Army Awards Bronze Star to Canadian ‘Devil’s Brigade’ Vets
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 18, 2006 The Army has authorized award of the Bronze Star Medal for Service to the living Canadian veterans of the 1st Special Services Force for their service to the U.S. Army during World War II.
The unit was known as “the Devil’s Brigade” during the war and was one of the first U.S. special operations forces units in the war. The unit included U.S. Army soldiers and soldiers of the 2nd Canadian Parachute Battalion and 2nd Canadian Special Service Battalion of the Special Operations Group.
From 1942 to 1944, about 2,500 soldiers served in the unit under U.S. Army command. Members from both nations were assigned interchangeably to the squad level and below. The Canadians wore U.S. Army uniforms and carried American weapons. The unit deployed to the Aleutian Islands in 1943 and then moved to Italy. The force participated in actions at the Anzio beachhead, the liberation of Rome and into southern France. The unit took so many casualties that officials disbanded it in January 1945.
The unit earned the name the Devil's Brigade during the Italian Campaign from words found written in the diary of a dead German officer: "The black devils are all around us every time we come into line and we never hear them."
The award of the Bronze Star Medal for Service is a conversion award of the Combat Infantryman Badge authorized for almost 1,200 Canadian veterans in 2005. Under Army policies, only Combat Infantryman Badges and Combat Medic Badges awarded during World War II may be converted to the Bronze Star Medal for Service. “This is an added award to these Canadian veterans,” said Shari Lawrence, a spokeswoman for the Army’s Human Resources Command.
Although approved for the unit as a whole, the almost 120 eligible veterans must submit verification documents showing their complete name, rank, service number and dates of service when they apply for the medal.
Force veterans are meeting in Helena, Mont., this week for their last reunion. “It’s only fitting we make this announcement this week,” Lawrence said. The unit trained in at Helena’s Fort William Henry Harrison before leaving for war.
Eligible veterans may send their request and copies of their verification documents to: U.S. Army Human Resources Command; 200 Stovall Street, ATTN: AHRC-PDO-PA; Alexandria, VA 22332-4000.