This July marks the 73rd anniversary of the creation of the first true modern Special Forces unit, the First Special Service Force (FSSF). Canadian and United States SF units trace their lineage back to this historic Canadian/American joint unit, specifically the U.S. Army Special Forces and the Canadian Special Operations Regiment. The iconic red arrowhead with USA and Canada written across it has become a great source of pride and kinship for operators in North America.

The idea of the FSSF was thought up by British scientist Geoffrey Pyke, and was very well received by Prime Minister Churchill. It was to be a specialized unit of elite soldiers trained in winter and unconventional warfare, striking enemy locations in Northern Europe, behind enemy lines, with speed and precision—and then disappearing as quickly as they arrived. The idea of such an elite covert unit became very appealing to the U.S. Army as well, and within weeks of the idea being pitched, a half-Canadian, half-American FSSF was created.

The FSSF was commanded and entirely equipped by the U.S. Army, except for their “penguin” and “weasel” over-snow vehicles, which were developed in Canada. The FSSF CO was U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Robert T. Frederick, and in an attempt to balance the U.S./Canadian force, the XO was Canadian Lieutenant Colonel Don Williamson. The rest of the leadership was approximately half Canadian, half American, and the remaining ranks attempted to maintain a similar makeup.