Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony Honoring 1st Special Service Force, the “Devil’s Brigade”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Leaders of the U.S. House and Senate held a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony honoring the WWII “Devil’s Brigade.” The following are Leader McConnell’s remarks delivered during the ceremony, which took place in Emancipation Hall, in the U.S. Capitol:
“Sometimes, truth can be more impressive than fiction.
“When it comes to the heroes we honor today, that’s certainly the case.
“Members of the elite ‘Devil’s Brigade’ excelled in rock-climbing and amphibious assault.
“They advanced on skis and through the air. They survived by stealth, and trained in demolitions.
“Some of their more daring mission plans would’ve made James Bond blush.
“And through it all, they helped save a continent in chaos. They helped defeat some of the greatest menaces our world has known.
“But this isn’t just some Hollywood script. It’s a true story about a fearless group of young Canadians and Americans — including many Kentuckians — who were willing to put their lives on the line in the truest sense of the term.
“Some probably did it to protect neighbors and families. Others to defend cherished democratic ideals. Many likely fought for all these reasons.
“And they volunteered for this danger. Here’s how the force’s recruiting slogan read:
For those who measure up, get into the war quick
“Typical Madison Avenue spin, this was not.
“But it was honest.
“The fighting could be fierce. Conditions could be awful. The missions, seemingly impossible.
“Yet, dark masses of boot polish and young courage — fighting knives gripped tightly in hand, elements purged consciously from thought — advanced against the Wehrmacht and held strong against forces of fascism.
“The Devil’s Brigade, heeding Churchill’s call for ‘specially trained troops of the hunter class’ who might unleash ‘a reign of terror’ against the Nazis, became a feared adversary.
“But these ‘Devils’ only rented space in the shadows. They moved within darkness in order to defeat it.
“And today, here they are. Champions of freedom. Heroes in two nations. Saviors to many others.
“To you, we offer our most profound gratitude for distinguished service.
“To the families gathered today, know that your loved one made a difference. Know that the veteran you’ve loved made a contribution to history that we as a people will not soon forget.
“As the son of a World War II veteran, I’m particularly determined to ensure we don’t.
“That’s why we will soon dedicate the highest civilian honor Congress can bestow.
“It may only be a piece of metal, but it carries the gratitude of a nation.
“May you always remember it.”