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David Stirling

The SAS was founded by then Lt. David Stirling during World War II. It was originally designed as a long-range desert patrol group to conduct raids and sabotage far behind enemy lines, and operated in conjunction with the existing Long Range Desert Group. Stirling (formerly of No.8 Commando), looked for recruits with rugged individualism and initiative and recruited specialists from Layforce and other units.

The name "Special Air Service" was meant as a deception. Their first mission in support of Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck's attack in November 1941 was a disaster. Only 22 out of 62 troopers reached the rendezvous. Stirling still managed to organize another attack against the German airfields at Aqedabia, Site and Agheila. They destroyed 61 enemy aircraft without a single casualty.

1st SAS earned regimental status and Stirling's brother Bill begun to organize a second regiment, 2 SAS.

During the desert war they performed many successful and daring long range insertion missions and destroyed aircraft and fuel depots. Their success contributed towards Hitler issuing his Kommandobefehl order to execute all captured Commandos.

When the Germans stepped up security, the SAS switched to hit-and-run tactics. They used jeeps armed with Vickers K machine guns and used tracer ammunition to ignite fuel and aircraft. They took part in Operation Torch.

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When the Italians captured David Stirling, he ended up in Colditz castle as a prisoner of war for the rest of the war. His brother Bill Stirling and 'Paddy' Blair Mayne took command. Prior to the Normandy Invasion, SAS men were inserted into France as 4-men teams to help maquisards of the French Resistance. In Operation Houndsmith, 144 SAS men parachuted with jeeps and supplies into Dijon, France. During and after D-Day they continued their raids against fuel depots, communications centres and railways. They did suffer casualties at one stage the Germans executed 24 SAS soldiers and a US Air Force pilot. At the end of the war, they hunted down SS and Gestapo officers. By the end of the war the SAS had been expanded to five regiments, including two French and one Belgian.

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