Canada's Defense Department classifies WWII history as top secret

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As part of its latest secrecy push, the Defence Department declared Tuesday that releasing information showing that Canadians fought valiantly with the famed Devil's Brigade during the Second World War could harm national security.

The name of the First Special Service Force, better known as the Devil's Brigade, has been censored from all the records that outline which unit has the closest historical military links to Canada's existing commando unit, Joint Task Force 2.

Also censored from the records, released to the Ottawa Citizen under the federal Access to Information law, are the locations where the Devil's Brigade fought in Europe in the 1940s.

The May 2002 records detail that the joint U.S.-Canadian Second World War unit ''never met defeat in battle'' and ''accomplished the most difficult missions with an elan and proficiency that astonished all outside observers, including the Germans.'' It concludes that JTF2 should try to emulate the high standards of the unit, whose name is censored.

But, information referring to the link between the Devil's Brigade and JTF2 is on the Defence Department website and was previously released through other access to information requests.

In 2003 media interviews, a JTF2 spokesman also acknowledged the unit wanted to build strong historical links to the Devil's Brigade and at one point was considering establishing formal ties to the unit.

According to the Defence Department, revealing the words First Special Service Force would be ''injurious to the conduct of international affairs, the defence of Canada or any state allied or associated with Canada or the detection, prevention or suppression of subversive or hostile activities.''

In addition, the name of the First Special Service Force and the locations where it fought were censored because such details are considered part of advice provided to government.

Numerous history books show the First Special Service Force was used in operations in the Aleutian Islands and later fought major battles in Italy. The unit also fought in France before being disbanded.

Canadian Devil's Brigade veteran Bill Story says withholding such information doesn't make sense.

''It's idiotic,'' said Story, executive director emeritus of First Special Service Force Association. ''You can't really censor history.''

The information was censored at the request of JTF2 officers, according to Defence Department officials.

The Devil's Brigade incident is the latest example of a push by the Defence Department to boost the level of secrecy on issues not usually seen as being linked to security concerns.

Among details now being kept from the public are the costs to the department to run individual pieces of equipment, a list that ranges from electric snowblowers to forklifts.

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