Book Review
First Special Service Force
First Special Service Force 1942-44
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by: Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]


**A concise history of the unique integrated commando-style brigade of US and Canadian volunteers formed in 1942. Hand picked, and trained in airborne, amphibious, mountain and winter warfare, demolitions, and close-quarter tactics, they left a combat legacy still recognized among today’s Special Forces. **

** Author’s words quoted from the back cover of the book.

Osprey Publications Ltd has released First Special Service Force 1942-44 as Number 145 in their Elite series, as a paperback book with 64 pages by author Bret Werner and illustrator Michael Welply with consultant editor Martin Windrow. Included with the text are black and white photographs, colour illustrations, and detailed captions. It has a 2006 copyright and the ISBN is 1-841761-1968-1. As the title states, the book covers the First Special Service Force during WWII.
“Das dickke ende kommt noch”! = “The worst is yet to come”! – The First Special Service Force motto.

the contents

- Introduction: Project “Plough”
- Geoffrey Pyke and the original concept
- Robert T. Frederick and the beginnings of the FSSF
- Organization & Training
- Organization and unit composition
- Recruitment and training
- The changed role
- Operations
- The Aleutians
- Italy: the Winter Line – Anzio - the breakout and the advance to Rome
- Southern France – the Franco-Italian border
- Successor units
- Uniforms
- Service uniforms
- Officer’s service uniforms
- Insignia worn on service uniform
- Service awards and decorations
- Training uniforms
- Combat uniforms
- Equipment
- Standard field gear – other field gear – specialized equipment
- Weapons
- Special weapons
- Standard weapons
- Vehicles
- Select Bibliography
- Plate Commentaries
- Index

the text

The text in the book is well written and extremely detailed. Bret Werner covers the First Special Service Force during World War Two very well and goes into great detail in the development, training and the military actions that the unit was involved with such as the fighting in the Aleutians and in Italy.
Another area covered in the text is the uniforms, weapons and equipment used by the First Special Service Force such as back packs and web gear. Also included is information about the M29 Weasel (T-15) which was developed for this now famous military unit. Two items that are discussed that helped distinguish this now famous unit is the V-42 fighting knife and their trademark mountain trousers.
This is a well written history that will be of great use and interest to the well-seasoned and knowledgeable First Special Service Force historian or the individual that is new to this world famous military unit and wants to learn about its history. As I read through the text I didn’t notice any spelling or grammatical errors, which might not be an important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my findings. I feel that if the text is well written then it shows that the author has taken the time to be a professional with their writing. Anyone wanting to add an excellent reference and history book on the First Special Service Force to their personal library will be pleased with this book and will find this book very informative and interesting. Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the text for yourself.

the photographs

There are a total of 56 black and white photographs throughout the book. There are no colour photographs featured in this volume. Bret Werner has stuck to the title of the book and chose photographs that are specific to the First Special Service Force and did not include photographs that strayed from the main subject of the book. The majority of the photographs are nice clear, centered and focused images, however there are a few that have an out of focus look to them and some appear to be too dark. With that said the quality of the blurry photographs is of no fault of the author and do not take anything away from the book. I haven’t seen a majority of the featured photographs before, if not all of them, and I was pleased with this. Many of the photographs provide several close-up details on items such as uniforms and web equipment.

Some of the items shown are:

- Ski training
- Jump (parachute) training
- Mountain warfare training
- German Tiger tank
- US M3 halftrack being used as an ambulance
- US M1941 Johnson light machinegun
- US M29 (T-15) Weasel
- Unit insignia
- Various clothing items
- Web gear and backpacks
- US Sherman tank
- Camp sites
- German POW (Prisoner of War)
Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the photographs for yourself.

the colour illustrations

There are 8 pages of colour illustrations by illustrator Michael Welply which covers the uniforms of the First Special Service Force and they are very well done. There are informative captions that accompany the illustrations that detail the individual regiments, dates and locations shown. The military scale figure modeler will find the detailed illustrations very helpful for detailing purposes. Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the illustrations for yourself.

The colour illustrations are of the following:

- Training, Montana, 1942-43
1: Canadian Forceman, Ft. Harrison, fall 1942
2: Forceman, summer service dress, August 1942
3: Forceman during ski training, January 1943
- Aleutians & Vermont, summer 1943
1: Forceman, 1st Regt; Op “Cottage”, Kiska, August 1943
2: Sgt, 2nd Regt; Amchitka airfield, August 15, 1943
3: 1st Lt, FSSF Air Detachment; Ft Ethan Allen, VT, September 1943

- Winter Line, Italy, 1943-44
1: Forceman, 3rd Regt; Mte La Difensa, December 1943
2: Forceman; Radicosa hills, January 1944
3: Forceman, 1st Regt; Radicosa hills, January

- Anzio, February-May 1944
1 & 2: Sgt & Forceman, 2nd Regt, April 1944
3: Forceman, 3rd Regt; Mussolini Canal, February 1944
4: “Death sticker”

- Anzio Breakout & Advance To Rome, May-June 1944
1: Forceman, 1st Regt; Anzio breakout, May 25, 1944
2: Staff sergeant; Rome, June 4, 1944
3: Forceman, Cannon Co; Rome, June 1944

- Southern France, 1944
1: Sgt, 2nd Regt; 1st Abn Task Force, September 1944
2A & 2B: Pvt Snyder & T-4 Owen, 3rd Regt; Alpes Maritimes, fall 1944
3: 1st Lt, 1st Regt; Alpes Maritimes, November 1944

- Service Uniforms, & Successor Units
1: Canadian Forceman; Helena, MT, 1943
2: 1st Lt, 1st Cdn Special Service Bn, January 1945
3: 1st Lt, 474th Inf Regt (Sep); Norway, July 1945

- Insignia & Colours

the captions

The captions that accompany the photographs are well written and are very detailed. They give very specific information as to individuals, uniform items, weapons, vehicles, and armor shown. As with the text I didn’t notice any spelling or grammatical errors I read through the captions. Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the captions for yourself.


All in all I am very impressed with the book. This is a very nice reference book that contains many excellent and subject specific photographs and illustrations and well detailed captions. It details the First Special Service Force from 1942-44 very well. This volume will be of interest and also beneficial to the military uniform and equipment collector, military re-enactor, weapon and military vehicle enthusiast and anyone interested in First Special Service Force during World War II or Special Forces units as a whole. There are no maps provided in this volume and personally I would have liked to have seen some maps provided to show the units movements during its various actions, but that is just a personal wish. I would have no hesitation to add other Osprey titles to my personal library nor would I hesitate to recommend this book to others as it will be a welcome addition to one’s personal military reference library.

This book was provided by Osprey Publishing Ltd. Please be sure to mention that you saw the book reviewed here when you make your purchase.


World War 2 Combat Uniforms and Insignia
Squadron/Signal Publications, #6013
Published in 1977
Martin Windrow with colour illustrations by Gerry Embleton

World The Military Book Club Encyclopedia of Infantry Weapons of WWII
Saturn Books Ltd.
Ian V. Hogg

American Web Equipment 1910 – 1967
Europa Militaria No 33
Martin J. Brayley
The Crowood Press

Tankograd – Technical Manual Series No 6020
U.S. WWII Studebaker M29 & M29C Weasel
Verlag Jochen Vollert
Edited by Michael Franz
Tankograd Publishing

First Special Service Force Living History Group UK web site:

Related Wikipedia web site:

Take a look inside the book at the Osprey Publishing LTD web site:

Take a look inside the book at the Amazon web site:
http://www.amazon.com/First-Special-Service-Force-1942/dp/1841769681/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1341765201&sr=1-3-fkmr0&keywords=First Special Service Force 1942–44
Highs: Well written and detailed text and captions. Nice photographs and artwork.
Lows: No maps showing the units movements during its various actions.
Verdict: This is a very nice reference book that will make a nice addition to anyone’s personal library and will also be a benefit to the military enthusiast and historian.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:1
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 1-841761-1968-1
  Suggested Retail: US $17.95/ $25.95 CAN
  PUBLISHED: Jul 15, 2012
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Randy L Harvey (HARV)

I have been in the modeling hobby off and on since my youth. I build mostly 1/35 scale. However I work in other scales for aircraft, ships and the occasional civilian car kit. I also kit bash and scratch-build when the mood strikes. I mainly model WWI and WWII figures, armor, vehic...

Copyright ©2021 text by Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]. All rights reserved.


Fine review. I thumbed through this book a couple of times and was impressed that we had this multinational commando group. I was intrigued by the "death cards", a'la Apocalypse Now; did any other units have them in WW2? Great artwork, too.
JUL 14, 2012 - 02:45 PM
Thank you Fred. I appreciate the kind feedback. I actually met one of the members of that unit years back. He passed away a couple of years after I met him but it was cool to actually meet one of the surviving members. I don't know about death cards from other units. I didn't know that they even had them back then. Pretty cool mind games. Thanks again, Randy
JUL 17, 2012 - 01:36 PM
If you are interested Dragon has a Gen 2 set - US Mountain troops Winter that can very easily be depicted as SSF in Italy. Just change out the boots to reflect jump boots and if you like add the DML Johnston MG to add a little more distinction. Cheers Ray
JUL 21, 2012 - 08:50 AM
Cool, thank you for the info and suggestions Ray. Randy
JUL 21, 2012 - 04:22 PM

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