By the time that World War II erupted in Europe in 1939, both the German Army and the major Allied forces had had much experience in the training and deployment of special forces. As was proven during the war, none was more potent and deadly than Britain's Commandos (Churchill's `Hand of Steel') or the US Army's Rangers (motto: `Leading the Way'). Their formation, training, equipment, and exploits are described in rare detail in this remarkably well-illustrated book.
The Royal Navy Commandos were formed in summer 1940 and their first raid was on the Lofoten Islands on 4 March 1941. Later, the attack on Vaagsoshowed how effective Commandos could be, destroying a German garrison, taking 102 prisoners, blowing up a coastal defence battery, and destroying 18,000 tons of shipping at a cost of 20 killed. Amphibious raids pointed up the need for better intelligence and control on the beaches, so the RN Commandos were formed. They took part in all the main amphibious operations from then on-including Dieppe, Torch, Husky, Monte Cristo and Pantelleria, Salerno and Anzio, Elba, Arakan, Overlord, Walcheren and crossing the Rhine.
The 1st Ranger Battalion was officially activated at Carrickfergus, Ireland, on 19 June 1942, and its first action was at Dieppe. The first major use of Rangers was as a spearhead to the North African invasion. Rangers took part in the invasions of Sicily and Italy, spearheaded the night landings at Anzio, and during the invasion of Normandy the 2nd Ranger Battalion assaulted, captured and held German positions atop the cliffs of Pointe Du Hoc. Later, Rangers distinguished themselves in the battles of Brest, the Bulge, Hurtgen Forest and throughout central Europe. The 6th Ranger Battalion was the first American force to return to the Philippines, landing in advance of the main force. It took part in the landings on Luzon, and on 30 January 1945 undertook a daring raid behind enemy lines to rescue POW survivors of the Bataan Death March.