Hampton Sides


USA 1445hrs 4-27-03

I read a book about two years ago by Hampton Sides "Ghost Soilders" in which he wrote about the Bataan Death March and the subsequent liberation of Cabotaan the POW camp. The story basicly told of the first Delta Force style plattoon, hastly organized, that was to liberate the P.O.W.S. that survied the death camps of the Bataan in WWII. I thought till now that this was one of the very best books that I have ever read. It is extremely well wrote, and you can turn the pages as fast as you can read them. The story still is with me today.

As I started B20, and as quickly as you can say, "Bobs your Uncle," I was finished. What a great book. It will stay with me on the level that Ghost Soilders did. How anyone can survive what he went through is truely amazing .

I started Liberation Day last night and am finding it good thus far.

>>By DTO   (Sunday, 27 Apr 2003 22:08)

The Philippine defense was a lost cause with the final surrender of United States-Philippine forces on the Bataan Peninsula in April 1942 and on Corregidor in May. Most of the 80,000 prisoners of war captured by the Japanese at Bataan were forced to undertake the infamous "Death March" to a prison camp 105 kilometers to the north. It is estimated that as many as 10,000 men, weakened by disease and malnutrition and treated harshly by their captors, died before reaching their destination

The Bridge Over the River Kwai, (made famous by book & Brit film) another unforgettable incident of Japanese cruelty within the same region. It became the Japanese Siam-Burma railway during World War II. The bridge was only a small part of the railway, labelled the "Death Railway", consisting of 688 bridges and over 415 km of track. An estimated 16,000 Allied prisoners of war died, forced to endure back-breaking work under terrible conditions to complete the railway, and large numbers of troops perished during bombing raids on the iron structure by the Allies in 1945. The railway stretched from Nong Pla Duk in Ratchaburi province to Tanbesusayud in Burma, and was built by over 61,000 Allied POW's and 250,000 Asian labourers under the watchful eye of the merciless Japanese guards. The conditions for the builders were appalling, combined with the hazards of the harsh terrain, disease and maltreatment by the Japanese and Korean forces. 75,000 Asians also perished during the construction of the railway.

buddy: Korea has a brutal record of imaginative torture methods, but I guess there's not much to choose between them and the north Vietcong...

buddy: The 1st Special Service Force/Rangers....The rescue was a remarkable feat, and I'm surprised that Hollywood failed to capitilise on a genuine heroic act, as opposed to the awful BS it's churned out for years with history altered out of all recogniton: in some instances world war two battles never encountered by US troops, the battles before Pearl Harbour, before American troops had entered into the war...

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 manufacturer, 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.

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.

1st Special Service Force Organization - approximately 2,400 men

3 Regiments had 32 O, 575 EM (authorized overstrength of 125) each with 2 battalions.
Each Battalion had 15 O, 225 EM with 3 companies.
Each Company had 4 O, 72 EM with 3 platoons.
Each Platoon had 1 O, 24 EM with 2 sections.
Each Section had 12 men with 1 Submachinegun, 2 Light Machineguns, 1 60mm Mortar, 1 2.56" Rocket Launcher, Portable Flame Thrower and 9 Rifles.
1 Service Battalion (Service Battalion had about 600 men)
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." 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 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.

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 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.

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 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.

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.

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 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.

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.

>>By buddy   (Monday, 28 Apr 2003 11:20)

The discussion board is currently closed.