Senator Makes Call to Action to Pass Congressional Gold Medal Before the First Special Forces Reunion in September
(Washington, DC) – Montana’s senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus joined Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer last night to honor the joint U.S.-Canadian Devil’s Brigade – the first ever Special Operations Force that trained at Ft. Harrison, Montanan during WWII. Baucus is leading the effort to award the Brigade with the Congressional Gold Medal, and he issued a call to action to the more than 200 attendees at last night’s event to help him spread the word and get the legislation passed before the Devil’s Brigade reunion in September.
Bill Woon and his wife Gayle accepted a plaque from Baucus and Doer on behalf of Bill’s father, Dave Woon, who was a member of the Devil’s Brigade. Bill himself is a Navy Veteran and now serves as the Executive Director for the First Special Forces Association. Helena Mayor Jim Smith also attended last night’s event at the Canadian Embassy in Washington D.C., along with seven additional Devil’s Brigade veterans and families also awarded plaques for their service.
During his remarks Baucus recognized two Devil’s Brigade veterans living in Helena who were unable to make the event, Joseph Glass and Mark Radcliffe. Baucus also honored James “Stoney” Wines, who passed away recently in Helena at the age of 91. While accepting his plaque from Baucus, Jack Callowhill of Stoney Creek, Ontario pulled out a photo of Stoney he was carrying with him. (see photo)
The event also featured the screening of the film “Daring to Die: The Story of the Black Devils.”
Complete text of Baucus’ remarks follows below:
Thank you Ambassador Doer and all the folks here at the Embassy for your incredible hospitality.
The United States and Canada have a long tradition of military cooperation. Right now, U.S. and Canadian troops are serving alongside each other in Afghanistan. We are so grateful for their service.
And thank you to both U.S. Brigadier General Steven Duff and Canadian Brigadier General D.W. Thompson for being here tonight.
The Devil’s Brigade was a remarkable example of US-Canadian cooperation. And that proud legacy is what we are here to honor and celebrate.
In a moment you are going to see a film that tells the incredible story of the Devil’s Brigade. This was the first ever Special Operations Force – a top secret combat unit created during World War II that trained at Fort Harrison in my hometown of Helena, Montana.
And we have the Mayor of Helena with us tonight – Jim Smith. Jim, thanks for coming.
This is the story of 1,800 brave volunteers from the United States and Canada, including 84 Montanans, who paved the way for the Special Forces we revere today. Units like Navy Seal Team 6, which, as we all know, brought down Osama bin Laden.
It’s a story of doing the impossible. Of men of hearty stock – lumberjacks and mountaineers who mastered unconventional tactics to help defeat the Nazis and win World War II.
And their unconventional tactics yielded unconventional results. All told these men captured more than 30,000 prisoners, won 5 U.S. campaign stars, and 8 Canadian battle honors. They never failed a mission.
In one battle, they climbed up a 3,000 foot cliff – at night – to take Monte la Difensa. This was a key German position that, until these men showed up, had kept the allies from taking Rome.
The Germans considered the cliff impossible to climb. Well impossible is what these men specialized in.
But this story of pride and bravery is also the story of great sacrifice. In that one battle, the Force suffered a 77 percent casualty rate. But they accomplished their mission. Victory at any price – that’s what these men were all about. And we will never forget it.
In total, the Force suffered 2,314 casualties – that’s an astounding 134 percent of its total combat strength.
And as you watch this film, I urge you to remember that for the veterans we are honored to have with us tonight, this story is not a story at all – this was their life.
Please join me again in thanking the remarkable veterans we have with us, and their families.
I would especially like to thank Bill Woon and his wife Gayle for making the trip all the way from Helena to be here. Bill’s father, Dave, was a member of the Devil’s Brigade. Bill himself is a Navy Veteran. And Bill now serves as the Executive Director for the First Special Forces Association.
Bill, thank you for your service to our country, both in the military and in your continued work to preserve the incredible legacy your father helped build.
I would also like to recognize the hundreds of living veterans of the Devil’s Brigade who could not be with us tonight, including Joseph Glass and Mark Radcliffe of Montana.
And I’d like us all to take a moment to remember Stoney Wines who passed away earlier this month at the age of 91 in Helena. His name was James of course, but to all of us he was Stoney.
Losing heroes like Stoney reminds us just how important it is that we keep this story alive. That’s why it’s so important that you are here tonight.
But there is more you can do.
I’ve introduced a bill in the Senate to award the Devil’s Brigade with the Congressional Gold Medal. It’s the highest honor Congress can bestow, first awarded to George Washington in 1776 by the Continental Congress. Since then it’s only been awarded 144 times.
And after watching tonight’s film, I’m sure you will agree that there’s no one more deserving of number 145 than the Devil’s Brigade.
So far we have 19 co-sponsors of our bill in the Senate, including my fellow Montanan Jon Tester. And I have worked with Representative Jeff Miller of Florida to get 46 co-sponsors for the bill in the House.
But we need the support of two-thirds of both Houses to get a vote. And our goal is to pass both bills before the Forces’ reunion here in Washington this September.
So I’m asking for your help.
Help us spread the word and get the support we need to pass this bill. And if you work for a member of Congress, please pass this story along and get your boss to sign on.
Staff from my office is here tonight. They can help answer any questions you may have and get your office on the bill.
When you see all these men did for us, I’m sure you’ll agree this is the least we can do for them.
And now I’m honored to join Ambassador Doer in presenting the veterans and families here today with a small token of our gratitude.