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Best special units of WW2

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by JJWilson, Nov 17, 2017.

?

Which Special forces group is the best

  1. German Paratroopers

    1 vote(s)
    25.0%
  2. German SS

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  3. Kamikazes

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  4. SAS (Special Air Service)

    2 vote(s)
    50.0%
  5. SOE (Special Organizations Ecexutive)

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  6. American Paratroopers

    1 vote(s)
    25.0%
  7. Chindits

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  8. Black Shirts (Italy)

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  9. French Alpine Troops

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  10. USSR Paratroopers

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. JJWilson

    JJWilson Active Member

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    Hello everyone! I was reading about the Chindits in the CBI theater this afternoon, and it made me think about other special units or branches of armies used in WW2. I thought I would make a list of some, my apologies if there has been a thread like this before, I meant to do this yesterday but homework, and job stopped that aspiration pretty fast. Some of the groups I list aren't really special units, but they carried out unique tasks. Please vote as to which group is the best according to you.
     
  2. KMZgirl

    KMZgirl Member

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  3. bushmaster

    bushmaster Member

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    It would depend on the task at hand.
     
  4. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large Patron  

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    I voted for SAS, but would have voted for FSSF, First Special Service Force, "The Devil's Brigade" if it had been listed.
     
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  5. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Um, first you need a better categorization. "Special Forces" in a military sense are "forces organized, trained, and equipped to conduct special operations with an emphasis on unconventional warfare capabilities" (JP 1-02). Paratroopers are airborne forces "troops especially trained to effect, following transport by air, an assault debarkation, either by parachuting or touchdown". They are not Special Forces. Neither are the Waffen SS. Neither are the Black Shirts. Neither are mountain troops of any flavor. It is debatable whether Kamikaze are Special Forces or simply a special weapons system. Chindits were a bit of a gray area, since they were conventional forces with limited to no unconventional warfare capabilities tasked with a somewhat unconventional warfare mission that ended fairly disastrously...mostly because they weren't actually Special Forces.

    Which leaves in your list the SAS and the SOE. Yes, the SAS was a Special Forces "group". However, SOE was the Special Operations (not "Organizations") Executive and was a headquarters tasked with using unconventional means in order to sabotage Axis war efforts and to organize underground resistance forces. As such, they did not organize as military units per se, but as groups of special agents for specific tasks. Its US analog was the OSS and for the Soviets it was the Osnaz detachments of the NKVD.

    Arguably, the list could include the British Commandos and US Army Rangers, but they were more specially-trained conventional light infantry. The 1st SSF was intended for a special operation, but were employed in the same way as the Commandos and Rangers. I think the British Special Boat Service qualifies in some cases as do the German Brandenburgers.
     
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  6. bushmaster

    bushmaster Member

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    To be fair, though, by the standards of their day, many these units would be considered "special" as opposed to elite by today's nomenclature. My vote, however, would be for a unit not listed, Decima Mas.
     
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  7. JJWilson

    JJWilson Active Member

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    The Devils Brigade sounds very familiar, but I am not familiar with them?
    I also have no clue who Decima Mas is, and thanks everyone for the responses, and sorry for Organizations not Operations, bit of a dyslexic moment right there
     
  8. bushmaster

    bushmaster Member

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    The Devil's Brigade was the nickname for the First Special Service Force. Decima Mas was an Italian Naval unit that made use of swimmers and piloted torpedo boats. They sank an impressive number of ships for a unit their size including two British BB's in Alexandria's harbor (both later raised). Following the Italian surrender, the unit split into two with one portion serving with the Allies. The Axis component was primarily an infantry force from then on.
     
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  9. JJWilson

    JJWilson Active Member

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    Well how bout that! Thanks for the info on Decima Mas Bushmaster!
     
  10. bushmaster

    bushmaster Member

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    My pleasure, Sir. The Italian military gets a bad rap for its' performance in WW2 which, while understandable, is not entirely deserved. Decima Mas was as good as any at what it did and better than most.
     
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  11. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    "Elite" is both a loaded and very subjective term that often has more to do with "coolness" than actual performance. Decima Mas is a good possibility, since they are conducting "special operations" by "unconventional means." Guastatore in certain circumstances might be considered the Italian land version of WW II SF.
     
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  12. JJWilson

    JJWilson Active Member

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    I was going off books and articles I have read authored by historians and experts that gave them the title "elite", I think it's pretty subjective when it comes to describing some of these units don't you think?
     
  13. harolds

    harolds Member

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    I would have to second RichTO90's idea that the Brandenburgers were probably right up there. The stuff they did was definitely not conventional and was special.
     
  14. JJWilson

    JJWilson Active Member

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    I totally agree with you about Italy during WW2, they suffered from bad leadership, bad situations, low morale, and usually obsolete or sub-par equipment.
     
  15. bushmaster

    bushmaster Member

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    Not trying in any way to pick a fight or pick nits; I agree fully with your view on the term "elite". However, WWII was when special/commando/etc forces came into their own on a large scale. There was still some fluidity in how the terms could be used. Personally, I wouldn't consider the Waffen SS, paratroopers or mountain troops to be "special" as the term is used today. That being said, there were others who considered any troops beyond traditional infantry, armor, cavalry, etc to be special. As you noted, the Chindits were a gray zone and demonstrate this. They were conventional infantry trained to fight behind the lines; not commandos in the traditional sense. Slim, however, considered them a special forces unit and something of a waste.

    All that being said, while it would be difficult to objectively decide a question such as this, it can make an interesting conversation.
     
  16. bushmaster

    bushmaster Member

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    The Italians when properly motivated and led (a rare occurrence) and properly equipped (not quite so rare an occurrence outside armored or mechanized units) were capable of putting up a good fight.
     
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  17. JJWilson

    JJWilson Active Member

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    Indeed they were, but as you said it was too rare an occurrence to usually make much of a difference unfortunately.
     
  18. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Have you given a look at any of Rich's works. I think you will likely find them very informative.
     
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  19. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Isn't that what I just said? ;):D
     
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  20. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Oh, I agree...mostly. ;)

    The problem is defining exactly what are "conventional forces" versus "unconventional forces" and what is "conventional warfare" versus "unconventional warfare". Most conventional armed forces were reluctant to use unconventional forces...the Brandenburgers came in by the back door in a sense. SOE was run by military and civilians and employed both military and civilians...and was loathed by the more "conventional" agencies such as MI-5 and MI-6. It was not actually a military "unit" at all. Ditto OSS.

    OTOH, the British Commandos and American Rangers were military units with a long history prior to World War II. In the US military though they had a long interregnum when "unconventional" and "special" units of any kind were anathema. For example, the Army's Indian Scouts became unemployed at the end of the Indian Wars, only to be revived...in a slightly different role (communications security) in both World Wars. It took quite a bit even to get the "Big Army" to agree to Rangers, which are also quickly eliminated from the ORBAT as soon as the conflict ended. Since then the fashion has been to emphasize the SF over conventional forces, which is fine...until the SF runs into peer conventional forces.

    And it all does make for a fascinating conversation. :D
     
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