cover image The Force: The Legendary Special Ops Unit and WWII’s Mission Impossible

The Force: The Legendary Special Ops Unit and WWII’s Mission Impossible

Saul David. Hachette, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-0-316-41453-1

In this action-packed tale, historian and broadcaster David recounts the WWII exploits of the Force, an unusual elite military unit. The Canadian and American militaries recruited “single men... whose occupation or hobby included lumberjack, forest ranger, hunter, trapper, north woodsman (guide), game warden, prospector and explorer” for special training and a mysterious mission. The servicemembers who volunteered (such as Capt. Bill Rothlin, “a no-nonsense former metalworker” from California, and Capt. Tom MacWilliam, a small but athletic New Brunswick schoolteacher) could scale mountains and survive extreme winter conditions. After intense training and much diplomatic red tape, they embarked on their top-secret “impossible” mission in 1943. The Allied forces had begun a slow march up through Southern Italy, only to be stymied at the German Winter Line, a fortified position blocking a passage between Mount Difensa and Mount Camino, en route to Rome. It was considered impassable by Allied leaders after several regiments tried and failed, at great human cost, to take it. So the job was given to the Force. David vividly recounts their scaling a 200-foot sheer cliff wall on a cold, blustery night; engaging in heavy battle with the German defenders; and, after sustaining many casualties, emerging triumphant, having opened the way to Rome. He works the soldiers’ individual stories into the narrative, adding heart to the derring-do. This thrilling history will captivate readers. (Sept.)