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Published on May 24th, 2014 | by Arch Stanton

The Montana Military Story You Didn’t Know

Montana has a rich tradition of military service. From the Territory Days to Afghanistan, Montana men and women have stepped-up for Uncle Sam often and with distinction.

And in honor of Memorial Day, let us tell you about some of the most outstanding service members Montana has ever produced- the First Special Service Force.

Have you heard of the First Special Service Force? Well, if you’ve heard of the Devil’s Brigade or the Inglorious Basterds, then you know more about the First Special Service Force than you think.

Montana’s First Special Service Force has been something of legend since they were formed in secret in 1942- being described as founders of the Special Forces, inspiring two major Hollywood films (The Devil’s Brigade, 1968 and Inglorious Basterds, 2009) and being honored by Congress in 2013.

The First Special Service Force was a joint US-Canadian Force made up of elite Canadian forces and rough stock from the Western US- including Montana. They were formed and trained in secret at Ft. Harrison near Helena before deploying to Europe to do what they were best at- “killin’ Nazis.” Because of their high-risk missions and unconventional tactics, they are considered by many military authorities to be the forerunners of the modern Special Forces.

Quentin Tarantino took special notice of the Force in the classic 2009 film, “Inglorious Basterds.” And to be frank, there are some striking similarities between the First Special Service Force and Aldo Raine’s boys. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Let’s look at a few:

1) The badge homage:
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When Brad Pitt’s character, Lt. Raine is in uniform, he rocks the First Special Service Force badge on his arm. Tarantino and his staff did their homework then paid their respects. Very cool.

2) Marking the enemy’s dead: This is not for the squeamish. While the Force DID NOT scalp Nazi troops, they did paratroop behind enemy lines before the D-Day invasion and marked the Nazi dead with special made stickers on the bodies that said, in German, “The worst is yet to come.”
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3) The badge and the knife. As you can see, the badge is an arrowhead. Lt. Raine says the Basterds will follow the battle plan of an “Apache Resistance,” because he is the “Dee-rect descendent of the mountain man Jim Bridger.” The First Special Service Force badge and symbolism also channeled American Indian imagery. Also, like the Basterds, they were notorious among German regulars for surprise attacks that involved a big, frickin’ knife.
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4) The “Murdering Bastards.” Because they were so effective, the First Special Service Force became infamous among Axis troops. Allied troops discovered Nazi correspondence describing them as “black devils,” and “murdering bastards.”
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In 2012, Montana lost its last remaining members of the First Special Service Force: T. Mark Radcliffe, James Lionel “Stoney” Wines and Joe Glass. They were great men and they changed history. So, this Memorial Day let’s remember these men, and all our troops and veterans:
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The First Special Service Force in Helena, 1942.


About the Author

Arch Stanton



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