Friday, February 6, 2015
WWII 'Devil's Brigade' receives Congressional Gold Medal House and Senate leaders on Tuesday awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the First Special Service Force, also known as the Devil's Brigade, for bravery that helped to end World War II. Story from Military Times.
"Today we honor a group of men that ensured this great nation would remain free," said Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said.
The Devil's Brigade was a combination of Americans and Canadians, chosen from tough professional backgrounds such as lumberjacks and miners. They fought crucial battles in Italy and southern France, taking key ground in heavily fortified areas.
"Our force never, in all its service, yielded an inch of ground or left a battle with an indecisive conclusion," said Eugene Gutierrez Jr., U.S. veteran of the First Special Service Force. "The force won everything it fought for."
The soldiers were trained to fight in a variety of situations and environments, from snowy mountains to amphibious assaults. The unit became the model for later special teams such as the Green Berets and Navy Seals.
The unit gained its reputation by stealthily reaching enemy fortifications in mountainous Italy and sneaking far behind enemy lines. They were among the first Allied troops to liberate Rome from the Nazis. Their deeds inspired the 1968 film, "The Devil's Brigade," which starred William Holden and Cliff Robertson.
"These men represent the finest of the finest," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "So, today, we bestow on them our highest honor."
The Congressional Gold Medal is one of the highest civilian awards in the United States. President George Washington received the first medal in 1776.
Canadian veteran Charles Mann accepted the award on behalf of the dozens of veterans attending the ceremony.
"I am honored and humbled to speak on behalf of the force men present and the force men that are no longer with us," Mann said. "May they rest in peace."