On 12 July 1942, the Canadian Army authorized the movement of nearly seven hundred officers and men to the United States for training as part of the First Special Service Force (FSSF), a highly-specialized commando unit that was being organized for the purpose of conducting raids in the alpine regions of occupied Europe. From the summer of 1942 until disbandment in December 1944, this combined “North American” force consisted of soldiers drawn from the armies of both Canada and the United States. From the Aleutian Islands, to Monte la Difensa, Rome, and ending in Southern France, the élite US-Canadian infantry brigade established a remarkable combat record and became a symbol of the lasting partnership between our two countries. Today, the First Special Service Force is remembered both in Canada and the United States for its outstanding achievements in combat as well as its unique, bi-national composition.

Prior to 1942, Canadian soldiers had never served in such close association with the US Army, and even the post-war era has seen no similar examples of such near-complete integration. Within the Force, Canadian and American soldiers wore the same uniforms, carried the same weapons, and answered to the same superiors regardless of nationality—an American private could take orders from a Canadian sergeant, who in turn answered to an American or Canadian lieutenant. At the top of this bi-national chain of command stood Robert T. Frederick, US Army, the man who organized and led the First Special Service Force from its activation on 2 July 1942 until his departure on 23 June 1944, shortly after Rome fell to the Allies.