That was 50 years ago, and on 15 February 1965 Canada's new Maple Leaf flag was flown over the Peace Tower for the first time.
Many lucky and VERY patient Canadians now claim ownership to one of these very flags flown over the Parliament Buildings. You can get one too... just write to your MP and ask for one... and wait a little while. Actually a lot! Peace Tower flags have a long list of waiting customers... the delay is about fourty eight years. Try to get one from the East and West blocks... the wait for these is much less. Only thirty four years according to one web site consulted.
With the announcements of the 50th anniversary in the days past, some have made mention of the fact that the federal government has not made much of a big deal about the matter. They apparently only spent $50,000 on some promotion material and a rather sparce glass display case measuring only about ten feet long and stuck in a hallway at the Canadian Museum of History located across the river from the Peace Tower. Seeing this display will cost you over ten bucks and add in another 7 or 8 for parking to see what is reported to be about about 5 minutes worth of viewing old photo's etc. Funding to the tune of about $200,000 was forwarded to other agencies and the Lt Governors' offices across the country as well. But that said, the total spent for such an important occassion is rather unimpressive when you consider some of the other spending on our behalf.
Take the celebration of our first dominion's Prime Minister's birthday. Sir John would roll over in his grave if he learned that bill came to about 4 million. Almost 1/2 million is flying towards New Brunswick for a plan to retell the stories of our Victoria Cross recipeints. To that I have no objection. But it is only limited to those from the two world wars. What about the rest I say? More on this in a later blog.
The federal government also spent over 5 million to remind us of the great contributions to Canada that were made back in the days of the War of 1812. In that war some 35,000 Americans fought against about 70,000 Canadians, Brit's and our native allies. The Americans were said to have lost about 21,000 to death, disease, or wounding while our side lost some 9,000 to similar causes.
That said, when serious research is done, anyone would realize the very important roles that Canada played during the American Civil War. Some 50,000 went off to engage with their northern, and southern allies and thousands gave their lives. Quite possibly as many men came home with Medals of Honor as did Victoria Crosses.
Yet to this day I am led to believe that this country has yet to spend any serious dollars on memorials to recognize these tens of thousands. Others are now trying to bring light to this issue and more will appear in this space soon about those efforts. You have read more in the past two years on this very site on these men than in all the press coverage in the country has in the past 24 months and more.
His name was John Harties Brown and he was born in New Brunswick.
John went off to fight in the US Civil War in a northern unit, in fact three. He rose with promotions to the rank of Captain. Like almost one third of all Medal of Honor recipients in the Civil War, he was awarded his medal for capturing an enemy's regimental flag.
These flags were the point of highest pride in the units. They had the utmost of respect and were used as a rallying point and indicator of where the men were supposed to be in the midst of smoke and horror of the battlefiled. The colours, being on a nine foot poll took both hands to operate. And so the man had no personal weapon. He was also a moving target for the enemy who had considerable interest in killing him, and thus screwing up the directions the enemy was getting, and devistating their morale. Many a flag would have been full of bullet holes by war's end, and in many cases the very flag bearer would be replaced upwards of a dozen times with each earlier carrier being killed, wounded or captured.
Use the search engine at this site to pull up the story of this hero. And therein you can read of the request I made to the then serving Canadian Ambassador to the United States, Frank McKenna, also from New Brunswick. I asked him to visit Arlington were about two dozen Canadians are buried and to lay a wreath and plant the flag on behalf of Canada. He did so and above he and then serving Admiral Mack are seen saluting one of the MOH men from Canada. His name was John Harties Brown.
And his Medal of Honor was approved by Abraham Lincoln himself on February 15 1865. That was 150 years ago yesterday.
Now... onto another topic... the First Special Services Force, AKA the Devil's Brigade. In mid July of 2013 I had the incredible priviledge of interviewing Mr. Richard Hilton, a veteran of the Brigade, also simply called... The Force. At the time Richard was a young 97 years of age. A few Sundays past, he turned 99. And on the following day, I again had the priviledge of chatting with this hero. It was day one of his 100 year, and a first for me. he is the oldest living member of the Force of more than 4,000 men when you include replacements over the term of the unit's service.
You can read the four blogs written about Mr. Hilton at... http://www.canadianmedalofhonor.com/wednesday-and-friday-blogs/wed-seen-more-combat-than-the-rest-had-seen-pay-days ...
and at... http://www.canadianmedalofhonor.com/wednesday-and-friday-blogs/part-2-of-wed-seen-more-combat-than-the-rest-had-seen-pay-days. The remaining two appear at... http://www.canadianmedalofhonor.com/wednesday-and-friday-blogs/part-3-wed-seen-more-combat-than-the-rest-had-seen-pay-days and finally at ... http://www.canadianmedalofhonor.com/wednesday-and-friday-blogs/part-4-wed-seen-more-combat-than-the-rest-had-seen-pay-days A search at the site will also produce other blogs mentioniong the Force.
We of course spoke of the recent news coverage of the United States awarded the CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL to the Force for its incredible accomplishments in WWll. In a short existence of about 2 1/2 years the Brigade consisting of three Regiments never lost a single battle they took on. Atter days of allied attempts to take the Germans off an Italian hill called la Defensa, the brigade moved in and took it in two hours. After many more successes they became the first allied troops to move into Rome.
The recent news coverage told of the Presentation of the Congerssional Gold Medal on February 3 to the Force as a whole unit. Individual replicas were presented to the 14 Canadian and 29 American veterans that were able to make it to the ceremony in Washington DC. Many family members and 100's of the public witnessed the event and other activites of the day.
In the next blog I will bring some news of the event and more, but today I want to briefly touch on an event that current news seems to have not mentioned at all. And it goes back to 1947 and the first ever gathering of the Devil's Brigade veterans after the war.
Within days the news came to the men of the Force who had trained at Helena Montana. At the time they were en-route to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska to help drive the Japanese off the islands. Hearing of the sinking the men tossed the hat among themselves and raised $5,000 in a start up fund to rebuild the warship. A committee was setup for this purpose in Helena Montana, the Force's training grounds. But later in the war the government decided the ship would not be rebuilt.
So, what to do with the funds collected. Then a project was hatched to build a monument to the men of Helena, the rest of the United States and Canada who were paying the ultimate price for their service with their lives in Europe.
I will tell you all about this next Sunday.