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A jump into history

Menton Week celebrated

A member of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment prepares to land during a joint parachute jump with 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) soldiers and Philippines National Police officers during Menton Week. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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Organized in 1942 and comprised of elite American and Canadian soldiers who trained at Fort Harrison, Montana, the First Special Service Force (FSSF) was the first of it kind to engage in commando warfare.

Lt. Col. Robert Frederick received initial command of the unit.

While engaged in combat operations in and around Anzio during the Second World War, the FSSF crafted a reputation for successfully carrying out missions against targets considered impenetrable.

The Germans soon dubbed the force the "Devil's Brigade."

It was also at Anzio that the FSSF left their trademark calling card on dead or sleeping German soldiers.

"Das dicke ende kommt noch!," the card read, which loosely translates into "The worst is yet to come!"

The beginning of the end of the war in Europe also marked the beginning of the end of the FSSF.

Allied High Command had decided that the force was no longer needed and that regular infantry and armored divisions would defeat the German army.

To that end, Dec. 5, 1944, the FSSF disbanded on a field outside the French town of Menton.

"It happened crudely. They disbanded the Force because we were no longer required for combat. The disbandment ceremony was very cold. That's the way it was," Private Morris Lazarus wrote in a letter.

But the spirit of the men who served in the First Special Services Forces lives on today.

During the past week, soldiers of the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) and the Canadian Special Operations Regiment met again to participate in their long-standing annual Menton Week activities.

As the sun rose and the fog lifted over the Roger Drop Zone Wednesday morning, the spirit of shared history that began in World War II appeared as the soldiers prepared to parachute jump.

Members of the Philippine National Police also took part in the week's activities.

"Menton Week speaks to our heritage and what it means to serve," one Special Forces soldier said as he waited to board a Chinook.

"We honor those who have served before us, and we ensure that the younger soldiers here today do not forget our history." 

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