My first memories of Commandos at war was at the end of World War II when film documentaries were all the rage at theatres. We didn’t have television in those days, so all of us young kids looked forward to watching these adventure clips at the Saturday matinee.
We would sit in awe as Allied commandos would fight the enemy in every clandestine way possible. The romance that we saw as young kids in those exploits was of course exciting, but it was also far from reality.
Canada did have an elite group back then and that first team was a joint special operations group with the United States. At Monte La Difensa, Italy, the force earned the famous name the “Devil’s Brigade” which later was turned into a movie by Hollywood.
Before the assault by the Devil’s Brigade, regular allied forces were unable to achieve success. Sadly, the success brought a 77 per cent casualty rate to the brigade.
At Anzio, Italy, the brigade was brought ashore after the U.S. Rangers were decimated. I believe that is where the title “Devil’s Brigade” was adopted by the enemy. The German defenders began to call them “black devils” because they smeared black on their faces.
One interesting note is the men began to use a sticker with the brigade logo on it and they would stick them on corpses at the site of many battles. A trademark of battle and a fearsome warning to the enemy.
Eventually the Devils Brigade was disbanded and many who fell are buried at the Commonwealth Anzio War Cemetery.
Today, Canada has a modern day version of the courageous men who fought in the Devil’s Brigade. Canadian special forces, called Joint Task Force Two (JTF2) is a force responsible for providing Canada with a force capable of rendering armed assistance in the resolution of an issue or a potential issue that affects our Nation’s national security.
They are not Rambos or Black-Ops, or the Terminator. I doubt if those terms exist in the language of our special forces.
We don’t have or need Hollywood images of Navy SEALs, Green Berets, or other special groups. What we have is the most effective special force organization in the world.
Every once in a while a small amount of information comes to our attention about the activities of these very special forces. Keep in mind that because of the nature of their work it’s important to have a cloak of secrecy over their activities
Not many years back the United States wanted to decorate members of JTF2 for saving their troops in combat in Afghanistan. Pinned down and unable to move American soldiers were in a tight spot and in peril of being killed.
From over a kilometre away our guys began to take out the enemy, thus saving the American soldiers. One reported record was the shooting of an armed and dangerous enemy from 2,443 metres. That’s almost two and a half kilometres away, an incredible shot by any standard.
Some of their assignments are long range and others are close in when tough fighting occurs. It goes without question that many assignments are behind the lines and extremely dangerous. Still, our guys are the best and we have every right to be very proud of Canada’s special forces.
The fight in Afghanistan has not been easy and it started out with some extreme difficulties. Many of our soldiers didn’t have proper uniforms and one report suggests we had to borrow the correct bullets. Our current government has made good progress toward giving our men and women the proper support and equipment.
After learning of the professionalism and courage of Canada’s special forces we can all sleep a little more comfortably knowing we have the world’s best protecting us. To use a special term from the Second World War the folks in Canada’s JTF2 can carve their names with pride.
Mel is a retired Director of Operations for a large Canadian Corporation. He is a noted world traveller and has studied geopolitical issues for many years. His most noticeable interest is in the effects of different types of governance and organizational behaviour.