FSSF Veterans in Washington to accept the Congressional Gold Medal, February 2015 - (left to right) Gordon Sims, Eugene Gutierrez, Charlie Mann, Jack Callowhill, Maurice White. (Submitted photo)
FSSF Crest with duel flags. (Submitted photo)
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The FSSF Memorial plaque on hill 720 at the base of Mt Sammucro, Italy, taken by the Force on December 25, 1943. (Submitted photo)
An original Spearhead patch and parachute cord lanyard belonging to Sergeant Les Shelton, a member of the FSSF and Don Shelton’s (this article’s author) father. (Submitted photo)
70th Reunion of First Special Service Force August 10-14
By Don Shelton
Posted on Thursday, August 11, 2016
The 70th Reunion of the infamous First Special Service Force, a joint USA and Canadian WW2 commando unit will be held in Pembroke/Petawawa from August 10 to 14, 2016.
Their Reunion will coincide with the 10th anniversary of Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR), who now proudly carry the battle honours of the 1st Canadian Special Service Battalion. First Special Service Force (FSSF) Reunions have alternated each year between USA and Canada since the first Helena Montana Reunion in 1947.
At 10:30 a.m. on Saturday August 13, the command, “March On the First Special Service Force!” will be heard as the FSSF veterans from across Canada and the USA, average age 94, approach the cenotaph beside the Petawawa Legion Branch 517 to remember and honour their fallen comrades. It is a solemn moment when the names of Forcemen who have died in the last year are read aloud. The Memorial Service will include representatives from CSOR, Legion Branches 517 and 72, the Veterans Enterprises group, dignitaries, and many members of the FSSF Association including several wives and widows - all there to honour the lineage and legacy of these living legends and especially those who did not return.
We cordially invite active and retired members of Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) and other interested soldiers and community members to join us for the Memorial and to visit the Best Western Hotel on Thursday afternoon between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. If you wish to speak with veterans and purchase FSSF kit such as hats, t-shirts, pins and Black Devil shot glasses while they last, they will be available. Some items may also be available after the Memorial Service They set the standard for Special Forces.
The legend of the First Special Service Force began with their first assignment to retake the Aleutian Island of Kiska from the Japanese on August 15th, 1943. The invasion of Kiska was a dry run as the invaders had evacuated the island hours earlier under the cover of heavy fog.
The Force was quickly redeployed to the European Theatre. Their mission was to capture several mountain peaks which had held off assaults by the U.S. Fifth Army for over five weeks. Taking the impossible route up the cliffs of Monte la Difensa at night and in extreme winter weather, the First Special Service Force caught the enemy by surprise. Over the next 46 days the FSSF captured the heavily defended mountain tops, reducing the Force’s combat strength from 1,800 to fewer than 500.
The First Special Service Force’s next assignment was the Anzio Beachhead. The Force was 40 per cent under-strength as it defended nearly eight miles on the right flank. The FSSF became renowned for its intensive patrolling and night raids against a full German Division.
On June 4, 1944 members of the First Special Service Force were the first Allied soldiers to enter Rome.
On August 15, 1944, one year to the day after the Kiska landing, the Force made an amphibious landing on Southern France. The Force was in continuous action for the next 15 weeks, engaged in bitter skirmishes to liberate the towns and peaks of southern France.
The First Special Service Force served a critical role in the liberation of Italy and France, and the defeat of the Axis regime in Europe. Under the most demanding conditions and terrain the Force suffered 2,314 casualties, 134% of its combat strength. It captured over 30,000 prisoners, won five U.S. campaign stars and eight Canadian battle honours. It never failed a mission.
Most gratifying to the veterans of the First Special Service Force is knowing that its traditions and honours are carried forward with its lineage embracing outstanding active units of two great democracies: The Canadian Special Operations Regiment, and the Special Forces of the United States.
Please join us in thanking these proud warriors for their dedication and fearlessness during our countries’ time of need and for preserving peace and democracy in our lands.