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.
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.
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.
A skilled staff officer, Clark rose quickly through the ranks, and by the time America entered the war he was deputy commander of Allied Forces in North Africa. Several weeks before Operation Torch, Clark landed by submarine in a daring mission to negotiate the cooperation of the Vichy French. He was subsequently named commander of U.S. Fifth Army and tasked with the invasion of Italy.
Fifth Army and Mark Clark are virtually synonymous. From the September 1943 landing at Salerno, Clark and his army fought their way north against skilled German resistance, augmented by mountainous terrain. The daring January 1944 end-run at Anzio, although not immediately successful, set the stage for Fifth Army?s liberation of Rome on 4 June 1944, after ten months of hard fighting. The war in Italy was not over, but the taking of Rome intact was a tremendous achievement. Pitted against one of Hitler?s most able commanders, Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, Fifth Army spent another ten months in ferocious combat from the Gothic Line to the Po Valley, as Clark moved up to head all Allied ground forces in Italy as commander of 15th Army Group.
The brutal Italian Campaign has been long overshadowed by D-Day and the campaign across France and into Germany. Likewise, the senior U.S. commander in Italy has been largely overlooked when one thinks of the great captains of the war. The author, Mikolashek remedies this situation, shedding much needed historical light on one of America?s most important fighting generals in this ?warts and all? biography. It also demonstrates the importance of the Italian Campaign, paying tribute to the valorous soldiers of U.S. Fifth Army and their Allied comrades.
Jon Mikolashek is a history professor at the U.S Army Command and General Staff College branch at Ft. Belvoir, VA, and also teaches history at American Military University.