The Highway to the Devils Brigade

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By Isabella Lee

Even though there were high losses throughout their European campaigns, the First Special Service Force (FSSF) never lost a battle.

“We worked. We sweat. We prayed. We cried. We advanced out of danger—and we lucky ones know that sweat saved blood.” stated John Lloyd “Jack” Knight, one of the original members of the First Special Service Force, during a collections program presented on November 3, 2007 at the Galt Museum and Archives.

The FSSF soldiers demonstrated their expertise and throughout their various campaigns. They secured Monte la Defensa and the adjacent strategic ridges. They protected the Anzio Beachhead. They ensured Allied liberation of Rome.

The FSSF’s abilities were also demonstrated during the amphibious landings on Kiska in the Aleutians and Iles d’Hyeres of southern France. Their use of psychological warfare brought fear to the enemy. Their collaborative spirit and aggressive fighting during challenging times allowed them to gain respect from both the Allied and Axis units.

Nearly 1,500 Canadians eventually served in the FSSF. The strong integration and cooperation it embodied had a lasting impact on Canadian and American government policy and military special units, even though it was disbanded in France in 1944. 

In September 1999, the section of Highway 4 and Interstate 15 from the City of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada and Helena, Montana, United States was renamed the “First Special Service Force Memorial Highway.” Highway 4 acted as an important corridor for Canadian soldiers as they headed towards Helena, Montana to begin their training with their American counter parts. It now honors the First Canadian Special Service Battalion’s Achievements and sacrifices.

Learn more about the First Special Service Force, or Devil’s Brigade, and military history in our region at the Galt Museum & Archives.