Monday, February 9, 2015

My Grandad was a Black Devil

1st Lt. William P. Caskey (my grandad)

And he wasn't any ol' devil, either. He was an officer. Specifically, he was actually a 1st Lieutenant, Hq Company, in the Devil's Brigade, which was essentially the first special forces unit created. See those crossed arrows on his lapels? That the insignia of special forces, before there was even the existence of special forces as an independent branch.

The Augusta Chronicle has a story about my grandad, who lived in Augusta after WWII. The piece came out because Congress just recognized the unit with a Congressional Gold Medal.

They were trained during the winter months at Fort William Henry Harrison in Montana in hand-to-hand combat, mountain climbing, ski training, demolition and skydiving, but the Norway mission was canceled before they finished.

“They had this idea they were primitive fighters,” Caskey said.

The team was eventually sent to liberate Rome and invade southern France.

Caskey said his father did some fighting. One of the force’s most famous missions was made into a movie called Devil’s Brigade, a nickname the German opposition gave the force for the baggy parachute pants and black shoe polish they wore under their eyes for their nighttime hit-and-run missions. The group’s logo featured a black devil holding an arrowhead shield and clinching a dagger in his mouth.

In February 1944, the force was the first to land in Anzio, Italy, and surprise a German unit.

“My dad’s brigade quickly jumped off the beachhead and ran several miles into the hills to hold the high ground, but was soon told to retreat because they were overstretching the Army’s limits,” Caskey said.

The Germans reoccupied high land and pinned the force for 99 days without relief.

“My dad said it was one of the worst times of the war because he sat on the beach for two weeks in a hole, unable to move for fear of being shot,” Caskey said.
I knew my gradad fought in WWII, but beyond generally fighting at Anzio with the Army, I didn't know much of anything about what he did or what unit he was in.


  1. What an incredible story- I'm so glad this was brought to light! Grandpa was quite a man.

  2. Very cool. My Dad's family had a lot of roots in the CSRA, odds are they knew each other.