Devil's Brigade-Not the Movie, the Book!

Article excerpt

The Supercommandos: The First Special Service Force, 1942-1944," by Robert Todd Ross, is a new and superbly written book from Schiffer Military History Book/Schiffer Publishing, Atglen, PA, $59.95.

The words "vigorous training, hazardous duty" became a lure for volunteers to the force, drawing from two armies-Canadian and U.S.-to create an esprit de corps that made it one of the finest combat units in World War II. We are given an insider's view of the organization, training, and combat operations of the First Special Service Force-later given the nickname "the Devil's Brigade" by their German opponents.

What makes this book a requirement for your military library? Within its 320 pages, you will find more than 400 black and white images, 40 full-color photos of the force in training and combat (unusual because color photography was in its infancy at this time), more than 80 full-color images of force uniforms, insignia, weapons, and equipment. If this still is not enough, there are full-color maps, order-of-battle graphics, charts, and photographs of original documents.

But there is still more. A unique featurea previously unpublished photo-essay by Frank Capra, renowned combat photographer and author of the "Why We Fight" series issued-adds great value to this excellent unit anthology. What you get is truly unparalleled coverage of an elite unit that set the style for today's special operations forces.

Schiffer books are easily recognized by their colorful bindery. Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA 19310. Phone: (610) 593-1777. Fax: (610) 593-2002. E-mail: Schifferbk@aol.com. Web site: www.schifferbooks.com.

Now to reader requests. Let's expand the scope of this review and include "German Paratroops: Uniforms, Insignia & Equipment of the Fallschirmjager in World War II," by Robert Kurtz, also from Schiffer Publishing, for $59.95. This is a great text for the collector and historian. Included are sections covering the uniforms, insignia and equipment of Italian, Hungarian, and Japanese paratroops.

Valuable items are detailed and described in this book. Take, for example, the original German paratrooper badge. It comes in army and Luftwaffe versions, with the army badge being the rarer of the two. Collectors pay $850 apiece for them.

"World War II Axis Parachutes," by Guy Richards. Guess what? It's another Schiffer Book! The price: $59.95. Remember those camera shots of German paratroopers exiting a JU-52 aircraft at what appears to be a very low altitude?

Actually, German parachute design allowed for that capability, although the German troops looked strange coming down with their parachutes connected to a single point on their backs, making their descent look awkward and uncontrolled.

This book complements the Kurtz book, providing rare equipment details-including gear from both the Japanese army and navy. There is a glossary of technical terms from each country. You need both books for a complete picture of World War II technology.

"German Paratroopers," edited by Chris McNab and issued by MBI Publishing, traces the history of airborne warfare.

Created in the 1930s-as an adjunct to air power, to achieve surprise and create a third dimension to battle-paratroops did not originate in Germany. The concept goes back to the U.S. Army's Gen. Billy Mitchell during the waning months of World War I.

The 1920s saw the establishment of Italian paratroop units and Russian experiments with large-scale paratroop deployments. …