For You Army History Buffs
DND classifies history as top secret
Men of the Devil's Brigade apply their camouflage paint before a patrol in Italy. The unit fought with great distinction during the Second World War, but now the Defence Department has decided that alluding to its illustrious history, even mentioning its official name — First Special Service Force — would damage national security.
Photograph by : U.S. Army Photo
David Pugliese, CanWest News Service; Ottawa Citizen
Published: Wednesday, October 04, 2006
As part of its latest secrecy push, the Defence Department declared Tuesday that releasing information showing that Canadians fought valiantly with the famed Devil's Brigade during the Second World War could harm national security.
The name of the First Special Service Force, better known as the Devil's Brigade, has been censored from all the records that outline which unit has the closest historical military links to Canada's existing commando unit, Joint Task Force 2.
Also censored from the records, released to the Ottawa Citizen under the federal Access to Information law, are the locations where the Devil's Brigade fought in Europe in the 1940s.
The May 2002 records detail that the joint U.S.-Canadian Second World War unit ''never met defeat in battle'' and ''accomplished the most difficult missions with an elan and proficiency that astonished all outside observers, including the Germans.'' It concludes that JTF2 should try to emulate the high standards of the unit, whose name is censored.
But, information referring to the link between the Devil's Brigade and JTF2 is on the Defence Department website and was previously released through other access to information requests.
In 2003 media interviews, a JTF2 spokesman also acknowledged the unit wanted to build strong historical links to the Devil's Brigade and at one point was considering establishing formal ties to the unit.
According to the Defence Department, revealing the words First Special Service Force would be ''injurious to the conduct of international affairs, the defence of Canada or any state allied or associated with Canada or the detection, prevention or suppression of subversive or hostile activities.''
In addition, the name of the First Special Service Force and the locations where it fought were censored because such details are considered part of advice provided to government.
Numerous history books show the First Special Service Force was used in operations in the Aleutian Islands and later fought major battles in Italy. The unit also fought in France before being disbanded.
Canadian Devil's Brigade veteran Bill Story says withholding such information doesn't make sense.
''It's idiotic,'' said Story, executive director emeritus of First Special Service Force Association. ''You can't really censor history.''
The information was censored at the request of JTF2 officers, according to Defence Department officials.
The Devil's Brigade incident is the latest example of a push by the Defence Department to boost the level of secrecy on issues not usually seen as being linked to security concerns.
Among details now being kept from the public are the costs to the department to run individual pieces of equipment, a list that ranges from electric snowblowers to forklifts.
Information about the hourly cost of flying the military's Challenger jets, used to ferry politicians and bureaucrats, is also now secret. Such information had been available to the public through the access law up until 2004.
''This whole thing boggles my mind,'' said Liberal Senator Colin Kenny, head of the Senate's committee on national security and defence. ''We don't understand why stuff that's been released before suddenly gets reclassified.
''Ottawa seems to be infected with a fear of talking with candor on the most mundane aspects of how the government functions,'' he added.
Kenny said the public is not alone in trying to pry information out of government; his committee has also had ongoing problems obtaining basic information from the Defence Department and other federal agencies.
The access legislation allows Canadians to request government records by paying a $5 fee per request. Since the government has several dozen reasons it can employ to censor material, users of the law note few real sensitive pieces of information are ever released.
Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor has distanced himself from his department's secrecy program. Conservative government officials say it is up to individual departments to decide how they handle access to information requests and that is not a function that ministers such as O'Connor get involved in.
The access law, however, clearly details that the minister is responsible for how the access law is managed in his or her department.
''DND/CF are committed to maintaining open and transparent access to information on the departmental and Canadian Forces activities,'' Etienne Allard, O'Connor's press secretary noted in an e-mail. ''We remain committed to change the culture in Ottawa from a culture of secrecy and entitlement to a culture of accountability.''
In an examination of 23 access requests made to the Defence Department over the last 18 months, the Ottawa Citizen found 87 pieces of information, now censored, had been previously released to the public or are still on government and Defence Department websites.
Julie Hallee, the Defence Department's access to information director, said her staff put forward their best effort in trying to negotiate with JTF2 on the release of details in the Devil's Brigade record. Hallee said she will further review the records to determine whether new information could be released.
Earlier this week, the Montreal Gazette reported that the government is singling out the access to information requests of some Canadians for closer scrutiny and special treatment. The requests being targeted are those that might attract media or political attention, according to an e-mail obtained by the newspaper.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper had criticized such a practice when he was in opposition.
The Conservatives deny that such a system exists and that each department has its own procedures to handle access requests.
© CanWest News Service 2006
Hmmm... so let me see... I am not a Canadian soldier, and I was never posted outside the country... Oh wait... I can neither acknowldge nor deny any knowledge or information regarding my existance on this planet. Is this a planet? :cool: :p :rolleyes: SHEESH some days ya just gotta shake your head.
Oh.. and thats NOT me in that photo with my head turned away from the camera! :D
1ST Special Service Force
My father served with the 1st SSF from its inception until captured on the road to Rome. After VE Day he was assigned to the 82nd Abn to prepare for the drop into Japan. He met my mom to be and they were married. Dad was then transferred to Ft. Benning where he became the SR Jumpmaster then to Ft Bragg and Germany forming 10th Group.
The former 1st SSF guys were the core cadre of the forerunner to Special Forces, the Psy Ops-Psychological Warfare Teams at Ft Bragg with ABN training at Benning. Psy Ops Teams is what became 10th SF Group. I met some of those guys that my dad had trained over the many years that I served, not all were Army, some were USMC and Navy UDT formed into 4 man and larger Sniper-Recon-Training teams dropped into Laos and Cambodia when the Korean War began and on thru the 1950's.
The shoulder patch of today's SF comes from the 1st SSF arrowhead and sword design. I lived thru this as an Army Brat as 10th Group formed so I think I am telling it right, about the Beret. The early 10th Group guys who had served with the 1st SSF when they got to Bad Tolz wanted a distinct field head covering, so they pulled out their old Red Berets and wore them in the field. There were former OSS guys, some of the Psy Ops guys who had been with 5th Group who had worked with the French forces in SE Asia who wore a Green Beret. There was some friendly contention but since the Brit Abn in Germany wore a Red Beret the Green Beret won out and became the `unauthorized' field cap at Tolz and Bragg. Eventually it was authorized by President JFK in 1961.
There was a lot of political in-fighting back then among the various commands at the Pentagon and elsewhere about what should be the mission of the SF and under which command should it be. What it became is based on its original mission, Intel gathering drops into East Europe in the 1950's and prep for behind the lines action should war break out in Europe. As the need to work with indiginous peoples in SE Asia grew so did SF and its mission solidified. Various commands, such as the Rangers and Airborne, made their bids to have SF permanently assigned to them. As we know those who pushed for independent command won out.