How I Reunited Two Devils Brigade Canadian and American Veterans of World War Two
In the 1990s while living in eastern Montana, I had the amazing experience of reuniting two soldiers that served in the Devil’s Brigade. They both trained near Helena, Montana.
One day, I was operating on the amateur radio shortwave Ten-Meter band, and a gentleman answered my, “CQ, CQ, CQ, this is N7PMS in Montana, Over”. I took notes of our conversation.
The next day, when again I called for any station to answer my call for a conversation, another fellow, from Canada, answered me. I learned something amazing: Both of these two men mentioned that, during World War Two, they both were in the same special forces unit, training near Helena, Montana.
One of these Veterans served in the Canadian Armed Forces, and the other in the American Armed Forces. Listen to my story, for the full details of this amazing experience I had as an amateur radio operator.
Jump to 3:22 if you wish to skip my introduction to the story, during which I give some background on when and so on:
This certainly was one of the most memorable moments in my amateur radio hobby experience! The joy of reuniting friends is good.
The 1st Special Service Force (also called The Devil’s Brigade, The Black Devils, The Black Devils’ Brigade, and Freddie’s Freighters), was an elite American-Canadian commando unit in World War II, under command of the United States Fifth Army. The unit was organized in 1942 and trained at Fort William Henry Harrison near Helena, Montana in the United States. The Force served in the Aleutian Islands, and fought in Italy, and southern France before being disbanded in December 1944.
The modern American and Canadian special operations forces trace their heritage to this unit. In 2013, the United States Congress passed a bill to award the 1st Special Service Force the Congressional Gold Medal.
Thank you for watching, and sharing. Comments are welcome: do you have a memorable moment in your radio hobby experience on the air?
73 de NW7US
Back in 1980, I was “one of the Hams at Heath” as in Heathkit. I wasn’t an engineer; I was the copy supervisor on the quarterly 104-page Heathkit catalog, hired partly because I had a Ham ticket. When I worked HF I had a tendency to talk too loud, thinking it would help my signal I guess. So on early mornings when I wanted to get on the air, I’d put on a pair of cans and work CW so I wouldn’t wake my sleeping family.
So, early one Sunday morning I found a clear frequency and began keying “CQ”. My signal from the west coast of Michigan was heard by a Ham in Connecticut and we began a QSO. Back in those days we didn’t have on-line call books, because the Internet hadn’t come in to wide usage yet so many Hams had a Call Book, a directory of every Ham in the U.S., which included last name and street address, two details not shared in the typical CW contact. So this guy, Bob, and I were looking each other up in our call books while conducting our QSO. Bob, who had seen my pretty uncommon last name, comes back to me with “Do you have any relatives by the name of Bill or William?” I respond that I had both a cousin and an uncle with that first name.
Long story short, Bob and my Uncle Bill had been class mates some 40 years earlier and, in fact, had double-dated and served as best man at each other’s weddings. They’d lost touch with one another over the years,. But because of that random CQ, on a random frequency on a random Sunday morning, Bob and my Uncle Bill renewed their friendship. Bob and his wife traveled to California to visit my uncle and aunt. The next year they were hosts when my aunt and uncle flew east for a visit.
What are the chances that all those variables could drop into place to reunite four friends. It blows my mind to this day.
It was an elite unit, headed by the Canadians even though it was based on US soil. The US forces in the brigade were trained by Canadian officers and this led to some friction in the unit. Nobody could stand in their way.