I’m currently writing a fiction book on World War II and needed background for various characters, including a specialist in stealth operations. I asked for help in the /r/worldbuilding (PDF) subreddit. So far, nobody answered, but based on 6 likes I assume that people are interested in this question. Below you can find what I found so far.
The majority of the ideas below comes from chapters 2 and 3 (“Special Operations in the Mediterranean” and “Special Operations in the European Theater”, respectively) of the book “US Army Special Operations in World War II” by David W. Hogan, Jr (see reference materials section for details).
What ethnic background did these people have?
The above book claims that during WWII the Americans learned secret operations from the British. The CIA (OSS, as it was called back then) was in its infancy and much less experienced than the British (here you can find a funny quote of a British observer on this). For this reason, it is possible that the specialist in my book is either British, or trained by the British.
Among the American special operations people, natives of Maryland and Virginia seem to be overrepresented.
Designated the 29th Ranger Battalion, the new unit consisted of a tiny cadre from Darby’s original group and volunteers from the 29th Infantry Division. an inexperienced National Guard formation from Maryland and Virginia. Under the leadership of Maj. Randolph Milholland. a Maryland National Guardsman who had attended the British General Headquarters Battle School. the volunteers trained for five weeks at Achnacarry.David W. Hogan, Jr., “US Army Special Operations in World War II”, p. 38
What events did these people participate in?
- Operation Gunnerside: British operation aimed at preventing the Germans from getting access to heavy water in Norway (necessary for building a nucular bomb).
- Operation Frankton: British agents swam on canoes to a French port (occupied by the Germans).
- The Kreipe Operation: Kidnapping of a German general.
- Operation Postmaster: Hijacking cargo ships that refueled German U-boats.
- Operation Source: Sinking a German ship using midget submarines.
- Operation Biting: Stealing a German radar in 1941.
- Operation Torch: Invasion of French North Africa.
- Ginny Incident
In March 1944 a fifteen-man force, code named GINNY, landed south of La Spezia with orders to dynamite a railway tunnel on the main supply line for the front south of Rome. Local inhabitants discovered the party’s poorly concealed rubber boats and alert-ed the Germans, who found the party hiding in a barn. Although in uniform at the time, the captured OG members were summarily executed in accordance with Adolph Hitler’s orders to liquidate all commandos.David W. Hogan, Jr., “US Army Special Operations in World War II”, p. 31
- Training at Achnacarry
- Raids on Norwegian and French coasts
What places this character may have a special relationship to?
- Northern Ireland. First American special ops people were recruited from the troops who served in Northern Ireland.
Truscott recommended the formation of an American commando unit which would bear the designation Ranger. Under Truscott’s concept, most personnel would join the new Ranger force on a temporary basis and then return to their parent units after several months of field operations. Marshall approved the proposals, and on 19 June 1942, Truscott officially activated the 1st Ranger Battalion in Northern Ireland.David W. Hogan, Jr., “US Army Special Operations in World War II”, p. 12
As commander of the battalion, Truscott selected Capt. William O. Darby.
- Raid on Dieppe
- Kasserine Pass
- Invasion of Sicily
- Porto Empedocle
During the early spring of 1943 volunteers from units throughout the continental United States assembled among the dusty streets, long white barracks, and green pyramidal tents of Camp Forrest, Tennessee, to form the 2d Ranger Battalion.David W. Hogan, Jr., “US Army Special Operations in World War II”, p. 39
- Fort Dix, New Jersey
- Insect-infested island, Fort Pierce, Florida
- Pointe (1944-06-06)
What organisations may be important to them?
- The 1st Special Service Force
- European Theater of Operations (ETO)
- US Army
- Office of Stratgic Services (OSS)
- British Special Operations Executive (SOE, British)
What personal characteristics did they possess?
- Good physical condition
- From 17 to 35 years old in 1942 (born between 1907 and 1925)
- Yearning for adventure
- A small fraction of ranger recruits were misfits and troublemakers
- Driven, among other things, by a desire to be a part of an elite force
Inspection teams canvassed Army units in the Southwest and on the Pacific seaboard for hardened volunteers, especially those with a background as “lumberjacks, forest rangers, hunters, north-woodsmen, game wardens, prospectors, and explorers.”David W. Hogan, Jr., “US Army Special Operations in World War II”, p. 24
What skills do they possess?
- Amphibious operations
- Attacks on pillboxes and coastal defenses
The future Rangers endured
* log-lifting drills,
* obstacle courses, and
* speed marches over mountains and through frigid rivers under the watchful eye of British commando instructors.
In addition, they received
* weapons training and instruction in
* hand-to-hand combat,
* street fighting,
* night operations, and the
* handling of small boats.
The training stressed realism, including the use of live ammunition. On one occasion, a Ranger alertly picked up a grenade that a commando had thrown into a boatload of trainees and hurled it over the lake before it exploded.David W. Hogan, Jr., “US Army Special Operations in World War II”, p. 13
- Above-average physical and mental ability.
Many had heard of the exploits of Darby’s Rangers and were eager to belong to a similar unit; others simply wanted to move overseas more quickly.David W. Hogan, Jr., “US Army Special Operations in World War II”, p. 39
What did they look like?
To serve as a link with the resistance, Eisenhower’s headquarters and EMFFI planned to use liaison teams known as Jedburghs, named after guerrillas in the Jedburgh region of twelfth century Scotland. Formed into three-man cells consisting of
* a British or American officer,
* a French officer, and
* a radio operator,
the Jedburghs were to parachute into France and
1. provide radio communications between the resistance and Allied headquarters,
2. to coordinate partisan operations with the main Allied force, to arrange for deliveries of supplies, and, if necessary,
3. to organize, train, and even lead the partisans in guerrilla warfare.David W. Hogan, Jr., “US Army Special Operations in World War II”, p. 49
What objects may they have special feelings for?
Between conferences on grand strategy, Mountbatten had introduced Marshall to Geoffrey Pyke, an eccentric British scientist who had developed a scheme to divert up to half-a-million German troops from the main fronts. Under Pyke’s plan, commandos, using special vehicles, would conduct a series of winter raids against snowbound German garrisons of such vulnerable points as hydroelectric stations in Norway and oil refineries in Romania. Exactly how the raiding units would enter and leave the target areas remained hazy, but the concept fascinated Marshall. After returning to the United States, he gave the project a high priority despite the skepticism of War Department planners. Studebaker, an automobile manufacturer, received a contract for the design and production of the vehicle later known as the Weasel.David W. Hogan, Jr., “US Army Special Operations in World War II”, pp. 23–24
- Chapters 2 and 3 (“Special Operations in the Mediterranean” and “Special Operations in the European Theater”, respectively) of the book “US Army Special Operations in World War II” by David W. Hogan, Jr (see reference materials section for details).
- History.com (PDF)
- Listverse.com (PDF)
- Image of the M29 Weasel is in public domain