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Local man among members of famous Devil’s Brigade honoured


By Carol DunnNEW GLASGOW – Lloyd States spent his life largely in silence about his part in a special military unit during the Second World War.

If he were alive today, that silence could now be broken.

“One of the things he said to me was ‘A good soldier does not talk,’” said his daughter Margaret States.

Lloyd was a member of the First Special Service Force, more famously known as the Devil’s Brigade. Earlier this month, the FSSF was honoured for its contribution to the war effort with the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal by U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honour bestowed by the United States.

The efforts of the FSSF contributed to the liberation of Europe and to the end of the Second World War. "These men saved the free world," said Boehner.

“They were able to make this difference and understood during the war that their effort made a difference, but it was not acknowledged,” said Margaret.

“Any of the men – the veterans – never really allowed themselves to talk about what happened as a member of the Devil’s Brigade. It was classified as top secret until very recently.”

Margaret, who grew up in New Glasgow, watched the ceremony via webcast from her home in Ottawa, and was impressed by listening to the various politicians talk about the FSSF. “It was never talked about like that before. For me, for my dad, it was never about a medal, it was about the recognition of their contribution and what the men gave up.”

The First Special Service Force was a special operations unit formed in July 1942, comprised of 1,800 soldiers from the United States and Canada. The unit targeted military and industrial installations, and was nicknamed the “Devil’s Brigade” by the German opponents because they blackened their faces with boot polish to conduct night raids.

Margaret believes not talking about his experiences contributed to her father suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, although he wasn’t officially diagnosed with the condition. She’s glad that the remaining veterans will now be able to talk about what happened during their missions.

“It was not recognized in those days (PTSD), plus he couldn’t talk about his part in the war because it was classified top secret. Now with it all coming out and recognizing them with this honour, they can now talk about some aspects of what they went through,” she said.

“To really talk about what really happened would have made a difference with my dad.”

The FSSF underwent intensive training, learning how to handle explosives and other weapons, along with hand-to-hand combat and night fighting. The specialized skills were necessary, as the FSSF members raided strategic positions and parachuted behind enemy lines.

Lloyd was already stationed in Italy as a member of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry when he volunteered to be part of the FSSF, which needed more recruits.

He spoke a little about some of his war experiences, but not about his involvement with the FSSF.

“Some things he shared with me. I tried to really get information from him but he never wanted to talk about it. Any man who has seen active duty doesn’t talk about it. He said there was no glory in war – in fighting and killing people.”

“He never went into detail,” she said, but he told her he participated in night raids, crawling on his hands and knees to the targeted area, and then digging holes to hide in during the day.

After the war ended, Lloyd returned to New Glasgow where he had various jobs – as a trucker, bricklayer and landscaper, until he retired. He passed away in 1996.

The Brigade was disbanded in 1944, but its legacy lives on, as many modern Canadian and American Special Forces units such as the Green Berets, trace their heritage to this unit.

Son, Howard, who lives in Toronto, attended the ceremony in Washington to represent his father and had the opportunity to talk to some of the veterans. “He said it was truly amazing. It was incredible,” said daughter Crystal States, who still lives in New Glasgow.

About 700 people, including about 40 living members of the brigade, attended the hour-long ceremony at the Capitol Visitor Center. Like Margaret, Crystal watched the ceremony on her computer.

“It was very, very moving,” she said. “It wasn’t like being there, but it was the next best thing. It was very formal.”

Margaret believes her father would have been pleased with the acknowledgement of the unit’s efforts. “I think he would have been happy with the unit getting this kind of recognition, but at a personal level, it would not have meant as much to him as it meant to us – his children – knowing and acknowledging he fought with a group of men who changed the outcome of the war.

“To recognize that, finally, in terms of their contribution to the Second World War effort, that it made a difference in the outcome of the war. They were able to defeat the Germans in Italy and helped to keep them from taking over all of Europe.”

Only one gold medal was presented to the unit, but the States family will receive a bronze replica.

If he were alive today, that silence could now be broken.

“One of the things he said to me was ‘A good soldier does not talk,’” said his daughter Margaret States.

Lloyd was a member of the First Special Service Force, more famously known as the Devil’s Brigade. Earlier this month, the FSSF was honoured for its contribution to the war effort with the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal by U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honour bestowed by the United States.

The efforts of the FSSF contributed to the liberation of Europe and to the end of the Second World War. "These men saved the free world," said Boehner.

“They were able to make this difference and understood during the war that their effort made a difference, but it was not acknowledged,” said Margaret.

“Any of the men – the veterans – never really allowed themselves to talk about what happened as a member of the Devil’s Brigade. It was classified as top secret until very recently.”

Margaret, who grew up in New Glasgow, watched the ceremony via webcast from her home in Ottawa, and was impressed by listening to the various politicians talk about the FSSF. “It was never talked about like that before. For me, for my dad, it was never about a medal, it was about the recognition of their contribution and what the men gave up.”

The First Special Service Force was a special operations unit formed in July 1942, comprised of 1,800 soldiers from the United States and Canada. The unit targeted military and industrial installations, and was nicknamed the “Devil’s Brigade” by the German opponents because they blackened their faces with boot polish to conduct night raids.

Margaret believes not talking about his experiences contributed to her father suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, although he wasn’t officially diagnosed with the condition. She’s glad that the remaining veterans will now be able to talk about what happened during their missions.

“It was not recognized in those days (PTSD), plus he couldn’t talk about his part in the war because it was classified top secret. Now with it all coming out and recognizing them with this honour, they can now talk about some aspects of what they went through,” she said.

“To really talk about what really happened would have made a difference with my dad.”

The FSSF underwent intensive training, learning how to handle explosives and other weapons, along with hand-to-hand combat and night fighting. The specialized skills were necessary, as the FSSF members raided strategic positions and parachuted behind enemy lines.

Lloyd was already stationed in Italy as a member of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry when he volunteered to be part of the FSSF, which needed more recruits.

He spoke a little about some of his war experiences, but not about his involvement with the FSSF.

“Some things he shared with me. I tried to really get information from him but he never wanted to talk about it. Any man who has seen active duty doesn’t talk about it. He said there was no glory in war – in fighting and killing people.”

“He never went into detail,” she said, but he told her he participated in night raids, crawling on his hands and knees to the targeted area, and then digging holes to hide in during the day.

After the war ended, Lloyd returned to New Glasgow where he had various jobs – as a trucker, bricklayer and landscaper, until he retired. He passed away in 1996.

The Brigade was disbanded in 1944, but its legacy lives on, as many modern Canadian and American Special Forces units such as the Green Berets, trace their heritage to this unit.

Son, Howard, who lives in Toronto, attended the ceremony in Washington to represent his father and had the opportunity to talk to some of the veterans. “He said it was truly amazing. It was incredible,” said daughter Crystal States, who still lives in New Glasgow.

About 700 people, including about 40 living members of the brigade, attended the hour-long ceremony at the Capitol Visitor Center. Like Margaret, Crystal watched the ceremony on her computer.

“It was very, very moving,” she said. “It wasn’t like being there, but it was the next best thing. It was very formal.”

Margaret believes her father would have been pleased with the acknowledgement of the unit’s efforts. “I think he would have been happy with the unit getting this kind of recognition, but at a personal level, it would not have meant as much to him as it meant to us – his children – knowing and acknowledging he fought with a group of men who changed the outcome of the war.

“To recognize that, finally, in terms of their contribution to the Second World War effort, that it made a difference in the outcome of the war. They were able to defeat the Germans in Italy and helped to keep them from taking over all of Europe.”

Only one gold medal was presented to the unit, but the States family will receive a bronze replica.

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