Of War

Thomas George “Tommy” Prince

Also, known as the Prince of the Brigade, Tommy Prince was a Native American who was born in Manitoba, Canada in 1914. Tommy at an early age was forced to drop out of elementary school to feed his 11 siblings, mother and father. Growing up he quickly learned from his father who was a hunter how to use a rifle and a knife to be able to hunt the nearby wildlife in the native reserve that he lived in himself. Now, does he not sound like a modern-day Mowgli? He became an extremely talented marksman and tracker from all the days he spent hunting and gathering food for his family. Years later he worked as a tree feller as well as joined the cadets during his teen years. Now think back, what did you do when you were 14 years old? Suddenly the Second World War began, and due to Tommy being an Aboriginal he was rejected several times from the Canadian army as discrimination was a widespread fact at the time. Eventually, he was accepted and was assigned to the first Field Park Company of the Royal Canadian Engineers. There he was trained to be a sapper, which was the first step to his impressive skill set. If you’re unsure of what a sapper is, they were essentially engineers with demolitions expertise. Two years later he became a sergeant with the Canadian Parachute Battalion, however, soon after he volunteered for the first Special Service Force also known as the Devil’s Brigade.

The Devil’s Brigade consisted of American/Canadian Special Forces soldiers who were essentially a bunch of Spartans. They had training on parachuting, demolitions usage, unit tactics, problem-solving, skiing, rock climbing, adaptation to cold climates, knife combat, hand-to-hand combat, stealth operations, and reconnaissance. Everything you needed to operate behind enemy lines during World War II, the Devil’s Brigade had done that. The name "Devil’s Brigade" originated from the Germans. The reason for this was because they began calling them “Schwarzer Teufel” which meant "black devil." This is probably because before jumping into combat, soldiers of the Devil’s Brigade painted their faces black with shoe polish so they wouldn’t be detected at night. The Devil’s Brigade was seen to be so badass, Marvel used this force as a part of the superhero Wolverine’s backstory. Not to mention that the movie Inglorious Basterds directed by Quentin Tarantino was loosely based off the Devil’s Brigade also. When I say that these guys were genuinely tough, I mean these guys marched 60km as training, and the regiment in the Devil’s Brigade that held the record for the fastest time was only 20 hours. Easy? I think not. The distance is something even Mo Farah would frown upon as marathons are usually roughly around 42km. During World War II these guys were considered as some of the toughest soldiers on the field. Even after World War II ended the world recognised that they had no use for these extensively trained soldiers anymore, so they were disbanded and broken up into the first United States Army Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets, as well as the Canadian Counter-Terrorist Joint Task Force Two. Some of the toughest modern day military forces were made from the Devil’s Brigade.

Tommy once again managed to amaze other soldiers and particularly stood out the lot. Sometimes Tommy would just sneak into the barracks of the German SS at night while everyone was asleep, slit one of the soldier’s throats, then proceed to further steal all their footwear as well as sneaking back out, all without being noticed. Can’t imagine waking up to no shoes and one less friend every day can’t be frightening or annoying. The fact of the matter was that Tommy was good at what he did, but what was his secret? Moccasins. Believe it or not, Tommy would always carry a pair of moccasins as well as his army boots with him. When he had to move undetected he would switch his boots for his moccasins and reports from the other soldiers were that he could travel silently through pretty much any terrain.

In the next chapter of Tommy’s life, the Devil’s Brigade took him to Italy to take part in the Italian campaign. Now, Italy was a hard country for the Allies to take back because the shape of the country was ideal for a defensive setup as it’s a quite long and thin country, shaped just like a stripper’s leg. Since Mussolini was not an idiot, he took advantage of this and set up several lines of defense, of course giving them fancy names as well, consisting of Germans and mortars from East to West across the country. Monte la Difensa was one of the forts that played a key role in taking back Italy. Built in a Wolfenstein way, this was a solid fort that stood at the top of a sheer cliff face housing Germans with nebelwerfers which translated to smoke mortars, however, this was a sneaky lie that the Germans came up with, because in actuality they contained poisoned gas shells. Seizing the fort was almost a lost cause, the Allies had launched three full-scale attacks that had failed. It was a stalemate. December 3, 1933, Devil’s Brigade was sent in to attack Monte la Difensa. They climbed up the steepest part of the cliff because that was the least defended part of the fort, surprised the enemy, and successfully captured the fort. However, this didn’t come without losses. The Devil’s Brigade lost 77 percent of their soldiers and, despite the odds, overcame what seemed to be the impossible. Now, if these guys were normal then their morale would be plummeting, however, they digressed and fought on. By capturing the fort the Allies broke through the Bernard line of defense, however, the Gustav line of defense was much more heavily defended. Rome was the main objective in taking control of Italy; if they capture Rome then the rest would be easy. Unfortunately, their only way to Rome was through the Gustav line of defense. Instead, they took option B and decided that the best course of action was to land just south of Rome at the port of Anzio by the sea so they had the opportunity to go behind the Gustav defense line. Bad luck struck again as the Allies couldn’t get out quickly enough because communications were intercepted by the Germans, which meant they knew where they were landing, therefore, they focused all their artillery fire on the port of Anzio as well as the fact that when they landed the area was mostly marshland which made it hard to move.

Fortunately, due to the Devil’s Brigade’s success, they were called in to help. At this battle, Tommy got the Medal of Bravery. Tommy decided something had to be done so he volunteered to go on a suicide mission. He crawled nearly 2km carrying a telephone wire, reeling it out as he crawled up the battlefield, all the way up to the enemy artillery and hid in a farm house that was nearby. Using the telephone line that he dragged across, he reported back the exact location of the artillery guns so that the allies could take them out. Then disaster struck. Shortly after, the telephone wire got cut due to a badly aimed ally artillery shell. This meant that Tommy couldn’t report back where the German artillery was located anymore since they would relocate the artillery guns. When Tommy realised that the telephone line was cut, he came up with a plan. He scavenged the farmhouse and found some old farmer’s clothes probably left by the farmer that owned it. He dressed in those clothes and walks out of the farmhouse carrying a hoe pretending to attend some of the crops, pretending to be a farmer. Mind you to take in the fact that since Tommy was behind enemy lines, this meant that he was a spy which also meant that he would be shot on sight if detected. He was so in character that he even dared to shake his fist at the German soldiers for damaging one of the chicken coops, even though it wasn’t his farm. Can you guess what the Germans did? They waved back. Where’s his Oscar? While pretending, he found the telephone line and fixed it while pretending to tie his shoes. It’s reported that the German soldiers never detected Tommy’s real identity or what he was up to. So, Tommy went back to reporting back to the allies the exact location of the artillery and shortly after, of course not exclusively because of this but, the allies managed to push out of Anzio and take back Rome in the next 24 hours which pretty much ensured securing the rest of Italy.

It doesn’t end there. I know. This guy needs to chill out. After the success in Rome, the Devil’s Brigade was moved to southern France. September 1, 1944, Tommy and a sole private were sent behind German lines once again to scout out the area. On their way back to report their findings they came across a battle between some Germans and some French soldiers. So, Tommy and the private laid down and began raining down the enemy troops with sniper bullets, as you do, and eventually, the Germans withdrew with their tails between their legs. Seems standard so far, doesn’t it? Well, when Tommy contacted the French leader, at first, he thanked him for the rescue, but then asked where his company was. Of course, me you Tommy and the private knew that it was just the two of them, so he replied by pointing at the private and saying “here.” The French were so shocked that he was convinced that the intense fire targeted at the German troops could have only been from a squad of at least 50 men. Two men were compared to 50. Honestly, I bet these guys could have been cyborgs, I mean it’s insane to think that you alone could be mistaken for a group of people.

Soon afterward he led the men to the German base that he found during the scouting with the private and took over the base, capturing 1000 prisoners of war. Tommy himself took part in this battle which took 72 hours and for the whole time, he had no food, water, or sleep. Oh yeah, he also had to walk 70km of mountainous terrain during the battle.

When combat ended in France Tommy was called to Buckingham Palace and was decorated by King George VI. He is now remembered as the most decorated aboriginal soldier in World War II and the Canadian military history.

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