salter executed daring nightly solo missions, risking his life to gather the vital intelligence the U.S. Army desperately needed. After the battlefields of Sicily came the long, grueling effort to wrench Italy from the grip of the Nazis, and the bloody nightmare of Monte Cassino, the longest battle Americans fought during the war.
Salter spares no one, least of all himself, in this tough, clear-eyed account. Refusing to shy away from the horrors and fears of combat, he shares experiences–tragic and glorious–that will haunt him forever.
From the Paperback edition.
“Truscott was one of the really tough generals,” soldier-cartoonist Bill Mauldin of the 45th Infantry Division once wrote. “He could have eaten a ham like Patton for breakfast any morning and picked his teeth with the man’s pearl-handled pistols.” Not one merely to act the part of commander, Mauldin remembered, “Truscott spent half his time at the front—the real front—with nobody in attendance but a nervous Jeep driver and a worried aide.”
In this biography of Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., author Harvey Ferguson tells the story of how Truscott—despite his hardscrabble beginnings, patchy education, and questionable luck—not only made the rank of army lieutenant general, earning a reputation as one of World War II’s most effective officers along the way, but was also given an honorary promotion to four-star general seven years after his retirement.
For all his accomplishments and celebrated heroic action, Truscott was not one for self-aggrandizement, which may explain in part why historians have neglected him until now. The Last Cavalryman, drawing on personal papers only recently made available, gives the first full picture of this singular man’s extraordinary life and career. Ferguson describes Truscott’s near-accidental entry into the U.S. Cavalry (propelled by Pancho Villa’s 1916 raids) and his somewhat halting rise through the ranks—aided by fellow cavalryman George S. Patton, Jr., who steered him into the nascent armored force at the right time. The author takes us through Truscott’s service in the Second World War, from creating the U.S. Army Rangers to engineering the breakout from Anzio and leading the “masterpiece” invasion of southern France. Ferguson finishes his narrative by detailing the general’s postwar work with the CIA, where he acted as President Dwight Eisenhower’s eyes and ears within the agency.
A compelling story in itself, this biography of Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.—a cavalryman to the last—fills out an important chapter in American military history.
The soldiers of the Third U.S. Infantry Division in World War I were outnumbered and inexperienced young men facing hardened veterans, but their actions proved to be a turning point during the last German offensive of World War I.
In stopping three German divisions from crossing the Marne River, these heroic American soldiers blocked the road to Paris east of Château-Thierry, helped save the French capital and, in doing so, played a key role in turning the tide of the war. The Allies then began a counteroffensive that drove the enemy back to the Hindenburg Line, and four months later the war was over.
Rock of the Marne follows the Third Division’s Sixth Brigade, which took the brunt of the German attack. The officers, many of them West Pointers and elite Ivy Leaguers, fighting side-by-side with enlisted men—city dwellers and country boys, cowboys and coal miners who came from every corner of America along with newly planted immigrants from Europe—answered their country’s call to duty.
This is the gripping true account of one of the most important—yet least explored—battles of World War I.