Crystal States shared a story with students at A.G. Baillie Elementary School in New Glasgow on
Friday that had been kept a secret from her for most of her life.
As a child she knew her father Lloyd Arthur States had served in the Second World War. What she didn’t know was that he was part of a top-secret elite American and Canadian commando unit known as the First Special Service Force. It was also called The Devil’s Brigade or the Black Devil’s Brigade because the soldiers would paint their faces with shoe polish at night so they would be less easily seen.
The unit of specially trained men were responsible for secret missions that included parachuting into Norway, liberating Rome and scaling cliffs to fight Nazis on the mountains in Italy.
Her father was just one of two black men in the unit during a time of deep racial segregation in the U.S. and in Canada. At that time, her father would not have been allowed to eat in certain restaurants or sit in a white section of theatres in New Glasgow.
“When they trained in Montana, there were some who did not want to fight alongside my father because he was a black man,” States told the students during her presentation as part of African Heritage Month activities at the school.
But her father was determined not to allow others to stop him from serving his country so he stayed, she said.
Because the unit was a top government secret, when Lloyd States returned to New Glasgow, he didn’t speak about it even to his family.
It wasn’t until years later they learned about his heroics and he was posthumously awarded many honours including the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honour for his service.
More recently, in January he was awarded the 2018 Ottawa DreamKeepers’ Jean Augustine Life Achievement Award.
“He is now considered a hero,” she said.