Department of National Defence

Department of National Defence

December 03, 2013 18:30 ET

Veterans of Famous Devil's Brigade Commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Monte La Difensa

KINGSTON, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Dec. 3, 2013) - Veterans of the famous Devil's Brigade, serving and retired members of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM), all gathered this evening at Canadian Forces Base Kingston for a ceremony to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Monte (Mount) La Difensa.

The Devil's Brigade, also known as the First Special Service Force (FSSF), was a joint US/Canadian force formed during the Second World War in response to the need for a specially-trained unit capable of unique or "special" operations. Upon arrival in the Mediterranean Theatre, the FSSF was given the extremely difficult mission of taking the German-held, 963-metre mountain protecting the approaches to Rome, Italy.

Monte La Difensa, officially known as Hill 960, was the first major battle for the FSSF. The Forcemen, as members of the FSSF were known, battled rain, fog and snow during the night of December 2-3, 1943 to scale the treacherous northern side of the mountain as part of their surprise attack against the German positions. After an intense battle, despite sustaining severe casualties on the mountain, the members of the force were successful in taking their objectives.

"Canada is proud to recognize the devotion of the Forcemen of the First Special Service Force and their accomplishments seventy years ago during the Battle of Monte La Difensa," said the Honourable Rob Nicholson, Minister of National Defence. "It is appropriate that we take the time to recognize these soldiers and the contributions they made during the Italian Campaign and the Second World War."

The FSSF was a unique combined US/Canadian military formation from the Second World War whose creation underscored the longstanding military, political and social cooperation that exists between our two countries. The FSSF was a truly "combined" military organization that witnessed Canadians and Americans serving side-by-side as a single formation with a unified internal chain-of-command. The organization was so closely knit that it was difficult to differentiate Canadian from American.

"The historic actions of the men of the First Special Service Force cannot be forgotten. As the first unit of its kind, and with a significant record of success, Canadians should be proud of the outstanding accomplishments of the FSSF," said Brigadier General Denis Thompson, Commander of CANSOFCOM. "Anniversaries such as this allow personnel both within CANSOFCOM, and the Canadian Armed Forces as a whole, to learn of their history from the men that actually fought the battles - it is imperative that we capture their stories and learn from their experiences."

Currently the FSSF legacy and battle honours are perpetuated by the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) and the United States Special Forces (USSF).

Notes to editor / news director:

A CANSOFCOM documentary video of the 70th Anniversary of the Battle for La Difensa will be posted in the Canadian Forces Imagery Gallery.

Contact information:

For more information or for interview requests with CANSOFCOM personnel and/or FSSF veterans on the topic of the 70th Anniversary of the battle of Monte La Difensa, please contact Major Steve Hawken, Senior CANSOFCOM Public Affairs Officer, at Office 1-613-945-2209, Cellular 613-797-6249 or steven.hawken@forces.gc.ca

Contact Information