Please help us honour the memory of the men and women of the Greatest Generation!
We are the First Special Service Force Living History Association, one of the first WWII reenactment associations in Western Canada. Started in March, 2011 in Edmonton, Alberta, by Brian Mason and Robert Patterson-Burton, the First Special Service Force Living History Association was incorporated as a legal entity in December, 2011. The Unit was created to honour the members of the First Special Service Force, and to educate the public on a mostly overlooked part of WWII history. Also called the ‘Black Devils’ by the Germans, the FSSF have been called the ‘Devils Brigade’ by Hollywood, and used as the basis for movies such as ‘Inglorious Bastards’.
Our unit is 100% volunteer, with all the costs of our activities absorbed by the membership at this time. Our events are open to the public, free of charge, and range from simple static displays at Veteran Reunions to full scale encampments with blank firing combat reenactments.
Our unit is hoping to acquire several large piece of equipment to further expand the educational experience we offer to the public. We are in desperate need of several tents, military medical equipment, and vehicle repairs. Insurance alone runs us approximately $1500!
FAST FACTS ABOUT THE FSSF
- Created in 1942, the FSSF was the only joint US-Canada unit in history.
- Tommy Prince, Canada’s most decorated First Nations soldier, was a member of the FSSF.
- Brad Pitt can be seen wearing the FSSF patch in Inglorious Bastards
- They were also called the ‘Black Devils’ by Germans, or the Devils Brigade by Hollywood.
- The ‘Black Devils’ moniker came from a German officer’s journal that was found. The phrase, “The Black Devils are all around us every time we come into the line. We never hear them come." inspired it.
- ‘Das dicke ende kommt noch!’ – The worst is yet to come! Phrase printed on a ‘calling card’ left behind German lines.
- Forefathers of the modern Canadian Special Operations Regiment and American Green Berets.
- Alberta Highway 4 and Interstate 15 in Montana was renamed ‘First Special Service Force Memorial Highway’ in September 1999. This was the route taken by Canadian volunteers to Helena, Montana, in 1942.
- The comic book character Wolverine is depicted as having been a member of the Devils Brigade in North Africa (even though the FSSF was never in Africa)
- Unit was known as the ‘Braves’ before the name was changed to First Special Service Force. This is where the arrowhead insignia comes from.
The FSSF history is varied and colourful, if short. The only joint US-Canada unit in history, the FSSF was jointly commanded by Canadian and American officers, and its members were made up of volunteers from both countries. The unit wore American uniforms and used American supplies as they were more readily available at the time than Canadian items. Created by ‘mad scientist’ Geoffrey Pike (of the British Combined Operations Command), it was originally imagined as a suicide squad to be sent into Norway to sabotage German networks. There was no extrication plan for the team members.
The unit was activated under slightly different terms on July 20, 1942 under American Lt. Colonel Robert T. Frederick and was based in Fort Harrison, Montana. Throughout the war, the unit participated in Kiska, Monte La Difinsa in December 1943, and Anzio beachhead. Members of the FSSF were the first to enter Rome in 1944 to liberate it. It was after this that they were disbanded, their commando style operations deemed ‘unnecessary’ by Allied command. Modern day commando units the Canadian Rangers and American Green Berets descend from this original group of FSSF soldiers.