• Veterans of the First Special Service Force tour Pier 21, Canada's Immigration Museum, Aug. 20 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion. The FSSF was a World War II combined special operations force which U.S. Army Special Forces units today trace a portion of their lineage from.

    On Tour

    Veterans of the First Special Service Force tour Pier 21, Canada's Immigration Museum, Aug. 20 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion. The FSSF was a World War II combined special operations force which U.S. Army Special Forces units...

  • Wreaths laid in honor of First Special Service Force Soldiers during a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion. The FSSF was a World War II combined special operations force which U.S. Army Special Forces units today trace a portion of their lineage from.

    Wreaths Laid in Honor

    Wreaths laid in honor of First Special Service Force Soldiers during a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion. The FSSF was a World War II combined special operations...

  • Major General Thomas Crsnko (left), commander of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, speaks during a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion.

    SWC Commander Speaks

    Major General Thomas Crsnko (left), commander of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, speaks during a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion.

  • Colonel William H. Shaw (left), deputy commander of the U.S. Army's 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and Command Sgt. Maj. Charles M. Conway thank a veteran of the First Special Service Force during a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion.

    Appreciation for Veteran

    Colonel William H. Shaw (left), deputy commander of the U.S. Army's 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and Command Sgt. Maj. Charles M. Conway thank a veteran of the First Special Service Force during a ceremony held to honor the First Special...

  • Major General Thomas Crsnko (left), commander of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, and Command Sgt. Major Charles M. Sekelsky lay a wreath during a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion.

    SWC Commander Places Wreath

    Major General Thomas Crsnko (left), commander of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, and Command Sgt. Major Charles M. Sekelsky lay a wreath during a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada...

  • An F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet conducts a low level fly by during a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion.

    Fly Over for Veterans

    An F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet conducts a low level fly by during a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion.

  • An F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet conducts a low level fly by during a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion.

    Fly Over for First Special Service Force

    An F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet conducts a low level fly by during a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion.

  • Wreaths laid in honor of First Special Service Force Soldiers during a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion. The FSSF was a World War II combined special operations force which U.S. Army Special Forces units today trace a portion of their lineage from.

    Wreaths for Veterans

    Wreaths laid in honor of First Special Service Force Soldiers during a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion. The FSSF was a World War II combined special operations...

  • Members of First Special Service Force retire the flags of Canada and the United States and the FSSF color during a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion.

    Retiring the Flags and Color

    Members of First Special Service Force retire the flags of Canada and the United States and the FSSF color during a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion.

  • The First Special Service Force conducts airborne training near Helena, Mont. In 1942.  The FSSF was a World War II combined special operations force which U.S. Army Special Forces units today trace a portion of their lineage from.

    Parachute Training

    The First Special Service Force conducts airborne training near Helena, Mont. In 1942. The FSSF was a World War II combined special operations force which U.S. Army Special Forces units today trace a portion of their lineage from.

  • Members of the First Special Service Force pause for a photo near Anzio, Italy in 1943.  The FSSF was a World War II combined special operations force which U.S. Army Special Forces units today trace a portion of their lineage from.

    First Special Service Force near Anzio

    Members of the First Special Service Force pause for a photo near Anzio, Italy in 1943. The FSSF was a World War II combined special operations force which U.S. Army Special Forces units today trace a portion of their lineage from.

  • First Special Service Force and Canadian army veterans place a wreath during a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion. The FSSF was a World War II combined special operations force which U.S. Army Special Forces units today trace a portion of their lineage from.

    Placing a Wreath

    First Special Service Force and Canadian army veterans place a wreath during a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion. The FSSF was a World War II combined special...

  • Members of the First Special Service Force stand as a wreath is prepared to be laid during a ceremony held to honor the FSSF Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion.

    Holding a Wreath

    Members of the First Special Service Force stand as a wreath is prepared to be laid during a ceremony held to honor the FSSF Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion.

  • Members of First Special Service Force present the flags of Canada and the United States and the FSSF color during a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion.

    Posting the Colors

    Members of First Special Service Force present the flags of Canada and the United States and the FSSF color during a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion.

  • Veterans of the First Special Service Force talk before a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion. The FSSF was a World War II combined special operations force which U.S. Army Special Forces units today trace a portion of their lineage from.

    Sharing a Word

    Veterans of the First Special Service Force talk before a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion. The FSSF was a World War II combined special operations force which U.S...

  • The plaque to be displayed at Pier 21, Canada's Immigration Museum, to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 20 in Halifax, Canada. The plaque was unveiled during the Force's 63rd annual reunion.

    The Pier 21 Plaque

    The plaque to be displayed at Pier 21, Canada's Immigration Museum, to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 20 in Halifax, Canada. The plaque was unveiled during the Force's 63rd annual reunion.

  • The grandchildren of First Special Service Force members help unveil a plaque to be displayed at Pier 21, Canada's Immigration Museum, to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 20 in Halifax, Canada. The plaque was unveiled during the Force's 63rd annual reunion.

    Unveiling the Pier 21 Plaque

    The grandchildren of First Special Service Force members help unveil a plaque to be displayed at Pier 21, Canada's Immigration Museum, to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 20 in Halifax, Canada. The plaque was unveiled during the Force's 63rd...

  • Mary Bhagan, organizer of the 63rd annual First Special Service Force reunion, and Army Museum Halifax Citadel director Bruce Gilchrist unveil a plaque to be displayed at the museum during a luncheon at Canadian Forces Base Stadacona Aug. 21 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion.

    The Halifax Citadel Plaque Unveiling

    Mary Bhagan, organizer of the 63rd annual First Special Service Force reunion, and Army Museum Halifax Citadel director Bruce Gilchrist unveil a plaque to be displayed at the museum during a luncheon at Canadian Forces Base Stadacona Aug. 21 in...

  • Vernon Doucette (right), a veteran of the First Special Service Force, speaks with a member of the Canadian army during a luncheon at Canadian Forces Base Stadacona Aug. 21 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion. The FSSF was a World War II combined special operations force which U.S. Army Special Forces units today trace a portion of their lineage from.

    Sharing Stories

    Vernon Doucette (right), a veteran of the First Special Service Force, speaks with a member of the Canadian army during a luncheon at Canadian Forces Base Stadacona Aug. 21 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion. The FSSF was a World...

  • Sgt. Vernon Doucette, 4th Company, 3rd Regiment, First Special Service Force poses for a photo near Cori, Italy during World War II.  The FSSF was a World War II combined special operations force which U.S. Army Special Forces units today trace a portion of their lineage from.  Doucette was one of the members of FSSF that attended the unit's 63rd annual reunion.

    First Special Service Force in Italy

    Sgt. Vernon Doucette, 4th Company, 3rd Regiment, First Special Service Force poses for a photo near Cori, Italy during World War II. The FSSF was a World War II combined special operations force which U.S. Army Special Forces units today trace a...

  • Attendees of the 63rd annual First Special Service Force reunion receive a cancellation stamp from the Canadian postal service Aug. 21 in Halifax, Canada.  The post office presented the collector's item to reunion attendees after a year of

    Cancellation Stamps for First Special Service Force

    Attendees of the 63rd annual First Special Service Force reunion receive a cancellation stamp from the Canadian postal service Aug. 21 in Halifax, Canada. The post office presented the collector's item to reunion attendees after a year of

  • Veterans of the First Special Service Force stand in formation before the start of a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion. The FSSF was a World War II combined special operations force which U.S. Army Special Forces units today trace a portion of their lineage from.

    First Special Service Force in Formation

    Veterans of the First Special Service Force stand in formation before the start of a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion. The FSSF was a World War II combined special...

  • (from left to right) The flag of Canada, the First Special Service Force color, and the flag of the United States during a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion.

    Combined Force

    (from left to right) The flag of Canada, the First Special Service Force color, and the flag of the United States during a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion.

  • Veterans of the First Special Service Force enter the parade deck of Grand Parade, a public square, during a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion. The FSSF was a World War II combined special operations force which U.S. Army Special Forces units today trace a portion of their lineage from.

    Marching with Pride

    Veterans of the First Special Service Force enter the parade deck of Grand Parade, a public square, during a ceremony held to honor the First Special Service Force Aug. 22 in Halifax, Canada during the Force's 63rd annual reunion. The FSSF was a World...

  • The First Special Service Force conducts airborne training near Helena, Mont. In 1942.  The FSSF was a World War II combined special operations force which U.S. Army Special Forces units today trace a portion of their lineage from.

    Parachute training

    The First Special Service Force conducts airborne training near Helena, Mont. In 1942. The FSSF was a World War II combined special operations force which U.S. Army Special Forces units today trace a portion of their lineage from.

HALIFAX, Canada - A little more than six decades ago, Vernon J. Doucette was a sergeant in the First Special Service Force fighting his way north on the Italian peninsula during World War II.

Doucette, who served in 4th Company, 3rd Regiment of the Force, remembers the campaign in detail.

"We worked in small units, and we stayed together," explained Doucette. "We had a quite a few casualties, guys coming in and going out."

It is memories of such working conditions that have kept the veterans - men from the United States and Canada - of the special operations unit together for so many years.

The First Special Service Force, also known as the Devil's Brigade, was a joint Canadian-American unit formed in 1942 near Helena, Mont. During the war, the 1,800-man unit accounted for 12,000 German casualties, captured 7,000 prisoners and sustained an attrition rate of more than 600 percent, according to Force's association Web site. It was the only unit made up of men from two nations.

The members of the FSSF, along with families and friends, gathered Aug. 19 - 22 in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Canada's east coast for their 63rd annual reunion.

While many of the original members of the force may not be around to partake in the reunion, the tradition continues for the descendents of the Force.

One of those descendents is Mary Bhagan, the organizer of the reunion.

Bhagan is a cousin of Frank Harvey, who was killed in action in Italy in 1944.

The itinerary put together by Bhagan included a tour of one of Halifax's most notable landmarks - Pier 21.

"Several of the Force men, even when they were in the units before they joined the force, if they were replacements, a lot of them left through Pier 21," Bhagan said. "A lot of the original Force members came home through the Pier (when the war ended)."

After the tour, reunion attendees witnessed the unveiling of a new plaque to be posted in the pier-turned-museum in their honor.

It was the first of a few dedications during the reunion. Another plaque was unveiled during a luncheon at Canadian Forces Base Stadacona, by retired Canadian army Colonel Bruce Gilchrist. Gilchrist currently serves as the director of the Army Museum Halifax Citadel.

Gilchrist said the plaque will be placed in the museum by May 2010.

Following the lunch, veterans of the Force returned to their hotel where they were presented with cancellation stamps from Canada's postal service. The collector's item took about a year to create and develop. Only 200 were available.

Official recognition of the Force happened on the final day of the reunion at the Grand Parade in downtown Halifax.

Members of the Canadian government, U.S. and Canadian armies, Canadian veterans associations and the public gathered to remember the sacrifice of the Force and those who did not return.

"I am humbled because of the standards they set and the legacy we uphold today in both the Canadian and United States Special Operations Forces," said speaker Maj. Gen. Thomas Csrnko, commander of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. "Gentlemen you set those standards and we work hard every day to make sure you remain proud of us because we are you."

Csrnko lauded the Force for the standards set in coalition warfare.

Following Csrnko and the other speakers' remarks, Force veteran Bill Story read the names of the 24 FSSF members who died since last year's reunion in St. Paul, Minn. A Canadian air force F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet conducted a low speed fly over in tribute.
Force members and guests laid wreaths for the FSSF's fallen members.

The reunion closed with a banquet at the city's World Trade and Convention Center.

Sgt. 1st Class James L. Cannon from 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was presented the 2009 First Special Service Force Frederick Award at the banquet for his exceptional service and leadership during his last deployment to Afghanistan.

Page last updated Tue August 25th, 2009 at 21:10