Saturday, January 15, 2022

A Great Crusade

The First Special Service Force bore the nickname The Devil's Brigade, seeing action during the war. It was a force made up of American and Canadian soldiers that saw action in the Aleutians and Europe, and it is the predecessor to special operations units in both countries today. The Devil's Brigade developed a legendary reputation and were highly decorated during the war and afterwards. The Canadian members of the brigade were the first non-American soldiers to receive the Combat Infantryman Badge and the Bronze Star, and the FSSF as a whole received the Congressional Gold Medal.

D-Day was the great turning of the tide with the invasion by Allied forces into Normandy at five beaches. Supported by air force and naval counterparts, soldiers came ashore and paratroopers landed in Normandy on June 6th, 1944. Americans landed at Omaha and Utah, the British came ashore at Gold and Sword, and Canadians landed at Juno Beach. In his post orders to Allied forces, General Eisenhower called it the Great Crusade. 

Entering this area one passes through a spot with a video display of D-Day landings. Beyond it are two striking paintings of that first day of the Normandy campaign by Canadian war artists. Invasion Pattern Normandy is by Eric Aldwinkle, depicting things from the air as landing craft are seen on the beach below a Canadian Mustang.

D-Day: The Assault is by Orville Fisher, who had the particular distinction of being the only war artist to actually land on the beaches on D-Day. He depicts the ferocity of the fight to come ashore and the formidable German defenses- things he was seeing as it was happening. Fisher ditched most of his supplies while getting off his landing craft- understanding they would have weighed him down in the water- and got on shore. There he sketched what he was seeing on waterproof pads, and later transferred his memories and sketches to the canvas.

Close by, a panel some of you may remember. Two decades before finding fame as an actor playing a Scotsman of the future, a Canadian soldier by the name of James Doohan would be among those storming Juno Beach.

Quotations and photographs on the walls tell the story vividly. This would have been typical of what was happening on the other four beaches in Normandy as well that first day. And yet they kept pushing forward, a day that would change history forever.

I finish for today with a medal set and story of the bravery of one Canadian private, Harry Blakely.


  1. Brave men, every one of them. I'd have been wishing for somebody to "beam me up" out of there.

  2. The painting of the D-day looks quite wild and ghostly !

  3. I don’t think I was even a teenager when I read an adult book about D-Day. Go figure.

  4. The paintings are amazing, I am thankful for all the brave men and women.
    Take care, enjoy your weekend!

  5. I researched the war story of a local WW2 soldier. He landed at Juno a month after the initial assault. He was fortunate to have missed it.

  6. ...crusades have been conducted throughout history.

  7. @John: it was a hell of a day.

    @italiafinlandia: yes they did.

    @Gattina: it does, yes.

    @Anvilcloud: I recommend Eisenhower's book Crusades In Europe.

    @Eileen: as am I.

    @Marie: no doubt.

    @Maywyn: it is.

    @Tom: and this one was worth undertaking.

  8. The horror of it must have stayed with the soldiers for the rest of their lives.

  9. I was in elementary school right after the war and remember being told about D Day.

  10. I wonder when we will no longer fight like this.

    Thanks for keeping these things in remembrance, William.

  11. That Normandy painting is very interesting.

  12. I love the snowy scene you have on your header now!
    Have a great weekend!

  13. So interesting, and with hopes someday these lessons will all be learned. Great presentation again.

  14. Another brilliant exhibit, thanks William! I am learning a lot from these.

  15. Can't imagine sketching a scene like that, much less under those conditions.

  16. @RedPat: it would have.

    @Jeanie: definitely.

    @Red: it was a defining moment.

    @Sandi: you're welcome.

    @Sharon: I agree.

    @Bill: I think so.

    @Lea: thank you.

    @Karen: indeed.

    @Denise: thanks.

    @Revrunner: it would have been harrowing.

  17. Wonderful tribute to the special Canadian and American specialists ~

    Wishing you happy moments,

    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  18. The D Day painting is spectacular in capturing the devastating mood.

  19. I cannot imagine being part of D Day.

    1. A vital day in history. So many did what needed to be done. I have great admiration for them.

  20. Interesting, especially the paintings are impressive.

  21. having a storm. was hoping for snow but i hear icy times. glad to be safe and sound. you take care. hope your enjoying this 2022!! ( ;