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Americans in British Army? "Undiscovered History"


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#1 biguglydog

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Posted 04 April 2006 - 11:41 PM

I am researching or trying to anyway an American who might have served in some sort of inter-allied American/Brit commando unit. I know of the Devil's Brigade but that was US/Canadian. There also seems to be the 6th SAS who might have been made up of Americans but this is debatable. Anyone have any other info on a British elite unit compromised of Americans?

#2 No.9

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 01:40 AM

The Jedburghs comprised British and Americans. Why do you think he was involved in British Special Forces?

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#3 biguglydog

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 03:23 AM

I was told by someone who insists he was as he that it is what the journal he kept as a soldier says. The Jedburghs came to mind also but he saw service in North Africa 42' where he was captured in Dec and spent time as a POW in Italy.

#4 No.9

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 06:16 AM

In consideration of scant and dubious information, as it appears he was in Torch during November '42 and was captured in December, if his journal mentions anything about Special Service men, I would say a fair guess is that he was either a member of the Rangers, which were trained by the Commandos, or he was part of the American forces who went ashore at the same time as the Commandos, who for the landing wore American helmets and carried Garands.

Sounds like someone could be reading too much into his notes?

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#5 biguglydog

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 11:28 AM

Honestly I think that the guy was in the Rangers rather than some US/Brit unit, as he was originally part of the Iowa National Guard 34th of which upon creation 80 percent of the Rangers came from this division. However I don't want to jump to conclusions on this by limiting myself to what is already general subject matter (i.e. crap that can be found on a basic Wikipedia search)
He claims that they did not use American gear but rather British equipment, mentioning something about boots that could be worn on either foot making them very uncomfortable.
As for the notes, that's really all he left as he apparently was scarred and rarely mentioned his WWII experience to anyone.

#6 No.9

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 06:48 PM

49 Rangers were taken along on the Dieppe Commando raid in ’42, to give operational experience. Other than this, the Commandos did not have an American 'Commando' or any American Troop within their own Battalions.

They also never had 'any foot' boots. Most likely, if he was with the early Rangers - or an applicant, he tried and/or used British boots and didn't like them. When America formed the Rangers in '42, they relied entirely on the British Commandos for guidance and training, and definitely used some of their equipment.

If possible, post the man's notes would be helpful.

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#7 sapper

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Posted 07 April 2006 - 05:25 PM

I captured an American in the German army near Vire in Normandy..late July early August. I often wonder what happened to him, did he make it back to the USA. He was captured in farmyard by two British men, one weilding a Sten, the other Me! weilding a damn great big knife an American had given me when I was wounded the first time. Had a smoke and a yarn with him before turning him in.
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#8 sapper

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Posted 07 April 2006 - 05:26 PM

IT was a Bowie knife!

#9 No.9

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Posted 07 April 2006 - 11:44 PM

Hello Sapper, nice to see you back over here among adults and free of 'The Wicked Witch of the West'. :eek: :D

Re your post, did you get his story as to how/why he came to be with the Germans?

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#10 biguglydog

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Posted 11 April 2006 - 09:33 PM

So yea I got the info today and without a doubt this American did serve in the number #1 British Commando, as a photocopy of an official Ranger Veteran letter dated from 1966 indicates. The writer of the letter also asks for names and address of others in the #1 and #6 Commando, as he was clueless as me. So the question is was there a whole unit of Americans fighting within the British Army? I really don't expect anyone to come up with any solid info as this possibly undiscovered

#11 No.9

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Posted 30 April 2006 - 02:56 AM

What you’ve said so far indicates the Operation was Torch in November 1942, where the landings included Nos.1 and 6 Commandos as well as US Rangers. As the French were thought more likely to be better disposed towards the Americans than the British (who had sunk their fleet), a number of British Commandos wore American helmets and carried Garand rifles.

As this was the first major action for the US Rangers, some of them were attached under commando of the Commandos. The Rangers were however formed and established by this time and this attachment of some men for the landing was as far as it went. Is it possible that an American ‘national’ could have found his way into the British forces and thereafter enlisted for the Commandos – yes, as an individual in wartime Britain. Did No.1 Commando (or No.6) have a regular ‘American’ Troop, no – such men would have been needed by the Rangers.

To find a specific breakdown of assignment you’d need to see the battle orders/War Diary as held in the British Public Records Office or the American equivalent, or some credible book which sites them. Alternately you could send an enquiry to The US Rangers, bearing in mind 80% of individual records were lost in the 1973 St. Louis fire, as you probably know.

A general outline of Torch at http://www.combinedops.com/Torch.htm

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#12 Mahross

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Posted 30 April 2006 - 05:17 PM

Sapper, What you have described sounds very similar to what appears in the TV series Band of Brothers. Has someone stolen your story!!

I know of yanks serving in the British Armed Forces but i do wonder how common it was in the German. I mean a lot of germans moved to America in the 19th and 20th Century.

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#13 cnmj5196@aol.com

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 09:05 PM

This is not a tall tale; several hundred Americans did serve with the No.1 and No.6 Commando during the timeframe of October 1942 thru January 1943 (approximately).

Originally each Commando Group had (4) Troops of American volunteers (between 50-60 men per Troop) from 34th Infantry Division (mostly the 168th Infantry). For the landings near Algiers on 08-Nov-1942, the No.1 and No.6 Commando each landed with (10) Troops. Each of the American Troops were led by a 1st Lt. with a usually a staff sergeant as 2nd in command. Each of the (2) Sections in the Troop were led by a sergeant or staff sergeant. Also, I believe (1) British commando (signalman) was attached to each Troop (with 1 or 2 American assistants) for wireless/radio communications.

I am curious if the man mentioned whether his Troop Leader was a Lt. Holt or Lt. Thompson? Only a handful of men from Holt's Troop made it back after the Bizerte raid (December 1 - 3, 1942). Regarding Thompson, most of his Troop's No.2 Section was captured.

The story about the boots sounds like he is talking about the [Soulier Vibron] rubber-soled "commando" boots that were issued for the Algiers landings. I don't think they were designed to be worn on either foot though? I think they were an experimental boot that didn't work out too well?

I am curious what this man's name is and whether you still have contact information for him. I would have some questions for him also. I have a fairly complete roster of the Americans with the No.1 Commando. I wonder if his name is on it.

I am trying to piece together a roster for the (4) American Troops with the No.6 Commando. I have checked the War Diaries for the No.6 Commando and have found no rosters to show the names of the American volunteers, nor the Troop to which each was assigned?

#14 Skipper

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 09:09 PM

Hundreds of American airmen joined the RCAF in and fought for Bomber Command throughout the war. The fallen are buried in British Commonwealth graves, there are a few just minutes away from my hometown.

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#15 wtid45

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 10:23 PM

This is not a tall tale; several hundred Americans did serve with the No.1 and No.6 Commando during the timeframe of October 1942 thru January 1943 (approximately).

Originally each Commando Group had (4) Troops of American volunteers (between 50-60 men per Troop) from 34th Infantry Division (mostly the 168th Infantry). For the landings near Algiers on 08-Nov-1942, the No.1 and No.6 Commando each landed with (10) Troops. Each of the American Troops were led by a 1st Lt. with a usually a staff sergeant as 2nd in command. Each of the (2) Sections in the Troop were led by a sergeant or staff sergeant. Also, I believe (1) British commando (signalman) was attached to each Troop (with 1 or 2 American assistants) for wireless/radio communications.

I am curious if the man mentioned whether his Troop Leader was a Lt. Holt or Lt. Thompson? Only a handful of men from Holt's Troop made it back after the Bizerte raid (December 1 - 3, 1942). Regarding Thompson, most of his Troop's No.2 Section was captured.

The story about the boots sounds like he is talking about the [Soulier Vibron] rubber-soled "commando" boots that were issued for the Algiers landings. I don't think they were designed to be worn on either foot though? I think they were an experimental boot that didn't work out too well?

I am curious what this man's name is and whether you still have contact information for him. I would have some questions for him also. I have a fairly complete roster of the Americans with the No.1 Commando. I wonder if his name is on it.

I am trying to piece together a roster for the (4) American Troops with the No.6 Commando. I have checked the War Diaries for the No.6 Commando and have found no rosters to show the names of the American volunteers, nor the Troop to which each was assigned?

If you look at www.commandoveterans.org look under forum for wartime army commando individuals, look for Arthur Banks NO1 CDO. Find the post by a Jackie Mcginnis and she mentions her Uncle Bill Mcginnis who was American, and served in NO1 Commando.
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#16 cnmj5196@aol.com

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Posted 10 August 2009 - 05:29 PM

Yes, I am familiar with that name (William D. McGuinniss). He was originally from West Virginia and had served with Company "G" - 168th Infantry prior to his service with the No.1 Commando. McGuinniss served with No.1 Section of Thompson Troop. Much of No.2 Section (and 1st Lt. Thompson) were captured near Bizerte on/about 01-Dec-1942.

#17 biguglydog

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Posted 19 December 2009 - 09:18 AM

Sorry it has been several years since I last checked here (I've lost the password and email for my original username) but after seeing further activity, I figure I would follow up.

This gentleman's name was Russell E. Simpson of Iowa assigned to the #1 Commando. Based on my chicken scratch notes from an intimidating visit to the British National Archives at Kew dating from around the time of initial entries it seems that He was part of a mission deemed "Operation Bizerte", part of a larger series of raids tied to the North Africa port. The documents listed both Capt. J.M. Bradford and Capt H.R. Morgan as being KIA while citing 17 men were able to get away but most were captured including Simpson. The records did not mention Simpson by name as he would have been of no strategic importance but they do roughly correspond with his story. Not that it means anything but the records were closed until 1977.

Rick Atkinson's Army at Dawn very briefly touches on the raid, mentioning that Americans were wearing British battledress (214-216).

From there Simpson as a POW was sent to Camps 66 and 59 in Italy until the armistice when the Italians basically left the door open for them. However it wasn't until the summer of 1944 when Simpson was able to link up with Polish troops and then finally back to the states.

It seems as of 1/31/42 there were 137 Americans serving in the British Army, most of whom were officers. During the time of the raid when Simpson was captured there was 1 American section (8-9 Commandos) under Capt. Garner Jones, 1 American section with Lt. Davidson, 4 Americans with Davies' Troop, and 3 with Pollitt's Troop.

If anyone has anything more on Simpson or the greater scheme of things I'd be interested to hear.

#18 stepsimp

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Posted 16 January 2012 - 03:34 PM

Russell E. Simpson was my grandfather. I have copies of his WWII journal and would be willing to share them. Also any notes or documents you have about his time in WWII would be greatly appreciated. He died when I was rather young, and I found out about his story when I got older, but I wish I knew earlier so I could talk to him about it. Therefore, I'm desperate for any information anyone has on him. Please e-mail me at stepsimp@indiana.edu

Thanks!




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