The men dropped to one knee on the side of a dirty mountain road, their breath frosting into tiny, pulsing clouds as they focused a stare toward the objective. From here the twin peaks belied a peaceful scene of deep green slopes and gentle curving crests that melded with countless others in the region.

Any other time such a sight lured mountain climbers and hikers to its untouched beauty to stand upon their summits and view the gentle ebb of valleys and roads that coursed among them.

For these men though, such luxuries seemed alien. To them, the peaks defied beauty, and appeared brooding and alive, waiting to smash anyone foolhardy enough to scale them in an avalanche of fire and metal.

Thoughts of this followed them when the order came to move out, these armed men with faces black as night, like no other force on earth, eager and willing to do the impossible.

They existed for only 2 years, a group of men comprising the best of the U.S. and Canadian militaries. They served in both the Pacific and European theaters during the Second World War, and left a trail of dead enemy as testimony to their effectiveness. Officially called the 1st Special Service Force, they earned many nicknames throughout the conflict, but one name rose above all others, fittingly it was coined by the enemy…

The Devil’s Brigade

Devil's Brigade Patch
Devil's Brigade Patch

American and Canadian Special forces units trace their lineage back the Brigade, whose origin began in the mind of scientist Geoffry Pyke, who recommended creation of a small force of soldiers capable fighting and sustaining itself behind enemy lines in mountains and in winter conditions.

This group would carry out missions of strategic importance, (with Norway at the top of the list), destroy targets and tie down German forces using guerilla tactics, and what may fit on their backs, as resupply was nigh impossible.

Called Project Plough, in spring 1942, Lord Louis Mountbatten, Chief of British Combined Operations Command approved of the concept. However, given the strain on British forces then fighting in two theaters, he suggested offering the plan to the U.S.