Special Operations in the Mediterranean

The opening blows against Hitler's Fortress Europe came not in Western Europe but in the Mediterranean. Once the United States had entered the war, American leaders pressed for a direct cross-channel assault against the Continent. Through 1942 and much of 1943, however, they yielded to British concerns over Allied readiness for such a large step and accepted less ambitious endeavors against the "soft underbelly" of Axis-dominated Europe. The soft underbelly proved to be a hard shell as Allied armies, after driving the Germans and Italians from North Africa and Sicily, made slow progress against a tenacious German defense in the wet climate and rugged highlands of the Italian peninsula. In this theater of sandy wastes and jagged mountains bordered by the placid waters of the Mediterranean, American forces discovered both a need and a favorable environment for their first major special operations of the war.

Darby's Rangers

While the U.S. Army's Rangers would perform several special operations in the course of the war, they traced their origins to a provisional formation created by the chief of staff to remedy the Army's lack of combat experience during the early months of 1942. When Marshall visited Great Britain in April to urge a cross-channel invasion, he met Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, the charismatic head of British Combined Operations Headquarters (COHQ), and later visited COHQ's commando training center in Scotland. In Mountbatten's commando raiding program, Marshall perceived a means of providing American soldiers with at least some combat experience. At his direction Col. Lucian K. Truscott met with British lead-

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ers to determine the best way of fulfilling this objective. Subsequently, Truscott recommended the formation of an American commando unit which would bear the designation Ranger. Under Truscott's concept, most personnel would join the new Ranger force on a temporary basis and then return to their parent units after several months of field operations. Marshall approved the proposals, and on 19 June 1942, Truscott officially activated the 1st Ranger Battalion in Northern Ireland.1

As commander of the battalion, Truscott selected Capt. William O. Darby. At the time Darby was serving as an aide to Maj. Gen. Russell P. Hartle, the commander of American forces in Northern Ireland. When Hartle recommended Darby for the command of the new unit, Truscott was receptive, having found the young officer to be "outstanding in appearance, possessed of a most attractive personality, . . . keen, intelligent, and filled with enthusiasm." 2 His judgment proved accurate. The 31-year-old Darby, a graduate of West Point in 1933, soon demonstrated an innate ability to gain the confidence of his superiors and the deep devotion of his men.3

Using the model of the British commandos, Darby energetically organized his new unit. Circulars, calling for volunteers, soon appeared on bulletin boards of the 34th Infantry Division, the 1st Armored Division, and other American units training in Northern Ireland. Darby and an officer from Hartle's staff personally examined and selected officers, who, in turn, interviewed the enlisted volunteers, looking especially for athletic individuals in good physical condition. The recruits, ranging in age from seventeen to thirty-five, came from every part of the United States; they included a former lion tamer and a full-blooded Sioux Indian. Although several units attempted to unload misfits and troublemakers on the new unit, most recruits joined out of a yearning for adventure and a desire to be part of an elite force. As the volunteers arrived at the battalion's camp, Darby formed them into a headquarters company and six line companies of sixty-seven men each, an organization which sacrificed firepower and administrative self-sufficiency for foot and amphibious mobility.4

The advanced commando training of the battalion lasted approximately three months. Immediately on arriving at Fort William in northern Scotland, the recruits embarked on an exhausting forced march to their camp in the shadow of Ach-

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Photo: Lt. Gen. Lucian K. Truscott Jr. (U.S. Army photograph)

Photo: Col. William O. Darby (U.S. Army photograph)

nacarry Castle, a trek that foreshadowed a month of rigorous training. The future Rangers endured log-lifting drills, obstacle courses, and speed marches over mountains and through frigid rivers under the watchful eye of British commando instructors. In addition, they received weapons training and instruction in hand-to-hand combat, street fighting, patrols, night operations, and the handling of small boats. The training stressed realism, including the use of live ammunition. On one occasion, a Ranger alertly picked up a grenade that a commando had thrown into a boatload of trainees and hurled it over the lake before it exploded. In early August the battalion transferred to Argyle, Scotland, for training in amphibious operations with the Royal Navy and later moved to Dundee where they stayed in private homes while practicing attacks on pillboxes and coastal defenses.5

While training proceeded, fifty Rangers participated in the raid on Dieppe on 19 August 1942. Although the Allies apparently hoped that the raid would ease German pressure on the Soviets, the ostensible purpose was to test the defenses of the port and force the German Air Force to give battle. To clear the way for the main assault on the town by the 2d Canadian

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Photo: Rangers train on the terrain of the 8 November assault at Arzew (U.S. Army Photograph)

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Division, two British commando battalions, accompanied by American Ranger personnel, were to seize a pair of coastal batteries flanking the port. Although one of the battalions successfully landed, destroyed its assigned battery west of Dieppe, and withdrew, the flotilla carrying the second battalion was dispersed by German torpedo boats, permitting only a fraction of the force to reach shore. By accurate sniper fire, a small party of this group prevented the battery from firing on the Allied fleet, but many of their American and British comrades were captured. In the meantime, the main assault had turned into a disaster, suffering 3,400 casualties of the 5,000 engaged. While the Allied high command claimed to have learned lessons that proved invaluable to the success of the landings on Normandy two years later, the raid remains a subject of controversy.6

North Africa

Dieppe proved to be the only operation undertaken by Darby's Rangers in accordance with Marshall's original concept. In late July the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, under pressure from a president anxious for action against the Germans on some front, reluctantly bowed to British arguments for an invasion of French North Africa, code named Operation TORCH. As planners examined the task of securing the initial beachheads, they perceived a need for highly trained forces that could approach the landing areas and seize key defensive positions in advance of the main force. Accordingly, Darby's battalion received a mission to occupy two forts at the entrance of Arzew harbor, clearing the way for the landing of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division of the Center Task Force (Map 1). 7

The performance of the Rangers in their first independent mission reflected their emphasis on leadership, training, and careful planning. In the early morning hours of 8 November two companies under Darby's executive officer, Maj. Herman W. Dammer, slipped through a boom blocking the entrance to the inner harbor of Arzew and stealthily approached Fort de la Pointe. After climbing over a seawall and cutting through barbed. wire, two groups of Rangers assaulted the position from opposite directions. Within fifteen minutes, they had the fort and sixty startled French prisoners. Meanwhile, Darby and the remaining four companies landed near Cap Carbon and

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Map1: Darby's Rangers in Northwest Africa, November1942-March 1943

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climbed a ravine to reach Batterie du Nord, overlooking the harbor. With the support of Company D's four 81-mm. mortars, the force assaulted the position, capturing the battery and sixty more prisoners. Trying to signal his success to the waiting fleet, Darby, whose radio had been lost in the landing, shot off a series of green flares before finally establishing contact through the radio of a British forward observer party. The Rangers had achieved their first success, a triumph tempered only by the later impressment of two companies as line troops in the 1st Infantry Division's beachhead perimeter. Ranger losses were light, but the episode foreshadowed the future use of the Rangers as line infantry.8

While Allied forces occupied Northwest Africa and advanced into Tunisia, Darby kept his Rangers busy with a rigorous program of physical conditioning and training in night and amphibious operations. Rumors of possible raiding missions spread within the battalion, but, as December and January passed without any further assignments, morale rapidly declined. Many Rangers transferred to other units. As yet, the Army still had no doctrine or concept of the employment of such units on the conventional battlefield, or elsewhere, and American field commanders were more concerned about their advance into the rear of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps than in any program of seaborne commando raids.9

In early February 1943 the Allied high command finally found a mission for the Rangers. Lt. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's theater headquarters attached the battalion to Maj. Gen. Lloyd R. Fredendall's II Corps in Tunisia. Hoping to gather intelligence and mislead the enemy regarding Allied strength and intentions, Fredendall directed the battalion to launch a series of raids against the Italo-German lines. The Rangers struck first against the Italian outpost at Sened. On the night of 10-11 February three Ranger companies marched through eight miles of rugged Tunisian terrain to a chain of hills overlooking the position. After observing the outpost by day, the Rangers, about midnight, began a four-mile approach march, advancing to successive phase lines and using colored lights to maintain formation. At 200 yards the Italians spotted their advance and opened fire, but most of the shots passed harmlessly overhead. The Rangers waited until they were fifty

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yards away before launching a bayonet assault. Within twenty minutes, they had overrun the garrison, killing fifty and capturing eleven before withdrawing to friendly lines.10

The raiding program was soon cut short by developments to the north. Within days of the action at Sened, the Germans launched a counteroffensive through Kasserine Pass, roughly handling the green American units and forcing Fredendall to withdraw his exposed right flank. After serving as a rear guard for the withdrawal, the Rangers held a regimental-size front across Dernaia Pass and patrolled in anticipation of a German attack in the area. It would not be the last time that field commanders, short of troops, used the Rangers as line infantry in an emergency.11

When the II Corps, now under Maj. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., returned to the offensive in March, the 1st Ranger Battalion played a key role in the Allied breakthrough. After spear-heading the 1st Infantry Division's advance to El Guettar, the Rangers found the Italians blocking the road at the pass of Djebel el Ank. The terrain to either side of the position appeared impassable, but Ranger patrols found a twelve-mile path through the mountains and ravines north of the pass to the Italian rear. During the night of 20-21 March, the battalion, accompanied by a heavy mortar company, followed this tortuous route, reaching a plateau overlooking the Italian position by 0600. As the sun rose, the Rangers, supported by the mortars, struck the Italians from flank and rear, while the 26th Infantry made a frontal assault. The enemy fled, leaving the pass and 200 prisoners in American hands. After patrolling and helping to repulse enemy counterattacks from a defensive position near Djobel Berda, the Rangers returned to Algeria for a rest. Shortly afterward, the Axis surrender of Tunis and Bizerte concluded the North African campaign.12

Sicily and Italy

The performance of Darby's forces in North Africa and the continuing need for troops to spearhead amphibious landings led Eisenhower's headquarters to form additional Ranger units. Patton and Maj. Gen. Terry Allen, commander of the 1st Infantry Division, praised the Rangers in glowing terms, and Allied planners requested authorization from the War Department to form two more battalions for the invasion of Sicily.

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Map 2: Southern Italy and Sicily, 1943-1944

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Marshall approved the expansion but again stipulated that Ranger-trained soldiers be returned to their parent units once the need for the battalions had passed. His attitude underlined the continuing status of these battalions as temporary organizations. Nevertheless, Darby and his officers enthusiastically sought out volunteers for the new formations, making stump speeches at replacement depots throughout North Africa. At Nemours, where Dammer had created a replica of the commando training depots, the recruits endured physical conditioning, weapons training, and amphibious landings under live fire.l3

In Sicily the Rangers served first as assault troops in the landing and then in various task forces in the drive across the island (Map 2). At Gela in the early morning darkness of 10 July the 1st and 4th Ranger Battalions, under Darby and Maj. Roy Murray, attacked across a mined beach to capture the town and coastal batteries. They then withstood two days of counterattacks, battling tanks with thermite grenades and a single 37-mm. gun in the streets of Gela. For all the courage of individual Rangers, naval gunfire support proved decisive in holding the town. As Allied forces expanded the beachhead, one Ranger company captured the formidable fortress town of Butera in a daring night attack, while to the west Dammer's 3d Ranger Battalion moved by foot and truck to capture the harbor of Porto Empedocle, taking over 700 prisoners. In the ensuing drive to Palermo, the 1st and 4th Ranger Battalions joined task forces guarding the flanks of the advance, and the 3d Ranger Battalion later aided the advance along the northern Sicilian coast to Messina by infiltrating through the mountains to outflank successive German delaying positions. By the fall of Messina on 17 August, marking the end of the Sicilian campaign, the Rangers were already preparing for the invasion of Italy.14

At Salerno the Rangers once again secured critical objectives during the amphibious assault, but, cut off by the rapid German response to the main landings, they were forced to hold their positions for about three weeks, a defensive mission unsuitable for such light units. Landing on a narrow, rocky beach to the left of the main beachhead early on the morning of 9 September, the Rangers quickly occupied the high ground of the Sorrentino peninsula, dominating the routes between

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Photo: Soldiers of the 3d Ranger Battalion board LCIs that will take them to Anzio. Two weeks later, nearly all would be killed or captured at Cisterna (U.S. Army Photograph)

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the invasion beaches and Naples. To the south the Germans contained the main landing, preventing Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark's Fifth Army from linking up with the Ranger position. Nevertheless, Darby's three battalions, assisted by paratroopers and British commandos, held their position against repeated German attacks. Lacking enough troops to hold a continuous line, the Rangers adopted a system of mutually supporting strongpoints and relied on the terrain and naval gunfire, which they directed to harass the routes from Naples until Clark's force broke through to them on 30 September.l5

Casualties mounted when the Rangers served as line infantry in the offensive against the German Winter Line. Lacking troops on the Venafro front, Clark used the Rangers to fill gaps in Fifth Army's line from early November to mid-December. Attached to divisions, the battalions engaged in bitter mountain fighting at close quarters. Although reinforced by a cannon company of four 75-mm. guns on half-tracks, they still lacked the firepower and manpower for protracted combat. By mid-December the continuous fighting and the cold, wet weather had taken a heavy toll. In one month of action, for example, the 1st Ranger Battalion lost 350 men, including nearly 200 casualties from exposure. Moreover, the quality of the battalions declined as veterans were replaced by enthusiastic, but inadequately trained, replacements.l6

A botched infiltration mission on the Anzio beachhead in early 1944 completed the destruction of Darby's Rangers. After a nearly unopposed Allied amphibious assault on 22 January 1944, Maj. Gen. John P. Lucas, commander of the VI Corps, failed to press his advantage, and the Germans were able to contain the Allies within a narrow perimeter. Seeking to push out of this confined area, Truscott, now a major general and commander of the 3d Infantry Division, ordered the 1st and 3d Ranger Battalions to infiltrate four miles behind enemy lines to the crossroads town of Cisterna. One hour after their departure, the 4th Ranger Battalion and the rest of the division would launch a frontal assault and use the confusion created by the infiltrating Rangers to drive a deep wedge into the German defenses. American intelligence, however, had failed to notice a large German buildup opposite the American lines, and Ranger reconnaissance of the target area was poor.

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When the two battalions began their infiltration on the night of 29-30 January, the enemy quickly detected them and by dawn had surrounded them with infantry and armor just outside Cisterna. In a desperate attempt to rescue the isolated units, the 4th Ranger Battalion repeatedly attacked the German lines throughout the morning but succeeded in losing half of its combat strength in the futile effort. About noon, the remnants of the 1st and 3d surrendered. Only eight men escaped to American lines.17

Left with a fragment of the Ranger force, American theater commanders decided to deactivate rather than reconstitute the damaged units. Even before Cisterna, the lack of time to train replacements had diluted the quality of the battalions. In truth, the Rangers had become little more than line infantry units, but without the firepower of the normal American infantry regiments of the time. Anticipating tough, methodical fighting for which Ranger units were unsuited, theater commanders preferred to use the remaining Rangers to alleviate the perennial shortage of replacements. Accordingly, in March Rangers with enough points for overseas service returned to the United States, while the remainder joined the 1st Special Service Force, a similar type of formation that had recently arrived in the theater. 18

The 1st Special Service Force

The 1st Special Service Force traced its origins to Marshall's trip to Great Britain in early 1942, the same visit that had inspired the formation of the 1st Ranger Battalion. Between conferences on grand strategy, Mountbatten had introduced Marshall to Geoffrey Pyke, an eccentric British scientist who had developed a scheme to divert up to half-a-million German troops from the main fronts. Under Pyke's plan, commandos, using special vehicles, would conduct a series of winter raids against snowbound German garrisons of such vulnerable points as hydroelectric stations in Norway and oil refineries in Romania. Exactly how the raiding units would enter and leave the target areas remained hazy, but the concept fascinated Marshall. After returning to the United States, he gave the project a high priority despite the skepticism of War Department planners. Studebaker, an automobile manufactur-

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Photo: Brig. Gen. Robert T. Frederick (U.S. Army Photograph)

er, received a contract for the design and production of the vehicle later known as the Weasel. In June the Allies also agreed to form a Canadian-American force under Col. Robert T. Frederick to conduct the raids. Although as a War Department staff officer he had opposed the project, the tall, vigorous Frederick proved to be a natural leader, respected by superiors and idolized by his men.19

At Fort William Henry Harrison, an isolated post near Helena, Montana, Frederick assembled his new unit, which he named the 1st Special Service Force in an apparent attempt to disguise its true purpose. Initially, it consisted of three battalion-size units of light infantry (officially designated as regiments) and a service echelon. For American personnel, who would constitute about 60 percent of the unit, inspection teams canvassed Army units in the Southwest and on the Pacific seaboard for hardened volunteers, especially those with a background as "lumberjacks, forest rangers, hunters, north-woodsmen, game wardens, prospectors, and explorers." 20 As was the case with the Rangers, many post commanders used the recruiting drive to empty their stockades and rid themselves of malcontents, and some "volunteer" contingents even arrived at Fort Harrison under armed guard. Frederick soon weeded out unfit recruits, driving his men through an intensive

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program that stressed physical conditioning, weapons training, hand-to-hand fighting, demolitions, rock climbing, and the operation of the Weasel. For training in winter warfare, the recruits lived in boxcars on the Continental Divide while receiving instruction in cross-country skiing from Norwegian instructors. The accelerated schedule allowed only six days for airborne training. Frederick wanted to have the unit ready for operations by the winter of 1942-43. 21

Unfortunately for Frederick's raiders, the Allied high command canceled their mission before they could even take the field. When Frederick visited Great Britain in September 1942, he found that support for the project had evaporated. The Royal Air Force showed little enthusiasm for the diversion of the necessary planes from its bombing campaign, and the Special Operations Executive had already laid plans for a more economic sabotage program that was preferred by Norway's government-in-exile. Mountbatten thus recommended that the project be canceled, and Frederick agreed. While his unit broadened its training to include more general infantry skills and amphibious operations, Frederick investigated other areas

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Photo: Mount La Difensa (U.S. Army Photograph)

where his men could use their special capabilities, including the Caucasus Mountains, New Guinea, and the North Pacific. In August 1943 the unit finally went into action for the first time, spearheading the bloodless recapture of Kiska in the Aleutians. The rapid conclusion of the campaign again left Frederick's unit without a mission. Finally, in October, General Clark, desperate for troops, secured the transfer of the 1st Special Service Force to his Fifth Army in the Mediterranean, and the combat history of the 1st Special Service Force began.22

Shortly after its arrival in late November, the 1st Special Service Force received its initial mission. Looming over Fifth Army's front, the twin peaks of Monte La Difensa and Monte La Rementanea presented formidable barriers to the Allied advance into the Liri River Valley. A German panzer grenadier division deeply entrenched along the slopes of the two masses had already thrown back repeated Allied attempts to gain control of the heights. Attached to the 36th Infantry Division, the 1st Special Service Force received orders to carry the two peaks. After a personal reconnaissance of the 3,000-foot La Difensa, Frederick decided to avoid the trail leading up the

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south side and instead to launch a surprise attack via a 200-foot cliff on the opposite slope. On the night of 2-3 December 600 riflemen of the 2d Regiment moved silently up the face to a position only yards away from the German defenders on the crest. When noise from displaced stones alerted the enemy, the special servicemen assaulted the position and within two hours gained control of the crest. From there, they pushed down a saddle to capture neighboring Monte La Rementanea and to link up with British units on the other side of the valley. The fall of the twin peaks cracked the Winter Line and opened the way for the Allied advance to Cassino.23

Any euphoria that Frederick's men might have felt over their success dissipated soon after the unit reentered the fighting as line infantry in late December. Poor weather and a skillful German defense among rocks and gullies slowed the advance to a crawl and took a heavy toll of the special servicemen. Like the Ranger units, they lacked the heavier weapons needed to blast the Germans out of their positions, as well as an adequate system to replace their growing combat and non-combat casualties. After a bitter struggle, the 1st Regiment captured Monte Sammucro but lost much of its fighting power. The 3d Regiment used a surprise night assault to overwhelm the defenders of Monte Majo but then suffered heavy casualties in a three-day defense of the height against German counterattacks. In one month of service before its transfer to Anzio, the force had lost 1,400 of its 1,800 men and badly needed the qualified replacements made available by the disbandment of the Rangers.24

Deploying to the Anzio beachhead in early February 1944, the 1st Special Service Force anchored the Allied right flank along the Mussolini Canal and later spearheaded the drive on Rome. At Anzio Frederick's 1,300 troops defended 13 kilometers of the 52-kilometer-long Allied perimeter. Their position in the flat, open tableland adjoining the canal was dominated by German artillery in the heights overlooking the beachhead. Defending its sector, the unit used night patrols to locate targets for artillery, conduct raids on German outposts, and maintain control of the area between the lines. In late May Frederick's troops participated in the breakout from the beachhead and reinforced an armored task force covering the flank

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of the subsequent Allied drive on Rome. Early on the morning of 4 June the first elements of the combined force entered Rome and secured the bridges over the Tiber River. The 1st Special Service Force then withdrew to Lake Albano for rest and reorganization.25

After the fall of Rome, the unit's final six months proved anticlimactic. Assigned to Lt. Gen. Alexander M. Patch's Seventh Army for the invasion of southern France, the force received orders to seize German batteries on the Iles d'Hyeres, three rocky land masses on the left flank of the invasion beaches. On the night of 14-15 August the special servicemen, now under the command of Col. Edwin A. Walker, used rubber boats to land on the shores of Ile de Port Cros and Ile du Levant. Within forty-eight hours, the surprised defenders on both islands had surrendered, and Walker's troops prepared to join the main army. Guarding the right flank of Patch's advance, the unit's ensuing drive along the Riviera, the so-called Champagne Campaign, seemed more like an extended route march than a battle. Only a few German rear guards offered any resistance. By early September the unit had established a static defensive position in the mountains along the Franco-Italian border, where it remained for the next three months. In early December Eisenhower's headquarters, under orders from the War Department, dissolved the unit, returning the Canadians to their own army and transferring the Americans to a separate infantry regiment assigned to Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley's 12th Army Group.26

The Office of Strategic Services in the Mediterranean

In North Africa and Italy the Army ignored the role that commando-type units, such as the 1st Special Service Force, might have played in operations behind enemy lines, leaving the field to the Office of Strategic Services. Both OSS personnel and their British counterparts in the Special Operations Executive were supervised by the G-3 Division of the theater headquarters, but the Americans tended to be dominant in North Africa, while the British enjoyed greater influence in the eastern Mediterranean. Although OSS personnel initially lacked experience, resources, and the respect of skeptical staff officers in the theater, the agency soon proved its value. Prior

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to TORCH, agents established contact with Allied sympathizers in North Africa and gathered intelligence vital to the invasion. To guard against a possible Axis thrust through Spanish Morocco into the Allied rear, two civilian operatives even organized warrior tribesmen of the region into a guerrilla force. At Salerno an OSS detachment provided critical tactical intelligence to Darby's Rangers during their defense of the Sorrentino peninsula. Nevertheless, OSS personnel often complained that their operations were misunderstood by field commanders, citing one colonel who expected them to "sit in foxholes and toss petard grenades and Molotov cocktails at German heavy tanks as they rolled over us." 27 Nevertheless, their activities earned the interest and approval of General Clark, who gave them vehicles, rations, and a free hand. 28

As the Allied armies expanded their foothold on the Italian peninsula during the fall of 1943, the newly arrived operational groups began to establish bases on offshore islands for raids against the German-held northern coastline. In February 1943 Eisenhower agreed to allow the OSS's Special Operations staff at Algiers to employ four to eight of these commando cells to organize and otherwise assist guerrilla forces in Italy and southern France. Shortly after the Italian surrender in September, Donovan, who was visiting Algiers at the time, ordered an operational group to accompany a French expeditionary force to Corsica, where partisans had revolted against the German garrison. Since the Germans had already decided to withdraw their troops to the Italian mainland, the operational groups and their French allies merely harassed the departing enemy. Immediately following the German evacuation, the groups established an advance base there, as well as observation posts on the nearby islands of Gorgona and Capraia. At Corsica, they were only thirty-five miles from the Italian coast.29

From their new bases, the operational groups conducted raids against German communications along the Italian coast in an attempt to divert enemy troops from the main front (Map 3). The narrow, rocky coastal plains of the Italian peninsula were crossed by numerous roads and railways, which the Germans used as lines of supply. Night after night, operational groups crawled ashore to attack the most vulnerable points and reconnoiter enemy installations. Observers at Gorgona

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Map 3: Northern Italy, 1943-1945

Page 31

directed air strikes against oil tanks in the harbor at Livorno before German raids finally forced evacuation of the island. But not all OG missions ended successfully. In March 1944 a fifteen-man force, code named GINNY, landed south of La Spezia with orders to dynamite a railway tunnel on the main supply line for the front south of Rome. Local inhabitants discovered the party's poorly concealed rubber boats and alerted the Germans, who found the party hiding in a barn. Although in uniform at the time, the captured OG members were summarily executed in accordance with Adolph Hitler's orders to liquidate all commandos.30

After transferring its bases to the Italian mainland in the late summer of 1944, the Office of Strategic Services placed a greater emphasis on partisan warfare. Up to that time, the lack of airlift and other resources and the confused political situation resulting from the sudden collapse of Italy in the fall of 1943 had hindered OSS efforts to establish contact with the resistance in northern Italy. In mid-1944, however, the Americans began to drop supplies and operatives into the region on a much larger scale. At that time, nine operational groups parachuted into the area to discover an indigenous resistance movement already in place, but desperately in need of equipment and supplies. As supply drops and word of Allied successes swelled their strength, the partisans subsequently took the offensive, harassing German forces withdrawing to the Gothic Line during the summer and fall of 1944. With winter, the decline in air resupply due to poor flying weather enabled the Germans to strike back against the guerrillas, who faded into the mountains. Their retreat proved only temporary, for by the spring of 1945 seventy-five OSS teams were equipping and training the resistance bands in preparation for the final Allied effort in Italy.31

When the Allied offensive crossed the Po River in late April 1945, partisans, supported by operational groups, rose in revolt throughout northern Italy. Assisted by these American operatives, partisans cut key routes from Lake Como to the Brenner Pass, while south of Piacenza and Parma OG teams organized successful roadblocks on key transport routes and harassed German columns and troop concentrations. Guerrilla roadblocks aided the 92d Infantry Division in its capture of

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Pontremoli, and in Genoa 15,000 partisans, directed by operational groups, prevented the destruction of the port facilities and took some 3,000 prisoners. In all, Italian partisans killed or wounded over 3,000 Axis troops, captured 81,000 others, and prevented the destruction of key facilities in the Genoa, Milan, Venice, and Modena areas.32

Although British SOE agents dominated operations in the eastern Mediterranean, the Office of Strategic Services still played an important role there. Seeking to pin down German forces far from the OVERLORD invasion, American operatives agreed to provide arms to Communist and socialist guerrillas in Greece as early as October 1943 in return for their subordination to the authority of the theater commander. While the partisans increased their activities, operational groups began to infiltrate into Greece early in 1944 to conduct a series of raids against German road and rail communications in Macedonia, Thessaly, and the Peloponnesus. With the aid of Communist guerrillas, an SO party in May demolished two bridges on the Orient Express line, temporarily interrupting the supply of Turkish chrome to Germany. Extensive OSS operations in Greece continued up to the German withdrawal, ending only in December with the outbreak of a local, but bitter, civil war between the various resistance groups. Off the coast of Yugoslavia, operational groups helped defend the island of Vis, a key base for the supply of Communist partisans under Josip Broz Tito, and joined British commandos in raids along the Dalmatian coast, remaining in the field up to the German departure from Yugoslavia in July 1944. 33

In the initial assault against Axis-dominated Europe, U.S. forces could thus claim many significant achievements in the field of special operations. At Arzew, El Guettar, Gela, Salerno, Monte La Difensa, Anzio, and the Iles d'Hyeres, the Ranger battalions and 1st Special Service Force had performed missions critical to the success of conventional forces, while in the interior OSS commandos had raided German communications and provided direct support to partisans in northern Italy and the Balkans. The ability of these forces to take advantage of the rough terrain and extended coastlines characteristic of the theater proved to be a major factor in their success. Nevertheless, for the most part, the conventional Allied campaign in the Mediterranean proceeded as if special operations never exist-

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ed. The relative insignificance of such activities reflected both American inexperience and a chronic shortage of materiel and manpower resources. But the basic cause was the absence of any doctrine of special operations. Field commanders, uncertain about the proper employment of the Ranger battalions and the 1st Special Service Force, depleted their strength in line operations and eventually disbanded them rather than employ them in a systematic program of raids that would have used their special capabilities. Moreover, the partisan efforts in Italy and the Balkans had only a nuisance value and were rarely tied into the operations of conventional Allied combat units. Thus, despite some isolated successes, special operations made only a limited contribution to the hard-earned success of Allied arms in the Mediterranean.


1. Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., Command Missions: A Personal Story (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1954), pp. 22-25, 37-40; Memo, Truscott for Brig Gen Charles L. Bolte, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army Forces British Isles (USAFBI), 26 May 42, Box 10, Folder 3, Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., Papers, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Va.; Cable, Marshall to USFOR, 27 May 42, Section IA, Ranger File, U.S. Army, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3 Operations, Records Section, Decimal File, March 1950-1951, 322 Ranger, Record Group (RG) 319, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington, D.C.

2. Quote from Michael J. King, William Orlando Darby: A Military Biography (Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1981), p. 32.

3. Ibid., pp. 1-3, 9, 16, 177. Testimonies of Darby's leadership ability abound: see James J. Altieri, The Spearheaders (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1960), pp. 31-32; William O. Darby and William H. Baumer, Darby's Rangers: We Led the Way (San Rafael, Calif.: Presidio Press, 1980), pp. 1-2.

4. Darby and Baumer, Darby's Rangers, pp. 25-27, 83; Altieri, The Spearheaders, pp. 15-22, 66-67; Memo, Col I.B. Summers, Adj Gen, USAFBI, for Hartle, 13 Jun 42, Theodore J. Conway Papers, U.S. Army Military History Institute, (USAMHI), Carlisle, Pa.

5; Altieri, The Spearheaders, pp. 38-41, 80-81; Darby and Baumer, Darby's Rangers, pp. 27-49; Instructions and Key to Programme of Work for USA Rangers, 1st to 31st July 1942, and Darby's Progress Report to Truscott, 17 Jul 42, both in Sgt Harry Perlmutter Ranger Battalions of World War II Collection, Ranger Battalions: Historical Background Information on Ranger Battalions and Tables of Organization and Equipment (hereafter cited as Perlmutter Collection), Roll 8, John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center Library, Fort Bragg, N.C.

6. Rpt, Darby to Adj Gen, 11 Jan 43, and Capt Roy Murray's report on Dieppe, 26 Aug 42, both in U.S. Army, Adj Gen's Office, World War II Operations Reports, 1940-1948, Infantry (hereafter cited as WWII Ops Reports), INBN 1-0, RG 407, Washington National Records Center (WNRC), Suitland, Md. From the extensive literature on Dieppe, note especially Lord Lovat, March Past. A Memoir (New York: Homes & Meier, 1978), pp. 237-78; Peter Young, Commando (New York: Ballantine, 1969), pp. 128-53.

7. Maurice Matloff, ea., American Military History, Army Historical Series, 2d ed. (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History, Government Printing Office, 1973), p. 444; AFHQ Outline Plan, TORCH, 20 Sep 42, U.S. Army Staff, Plans and Operations Division, ABC Decimal File, 1942-48, 381 (7-25-42), Sec. I to 4, RG 319, NARA; Darby and Baumer, Darby's Rangers, pp. 10-13; King, William Orlando Darby, p. 44.

8. Darby's report of action at Arzew, I Jan 43, WWII Ops Reports, INBN 1-0, RG 407, WNRC; Darby and Baumer, Darby's Rangers, pp. 8-10, 17-23; Altieri, The Spearheaders, p. 137.

9. Darby and Baumer, Darby's Rangers, pp. 53-55; Altieri, The Spearheaders, pp. 146-53, 169-91; Michael J. King, Rangers: Selected Combat Operations of World War II, Leavenworth Papers 11 (Fort Leavenworth: Combat Studies Institute, 1985), p. 14.

10. Leilyn M. Young, "Rangers in a Night Operation," Military Review 24 July 1944): 64-69; Darby and Baumer, Darby's Rangers, pp. 56-60; Darby's report of Sened, 5 Mar 43, WWII Ops Reports, INBN 1-0, RG 407, WNRC.

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11. Darby and Baumer, Darby's Rangers, pp. 60-65; Darby's report for the period 14-28 Feb 43, WWII Ops Reports, INBN 1-0, RG 407, WNRC.

12. Darby and Baumer, Darby's Rangers, pp. 67-77; Darby's report of El Guettar, 9 Apr 43, in WWII Ops Reports, INBN 1-0, RG 407, WNRC; King, Wilham Orlando Darby, p. 62; King, Rangers, pp. 15-22.

13. Darby and Baumer, Darby's Rangers, pp. 78, 83-84; King, Wilham Orlando Darby, pp. 68, 75-76; Msg. Algiers to War Department, 18 Apr 43, U.S. War Department, Operations Division, War Department Message File: Incoming Top Secret, April 1-30, 1943, RG 165, NARA; Cable, Marshall to Eisenhower, 19 Apr 43, WWII Ops Reports, INBN 1-0, RG 407, WNRC; Altieri, The Spearheaders, pp. 241, 246-47.

14. Darby's report of action at Gela, Sicily, 5 Aug 43, U.S. War Department, Operations Division, OPD 381 ETO, Section V, Cases 108-137, Case 108, RG 165, NARA; Rpt, Dammer to Adj Gen, 31 Jul 43, WWII Ops Reports, INBN 3-0.3, RG 407, WNRC; Darby and Baumer, Darby's Rangers, pp. 85-99, 104-09; King, Wilham Orlando Darby, p. 88; King, Rangers, pp. 23-28.

15. Darby's report of Salerno, 15 Nov 43, INBN 1-0, and Dammer's report, 25 Nov 1943, INBN 3-0.3, both in WWII Ops Reports, RG 407, WNRC; Darby and Baumer, Darby's Rangers, pp. 113-22; Alexander M. Worth, Jr., "Supporting Weapons and High Ground: The Rangers at Salerno," Infantry Journal 56 (May 1945): 33-34.

16. Darby and Baumer, Darby's Rangers, pp. 128-40; King, William Orlando Darby, pp. 103, 106, 121, 129-30, 137, 145, 185; Darby's report of offensive against Winter Line, 29 Mar 44, WWII Ops Reports, INBN 1-0, RG 407, WNRC.

17. See reports on Cisterna in WWII Ops Reports, INBN 1-0.3 and INBN 3-0.3, RG 407, WNRC; King, William Orlando Darby, pp. 136, 145; King, Rangers, pp. 29-40; Darby and Baumer, Darby's Rangers, pp. 148-55, 159-69; Truscott, Command Missions, p p. 312- 14.

18. Memo, Lt Gen Jacob Devers, Commanding General, North African Theater of Operations, for War Department, 25 Feb 44; Memo, Devers for War Department, 13 Mar 44; and Memo, Maj Gen Thomas T. Handy, Asst Chief of Staff, for FREEDOM, 28 Feb 44. All in U.S. War Department, Operations Division, OPD 320.2 Africa, Cases 584-616, RG 165, NARA; King, William Orlando Darby, pp. 136, 145.

19. Robert D. Burhans, The First Special Service Force. A War History of the North Americans, 1942-44 (Washington, D.C.: Infantry Journal Press, 1947), pp. 1-5, 8-12; Robert H. Adleman and George Walton, The Devil's Brigade (Philadelphia: Chilton Books, 1966), pp. 2-4, 11, 25-35.

20. Quote from Adleman and Walton, The Devil's Brigade, p. 48.

21. Burhans, The First Special Service Force, pp. 13-15, 23, 60; Adleman and Walton, The Devil's Brigade, pp. 48-50, 57, 73-84.

22. Burhans, The First Special Service Force, pp. 35-37, 45-46, 86; Adleman and Walton, The Devil's Brigade, pp. 86-91, 103-09.

23. Adleman and Walton, The Devil's Brigade, pp. 119-32, 142-45.

24. Ibid., pp. 148, 159-61; Scott R. McMichael, A Histoncal Perspective on Light Infantry, Research Survey 6 (Fort Leavenworth: Combat Studies Institute, 1987), pp. 186-92.

25. Adleman and Walton, The Devil's Bngade, pp. 168-74, 202-04, 211-19; McMichael, A Histoncal Perspective on Light Infantry, pp. 198-201.

26. Burhans, The First Special Service Force, pp. 257, 273, 299; Adleman and Walton, The Devil's Brigade, pp. 227-30, 233, 243-44; Alfred D. Chandler, Jr.,

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and Stephen E. Ambrose, eds., The Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower, 9 vols. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1970) 4: 2232n.

27. Carleton S. Coon, A North Africa Story: The Anthropologist as OSS Agent, 1941-1943 (Ipswich, Mass.: Gambit Press, 1980), p. 96.

28. Roosevelt, War Report of the OSS, 1: 206-07, and 2: 9, 13-15, 67; Coon, A North Africa Story, pp. 124-25; Paddock, U.S. Army Special Warfare, pp. 25-26; MS, Allied Force Headquarters (AFHQ), History of Special Operations, Mediterranean Theater, 1942-45, pp. 17-18, NARA.

29. Roosevelt, War Report of the OSS, 1:108, and 2: 60-61, 77-78; Brown, The Hero, pp. 471-72.

30. Roosevelt, War Report of the OSS, 2: 77-80; Report of ICEBERG Operation, Folder 682, and Rpt, Col Russell Livermore to Commander, 2677th HQ Company Exp (Prov), 4 Jan 44, both in OSS, Algiers SO-OP-9, Entry 97, Box 40, RG 226, NARA; Brown, The Last Hero, pp. 474-80.

31. MS, AFHQ' History of Special Operations, Mediterranean, pp. 23, 25-26; Roosevelt, War Report of the OSS, 2: 107-13, 115; Smith, OSS, pp. 107, 109.

32. Roosevelt, War Report of the OSS, 2: 115-16; MS, AFHQ, History of Special Operations, Mediterranean, pp. 26-27; Smith, OSS, pp. 116-17.

33. Roosevelt, War Report of the OSS, 2: 124, 127-29. Brown, The Last Hero, pp. 430-33, 439-42.