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FRONTLINE INTELLIGENCE IN WW2:

(II) THE DEVELOPMENT OF ALLIED INTELLIGENCE COLLECTION UNITS


By Keith Ellison @ 2012
The first part of this series explained how the Germans developed their intelligence
frontline collection units. This article covers how the western allies copied the German
example under the name S Force during their North African campaign. While some
problems were identified, the system proved successful enough for the allies to continue with
similar collection units in Italy and to develop this form of intelligence collection even further
in preparation for the military campaign in NW Europe.
During the Second World War the use of intelligence was a vital factor in the victory of
the Allies over Nazi Germany. The intelligence itself was collected from a variety of sources.
One of these was, of course, ULTRA - the intercepted and decrypted messages from the German
ENIGMA machines. Unfortunately, when the Allies advanced through Europe they gradually
lost much of the advantage gained through ULTRA, as the German forces resorted more often to
the use of land-lines for their communications. The Allies had, therefore, to rely more upon
intelligence gathered by their advancing forces.
To obtain this intelligence they created intelligence collection units which they called S
Forces in Italy and T Forces in France and Germany. As the war progressed, the role of these
units altered to reflect changing priorities, with more emphasis being placed by the Allies on the
acquisition not only of technical intelligence useful for gauging the Axis powers war potential,
but also to discover industrial secrets which the Allies regarded as part of their legitimate war
reparations. What were the origins of these units? How did they operate? What was the
composition of these units and how successful were they in their task?
NORTH AFRICA: THE BRITISH DEVELOPMENT OF S FORCES
Intelligence collection was practised by Field Security Sections (FSS) and Counter
Intelligence Corps (CIC) personnel of the Allied forces in the Tunisia campaign in 1943, as well
as by a number of more specialised teams. For the exploitation of large city targets the British
military decided to create a unit similar to the German Abwehr Kommando (discussed in a
previous article), after seeing reports of their activities in decrypted German signals (ULTRA).
As with the Abwehr Kommando, the British employed elements from a number of units
working together on an ad hoc basis. They operated under the title S Forces for the occupation
of target cities. Except for these large targets, the Allies would continue to rely upon the FSS and
CIC, who already had such activity within their intelligence and security role, and on specialist
units such as the British 30 Assault Unit (30 AU).
For example, during General Wavells desert campaign in 1940-41 at least two FSS were
employed in front line intelligence collection, occupying and searching captured enemy HQs for
documents. During Operation TORCH, the Allied invasion of North Africa, elements of 85 FSS
accompanied the US Rangers at Cape Malifou near Algiers, on 8 Nov 1942. They seized
documents and radio transmitters at the Office of the German Armistice Commission and three
days afterwards captured 2 German agents. The American CIC also claimed the capture of a
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mass of documents in a hotel that was used as headquarters by members of the German
Armistice Commission on 8 November, plus the capture of a dangerous group of Italian
nationals at Fedala. In the next few days the CIC also captured valuable documents and a number
of Nazi agents in Algiers and Casablanca. Amongst the documents retrieved in Casablanca were
German lists of French Axis sympathizers as well as a complete Italian Secret Service list of
French Intelligence Service members, enabling the safe replacement of these compromised
agents.
As with the British FSS, the CIC had the task in forward areas of searching enemy
headquarters and local administration and police offices. In order to be in place to protect such
targets from destruction and dissipation CIC sections were often sent well forward, sometimes
being the first troops to enter towns and villages.1
Commander Ian Fleming RNVR, an assistant to Admiral Godfrey, the Director of Naval
Intelligence, had also suggested the formation of an offensive naval intelligence group after
being inspired by the Abwehr special assault unit in Crete, which had penetrated the British GHQ
to make a swift appraisal of the British ciphers and technical equipment.2 He would have been
aware of this operation, and that of other Abwehr Kommandos, because he had access to the
signals from these units through ULTRA. According to Ewen Montagu, a RN Intelligence
Officer involved with ULTRA:
We learned also that the Germans prepared Intelligence Commandos (Abwehr
Truppen) who would go with any troops that spearheaded an invasion. These
would go direct to any headquarters, ministry or other important place or office
in any invaded town in order to preserve and collect any codes, ciphers, plans,
records or other documents before they became scattered or destroyed. This
knowledge not only gave DNI the idea of forming similar naval intelligence
commandos when we, in our turn, went on to the offensive but, more importantly,
the contents of the German signals about their formation and training gave us the
first indication of a possible German operation.
Admiral Godfrey expanded this idea to include elements from the Royal Marines and the
British Army. Fleming was the Naval Intelligence Departments Liaison Officer to the unit,
which first went operational as the Intelligence Assault Unit (IAU) on the Dieppe raid in August
1942 before being retitled as 30 Commando, then 30 Assault Unit (30 AU).3 The unit operated in
the Middle East under Lt Cdr Quintin Riley in 1943 and Lt Dunstan Curtis, a coastal forces
officer who had participated in the St Nazaire raid in 1942 as an MTB commander, before
becoming OC of 33 Troop (30 AU) and 36 Troop (30 Commando). Robert Harling, NID member
and part of 30 AU, claimed that the unit began a fierce and urgent quest for advanced German
weapons and know-how, particularly U-boats construction, torpedo performance and electronic
devices as part of its D-Day operational role, but in fact elements of 30 AU were used in this
role long before D-Day.4
30 AU participated in the follow-up to Operation TORCH (the invasion of Algeria and
Tunisia in November 1942). The task of the British First Army had been to secure Tunis and
Bizerte (a coastal town and port North of Tunis) for the Allies before the Axis powers could
counter-attack. Because of Vichy French resistance to the Allied invasion, the Germans were
able to land their forces in Tunisia and the battle for control continued for seven more months.
33 (RM) Troop of 30 AU joined the 51st Highland Division on 6-7 April 1943 for the Battle of
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Wadi Akarit, after which the unit was assigned to 8th Army under the command of the
intelligence collection group known as S Force.
15 Army Group had been given the task of setting up S Force by 5 Corps. This S Force
was charged with the coordination of all intelligence gathering activities in the proposed capture
of Tunis and Bizerte. Elements of six FSS (31, 37, 51, 55, 62 and 68 FSS) were assigned to S
Force for the operation, and four other FSS came under command later in the operation. The
major task of this S Force was actually concerned more with counter-intelligence and
operational intelligence rather than seeking political or scientific intelligence, but they also were
looking to quickly re-establish the civil authorities in the newly occupied region.
68 FSS had first been nominated in December 1942 to form the nucleus for the counterintelligence assault on Tunis. The sections NCOs prepared for this task by studying local
topography, local organizations and Black Lists (lists of people in automatic arrest categories,
such as German intelligence and security personnel, known agents and collaborators). 68 FSS
was based at the Ain Tounga concentration area from 27 April 1943 to the start of the operation
on 7 May.
The section acted as liaison between the officer placed in charge of the S Force
operation, Lt Col David Strangeways (at that time also OC of A Force Tactical HQ a Middle
East-based British deception unit) and the other S Force sub-units. The unit was broken into
four detachments, one of which acted as S Force HQ and reserve. Representatives of the local
French (Giraudist) security apparatus, the BSM and the BST, were to supply detailed information
on the targets and arrange for local police to be attached to each detachment. The HQ and
Intelligence Office were to be set up in the Hotel Tunesia Palace (though the orders given to
another participating FS Section apparently stated the HQ was to be at the National, in the Ave
de France!)5.
The objectives of the formation were given in the outline plan of the operation as:
1.
S Force will secure all Intelligence material of interest to the Royal Navy,
the Army, the Royal Air Force, the French and American Authorities with all the
maximum speed possible in the event of the occupation of TUNIS and BIZERTE.
2.
S Force will be considered as an Allied Force with the second objective of
concentrating all efforts of interested parties until such time as it can be seen that
its function no longer usefully exists.6
In the Directive issued on 23 Apr 43 the reason for the name S Force was not given, but
the formation was described as a Security Intelligence force. The first paragraph of this
directive states:
TUNIS and BIZERTE, being the last Towns to fall, are likely to contain a large
amount of Intelligence Material. This material is of use not only to the Military
Formations responsible for its capture, but to a varied and wide network of
organisations whose sphere of responsibility covers countries outside this theatre
of operations. It therefore follows that any Intelligence plan for exploiting the
capture of TUNIS must be framed in such a way that these organisations, whose
work is normally of a long-term nature, are fully represented.7
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By the night of 7 May, the British First Army had driven a wedge through to Tunis, and
the Axis armies were split. At the same time, US units had entered Bizerte, and organized
resistance by the Germans became impossible. The remaining active Axis forces SE of Tunis
surrendered on 13 May.
As S Force received its operational orders too late on 7 May (since the town fell that
afternoon), the unit moved into Tunis at 0615 hrs on 8 May. All targets were dealt with by 0730
hrs that day, with four of the targets arrested. The FSS continued their searches for others on
their wanted lists, for PoW and for documents. Between 8 and 11 May seven targets were
arrested, ten PoW taken, and 88 buildings searched from a total of 99 targets inside and 23
outside of Tunis.
In an after action report 68 FSS were critical of the command and control aspects of the
operation.8 One reason for this may have been the uncoordinated activity of some of the
participants. According to the obituary of Lt Col Strangeways, he drove a scout car into Tunis
with one other officer and an escort at the first hint of a German collapse in Tunis, and took
over the German HQ by bluff and daring. He then blew the safe and seized the secret documents
inside before contacting the local French colonial police and taking virtual control of the capital
ready for the entry of the Allied troops next day. For this and other actions he was awarded the
DSO.9 A jeep from 30 Commando, not waiting for the rest of the S Force, also entered Tunis on
7 May behind the 11th Hussars and Derbyshire Yeomanry.10
The S Force formation consisted of units from 228 Army Field Company RE (mainly for
handling booby traps), 18 Army Group Royal Signals, Royal Army Medical Corps, 200 Provost
Company of the Corps of Military Police, the Royal Naval Party (under Lt Comdr Curtis and
presumably including 33 Troop of 30 Commando), RAF Intelligence group and 2788 Sqn RAF
Regt (to secure the four landing grounds out of town), the FSS units mentioned previously,
Bureau de Securite Militaire (French Counter Espionage), two sections of the Garde Mobile, a
Psychological Warfare Section, the Tunisian Detachment of Civil Affairs with the US Vice
Consulate, a Major from HQ of UDF (South African Forces), an officer from the Controlle
Technique at AFHQ, and an infantry battalion assigned on arrival of S Force in Tunis.
Strangeways suggested that the infantry should come from 34 US Div, as the division has
already had experience in the Algiers landing.11 The initial directive had also indicated that Tac
A Force and MI6 would be represented, and it appears A Force supplied officers besides
Strangeways to help oversee the operation.
37 FSS were briefed on 30 April and took part in S Force operations 7-10 May 1943,
after which it returned to 1 Armoured Division command. Detachments of 37 FSS were given a
list of 10 targets and map references, which consisted of HQs and addresses of specific officers
and civilians, plus the location of a wireless transmitter hidden in a local synagogue. The unit
was ordered to determine whether the addresses were occupied, and if so, to arrest any occupant
whose name appeared on the Black List and search the building in their presence for any
documents. The prisoners and any documents were then to be taken to S Force HQ. If the target
building was empty, it was to be searched, and if nothing and no-one of immediate importance
was found, the detachment was to proceed to secondary targets.12
33 Troop, 30 Commando was given permission to operate independently of S Force, but
like the other sub-units it was unable to enter Tunis until after the capture of the town. The unit
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helped US troops to search Bizerte (taken by the US 9th Inf Div and 1st Armoured Div on 7
May), but little of interest was found by them. Agent James Gardner of CIC (US Army Counter
Intelligence Corps, equivalent to the British FSS) accompanied a party entering Bizerta ahead of
9th Inf Div and managed to secure valuable records on pro-Axis organisations and established
contacts with local French authorities while under enemy fire. For this action he received the
Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.13
S FORCE IN ITALY
Initial planning for S Force operations in Italy was done by the Allied Forces
Headquarters (AFHQ); coordination and control was exercised by G2, 15th Army Group (15AG);
and the active exploitation in the field was the responsibility of G2, 5th Army or GSI (General
Staff Intelligence, the British G2 equivalent) of 8th Army, depending on the territory of operation.
An Intelligence Objectives Sub Section (IOSS) of AFHQ compiled target lists, and S Force
15AG maintained a connecting link between this section and the 2 armies. The role of this S
Force included assisting and coordinating the activities of exploiting agencies operating in the
15AG area other than those under Army control, and arranging for the seizure of targets by
partisans prior to the arrival of Allied forces. The Armies had responsibility of providing the
military support to guard target sites and handling targets discovered on spot information. The
various intelligence agencies involved had to identify their known objectives to IOSS, providing
all available information on the targets; notify IOSS of any other special targets which came to
notice, whether they were of interest to themselves or other agencies; and to provide such special
reports as were needed.14
British FSS were involved in ad hoc S Force-type operations after the landings at Salerno
and Taranto in 1943, where the targets were primarily of interest for battlefield intelligence and
counter-intelligence purposes. A British fleet occupied the harbor of Taranto in the arch of the
Italian boot, putting a British division ashore on the docks, while the Fifth U.S. Army under Lt.
Gen. Mark W. Clark staged an assault landing on beaches near Salerno, twenty-five miles
southeast of Naples.
35 FSS landed on 9 September 1943 at Salerno (they claimed they were the only allied
unit to spend the night of 10 September in the town) and operated until 27 September. The unit
immediately began interrogation of PoW and civilians, seized the towns telex and postal
facilities and sealed the banks to prevent looting. They set up a billet at via Independenzia 27 on
11 September, and on that day also searched the Questura and the Municipia. On 12 September
they searched a Fascist HQ, finding documents of interest; and on 13 September an Italian
military HQ was inspected while previously captured material was studied. The unit moved on
24 September to search Cava and the HQ of 7th Italian Army, where they obtained documents
relating to the OVRA (Italian Security organisation - Opera di Vigilanza e di Repressione dell
Antifascismo) in Maiori.
35 FSS was joined on 11 September by elements of 31 and 276 FSS, and on 13
September by elements of 312 FSS and five CIC (US Army Counter Intelligence Corps) agents
from 5th Army under command of a FSHQ (Field Security HQ), which directed their
operations.15
89 FSS was among the first units to go ashore and enter Taranto. Their task was to search
two enemy headquarters at the Miranda and Europa hotels for documents and booby-traps. The
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Section later went on to capture the German consul at Bari.16 Meanwhile the Allied troops from
Taranto in the East and the landing at Salerno linked up on 2 September. When Naples fell on 1
October 1943, the 305th CIC Detachment (5th Army) was placed in charge of counter-intelligence
there for the next three weeks, and captured several Italian generals in hiding as well as
important documents and material obtained from German espionage agents and their
headquarters. 17
The FSS and their CIC equivalents were normally kept busy with their CI duties in
between serving with S Force. Some of the other units engaged in S Force operations had a
remit to work alone when not designated to assist in the takeover of specific city targets. 30
Commando, for example, was used for obtaining information on, and examples of, advanced
German and Italian weapons and technical knowledge in the areas of submarines, torpedoes and
electronics.
One target of this unit in Italy was the Silurificio Italiano, the Italian torpedo factory
located at Baia, north of Naples. Comdr Ashe Lincoln QC was temporarily attached to 30
Commando in February 1943 from the Naval Directorate of Torpedoes and Mining
(Investigations) to check out the factory. A search of the location revealed practice warheads
which confirmed reports of the existence of an acoustically guided torpedo codenamed GNAT by
the British. The first indication of its existence had come from a PoW in North Africa in 1941.
He had witnessed night testing of the weapon, fitted with a practice head bearing a light to make
it visible. From his description British experts had concluded the weapon was an acoustically
operated torpedo. In January 1943 the weapon had been used to sink six tankers and an escort
ship in one attack in the South Atlantic.18
As mentioned above, an S Force was organized for the occupation of Rome. The S
Force commander later described the development of this operation, stating that British
Intelligence had realized the potential problem of handling and absorbing the vast and varied
sources of intelligence in a great international city such as Rome. There were twenty or more
agencies interested in intelligence targets in Rome, some for tactical information, but most for
strategic and political intelligence. The S Force assumed responsibility for researching the
intelligence assault, and months were spent in planning and preparation. Italian sources,
particularly their military intelligence service SIM (Servizio Informazion Militare), were very
helpful in the research and planning phases and their information proved particularly reliable.19
Two main defects had been demonstrated during previous S Force operations in Tunis
and Naples: inadequate detailed planning and preparation of intelligence target information, and
lack of any continuity of command and staff.20 Accordingly, more detailed arrangements were
put in hand in preparation for the capture of Rome, and a considerable body of specialists mainly intelligence and counter-intelligence officers and NCOs - was assembled some months in
advance.21 Maj RGS Cave, the G2 (Advanced) for AFHQ, had proposed a routine procedure for
the Intelligence exploitation of large cities in early 1944,22 and most of his suggestions appear to
have been implemented in the occupation of Rome. Targets were not, of course, purely GIS unit
premises and agents; the Italian Armed Services ministries, major banks and other governmental
establishments all had to be seized at the earliest possible moment to prevent possible destruction
or pillaging, and to enable important intelligence documents to be safeguarded. The S Force for
Rome included considerable numbers of RAF, RN and Army intelligence officers on temporary
loan, as well as US military intelligence personnel. The OC of the force was an American,
Colonel George Smith, GS (Int) of 15 Army Group.
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An OSS memo dated 4 April 1944 commented on the assignment of Special Counter
Intelligence units (SCIUs) to various task forces emanating out of AFHQ. In Naples it stated
that the establishment and twenty-four hour alert status of the S Force is being
maintained.Their intelligence mission is to be in the immediate vanguard when Rome falls.
(They have been very helpful on the Anzio beachhead).23 The SCI Units were concerned with
the capture, interrogation and turning of enemy agents.
The initial formation which gathered to the north of Naples was a combined British, US
and Italian intelligence group under the command of Col Smith and Lt Col Dorian Young Jr of
the US Army (USA). However, the formation was disbanded when 5th Armys advance was
stopped. 276 FSS had been designated as part of the task force but returned to Salerno until the
Rome S Force was reformed near Lake Avernus outside Naples. 276 FSS was then included in a
company-sized group under the command of Col Pumpelly (sometimes spelled as Pompelly)
USA. According to the CIC History, the security personnel consisted of about 50 CIC personnel
and 50 FSS, all under 5th Army CIC direction, but other sources suggest about 40 FSS and 30
CIC were involved in the immediate occupation of the city.24
S Force travelled by sea from Nisida to Cisterna and overnighted in the Alban Hills
before entering Rome on 4 June 1944 (according to diary notes on its wartime activities).25
According to the authors of Americas Secret Army, the 88 CIC Detachment was the first CIC
unit into Rome on 4 June, entering ahead of the 1,000-strong S Force. 88 CIC Detachment had
covered a coastal area of 15 miles in the Mondragone sector (North of Naples) for an eight week
period, during which the unit captured 11 GIS agents from Rome and Florence.
Col Pumpelly had a close shave in Rome when he was almost killed by a booby-trapped
fountain pen connected to a box of dynamite. He was saved by a former Italian Army explosives
expert, whom he then retained as an orderly for the rest of the war. Pumpelly later commanded 6
AGs T Force (a similar type of formation to the S Force, discussed in later articles).
This Rome S Force also included elements from OSS, who came under the command of
Maj H Berding, the chief of X-2 (the OSS Counter-espionage branch) in Naples. On 23 May Lt
Paul J Paterni of X-2 was recalled from the S Force holding area at Sessa to his office in Naples
until the 5th Army move into Rome. Two other OSS members, Carlo R Gilardi and Chlorinda V
Russo, were to remain in Naples until X-2 was partially established in Rome, when they would
join this unit there.26
Valuable information on the location, organisation and personnel of German intelligence
training schools in both Rome and Florence was obtained from captured enemy agents before the
S Force moved into Rome. This information helped in the capture of 47 principle stay-behind
agents and 17 wireless sets in the first three weeks.27 Lt Paterni had been involved in the
interrogation of 3 stay-behind agents caught in the 5th Army area, who had reported on the
presence of a further 23 stay-behind agents. Based on that information, Maj Berding and Sgt
Victor Abbott of the OSS personnel attached to S Force raided a GIS recruiting HQ and found
highly important documents and lists of agents. Two of the senior officers involved in agent
recruitment were arrested and the names of others were added to arrest lists. Paterni was put in
charge of the investigation on his arrival in Rome, but was working outside S Force channels.
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Another OSS officer, Lt Bellin, arrested two Abwehr agent recruiters and obtained descriptions
and cover names of two other GIS agents.
Prior to the fall of Rome, Abwehr Kommando 150 organised a stay-behind network of 15
agents and three W/T sets, controlled by two head agents, a Col Alessi and a professional spy
called Capellaro. Unfortunately for them, these head agents were in fact Allied agents planted on
the Abwehr by the Italian SIM/CS and British MI6,28 so the network was rounded up
immediately after the city was occupied. The German Sicherheitsdeinst (SD) had also prepared a
network called the Falco organisation, consisting of four groups of a total of 40 agents. They
were controlled from the German Embassy to the Holy See. Again, this organisation was
penetrated by a British agent working in Rome prior to the liberation, with such effect that 24 of
the agents were picked within three days of the occupation. A similar SD sabotage group of 20
agents was given up by its leader, who surrendered himself to the Allies.29
The S Force divided into smaller teams covering different sectors of the city. A report on
the operation from the counter-intelligence perspective noted that the objectives were divided
into personnel and building targets, grouped together according to proximity of location, with
usually two to five targets allocated to a target team. A target team would consist of a specialist
nucleus of security personnel assisted by combat troops as required. S Force had three FS
Sections, about 30 CIC personnel, 6 OSS X2 officers 6 British SCI officers and 35 SIM/CS
personnel. Of the 130 personnel targets, 40 were found and detained, and another 85 spot
targets were subsequently picked up based on new information. Personnel targets were the first
objectives, while the 30 building targets were secured by the combat troops, who prevented entry
or exit until the security personnel arrived.30
There was an intelligence coup shortly after the fall of Rome in June 1944, when the
Allies captured the greater part of the intelligence files of the German 14th Army Headquarters
in one fell swoop. An analysis of the material, written at the time, shows what information the
GIS was obtaining from radio intercepts, from agent reports and from prisoners. The files also
showed the success of the Allies both in security and in the use of deception material for the
major attack through the Cassino line, which resulted in the capture of Rome.
The S Force units for Rome reached the city in two waves, and the ensuing operation
lasted about 10 days. 276 FSS was in the first wave, and succeeded in picking up several men on
the target lists, including the Italian general in charge of OVRA (the Organization for Vigilance
and Repression of Anti-Fascism), which was the Italian equivalent of the German Gestapo. The
section established an office at Via Sicilia, along with several other British and American
intelligence units. Elements of 276 FSS worked for several weeks with SCIU personnel rounding
up Italian fascists trained as stay-behind sabotage agents.31 97 and 314 FSS were part of the
second wave into Rome. 314 FSS located themselves at the Hotel Flora, which was formerly
occupied by the Gestapo. The section was used in operations to capture Sicherheitsdienst (SD),
SS and Gestapo officials, agents and collaborators.32
97 FSS had been allocated its S Force role while serving in Caserta in January 1944. The
unit arrived in Rome via Naples on 9/10 June and worked directly under Lt Col Dorian Young at
AFHQ in vetting suspects and arresting agents. The unit finally left Rome in March 1945.33
Most of 30 Commando had been transferred back to the UK prior to the invasion of
France, but the remnants of 34 Troop joined the S Force for Rome using the cover of Special
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Engineering Unit. The troop, which was the British Army element of 30 Commando, had
suffered heavy losses during the fighting on the island of Leros in October 1943.
The results of S Force Rome were so encouraging that it was decided to operate similar
assault forces in other large cities as they were occupied by the Allies, in Italy, Austria and North
West Europe. The Rome S Force also established a system of controls to prevent the misuse of
captured documents which was considered by the COSSAC planners in London to be so
effective that it was used as an example for T Forces under SHAEF command to emulate later.34
As an indication that the role of S Force was changing, a letter dated 12 June 44 from the
US Armys MIS outlined the MIS Intelligence requirements for future S Force operations,
starting with scientific targets: locations of German experiments in progress on Biological
Warfare; rockets, explosives, electronic devices, all new technology and the names of scientists
involved. Next in importance came strategic, economic and political information.35 The Rome S
Force had also been used by the American Alsos Mission to gain access to personnel and targets
which were of interest in connection with the Axis atomic research and by 30 Commando
seeking technical information for the British Naval intelligence Department.
No 1 INTELLIGENCE COLLECTION UNIT (ICU)
The Rome drill was so successful that it was decided to retain the essential elements of
S Force as a permanent body, to be renamed as No 1 Intelligence Collection Unit (No.1 ICU),
and used subsequently in Florence and in all the main cities of the Po Valley.
There were numerous other S Force operations as each major town and city was taken by
the Allies. Bracia, Rimini, Florence, Ferrara, Padua, Tarvisio, Forli and Venice were all targets
occupied by S Forces, with various FSS sections being employed in the operations. On 19 July a
CIC detachment entered Leghorn (Livorno) as part of an S Force operation, but little was found
as the town had been largely abandoned.
In August and September 1944 preparations were made in London and Rome for a
Florence S Force. The OSS X-2 (Counter-Intelligence) field group was attached to the Allied
Armies in Italy (AAI) with the designation SCI/Z and placed under the military control of the
Assistant CoS, G2 (CI) of the AAI. Its specialized work (running Controlled Enemy Agents or
CEAs) was to be coordinated by 1 SCIU, a similar, more experienced British unit composed of
MI5 and MI6 officers.36 For Florence the SCI/Z station was divided into two teams, one to work
with the British team and the CIC in the Piazzi Signoria, servicing the Counter Intelligence
Branch (CIB) of 15 AG in the handling of special CI interrogations. The other was located in the
OSS HQ.37
263 and 412 FSS were both part of the S Force operation in Florence in August 1944, as
was 34 Troop of 30 Commando. The name of S Force itself was changed to No 1 Intelligence
Collection Unit (No 1 ICU) immediately after the Rome operation. 34 Troop was given several
targets, including an Abwehr training school, but were not allowed to occupy these targets ahead
of the advance of the main forces. The result was that most targets were evacuated well ahead of
the Allied advance. After the capture of Florence, 34 Troop (aka the Special Engineering Unit)
underwent training prior to operating with SOE and Italian partisans to assist the advance on and
capture of Genoa on 27 April 1945. The subsequent mopping up operations in Florence were
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more successful. In October 1944, for example, all 15 members of one Abwehr espionage course
were captured and gathered for a group photograph in the prison at Florence!38
Although the first FSS had begun its target work for S Force in South Florence on 4
August, when the Tactical Headquarters, and advance guard of combat troops and certain
special intelligence bodies39 went forward, operations in other parts of the city could only
commence as they were cleared in a long, drawn-out battle. The formation suffered thirty-four
casualties from German gun and mortar fire during the three-week occupation of the city. By the
time the S Force operation was closed on 23 August, the unit had processed 152 building targets
out of 181 listed or identified as spot targets; and detained 92 persons, of whom 34 had later
been released. Thanks to No 1 ICU coordinating with PWB, No 1 Special Force and the
partisans, an agent was located who provided plans of the Gothic line, the German Armys
major defensive line along the summits of the Apennines (Allied forces started a three-month
campaign that successfully penetrated of the Gothic line, but they were unable to break out of
the mountains). Further coordinating action with SCI, 30 Commando, RE and 71 Garrison
resulted in a number of sabotage camps being uncovered. All operational agencies and combat
commanders participating with No 1 ICU in this operation endorsed its existence and requested
its continuance.40
407 FSS was part of the S Force operation which occupied Forli with 46 Inf Bde on 10
November 1944, and survived an artillery barrage which hit the section HQ the same night. This
did not prevent the section capturing 2 enemy agents in Forli on 11 November, though one later
hanged himself while in custody.41
Around September 1944 No 1 ICU prepared S Force operations to enter Turin and Milan
with partisan forces via France. An OSS team that took part in this operation was captured by the
Germans, showing that the units involved in these operations often had more to contend with
than shelling and boobytraps.42 Elsewhere in Italy and later in Austria the title of S Force
continued to be used for some intelligence-gathering task forces. No 1 ICU was directed to
assist in the west of Italy, while Armies elsewhere were made responsible for exploiting
intelligence and CI on their main own axes of advance. Starting with La Spezia, No 1 ICU was to
coordinate efforts in NW Italy, including Genoa, Turin, Milan, Brescia and the Lake Garda
region. No 1 ICU was disbanded on 20 January 1945.43 An order was given by HQ AAI for a
second unit, No 2 ICU, to be organised and equipped to exploit special intelligence targets in the
zone of operations for 7 Army.44 The unit accompanied 7th Army in the invasion of the South of
France (OP DRAGOON), and was later incorporated into the 6 AG T Force.
On 21 April 1945 an S Force under 5th Army entered Bologna. The 5th Army CIC
operated in the city for the first five days, apprehending numerous persons of interest, including
GIS officials, and capturing valuable intelligence documents. The CIC then moved to Verona,
the headquarters of the German intelligence Service in Italy, as the Germans began their rapid
retreat out of Italy.45
On 25 April 1945 three members of an OSS Special Counter Intelligence Unit (SCI/Z)
were detailed to join members of CIC 92nd Div and 85 Port Security FSS at Carrara, to form an S
Force for La Spezia. While in La Spezia they captured eight GIS agents. The OSS element
moved on to Genova, where they began operations on 31 April and made four arrests. They also
picked up an OSS agent who helped identify and arrest a further 16 GIS agents based on his local
knowledge.
10-13

S Forces continued to be used even when the allies occupied Austria. It was decided to
employ an S Force, defined in the military orders as an ad hoc body of troops, assisted by
Intelligence personnel whose task is to seize intelligence targets during the first stages of an
occupation. For Austria it seems that CI, as in earlier S Force operations, remained more
important than the emerging interest in technology and industrial secrets. In fact, in the prcis
document seen by the author, no mention at all was made of scientific targets.46
CONCLUSIONS: LESSONS LEARNED
A report was sent in December 1944 by Lt Col Thomas G Young, Commanding Officer
of No 1 ICU, to 15th AG for further transmission to Washington. In the introduction he defined
his organisation as follows:
An Intelligence Exploitation Force or S Force is defined as a force
embodying representatives of recognised Intelligence Agencies, staff to control,
coordinate and administer them, communication, transportation and
housekeeping elements to meet their needs, and protective troops to guard them
and their objectives when seized.
S Force operations, as developed in the Mediterranean theatre of
Operations, are designed to deal with the confused period, both military and
political, which normally follows the capture or liberation of a large center of
population by the combat troops, and precedes the establishment of normal
secure military government, with its civil auxiliaries and controls.
During the confused period, the S Force and its embodied
Intelligence Agencies carry out all exploitation of intelligence objectives in the
newly captured center, comprehending the seizure and safeguarding of
documents, archives, technical data, equipment and records, and the arrest and
disposition of enemy agents and major sympathisers.47
The report acknowledged the evolution of the S Force-type of operation from its
beginnings in Tunis, and went on to explain in detail how the experiences in Italy had produced
firm guidelines on how to prepare for such an operation, and how to organise the duties of all
participants once an operation commenced. It can therefore be seen that the Allies were satisfied
with the results thus far obtained. As they looked to operations in NW Europe, and particularly in
Germany, however, they needed to change the emphasis on the types of intelligence being
targeted. The activities of 30 Commando and the Alsos Mission were pointing towards the
growth in interest by the Allies in investigating and exploiting German advances in technology.
In the next part of the story, the evolution of S Force into T Force is explained and the
activities of the units using this title are explored.

11-13

ENDNOTES:

Counter Intelligence Corps History and Mission in World War II, produced by the Counter Intelligence Corps
School, Fort Holabird, Baltimore, 16-17.
2

The Silent War, by Richard Deacon, Sphere Books 1980, 172.


3

Ian Flemings Commandos, by Nicholas Rankin, faber and faber 2011, 136, 160, 220.

The Silent War, by Richard Deacon 1978, Sphere Books 1980, 171-3.

FSS Field Security Section, by Bob Steers, Robin Steers of Heathfield 1996, 47.

WO 204/6992, from TAC HQ A Force, Occupation of Tunis and Bizerte Memorandum No 1, dated 24 Apr 43
(UK National Archives).
7

WO 204/6992, 18 AG Directive of 23 Apr 43 to 1st Army, Directive for Intelligence Plan Tunis and Bizerte (UK
National Archives).
8

Intelligence Corps Museum Accession # 955.

Electronic Telegraph Issue 1170, obituary dated 8 August 1998.

10

Flemings Commandos, by Nicholas Rankin, faber and faber 2011, 169.

11

WO 204/6992, from TAC HQ A Force, Occupation of Tunis and Bizerte Memorandum No 1, dated 24 Apr 43
(UK National Archives).
12

Intelligence Corps Museum Accession # 955(1).

13

Americas Secret Army, by Ian Sayer and D Botting, Grafton Books London 1989, 119.

14

Military Encyclopedia based on Operations in Italian Campaigns 1943-45, by G3 Section HQ 15AG Italy,
provided by the US Military History Institute.
15

Intelligence Corps Museum Accession # 955(4).

16

FSS Field Security Section, (reminiscences of Colin Ormiston), by Bob Steers, Robin Steers of Heathfield
1996, 82.
17

Counter Intelligence Corps History and Mission in World War II, produced by the Counter Intelligence Corps
School, Fort Holabird, Baltimore, 29.
18

Secret Naval Investigator, by Comdr Fredman Ashe Lincoln QC, Kimber; 1961.

19

Final Report, G2 Section, HQ 6AG, dated 10 July 1945; provided by the US Army Military History Institute.

20

WO 204/907, HQ No 1 ICU report dated 28 Dec 44, Mediterranean S Operation (UK National Archives).

21

WO 204/907, HQ No 1 ICU report dated 28 Dec 44, Mediterranean S Operation (UK National Archives).

22

WO 204/795, G2(Adv) AFHQ Memorandum on A Suggested Routine Procedure for the Intelligence
Exploitation of Large Cities, undated but subsequent to 24 Apr 44, (UK National Archives).
23

RG226 Entry 110, Box 46, Folder 470, NARA, Operational Report for X2-NATO Jan 1-Apr 1, 1944, dated 5 Apr
1944.
24

Counter Intelligence Corps History and Mission in World War II, produced by the Counter Intelligence Corps
School, Fort Holabird, Baltimore, 30.

25

Intelligence Corps Museum Accession # 955(4).

26

RG226 Entry 126 Box 2 Folder 22, NARA: Letter From OSS X-2 AAI to CO OSS AAI dated 23/5/44.

27

Secret War Report of the OSS, by Anthony Cave Brown, Berkley Pub. Corp. 1976, 218.

28

WO 204/12397, HQ AAI Report dated 19 June 44, SCI Activities in Rome, (UK National Archives),

29

WO 204/12916, Counter-Espionage activities in the Western Mediterranean theatre of operations, dated 29th June
1944, (UK National Archives).
30

WO 204/12916, HQ Allied Armies in Italy Memorandum on Seizure of Rome from I(b) Point of View, dated 3
July 44, (UK National Archives).
31

FSS Field Security Section, (reminiscences of Gerald Cockell), by Bob Steers, Robin Steers of Heathfield
1996, 148.
32

Article in Intelligence Corps magazine, by J D Martin, Rose and Laurel 1987.

33

Intelligence Corps Museum Accession #955(2).

34

RG331 Box 142, NARA, Use of Archives by MI.

35

WO 204/943, MIS letter dated 12 June 44 to JICANA, IBS Branch (UK National Archives).

36

X-2 War Diary Vol 7 Basic Documents, Redesignation of OSS X-2 Detachment dated 18 July 1944, (NARA).
37

RG226 Entry 176 Box 2/2, NARA, X-2 History Project, X-2 Italy.

38

FSS Field Security Section, (reminiscences of Hugh Dovey), by Bob Steers, Robin Steers of Heathfield 1996,
134.
39

WO 204/907, HQ No 1 ICU report dated 28 Dec 44, Mediterranean S Operation (UK National Archives).

40

WO 204/907, HQ No 1 ICU report dated 31 Aug 44, Final Report on S Operation in Florence (UK National
Archives).
41

Intelligence Corps Museum Accession # 955 (10).


42

RG226 Entry 136 Box 15 Folder 124, NARA.

43

WO 204/796 (Exploitation Of Intelligence In N Italy), A 15AG Directive dated 17/2/45 on S Force Ops,
mentions that a document dated 20/1/45 authorised the disbandment of No 1 ICU, (UK National Archives).
WO 204/943, HQ AAI Order dtd 3 Aug 44, for Formation of No 2 ICU Assault Intelligence Force, (UK National
Archives).
44

45

Counter Intelligence Corps History and Mission in World War II, produced by the Counter Intelligence Corps
School, Fort Holabird, Baltimore, 33-34.
46

Allied Force HQ document from the Office of Asst COS G-2, ref GSI/CI/SF/4001/D dated 5/3/1945, entitled
Lecture: The Task of S Forces in Austria (Precis). Int Corps Museum Accession #497.
47

WO 204/907, HQ No 1 ICU report dated 28 Dec 44, Mediterranean S Operation (UK National Archives).