Minister of Veterans Affairs honours Canadian Veterans of the Devil’s Brigade

Veterans are presented with a replica of the Congressional Gold Medal 

April 8, 2015 – Bowmanville, ON – Veterans Affairs Canada

The Honourable Erin O’Toole, Minister of Veterans Affairs, today presented, on behalf of the United States Government, a replica of the Congressional Gold Medal to Canadian Veterans of the First Special Service Force (FSSF), more famously known as the Devil’s Brigade.

In recognition of their superior service during the Second World War, Veterans Harry Wilks and Ed Groves received the replica of the medal during a ceremony in Bowmanville, Ontario.

The original medal, presented by the United States’ Speaker of the House, John Boehner, was given to 14 Canadian Veterans of the Devil’s Brigade in February 2015. The medal was presented in honour of the 71st anniversary of the landing on Anzio Beachhead, during the Italian Campaign. It was during this battle that the unit was first given their famous nickname, the Devil’s Brigade.

Quick Facts

  • In January, 2013, Minister Peter MacKay presented 13 Devil’s Brigade Veterans with the Minister’s Award for Operational Excellence.
  • Activated on July 9, 1942, as three small regiments and a service battalion, the Devil’s Brigade was a joint Second World War American-Canadian commando unit trained at Fort William Henry Harrison in Montana, U.S.A.
  • During its more than two years of service, the Devil’s Brigade captured 30,000 prisoners of war. Canadian members made up more than one third of the Force’s 1,800 man fighting strength.
  • The unit was awarded eight Canadian battle honours and five U.S. campaign stars.
  • The legacy of the Brigade lives on, as many modern American and Canadian Special Forces units trace their heritage to this unit, including the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) and the United States Special Forces (USSF).


“Our Government recognized the impressive service of the First Special Service Forces in 2013 with the Award for Operational Excellence from the Minister of National Defence. The brave service of these Veterans was also recently recognized with the Congressional Gold Medal, which is the highest award presented by the United States Congress. Our local Devil’s Brigade Veterans are remarkable Canadians and I am honoured to recognize their tremendous service to our country and celebrate this special award from the United States Congress alongside their family and friends.”

The Honourable Erin O’Toole, Minister of Veterans Affairs

“We are grateful to Minister O’Toole and his staff for helping us honour the living Veterans of the FSSF in this presentation. These men are the grandfathers of Special Forces, and the FSSF Association is dedicated to keeping the legacy of the Force alive, and passing this history on to the generations to come.”

Don Shelton, Director on the FSSFA Board and son of FSSF Sgt Les Shelton 3-3

Associated Links

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Martin Magnan
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Media Relations
Veterans Affairs Canada

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