WASHINGTON D.C. – Montana’s Congressman, Denny Rehberg, is co-sponsoring a bill to grant the Congressional Gold Medal to the First Special Service Force (FSSF), a specialized World War II military unit that conducted high risk missions in the Aleutian Islands, Italy, and France. The first-of-its-kind force was trained in Montana, at Fort Harrison, and combined high alpine combat, amphibious landings, sky-diving, demolitions and other unconventional tactics in carrying out its missions. Three of the 230 surviving members of this special WWII unit currently reside in Montana.
“The members of this unit are truly remarkable men who made sacrifices for their country that most Americans were unaware of at the time,” said Rehberg, a member of the Military Family Caucus. “We owe them special recognition. With the roots of these brave soldiers tracing back to Montana, our state can take a special pride in helping with the success of their critical missions. I’m proud to sponsor this measure and look forward to the day when I and my colleagues bestow upon these deserving souls the highest honor of Congress.”
The top-secret combat unit of 1,800 volunteers was made up of unique individuals from the U.S. and Canada, including blue collar workers, lumberjacks, forest rangers, hunters, game wardens and others. Once sent into action, the FSSF never failed a combat mission. The special force contributed prominently to “Operation Avalanche,” the Allied campaign to liberate Italy. Most notably, the FSSF defeated entrenched German artillery units atop treacherous mountain peaks and rocky islands that had been previously deemed impenetrable. The Force also conducted large-scale raids against the infamous Hermann Goering Division of the German Luftwaffe.
The First Special Service Force has been documented in notable books and films, including the film, The Devil’s Brigade and book, The Supercommandos. The FSSF lost a total of 2,314 men, which was 134 percent of the original combat force.
“Because these men were trained to do highly sensitive duty, there has been little public knowledge of their extraordinary accomplishments,” said Marilyn Hudson, a Helena resident, whose father, Roy Hudson, now deceased, served as a FSSF member. “For the First Special Service Force to be granted such a high honor is long overdue. The few remaining ‘boys’ deserve to know the true appreciation bestowed on them, and for those of us whose fathers have passed away, it will be an event that will be no less appreciated.”
A precursor to today’s Navy Seals teams which recently eliminated terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden, The First Special Services Force is planning to hold their 66th reunion in Washington, D.C., at the end of September. The measure to collectively present the group with a Congressional Gold Medal requires the sponsorship of two-thirds of House and Senate members