Here's a look inside Canada's most elite search and rescue force - We Are The Mighty
Asperiores odit

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force

Canada is the second largest country in the world in terms of land mass and size, with harsh, unforgiving territory marking the majority of its geographic map. Air traffic nevertheless crisscrosses these large expanses of land, boats and ships still ply the rough seas around, and hikers and the adventurous of heart still navigate their way through the desolate north to explore the country’s natural beauty.


But when the unthinkable happens – be it an airplane crash in a remote area, a stranded an grievously ill hiker in the middle of  forest, or a sinking vessel off Canada’s coast, the Canadian armed forces are among the best prepared in the world.

We Are The Mighty recently flew with the Royal Canadian Air Force to watch its search and rescue teams in action.

The RCAF’s mission is known as Canadian Armed Forces Search and Rescue, CAFSAR for short, conducted by teams of fixed-wing and rotary aircraft, which can seamlessly integrate with Canadian coast guard and naval vessels for waterborne rescue missions, should the need arise.

From recovering downed aviators to rescuing civilian boaters adrift at sea, CAFSAR’s various units can do it all.

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force
A CC-130H Hercules and CC-115 Buffalo (right) sit side by side before a training sortie (Photo Ian D’Costa)

Canada’s SAR units primarily use fixed-wing aircraft like the CC-130H Hercules and the CC-115 Buffalo to function as “spotters.” On missions, these aircraft fly low to the Earth, with aircrew inside maintaining vigilance over the terrain below for telltale signs of the imperiled.

To better facilitate these missions, the RCAF has modified their H-model Hercs with plexiglass “spotting stations” where the para-doors once existed towards the rear of the aircraft.

Both the Herc and the Buffalo are capable of remaining on-site for extended periods of time, and they often contain supplies and support materials relevant to the mission. For example, sometimes crews carry inflatable air-dropped life rafts and bilge pumps for at-sea rescues or recoveries. They also carry a complement of orange-clad SAR Technicians, who represent the backbone of the CAFSAR apparatus.

SAR “techs” are among the most elite of the Canadian Forces, numbering only 140 out of the nearly 70,000-strong military. Techs are considered specialists in their field, trained to provide “advanced pre-hospital medical care,” and are broadly qualified to perform missions in all areas of the Canadian wilderness and North, ranging from lakes, oceans, heavily-forested areas, mountains and onward to the bleak Arctic tundra.

SAR tech training is arduous and difficult. The attrition rate for students is high, and only the best students of each training class are posted to CAFSAR’s various joint rescue commands across the country.

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force
Aircrew with 424 Sqn, RCAF prepare to drop inflatable liferafts to stranded boaters below (Photo Ian D’Costa)

CAFSAR also uses rotary aircraft— namely the CH-146 Griffon and CH-149 Cormorant — to move SAR techs to hard-to-reach places, and to conduct seaborne rescue operations. These aircraft can hover in place while techs are lowered and raised via winches, horse collars, and metal baskets. Rotary assets are often “vectored” to the site of a rescue by the spotter aircraft, when the site of the incident has been triangulated and located.

Given the urgent nature of rescue operations, missions can appear when least expected, and require crews to be alert and ready at a moment’s notice. In a matter of minutes, a Herc or a Buffalo can be loaded up and prepared for launch while SAR techs and the aircrew ready themselves for the mission at hand. Simultaneously, Griffons and/or Cormorants begin spooling up nearby for their own inevitable launch.

When on a larger joint SAR operation, a Herc or a Buffalo will lift off with the intention of finding and marking the location of the incident/rescue with a smoke canister. This can happen within minutes of reaching the general area, or after an hour of low-level flying. Depending on the nature of the emergency, support materials are prepped and deployed, while rotary units are flown over to the area with SAR techs ready for action.

Should the circumstances merit immediate assistance, CAFSAR’s SAR techs have one very important and versatile trick up their sleeves. Its members are qualified to perform “pararescue” operations, which involve parachute jumps from Hercs and Buffalos to reach areas on the surface where aircraft can not hover or land nearby.

The careful coordination of these assets, the advanced and well-developed abilities of SAR techs and rescue aircrews, and years of experience in performing rescue missions throughout Canada has helped CAFSAR become what it currently is – one of the most competent and effective search and rescue apparatuses in existence today.

Asperiores odit

Amphibious Assault in the Pacific

By 1943, the war in the Pacific burned in its full fury. On November 20th, the Allies launched the first amphibious assault against heavily defended beaches in US history. The 2nd division of the US Marine Corps, used amphibious tractors and assault boats to reach the beaches of the Tarawa atoll, an enemy stronghold protected by 5,000 hardened Imperial Japanese marines. Ed Moore and Tommy Reed were decorated veterans of the 2nd Marine Division during the island campaigns in the Pacific War.

Asperiores odit

Hitting the Beach On D-Day

On June 6, 1944, the Allies launched the largest amphibious military assault in history known as D-Day.  More than 150,000 American, British and Canadian forces landed on five beaches along the heavily fortified coast of France’s Normandy region.  The invasion involved nearly 5,000 landing and assault craft, 289 escort vessels, and 277 minesweepers. Some of the first men to hit the beach on D-Day were the U.S. Navy Combat Demolition Unit.  Jerry Markham and John Talton were members of this elite group.  In this episode, these courageous veterans tell their dramatic stories, In Their Own Words.

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Battle of the Bulge

Toward the end of December 1944 it was clear the Germans were losing WWII. Low on fuel, munitions and morale, the ability of the rogue nation was slipping by the hour. Still with 6,000,000 men under arms, Hitler burned with a passion for one more mad drive into the Allied lines. In December, 1944 with the Russians closing in from the east and the Allies chipping away at the western front, the Nazis made their move. 600,000 Germans in 29 divisions with 11 armored panzer divisions, surged into the Allied front. The stage was set for total Allied defeat, but Hitler had failed to calculate the most important element of all. He could count the thousands of guns, the tons of munitions and the hundreds of tanks, but he could never grasp the unfailing courage and valor of the American fighting man.

Asperiores odit

Here are the best military photos of the week of Jan. 7

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

U.S. Air Force Capt. Raymond Whisenhunt, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing chief of protocol, tumbles to the ground as a military working dog locks onto the bite suit he is wearing at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Dec. 30, 2016. MWD’s are highly motivated canines utilized for patrol, drug and explosive detection, and other specialized mission functions.

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cynthia A. Innocenti

An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot assigned to the 134th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron performs preflight checks at the 407th Air Expeditionary Group, Dec. 29, 2016. The 134th EFS is flying combat missions for Operation Inherent Resolve to support and enable Iraqi Security Forces’ efforts with the unique capabilities provided by the fighter squadron.

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force
U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Benjamin Wilson

ARMY:

Nevada National Guard soldiers patrol the Las Vegas Strip last night as part of Operation Night Watch, an annual law enforcement mission supporting the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department during the annual New Year’s Eve celebration.

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force
U.S. Army photo

U.S. Army U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, United States Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard Service members conduct an Armed Forces Full Honor Farewell Ceremony for for the departing commander-in-chief, President Barack Obama at Comny Hall on Joint Base Myer – Henderson Hall, Va., Jan. 4, 2016.

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force
U.S. Army Photo by Pvt. Gabriel A. Silva

NAVY:

NORFOLK (Dec. 30, 2016) Sailors man the rails aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) as it returns to homeport. Dwight D. Eisenhower and its carrier strike group conducted a 7-month deployment to the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cole Keller

VENICE, Italy (Jan. 3, 2017) Sailors man the helm aboard the guided missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) as it departs Venice, Italy. Porter, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Ford Williams

MARINE CORPS:

Marines with Alpha Battery, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 4th Marines, conduct an M777 Howitzer live-fire night fire mission during Exercise Alligator Dagger, Dec. 18. This nightscape was taken as a single, long exposure photograph. The chaos of different colored lights are red-lensed headlamps worn by the artillery Marines moving and operating the different gun positions around the M777. The unilateral exercise provides an opportunity for the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) to train in amphibious operations within the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery C. Laning

Marines with Tank Platoon, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 4th Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conduct tank maintenance during Exercise Alligator Dagger, Dec. 8, 2016. Maintenance checks are done around the clock to ensure equipment is operating safely and efficiently and to ensure the safe conduct of training. The unilateral exercise provides an opportunity for the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and 11th MEU to train in amphibious operations within the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. The 11th MEU is currently supporting the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operation’s mission to promote and maintain stability and security in the region.

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force
U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery C. Laning

COAST GUARD:

Two kayakers recover from the seas and weather aboard a Coast Guard Station Maui 45-foot Response Boat-Medium Dec. 15, 2016. Coast Guard crews responded to a call for assistance from the kayakers when they were beset by weather off Maui.

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Linda Bashqoy

Members of the Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard stand at parade rest during the Pearl Harbor Remembrance ceremony on Coast Guard cutter Taney in Baltimore Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jasmine Mieszala

Asperiores odit

South Korean troops on DMZ are ready for anything

South Korean and American troops on and near the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea are ready, well-supplied, well-trained, and prepared, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman said following a visit over the weekend.


Army Command Sgt. Maj. John W. Troxell accompanied his boss, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to South Korea. But where the general participated in the Military Committee Meeting and Security Consultative Meeting with his Korean counterpart, Troxell used his time to get a feel for what life is like on “Freedom’s Frontier” in light of current tensions.

The DMZ is a place where North Korean troops are studying every action on the southern side. They continually probe, test, and push for a reaction from the South Korean troops that man most of the DMZ.

The unit Troxell visited — the 1st Republic of Korea Division’s 1st Reconnaissance Battalion — was the victim of a North Korean intrusion across the DMZ three years ago and had soldiers wounded in a minefield laid by North Korean special operations forces.

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force
Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during his visit to the Demilitarized Zone in the Republic of Korea, Nov. 2, 2015. DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro.

Unfiltered Look at the North

“I felt the need to go up to the Demilitarized Zone outside of the Joint Security Area and go to an area where I could get an unfiltered look at the North Koreans and what their demeanor, what their disposition, what their posture was in light of all of this rhetoric,” Troxell said.

He also just wanted to talk with South Korean troops to get a feel for their morale and readiness, he said.

The sergeant major’s previous job was as the senior enlisted leader for US Forces Korea and the Combined Forces Command.

He said he did not notice much difference in the North Koreans across the line. “They were on security,” he said. “They were observing into the South, especially when I got there — a lot of folks with binoculars trying to figure out what we were doing. But their patrols did not seem like they were in any more enhanced readiness than what they normally are.”

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force
Soldiers from the Korean People’s Army look south while on duty in the Joint Security Area. Army photo by Edward N. Johnson.

Despite the rhetoric from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the North Koreans were carrying on business as usual, he said. On the North Korean side, there are heavy weapons in contravention of the UN-brokered armistice signed in 1953. The North kicked out the two armistice guarantor nations — Poland and Czechoslovakia — when the Soviet Union fell.

“We still have the Swiss and the Swedes in the southern part of the DMZ that are making sure that the [South Koreans] and the US aren’t breaking any rules, in accordance with the armistice,” the sergeant major said.

The assumption in the south is that the North Koreans are breaking the rules and allied forces have to plan accordingly, he said.

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force
A South Korean soldier stands guard within the Joint Security Area of the DMZ. Army Photo by Edward N. Johnson.

‘Frail’ Troops

And there are a lot of North Korean troops. “There’s 750,000 North Korean troops on the DMZ, out of a more than 1.1 million man and woman force,” Troxell said. “But we haven’t seen them do a combined arms maneuver in 20 years. They fire about five to 10 rounds out of their rifles a year. And a good part of them have been diagnosed as being medically frail.”

“But there are 750,000 of them,” he continued. “So if you end up in conflict and you got full magazines of ammunition, you better not miss.”

Also Read: This is what the North Korean military looks like

And the North Koreans have been indoctrinated since birth on the infallibility of the Kim family. “If we have to go into high-end conflict, the North Koreans are going to fight,” Troxell said. “They’re prepared to fight and defend their country and defend who they call the Great Leader.”

On the South Korean side, the troops were patrolling and ready, the sergeant major said. They are a learning Army, he said, and have learned from the incident where the infiltrators came in. “They’ve really upgraded their positions,” Troxell said. “They’ve cut back all of the foliage from around their guard posts and the gates to get into the DMZ. They’ve also reinforced with, you know, better cameras and everything, so they have [fewer] blind spots that the North Koreans can exploit.”

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force
Korean Demilitarized Zone. ROK and US Soldiers at Observation Post Ouellette, South Korea. Army Photo by Edward N. Johnson.

‘Ready to Fight’

A bit farther back, the sergeant major met with American soldiers. “Obviously, they pay attention a lot more to the news than the [South Koreans] do, and certainly more than the North Koreans,” he said. “There was a lot more heightened sense of, ‘Hey, we got to be ready.'”

The rotational brigade — now from the 1st Cavalry Division — goes through a decisive action training rotation at the National Training Center in California and then deploys to the Korean Peninsula. “Those guys and gals are absolutely prepared for high-end conflict because they’ve been certified in it,” Troxell said. “They’re ready to fight.”

American units are training and focusing on potential threats, one of which is North Korea’s use of tunnels. “Subterranean warfare is something we have to continue to prepare for,” the sergeant major said. “As a matter of fact, the Army is making subterranean warfare part of their doctrine, and the Marines are going that way too.”

South Korean and US soldiers serve together closely. The 2nd Infantry Division, which is the divisional headquarters there, is now a combined division, with South Korean and US officers and non-commissioned officers on their division staff. “If you look at the 2nd Infantry Division patch, … it says combined division over their patch now,” he said.

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force
2nd Infantry Combined Division. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The 2nd Infantry Division is also certified at all levels of combat.

Building Mil-to-Mil Relationships

The members of the division continually look for ways to enhance the military-to-military relationship, Troxell said, especially in their noncommissioned officer corps. The South Koreans are looking “to better develop their squad leaders and platoon sergeants to operate effectively at the decentralized level and operate off of commanders’ intent and apply discipline initiative to get after combat, if they have to,” he said. “They really look at the noncommissioned officer corps in the United States military, and they want theirs to be like that.”

There are cultural differences that have to be overcome and much of the South Korean military is made up of conscripts. But, South Koreans have served alongside the US in every contingency since the Korean War, Troxell said, and they see that the American military expands the commander’s reach in the battlespace by empowering noncommissioned officers to act without being told.

This is especially needed in terrain like that at the DMZ, which is mountainous. “It’s a cluttered battlefield,” he said, “and it will call for decentralized execution to defeat the North Koreans. That means we’ve got to continue to have empowered enlisted leaders, because this will be a squad-level fight, more so than it will be a battalion/brigade-level fight.”

Asperiores odit

Pacific War Marine in WWII

John Nicely was a Sergeant in the US Marine Corps during the brutal Pacific island campaigns of WWII.  He saw his first action in the battle for the island of Saipan on June 15th, 1944.  From there he continued fighting from island to island and eventually prepared for the invasion of Japan. Nicely and his unit entered the devastated city of Nagasaki, just 25 days after the nuclear blast.  We met up with him at a reunion of the 2nd Marine division in 1994 and he shared his vivid personal memories of front-line combat.

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Here’s how US Air Force pilots learn to fly French Mirage fighters

The pilots in the U.S. Air Force fly a bunch of planes. The F-15 Eagle, the C-17 Globemaster, the A-10 Thunderbolt II, and the Mirage 2000D… Wait, that can’t be right. The Mirage 2000D is a French plane, and not in service with the Air Force.


Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force
Four 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions are released from an F-15E during a developmental test at Edwards Air Force Base in 2002. Photo courtesy of USAF.

Yet, that list is accurate. Right now, Maj. Raymond “Banzai” Rounds of the U.S. Air Force is based out of Ochey Air Base in France, flying with the Armee de l’Air. The French have three squadrons of Mirage 2000Ds.

In one sense, the Mirage 2000D is like the F-15E. Both are multi-role fighters that are based on air-superiority planes (the Mirage 2000C and the F-15).

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force
A Mirage 2000D at Kandahar air base. (Wikimedia Commons)

According to Military-Today.com, the Mirage 2000D is capable of carrying a wide variety of air-to-surface weapons, including dumb bombs, laser-guided bombs, Exocet anti-ship missiles, APACHE and SCALP missiles, the AS-30L missile, and rocket pods. It can also carry Magic 2 air-to-air missiles.

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force
This is just one possible loadout the Mirage 2000D can carry. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Air Force has a program that enables pilots like Rounds to do exchange tours with other countries’ militaries. But that’s not the only exchange.

There are also inter-service exchanges, where members of American military services fly with a unit in another American service. Perhaps the most famous of those pilots is Marine John Glenn, who scored three MiG kills while flying with the Air Force’s 51st Fighter Wing.

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force
The F-86F flown by John Glenn during his exchange tour with the 51st Tactical Fighter Wing. (USAF photo)

Rounds’s exchange tour will last for two years. After that, he will return the Air Force and bring over lessons he’s learned from the French.

You can see a video from the Joint Forces Channel that not only discusses Rounds’s exchange tour, but also what it takes to support the airmen who taken on these tours, below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqxUtiCyQHI
Asperiores odit

Turkey raises alarm with purchase of Russian-made S-400 missile system

Turkey finalized its purchase of the Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile system earlier this month.


The acquisition has stirred concern in other NATO countries since it was first reported several months ago, and the sale comes at time of increased tensions between Ankara and the West, the US in particular, over the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as well as the US-led campaign against ISIS in Syria.

Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu appeared to make pointed references to the S-400’s potential use against NATO and US planes on Sept. 20, when it tweeted out an infographic displaying the specifications of the S-400 and which US planes it could shoot down.

The graphic, as noted by Military Times, says the S-400 can react to targets in less than 10 seconds and can hit targets at a range up to 250 miles while traveling at about 10,000 mph. It also says the system can eliminate such US aircraft as the B-52 and B-1 bombers; F-15, F-16, and F-22 fighters; as well as surveillance aircraft and Tomahawk missiles.

 

Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 raised alarm among other NATO countries for the consequences it would have for military cooperation as well as the signals it appeared to send about the contentious diplomatic relationships within the defense alliance.

Militarily, the missile system would not be interoperable with NATO defense systems and would not be subject to the same restrictions on deployments, meaning Turkey could put it in places like the Armenian border or Aegean coast.

The S-400 is Russia’s most sophisticated missile-defense system (though Turkey is unlikely to get the most advanced version). It can detect and target manned and unmanned aircraft and missiles, and hit targets up to 250 miles away.

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force
SA-400. Photo by Vitality Kuzmin

A Turkish official said this summer that the S-400 would not come with friend-or-foe-identification system, meaning it could be used against any target. Turkey has said that a domestic firm would install software so it could distinguish between friend and foe aircraft, but there are doubts that process is technically feasible.

Diplomatically, the sale seemed to be the culmination of a period of frosty relations between Turkey and its partners in Europe and the US.

Ankara has clashed with Germany in the wake of a failed coup against Erdogan, after Berlin criticized the Turkish government for a crackdown on people accused of involvement.

Turkish-US relations have also suffered because of the war in Syria, where the US backs Kurdish fighters who Turkey sees as aligned with the Kurdish PKK, which both the US and Turkey have designated a terrorist group.

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force
Kurdish PKK Guerilla. Photo from Flickr user Kurdishstruggle

Turkey has threatened to target US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria several times.

The deal also underscores for many in the West who believe there is an increasingly cozy relationship between Russia and Turkey.

Some view the sale as another step by Moscow to undermine NATO — a sentiment Russian presidential adviser Vladimir Kozhin may have tried to nurture earlier this month by saying, “I can only guarantee that all decisions taken on this contract strictly comply with our strategic interests.”

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9 key facts about World War II’s ‘most dangerous man’

(Photo: Bundesarchiv) (Photo: Bundesarchiv)


SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Otto Skorzeny was one of the most celebrated and feared commandos of World War II. Daring operations such as the rescue of Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and missions behind enemy lines during the Battle of the Bulge made him known as “the most dangerous man in Europe.”

1. He saved the Austrian President’s life

After growing up in an middle-class family in Austria, Skorzeny grew disillusioned with the depressed state of the country’s economy following its defeat in World War I. He joined the Austrian branch of the Nazi Party in 1931 as part of its paramilitary wing. When Germany annexed Austria during the 1938 Anschluss, Skorzeny led a small paramilitary group to protect the Austrian president Wilhelm Miklas from assassination by the Austrian Nazi’s, arguing that killing Miklas would only encourage violent resistance to the coup. This initiative brought the attention of the Party leadership, and he was given a small SS command in charge of the presidential palace.

2. He studied special operations while recovering in the hospital

After World War 2 broke out, Skorzeny fought in the Netherlands, France and the Balkans with the Waffen-SS as a junior officer. He joined the 2nd SS Panzer Division in the invasion of the Soviet Union, taking part in several battles including the failed attempt to conquer Moscow. In 1942 he was wounded in the head by rocket fire and spent a long convalescence in a Vienna hospital. There he read everything he could on special operations and commando warfare, essentially becoming a self-taught expert. He was later appointed commander of the SS’s special operations schools specializing in infiltration and sabotage.

3. He rescued Benito Mussolini

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force
(Photo: Bundesarchiv)

Skorzeny was personally selected to by Adolf Hitler to lead the rescue of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini after he was deposed and imprisoned in 1943. Mussolini was closely guarded and was moved constantly to avoid detection. An initial raid by Skorzeny and his men failed when their transport plane was shot down, and Skorzeny was later shot down again and rescued at sea while personally leading an aerial reconnaissance mission off the coast of Sardinia. When Mussolini was finally located at a mountain hotel at Gran Sasso, Skorzeny and his men crash landed gliders in front of it and rescued the former dictator without a shot being fired. The raid gained Skorzeny fame as well as a promotion and the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, one of Germany’s highest awards.

4. He was accused of plotting to assassinate Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt

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‘The Big Three’: Winston Churchill, Franklin D Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin sit for photographs during the Yalta Conference in February 1945. (Photo: War Office Second World War Official Collection)

It was believed by Soviet intelligence that Skorzeny had been tapped to lead a mission to assassinate Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt at the Tehran conference in 1943. The other Allies thought the plot fanciful, and Skorzeny maintained after the war that the operation never existed and he had been named in order to provide credibility to it. Skorzeny did lead other operations throughout the war targeting foreign leaders, including a failed attempt to capture the Yugoslavian partisan leader Josep Tito that ended in a fiasco. Later, when it came to Hitler’s attention that his puppet Hungarian regent Admiral Miklos Horthy was secretly negotiating with the Red Army, Skorzeny led a successful raid to capture the Admiral’s son, forcing him to resign.

5. His face was on ‘wanted’ posters all across Europe

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When Germany engaged in its last ditch attempt to defeat the Allied armies in Western Europe in the Battle of the Bulge, English-speaking soldiers under Skorzeny’s command wore American uniforms and spread chaos and paranoia behind American lines. Some of Skorzeny’s men who were captured claimed that Skorzeny himself was leading a raid to kill or capture U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower in Paris, though this was never actually part of the plan. This led to Eisenhower order wanted posters of Skorzeny posted all over Western Europe and contributed greatly to his reputation as a shadowy commando who could be anywhere.

6. He was acquitted of war crimes

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force
Skorzeny awaiting trial.

After the Battle of the Bulge, Skorzeny was sent to command regular troops fighting the Soviets on the collapsing Eastern Front as an acting major general. He also oversaw a failed attempt to blow up the Rhine bridge at Remagan to deny it to American troops. After Germany surrendered, he was held as a POW for two years before the Dachau trials, where he was charged with illegally fighting in enemy uniform during the Battle of the Bulge. Skorzeny’s defense was that his troops discarded the uniforms before engaging in combat, and British commando’s testified on his behalf that they had used the same tactics. Facing the prospect of prosecuting Allied troops, the court acquitted Skorzeny.

7. He escaped from a military prison

While interned awaiting the results of a denazification court, Skorzeny escaped military prison in 1948 with the aide of former SS members dressed as U.S. military police, and later claimed the U.S. had assisted in the escape. After nearly two years in hiding, during which he was recruited by the CIA-backed Gehlen Organization in Germany as an intelligence operative, he set up a small engineering business in Madrid, Spain. It was suspected by some to be a front for the supposed ODESSA network, which was rumoured to be smuggling ex-Nazi’s out of Europe to Latin America and the Middle East. It is unclear if a centralized organization by that title ever actually existed, and that the name was actually a catch-all for scattered old-boy networks and smugglers who did help some Nazi’s escape. When Skorzeny’s memoirs were published in 1950 by the French newspaper Le Figaro, French Communists rioted outside the paper’s offices due to Skorzeny’s Nazi connections.

8. He was Eva Peron’s bodyguard

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force

He was later sent by the Gehlen Organization in 1952 to be an military advisor to Egyptian dictator Mohammed Naguib, where he served with many other ex-SS and Wehrmacht personnel. Skorzeny oversaw training for Egyptian and Palestinian commando forces, including a young Yasser Arafat, and helped planned raids into Israel. Ironically, Skorzeny attempted to trade intelligence on the Egyptians to Israel’s Mossad if the famed Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal took him off a list of Nazi war criminals. Wiesenthal refused, but Skorzeny handed over the information anyway. He later divided his time between Spain and Argentina, where he served as an advisor to Argentinian president Juan Peron and bodyguard for his wife Eva. He also founded the Paladin Group after 1960, a freelance intelligence and mercenary organization that worked for governments from Libya to Greece.

9. He died of lung cancer

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force
(Photo: Agencias)

Skorzeny developed a spinal tumour in 1970 that left him paralyzed, but through intensive rehabilitation he was able to walk again. The cancer recurred, and he died of lung cancer in Madrid in 1975 and was eventually buried in his family’s plot in Austria. Skorzeny was a devoted Nazi for much of his life, and had served with and even protected some of the most vile war criminals of World War II. Though many specific details have never emerged, he helped at least some Nazi’s flee justice in Europe, and after the war he straddled the line between freelance mercenary and terrorist. But his personal bravery, skill and an astonishing career which spanned decades, which even his enemies acknowledge, make him on of the most colorful military figures of the 20th Century.

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