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Wednesday, July 12, 2017
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On the article about the M-29 Weasel that was developed for the First Special Service Force to use in Norway to sabotage Norway's Heavy Water plant during WWII, your article says it was called off, as do all books and on-line articles. My step father was in that unit, and he always told us they went in, got the job done and managed to get out alive (it was to be a suicide mission). That does not square with all the articles/books. I recently spoke to a former OSS member who told me they DID go into Norway and finished the mission - the reason nothings says they did is it is still classified! My question: Does ANYONE know someone I could talk to about getting this important mission de-classified so these amazing men can FINALLY be recognized for stopping Hitler from getting the bomb?  

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The name you need to research is "Geoffrey Nathaniel Pyke", There are a number of excellent books about him. He advised Louis Mountbatten on scientific matters,  and threw out weird ideas in all directions, most famously for a vast aircraft carrier to be constructed from huge panels of a material created from super-freezing a mixture of salt water and woodpulp. If you stir the mix as you superfreeze it, and then STOP stirring it, it forms an unusual crystalline structure, more like mild steel than normal ice... and it tends not to melt. Invading Norway had been Pyke's idea, although the idea might also have been part of Churchill's "Bodyguard of Lies" for D-Day. As with "Operation Mincemeat", where a corpse (who had died from pneumonia, which gives similar symptoms to drowning) was planted in the sea off of the Spanish Coast, dressed as a Royal Marine major, carrying top secret documents chained to his wrist in a briefcase. The Documents "accidentally revealed" plans to invade Crete from North Africa. German agents in Spain moved heaven and earth to get a look at what the documents said, and managed to persuade Spanish officials sympathetic to their cause to let them have a surreptitious look, Word got back to Germany, which transferred both Luftwaffe AND armoured units to Crete, from amongst other places, Sicily. The subsequent invasion of Sicily (NOT Crete) came as a shock to the Germans. Numerous other plans were created to lead the Germans to believe that the "Second Front" would come anywhere BUT in Normandy. Plans WERE produced to invade Norway, whether as actual plans or merely yet more misdirection to confuse German intelligence we'll probably never know. Maybe both?!  Pyke's fertile brain was quite capable of exploiting what was supposedly no more than a feint and causing it to tie-down huge numbers of German forces. Mountbatten commanded "Combined Operations", which included the commandos - tasked with keeping Germany off balance, needing to protect EVERYTHING, EVERYWHERE ALL THE TIME, Because if they DIDN'T, some bugger would turn up out of nowhere and blow it up. 1SF did have a distinguished war record - after the planned Norway expedition was abandoned (like the super-AIrcraft Carrier made from ice, it was killed off by an emphatic lack of either interest or support from the USA) My understanding was that the we sent first briefly to the Kurile Islands (Between Alaska and Japan) and then rather more productively to Italy, where they earned the name "The Devil's Brigade" Take a look at the book  of the same name, (from which came the movie. )

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Thanks Ron, Yes I have many books, including The Devil's Brigade, and read tons online...really interesting unit and history, one tough bunch of guys!

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On 10/30/2018 at 1:48 AM, Dee Sams said:

On the article about the M-29 Weasel that was developed for the First Special Service Force to use in Norway [to sabotage Norway's Heavy Water plant] during WWII, your article says it was called off, as do all books and on-line articles.

It's the part that I've put in square brackets [like this!] which puzzle me (Not having read the original article) First Special Force was brought into existence as a result of ideas from Geoffrey Pyke, chief Science Officer advising Lord Mountbatten, who was then commander of Combined Ops.The Weasel was Pyke's idea too, as a means for them to move around.His fertile brain threw out what often seemed to be crazy ideas ALL the time. When thinking about Norway, Pyke realised that he knew very little about ice and snow... and set about filing this gap in his encyclopaedic knowledge. The discovery of a NEW kind of Ice by Pyke and his team was a spin-off of that research. The USA had entered WW2 full of confidence, possibly rather OVER full of it. They initially planned to invade France in 1943, but were warned by the British that this was an utterly unrealistic timetable, and an invasion as early as '43 would have been a costly disaster. What was needed was time to develop and stockpile weapons and assets... AND develop what Churchill described as a "Bodyguard of Lies", Germany KNEW for a fact that an invasion was coming. But what they DIDN'T know was when or where. Churchill.had History, (going back to WW1) of "Deceptive Warfare", and this time around he continued to play the same game. Any and every means that the Germans could be persuaded was the "TRUE" invasion was exploited, right up to the time when the invasion was actually happening, Hitler remained convinced (having been fed so much misleading information) that Normandy on 6th June was merely a feint, and the REAL attack would come from Calais. The UK had invested massive efforts in  producing a very realistic (but totally spurious) American Army group, visible from the air, and which generated a huge amount of (equally spurious) radio traffic. The Germans were utterly convinced that the First United States Army Group was REAL. We also invested in (for example) "Combat Hi Fi". Experts from the UK film industry had been drafted, and demonstrated that at night (when, obviously, you can't SEE) you fall back on what you can hear. If that appears to be a large detachment of tanks moving across your front you believe the evidence of your own ears. On D-Day morning, fog-bound Bordeaux announced that THEY could hear an invasion fleet waiting off-shore. AND they could SEE it on RADAR. Therefore they could NOT send any troops to Normandy. (I thought this was totally hilarious!). Unaccountably, the Americans showed very little interest in taking the deception plans seriously, and reportedly were outraged to hear from their own spies that Britain was planning to invade Norway. Why had they not been consulted?! Why had they had to wait for the news to come from agents in Germany? It was explained to them that If Germany erroneously imagined that an invasion of Norway was imminent, then they'd reinforce their positions there. And soldiers can't be in two places  at once. A soldier posted to Norway can't be anywhere else (like, for example, Normandy?!) This deception stuff was often the work of Combined Ops. (1SF also came under the Combined Ops umbrella; did someone think that turning a mere rumour into fact - using just a few hundred soldiers - would be a smart idea? A few hundred commandos, properly equipped, could hold down THOUSANDS of Germans .Under the command of Combined Ops. But... the three attacks on Norway's heavy water plants were carried out under the auspices of S.O.,E.  - Special Operations, Executive.  Who were a completely different outfit. It strikes me that someone has mixed up two different operations and two different forces. 1SF never had any connection with Operations Grouse, Freshman, or Gunnerside.

 

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Hi Ron - I wish I knew the answers....I wish I had asked more questions about that mission the FSSF was trained for, the suicide mission to go into the heavy water plant in Norway. I would love to have more details, but my stepdad, who was in that unit, passed away in 1984. I would LOVE to see the whole thing de-classified, and for those guys to get the recognition they deserve. That is my mission at this point.  

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12 hours ago, Dee Sams said:

Hi Ron - I wish I knew the answers....I wish I had asked more questions about that mission the FSSF was trained for, the suicide mission to go into the heavy water plant in Norway. I would love to have more details, but my stepdad, who was in that unit, passed away in 1984. I would LOVE to see the whole thing de-classified, and for those guys to get the recognition they deserve. That is my mission at this point.  

Here in the UK, there was a very popular TV show, hosted by a chap called Barry Norman, which reviewed films. Barry retired and wrote an autobiography in which HE too lamented that he'd been unable to discover what his Dad had done during WW2. His Dad had worked in the movie industry, and had been drafted into a secret unit. Which I suspect (as was the habit of the UK Military at the time) was given a deliberately misleading name - the Armoured Car Squadron. These were the guys who specialised in "Combat HiFi", able to convincingly reproduce sounds at night which led the enemy into totally false conclusions about how many soldiers they were facing. In Normandy, on D-Day, American paratroops jumped into an area which had been very recently reinforced by German troops. Thankfully, those troops were exhausted and miles away from their base, having responded to rumours of a substantial drop of parachutists the previous day. An illusion created by dropping model parachutists from planes AND a jeep loaded with HiFi gear, which moved around the countryside making a great deal of realistic noise, and drawing their German pursuers ever further from their own base. THAT operation wasn't declassified until the 1970's. Sadly, Barry Norman gave up his hunt to find the truth only  year or two before the government decided to declassify a huge amount of stuff early. Bletchley Park got the main attention from the media, but a HUGE amount of other stuff also got declassified... and hardly anyone noticed.

The Fact remains, ISF's records in the UK will (almost certainly) be found in Plymouth, where Combined Ops is still based. They're a small, secretive unit which looks and behaves a lot like the SAS, but for historical reasons isn't part of the Army, Navy or the Air force. (One pays them, another feeds them and the third transports them!) S.O.,E. was disbanded at the  end of WW2. THEIR records will be found with Military Intelligence, over in Ashford. One on Devon, the other in Kent. That's a long way apart (in terms of English Geography) I'm frankly puzzled that "I corps" is regarded as the descendant of S.O.,E.(During the war they did NOT see eye-to-eye) The two units Were like two different (and specialist) tools..You don't use a hatchet for a job that needs a screwdriver. As a friend once remarked to me, "If you want a safe that's behind enemy lines blown, ask the SAS. If you want the safe opened, the contents photographed and returned, and the safe closed so that nobody knows it's been opened... ask Military Intelligence. Different tools for different jobs, Same deal with 1SF and S.O.,E. They do (did) very different jobs, in very different WAYS. Kind of like the Submarine Service and the Parachute Regiment.

I remain unconvinced that 1SF had any connection with the Heavy Water plants. Certainly, their original purpose was to see action in Norway... BUT. They even existed because Pyke suggested that they should. Pyke had absolutely ZERO connection with S.O.,E.

Edited by Ron Walker

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You might be interested by researching two similar groups  to 1SF, known as "Jedburghs" (if they were American) or "les Anges" (If they were British). Composed of small independent groups of highly trained, ultra-fit  special forces they were dropped behind enemy lines into occupied France with generous supplies of weapons and explosives, and tasked with destroying lines of communication. It was well known that the Germans had a large number of heavy combat units recuperating in the SOUTH of France, and it was expected that in the aftermath of D-Day these units would be called upon to move North towards Normandy. "Les Anges" and the Jedburghs' task was to make that as difficult as possible, blowing up bridges, causing land slips, mining roads, ambushing convoys... and then vanishing back into the countryside. It worked. The German armoured formations took WEEKS to reach Normandy, barely managed to bring half of their tanks intact, and were in no condition for further serious combat. The Panzers had been under near-constant attack since the moment they started to move north. That was pretty much what was wanted from 1SF, but as a larger force. To be a constant irritation to German communications and supply lines (Germany was heavily dependant of Norwegian Iron, for example) The "Lofoten raid" already carried out by Commandos in Northern Norway had been regarded as a great success. The troops were brought in by boat, took over a small town. held it for two days, took a number of prisoners, "blew shit up and killed people". Then they got back on their boat and sailed away (But the threat remained that they might return!) Suggesting that NOT going away might be an interesting idea, and then developing the idea - in ridiculous detail - was typical of Pyke. Pyke's ideas were often SO off the wall that people weren't sure whether to take them seriously. From The idea of leaving troops behind enemy lines in Norway comes the need to design a machine that can traverse snow rapidly, From that come extensive research into the nature of snow and ice, from which grew the concept of "Pykrete" and ENORMOUS unsinkable aircraft carriers built from "super-ice".  And also perhaps the most famous "Pykeism".... his "Urinal for Officers only" paper. The concept of the Weasel had ben for a small, Jeep-like vehicle, idea for SMALL raiding parties. But do you need to guard it, while you're away blowing up a railway line or a bridge? It was a question that genuinely concerned Pyke. His solution was two-stage. Firstly, each Weasel would carry a rolled-up portable canvas barrier, which would be unwound, and rapidly assembled around the vehicle. Pyke regarded the Germans as very obedient, and thought that stencilling the words "Uriinal, for officers only" would explain away the screen, and prevent further investigation. Just in case, he suggested that the vehicle should ALSO carry a placard reading "Extreme Danger of Death! Gestapo Experimental Death-ray. DO NOT APPROACH WITHIN 50 METRES! Highest Secret". The theory being that anybody nosy enough to have ignored the FIRST implicit warning (If you're not an officer, keep out) would encounter an unfamiliar piece of machinery, and a plausible explanation for what it was. An explanation that people would be reluctant to report having seen. OK... it's a crazy idea... but who knows... it might have worked!
 

Quote

a former OSS member who told me they DID go into Norway and finished the mission

Which leaves us wondering quite who, in this sentence, the word "They" refers to. S.O.,E. had three bites at the cherry.If the "they" indicated Special Operations, Executive, then "they" did indeed "finish the mission". A "former OSS member" seems likely to be an American, making it (semantically) more plausible that "They" (i.e.. not US; not MY group) means S.O.,E. rather than the (50% American) 1SF.

 

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