PDA

View Full Version : First Special Service Force veteran recalls World War II experiences


Dan
08-23-2005, 16:22
RELEASE NUMBER: 050814-03
DATE POSTED: AUGUST 15, 2005

First Special Service Force veteran recalls World War II experiences
By Sgt. Joe Healy
U.S. Army Special Operations Command

CALGARY, Alberta (USASOC News Service, Aug. 15, 2005) — Of the one hundred World War II Canadian and American veterans that received the Combat Infantryman Badge here Aug. 13, one veteran remembered and reflected about their lives seven decades ago.

“Today I am celebrating my 81st birthday,” exclaimed Delbert Stonehouse, a veteran of the First Special Service Force. “My birthday is more of a turning point for all of us.”

Stonehouse enlisted in the Canadian Army shortly after his 17th birthday, at the onset of Canada and the United States’ military involvement in World War II.

Sitting cross-legged and using his hands to animate his recollections, Stonehouse looks twenty years younger than his U.S. driver’s license states. He keeps fit- walking and exercising- near his home in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., with his wife, Margaret.

He is almost as fit as his days as a dispatch writer and carrier with the FSSF.

Stonehouse said he joined the Canadian Army with his brother in 1941. They attended Basic Training together, and when his brother heard that the Army was looking for “elite outdoorsman” willing to serve with Americans in a one-of-a-kind joint Special Service Force, they both decided to go for it, together.

The brothers were then transferred to Fort Harrision, Mont., for jump training. For two young men raised in Nova Scotia, the Rocky Mountains could not have been more different than their cold, coastal, eastern Canadian home.”

“My brother broke his ankle on his second jump. That was the end of his time with the First Special Service Force,” Stonehouse said.

Soon after the unit completed Airborne Training, Stonehouse said they were shipped off to Europe to fight the war.

The first of many combat battles began on the beaches of Anzio.

Stonehouse’s blue eyes moisten when he recalls the combat operations.

According to Stonehouse, the FSSF raided Anzio for 99 straight nights. At that time most raids were done in broad daylight, and he credits his commander Lt. Col. Robert T. Frederick, for nearly all the unit’s success.

Stonehouse said it was at Anzio that the FSSF was nicknamed “Black Devils” because both Canadian and American Soldiers blackened their faces with charcoaled cork before the night operations.

“Colonel Fredrick would never ask the fellas to do anything he wouldn’t do,” Stonehouse explained.

The unit proved its metal at Anzio, forcing the Germans to move back their troops two miles.

The FSSF then fought in battles throughout France and Italy, seeing some of the toughest combat in World War II.

After victory in World War II, Stonehouse decided to retire from the military and start a business in the United States. Serving with Americans in combat gave him the skills necessary to raise a family and have a career in the U.S., Stonehouse said.

He met his wife, Margaret, a Canadian citizen too, soon after the war.

She said he didn’t speak much of his experience in the FSSF, but when he was told a few months ago that he would be awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge with other FSSF veterans, Stonehouse demanded that they go to the reunion together.

“We won’t miss next year’s reunion either,” Stonehouse to his fellow veterans. “It’d better land on my birthday again!”

-usasoc-

SP5IC
08-24-2005, 06:55
Good story & excellent photo.