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.
An Allied unit comprised of Canadian and American troops, the First Special Service Force or "Devil’s Brigade" struck fear into the very heart of the Axis.
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.
A year before the much-heralded second front was opened at Normandy in 1944, the Allies waged a campaign in Sicily and Italy--an assault that was marked by argument and dissent from beginning to end, highlighting the fundamental differences in strategic thinking between the Americans and the British. Winston Churchill favored scrapping what would become the Normandy invasion entirely, focusing instead on the soft underbelly of Nazi Europe, but American planners summarily rejected any plan that relied solely on a southern option. This is the story of this backwater campaign, a series of battles skillfully staged by the Germans and so botched by the Allies that their victory was achieved only as a result of German exhaustion.
During the hard-fought campaign, the Americans persisted in their suspicion that the British were trying to undermine the effort. For example, the imbroglio over the Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino and the ineptness of the British assault, led by a commander already discredited by his role in the fall of Crete, would spur the Americans to overreact and destroy the monastery by bombing. This created a major propaganda victory for the Germans. Such incidents convinced both Washington and London that they were working at cross-purposes. Hoyt contends that, as the British argued at the time, Allied efforts would have been better-spent concentrating on the Balkans. The Normandy campaign was expensive, unnecessary, and ultimately lengthened the war.
A Death in San Pietro chronicles the quietly heroic and beloved Captain Waskow and his company as they make their way into battle. Waskow's 36th ("Texas") Division would ultimately succeed in driving the Germans off the mountains; but not before eighty percent of Waskow's company is lost in action.
For Americans back home, two of the war's most lasting artistic expression brought horrified focus to the battlefield, already dubbed "Purple Heart Valley" by the men of the 36th. Pulitzer Prize-winner Ernie Pyle's dispatch about Waskow's death and filmmaker John Huston's award-winning documentary of the battle rivets--and shocks--the nation, bringing, as if for the first time, the awful carnage of world war into living rooms across America.
The Allied attack of Normandy beach and its resultant bloodbath have been immortalized in film and literature, but the U.S. campaign on the beaches of Western Italy reigns as perhaps the deadliest battle of World War II's western theater. In January 1944, about six months before D-Day, an Allied force of thirty-six thousand soldiers launched one of the first attacks on continental Europe at Anzio, a small coastal city thirty miles south of Rome. The assault was conceived as the first step toward an eventual siege of the Italian capital. But the advance stalled and Anzio beach became a death trap. After five months of brutal fighting and monumental casualties on both sides, the Allies finally cracked the German line and marched into Rome on June 5, the day before D-Day. Richly detailed and fueled by extensive archival research of newspapers, letters, and diaries--as well as scores of original interviews with surviving soldiers on both sides of the trenches--"Anzio" is a harrowing and incisive true story by one of today's finest military historians.
"Joseph Balkoski is the top living D-Day historian." --USA Today
"An excellent example of what a unit history should be." --David Isby, author of AfghanistanContinues Balkoski's acclaimed multivolume history of the U.S. 29th Infantry Division in World War IICovers a period of brutal combat along the German borderIntroduces readers to a colorful cast of American soldiersBalkoski blends meticulous research with masterful storytellingA must-read for all World War II fans
From Texas to Rome with General Fred L. Walker: Fighting World War II and the Italian Campaign with the 36th Infantry Division, as seen through the Eyes of its Commanding General
On September, 17, 1944, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, floated down across the Dutch countryside, in the midst of German forces, and proceeded to fight their way to vital bridges to enable the Allied offensive to go forward. The 101st Airborne was behind them; the British 1st Airbourne was far advanced. In the 82ndÕs sector the crucial conduits needed to be seized.
The Germans knew the importance of the bridge over the Waal River at Nijmegen as well as James Gavin and his 82nd troopers did. Thus began a desperate fight for the Americans to seize it, no matter what the cost. The Germans would not give, however, and fought tenaciously in the town and fortified the bridge. On September 20 Gavin turned his paratroopers into sailors and conducted a deadly daylight amphibious assault in small plywood and canvas craft across the Waal River to secure the north end of the highway bridge in Nijmegen. German machine guns and mortars boiled the water on the crossing, but somehow a number of paratroopers made it to the far bank. Their ferocity thence rolled up the German defenses, and by the end of day the bridge had fallen.
This book draws on a plethora of previously unpublished sources to shed new light on the exploits of the ÒDevils in Baggy PantsÓ by Dutch author and historian Frank van Lunteren. A native of ArnhemÑthe site of ÒThe Bridge too FarÓÑthe author draws on nearly 130 interviews he personally conducted with veterans of the 504th, plus Dutch civilians and British and German soldiers, who here tell their story for the first time.
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.