Newspapers across the US and Canada picked up on the news. It was just released that the US President will be hopefully signing off on the approval to award another Medal of Honor. The headlines called in the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor in most stories. So I thought it was just another one of those WRONG headlines and that the story would be about the actual MEDAL of HONOR. But they were right and I was wrong. And I am glad I was. It is a great story hopefully coming to fruition soon.
Often in this space you have read of incidents when the media and others refer to the MEDAL of HONOR as the Congressional MOH, when in fact the use of the term Congressional is incorrect. But there are times when it is correct. Simple enough? Not!
There is a 2nd type of medal that is NOT the subject of these blogs and it is called the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor. It is usually one of individual design, and is awarded to just one person. It has only been awarded 144 times, the first being to George Washington in the days of the Revolutionary War. But there have been a few times when it went to groups of folks. For example, the Congressional Gold MOH was awarded to the 19,000 airmen, who became the first in WW11 to form up as a unit of African American fighter pilots. Their stories of struggles with the racial issues of the day and their fellow non blacks is well documented on the net and elsewhere. Search under... Tuskegee Airmen to learn more about these incredible heroes. The 2007 White House ceremony included the actual presentation to many of about 600 of these pilots still alive at the time. Each got a replica of the medal made in bronze. The original gold would be on display somewhere and a 2nd was probably minted and housed at the Smithsonian.
The current story is one about another group. The equally famous Devils Brigade, AKA the Black Devils, but their real name was the First Special Service Force.
This is his photo in later years. Please note that he is wearing the Medal of Honor around his neck. Check out back blogs to discover all about his service in the Canadian Forces whilst AWOL from the US, his later rejoining the US troops, getting court-marshalled and then still later being awarded his MOH. He often credited his basic training in Canada as part of the skills that helped him earn his MOH.
(If you could reach into the picture and pull at the medals you would find they were held in place by Velcro. The reason for this is because he loved his campaign medals that were awarded by Canada. But the American authorities would not let him wear them on the uniform. So he did it anyway! They were sewn on, and the US ones just fastened above with Velcro. hehe.)
Back to the news articles though... on seeing them I did some quick scanning of the net and found someone right here on Vancouver Island that was also in the brigade and still alive to tell about it. So yesterday, instead of doing my blog, I was sitting in the home of former Sergeant Richard Hilton who, in February of this year turned 97 years of age. For the next 2 hours and being some 150 miles from Victoria, I was following his orders to sit down and quickly became fascinated with what he shared with me.
I was given the impression, supported by what I had heard and read in the past that, if I was interested in the Devils Brigade, I ought to forget about most of the Hollywood foolishness coming from the 1968 movie of the same name. It stared the likes of Richard Dawson, Dana Andrews, Claude Aitkens, Cliff Robertson, William Holden and others. It's story telling has infuriated many a soldier that was actually there and questions I had, based on the movie, were apparently on events that never even happened. But as entertainment, it was a great film, so much so that I watched it again last night.
It was decided that three regiments. of the same name would be created. They would be called the First Special Service Force and would wear the shoulder patch shown here. The theory, later proven unworkable, was that first two would do the fighting while the third would be the supply line. ALL would be required to learn hand to hand tactics, parachuting, skydiving, explosive devices, all kinds of weaponry, field craft and much more. Then they would be tested and only the best of the best would be kept with the rest sent off home. There would be about 3300 eventually after all the dust was settled, and divided into the 3 regiments. Several jobs were assigned then pulled for a variety of reasons, and then there would be more training, and more training, and more training , and then finally they'd be put to the test.
When all was said and done, and after over 250 days of daily fighting, over 2,314 deaths, hundreds of bravery awards including 2 Military Merits, a Croix de Guerre and at least 6 Distinguished Crosses and Orders, 5 US Campaign Stars, 8 Canadian Battle Honours, and having the ability to claim the capture of over 30,000 Prisoners of War, and NEVER losing a fight, one could say they would finally receive their just awards, and thus the recent news stories.
But it all had to start with the recruiting.
I'll be back with that tomorrow. Please stay tuned!