On Patrol with The Devil's Brigade
||On Patrol with The Devil's Brigade
by Ken Camel
The joint Canadian-American First Special Service Force better known as the Devil’s Brigade occupied their beachfront property across from the Pioniers of the Hermann Göring Fallschrimjägerdivision for 98 consecutive days. Quite a remarkable feat for a light force nearly half the size of a normal infantry division.
|The Devil’s Brigade’s three regiments were supported by the 463rd Parachute Artillery Battalion of the 82nd Airborne Division and the 81st Reconnaissance Battalion of the 1st Armored Division. In addition, the 1st Armored Division would provide M-10 tank destroyers, M4 Sherman tanks, and M5 Stuart tanks when needed.
Across the Mussolini Canal were 1250 German
engineers in two battalions supported by a tank company of panzer IV
tanks, artillery and 8.8cm FlaK 36 guns. The Mussolini Canal ran from
the foot of the Lepini mountains to the coast entering the sea about 10
miles east of Anzio and separating the beachhead from the Pontine marshes.
|With only two weeks rest after their mountain
campaign near Cassino, the Devil’s Brigade landed at Anzio on 2 February
1944. The first regiment was assigned 3 miles of the canal to defend
while on its left the third regiment got a full five miles of canal.
This was the same frontage assigned to a full division.
|The Brigade however was not about to stay idle in
the defence of the beachhead. Their commander, Brigadier General
Frederick, immediately ordered reconnaissance patrols, harassment raids,
and other patrols designed to demoralize the enemy. The raids began
nightly where the SSF would darken their faces and infiltrate behind the
German lines, There they would leave stickers on the foreheads of their
victims announcing in German, The Worst is Yet to Come!
Their raids so unnerved the German pioniers that they moved their lines
1000 yards further back to try and ward of these ‘black devils.”
On the morning of 25 February, two companies of the 81st Reconnaissance Battalion from the 1st Armored Division were assigned to assist the SSF in their patrols. The reason for the recon battalion assignment was because of a suspected buildup of enemy armour across the canal.
From what I can see the area over here is flat with alot of small ditches and canals cutting through the landscape at all angles. it looks like Il Duce spent a fistful of Lire on fixing up the area as the road net is quite good but all the bridges over the canal have been destroyed.
||We were warned to stay on the roads but ‘sure as shootin’ some idiots tried to take their armored cars through a cow pasture and got stuck in the mud. It took until the next morning using engineers and most of the maintenance guys to get all the vehicles out. The CO was furious. (After Action Report, 81st Cavalry Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Armored Division, Feb ‘44 through May ‘45)
Once the 81st Recon battalion got to the SSF area they were assigned to quite a few different mission. Primarily though they provided direct fire support in case of surprise attack. This was because the SSF was organised like a ranger regiment without any organic fire support.
The armored cars of the battalion were deployed into platoon strong points all along the main line of resistance formed by the SSF. This was primarily done to support against night attacks.
However, on 15 April C Company of the 81st Reconnaissance battalion was asked to support one of the SSF’s now legendary patrols. The task was to raid Cerreto Alto, a small village approximately two miles east of the Mussolini Canal. The raiding force consisted of infantry from the SSF, two platoons of M4 Sherman medium tanks, one platoon of M10 tank destroyers, one platoon of M5 Stuart light tanks, and one reconnaissance platoon.
|The enemy was entrenched in the buildings at
Cerreto Alto and it was expected they had tank and artillery support. In
reality, a company of Panzerpioniers from the Hermann Göring
Panzerdivision had entrenched in the village. Platoons of assault tanks,
assault guns, and tank-hunters supporting the 362. Infanteriedivision
to the north were close enough to provide support as was their
|The mission was to leave from the village of Brogo Sabotino while it was
still dark, neutralize or capture the Pionier company in Cerreto Alto
and return to Brogo Sabotino with minimal casualties.
Fallschirmpanzerdivision Hermann Göring
With the Reichsmarschall des Grossdeutschen Reiches (Hermann Göring) as their sponsor and the 8.8cm FlaK36 gun as their legacy, the Hermann Göring Fallschirmpanzerdivision grew from an elite anti-aircraft gun regiment assigned to protect the Fuhrer’s railroad car to one of the most feared German tank divisions. With a direct line to Hitler’s ear and access to the manpower of the Luftwaffe, Hermann Göring married his best and brightest soldaten with the newest and best equipment Germany had to offer.
The division was originally formed from the Hermann Göring Brigade in October 1942. Parts of the division began combat operations in Tunisia by January 1943.
|The Hermann Göring Flak Regiment, together with two other battalions, one from Panzergrenadierregiment
Hermannn Göring, and one from Panzerregiment Hermann Göring, with artillery support from 10. Panzerdivision and 999. Infanteriedivision, was formed into Kampfgruppe Schmidt and fought with elan until their surrender on 12 May.
Meanwhile, the rest of the division had been outfitting near Naples and, with the loss of North Africa, soon found themselves preparing for the defence of Sicily. Divisional losses in Tunisia approached 13,000. However by mid July the division had 46 Panzer III tanks, 32 Panzer IV tanks, 20 StuG G assault
guns, 9 StuH 42 assault guns and reported manning at 15,661 men. Moreover, Seventeen Tiger I E heavy tanks from the 504. Schwere Panzerabteilung (504th heavy tank battalion) were attached.
Throughout the Allied invasion of Sicily, the division fought a delaying action to the northeast across the island. They provided an outstanding fighting withdrawal allowing the retreat and escape of numerous German and Italian defenders to the Italian mainland.
||The division was committed once again against the Allied invasion of Italy. Though severely hampered due to shortages in men and material, parts of the division fought against nearly all the Allied landings including Salerno, and Anzio. Pulled from the Anzio beachhead after Operation Fischfang (the German
counteroffensive to eliminate the Anzio beachhead), the division was once again fully refitted and released against Operation Buffalo in May 1944.
|The Hermann Göring Fallschirmpanzerdivision was identified in Ultra intercepts as being released to cover the Valmontone Gap, prompting General Clark to change the direction of the breakout at Anzio and order the Allied offensive against Rome. Though suffering badly from Allied air attacks, elements of then division joined with the 90. Panzergrenadierdivision to keep Highway 6 open and allow the German Tenth Army to escape from Cassino.
||The Hermann Göring Panzerpionier Abteilung
The Hermann Göring Panzerpionier Abteilung was in great demand throughout the Italian campaign as were all German engineering units. The continuous building, repairing, and demolition operations inherent in a defensive retreat kept them continuously occupied.
Their presence was felt throughout Italy, providing engineering support
for the German Tenth Army as it fell back northward from Sicily to the
Gustav Line south of Rome.
|When the Hermann Göring Panzerdivision was removed from the line for
refitting, the Pioneer battalion was still providing engineering support
in the field.
After the Allied landing at Anzio and the release of the Hermann Göring
Panzerdivision to the beachhead, the HG Pioneer Battalion was dispatched
to the Mussolini Canal. Here it dug in and held the line, first against
Darby’s Rangers, and next against the Devil’s Brigade.
|The Devil’s Brigade in Flames Of War
Creating the Devil’s Brigade as a Flames of War list ran the gamut from a
labour of love to pushing the envelope in Special Rules. The
innumerable capabilities of the First Special Service Force together
with its elite nature well-supported by its short but flamboyant combat
record provides a structure unique in the game. Incorporating their
bravado into a hard charging do or die unit was both challenging and
Warning: This unit is not for the meek or mild. It is expensive,
destructive, and ultimately very satisfying or extremely disappointing.
It has the capability to completely break through and destroy the best
enemy infantry even when they’re dug in. It can sweep through rough
terrain, destroy even the heaviest armour, and completely dominate the
battlefield. But a word of caution. If the enemy can catch them in the
open they are quite brittle. They will take horrible casualties and
And now, with the support of the entire 5th Army, they can deliver many
hours of sheer excitement whether in a tournament or a friendly game.
Handle them with care and love and they will deliver
Last Updated On Wednesday, March 19, 2014 by Blake at Battlefront