Special Forces of World War II


Special Forces

With the onset of World War Two, world leaders soon realised that conventional warfare techniques used during the First World War would no longer cut it. As such, many new military units trained to perform unusual mission tasks on behalf of their country were formed, these became known as Special Forces.

Far from just fighting incoming enemies on the front line, the range of tasks Special Forces units could be given ranged from air operations, covert ops and even hostage rescues in extreme cases. The further on World War Two raged the more and more countries developed their own version of these Special Forces, making it easier to implement their growingly complex war strategies.


Britain’s form of Special Forces originally grew out of the British Commandos, itself formed by Winston Churchill himself in 1940 with the hope of “reigning terror down the enemy coast”. These commandos fought in all aspects of the war, battling anywhere in the world from the Arctic Circle to South East Asia.

Eventually the men who served as Commandos aided in establishing the first modern Special Forces units, intended to be even more specific in their operations. Notable Special Forces formed include, the Parachute Regiment, Special Air Service (SAS) and the Royal Marine Commandos. The SAS in particular saw having a small team with the element of surprise as very advantageous in the British war effort.

United States

Before the formation of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the United States created the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during the Second World War. The OSS was responsible for both intelligence and Special Forces missions, with their soldiers specializing in securing army bunkers and beach heads. This eventually earned them the title of “Marine Raiders” for performing such tasks in the pacific front of the war.

Other US Special Forces units who aided in the battle against the axis powers included the Army Rangers who were more like the traditional British commandos and the Alamo scouts who’s aim it was to conduct reconnaissance in the south west pacific.

How successful were WWII Special Forces?

More and more as the war went on, international powers involved in warfare began to adopt the idea of using specialised units to perform unconventional methods of fighting. These unique operations were increasingly successful in putting Germany on the back foot, an example being the time SAS soldiers convinced the enemy they had landed at Normandy a day early, through the use of dummies on 5 June 1944.

Aaron Potter

Aaron Potter

Hello I’m Aaron and like most other people you’ll find on this website I love writing about history, so much that I chose to study it in my home city of Bristol. There is only one past but many histories, and it’s in researching these histories which gets me pumped as I discover a possible untold story. When I’m not trudging through archives or writing about the past, you can find me sharing my thoughts about all things gaming related at www.rockingameskid.blogspot.co.uk and critiquing movies and movie news on my weekly podcast www.thepictureblock.com.