The men would train hard at several locations, and then be put to the test in the Aleutians. But when they arrived intelligence was found sloppy. The enemy had vacated already. So off they went to Europe to tackle the jobs no one else could do. And they did it. Every battle they took on they won. The casualties were high. Some say in a 6 month period over 500 would become killed, injured, wounded of MIA. But for every man lost, the enemy lost 25. And over 35,000 of the enemy would be taken prisoner by this elite brigade of three regiments known as the First Special Services Force, aka the Devil's Brigade. These would be the very first soldiers to liberate Rome.
There wouild be many more battles, but then it was over... back to North America they would be eventually destined. And therein came the order for the American/Canadian brigade to be split up and sent off in different directions. The Canadians would take one step forward and break away from the formation, heading off to transports. Normally when men fall out of ranks, the remainder reform into a smaller, tighter formation. But when the Canadians left that day, the Americans refused to "close up" out of respect for their departing comrades. Comrades who were strangers just a few years earlier but now were best of friends. After going through hell and high water, they were all going on to their next asignments.
The internet often notes that when the Canadians left the formation, there were very few dry eyes with either country's heroes. In fact one veteran told me that while he was heading out on back of a truck, his Sergeant... an American... rushed along side to get a final goodbye, best wishes, handshake, another sharing of tears of joy and praying for the future of the departing officer. Many others were busy doing the same.
A most powerful series of scenes have the Force climbing a side of the mountain know as La Defensa, which most thought unscaleable. On top were well dug-in German troops that had cost many delays in Allied advances and many a death to boot. The Force climbed it at night, caught the enemy completely off guard and took the mountain in just 2 hours... but at very high costs. The top of the mountain is shown in the above movie filmage.
In the last blog I told you about the tragedy involving the USS Helena. Many sailors lives were lost when it was struck by three surface torpedoes in the Solomon Islands, shown here. The sinking occured in the Kula Gulf. About 450 Kms to the south east is a place called Point Cruz on the Island of Guadalcanal. It was here that Signalman First Class Douglas Munro, Vancouver Canada born, saved 500 marines lives about 14 months earlier. He was awarded a Medal of Honor, the only one in the US Coast Guard's history. Much has been written in this space about him in the past.
The last blog told of plans to raise funding for the replacement of the USS Helena, but when it was announced that another would not immediately be made, the funds were diverted to war bonds and ultimately to a fund to create a monument for the lost men of the Force.
During the several day reunion there was much talk about one of the veterans who lived in Helena. He was in the stone business and had actualy designed and had built a massive monument in tribute to those lost from the brigade. On the night before the monument was to be unveiled a decision was made, and somehow a selection made that the woman who would do the unveiling was to be be one of the mothers who lost a son in battle. This woman was May De Macedo, and her story is at the left.
The very unveiling would be by way of removing a large silk parachutte. How fitting!
An earlier report had Mrs De Macedo doing the unveiling herself, but a later report had the duties being shared with a Mrs Fitzpatrick. Most appropriate as now each woman would not only represent her lost son, but each would represent all the men for their own country as well.
The image to the left has Mrs De Macedo laying the first wreath after the unveiling. Mrs. Fitzpatrick is shown at her left. And to her right, stands then Colonel Walker. He was the commander of one of the regiments that formed 1/3rd of the entire brigade. Unfortunately he seems to have lost his head in the picture provided to me.
Many years later he would again almost lose his head. He was doing his taxes in a back room of his home. Somebody took a sot at him trying to kill him for his strong anti-communist leanings. Had he not suddenly jerked his head, he would have lost it. As his would-be killer was an expert shot. He proved it several months later in the same city of Dallas, at a shool book depository.
His name was Lee Harvey Oswald!
The three pictures to the left show the other three sides.
Over the years many of the veterans have asked why their names were not also added to this monument. But more on this and some updates next Sunday.