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The 2671st Special Reconnaissance Battalion

by Les Hughes

© 1993 by author

 

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By August of 1944 the OSS's Operational Groups (OG's) in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO) had been organized as the 2671st Special Reconnaissance Bn. Provisional (Separate) with headquarters in Caserta, Italy. The 2671st was organized into three companies, each of which targeted its operations on a specific region: Company A, Italian operations; Company B, French operations; Company C, Balkan operations. As the Allies advanced into Italy, the operational focus of the companies changed. (There was also in Italy a Company D, an organization under the control of the OSS's 2677th Regiment but not part of the OG's or the 2671st Battalion. A distinctive unit insigne - DI or crest - exists that is attributed to Company D, but the insigne is a fake - see the section Insignia to Avoid.)

The SSI of the 2671st is a red on black title bearing Special Recon. Bn. Although the title is well known—thanks to the U.S.-made version, which is not uncommon—its affiliation seems to be obscure to most collectors. The U.S.-made version of the SSI was issued to OSS personnel: an OSS veteran gave me an OD shirt bearing one that he'd worn in Italy; and I have a jacket that was issued to an OG captain of Company B on an "experimental basis" that bears the US-made title above a Chinese Commando SSI. Judging from the number of the U.S.-made SSI that are floating around, it appears more were made than OSS ordered.

Theater-made versions of the Special Recon. Bn. SSI are rare. Some of the ones that I've acquired were in unused condition and employed rather garish embroidery that tended more to orange or pink than to red. I would have been highly suspicious of these SSI had I not acquired them from veterans of the 2671st. Also, I have acquired from veterans several SSI in bullion. But whereas I believe those employing cotton embroidery were made in Italy, I believe those in bullion were most often made in India for OG personnel in transit to China after having served with the 2671st. (Companies B and C were sent to China after their service in the MTO.) Indeed, it was through personnel passing from the 2671st to units in China that the Special Recon. Bn. SSI were carried to the CBI Theater. And the SSI can be found in the hands of OSS personnel who never served in the MTO.

It is possible that one might encounter an occasional odd variant that is not a reproduction.  For example, I have in my collection a German-made variant. It's nicely machine-made and somewhat similar to its U.S.-made counterpart, but it's larger and the wool thicker, with a black cloth backing. I was puzzled when I found fragments of newspaper bearing German words embedded in the back, so I telephoned the vet from whom I acquired the SSI.  He informed me that he remained in the Army after the war and had had the SSI made for his uniform while serving in Germany.

Finally, one veteran, who served as a captain in the 2671st, sent me a handmade jump wing oval that he identified as the one he wore while serving with the unit in Italy and France. The oval is royal blue cloth with a white border.