IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
August 1, 2011
Mr. Baucus (for himself, Mr. Tester, and Mr. Burr) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
To grant the congressional gold medal, collectively, to the First Special Service Force, in recognition of its superior service during World War II.
Congress finds the following:
The First Special
Service Force (in this Act referred to as the
organized as a joint American-Canadian unit activated in July 1942 at Fort
Harrison near Helena, Montana.
The Force was initially intended to target military and industrial installations that were supporting the German war effort, including important hydroelectric plants, which would severely limit the production of strategic materials used by the Axis powers.
From July 1942 through June 1943, volunteers of the Force trained in hazardous, arctic conditions, in the mountains of western Montana, and the waterways of Camp Bradford, Virginia.
The combat echelon of the Force totaled 1,800 soldiers—half American, half Canadian. There were also 800 American members of the Service Battalion, which provided important support for the combat troops.
A special bond developed between the Canadian and American soldiers. They were not segregated by geography, although it was commanded by an American colonel.
The Force was unique, as it was the only unit formed during World War II consisting of troops from 2 different countries.
In October 1943, the Force went to Italy, where it fought in battles south of Cassino, including Monte La Difensa and Monte Majo.
These mountain peaks were a critical anchor of the German defense line, and on December 3, 1943, the Force’s units ascended to the top of La Difensa’s precipitous face. Climbing through the night, the battalion suffered heavy casualties and overcame fierce resistance to overtake the German line.
After La Difensa, the Force continued to fight tough battles at high altitudes, in rugged terrain, and in severe weather. After battles on the strongly defended Italian peaks of Sammucro, Vischiataro, and Remetanea, the Force’s combat units had been reduced from 1,800 to fewer than 500.
In 1944, the Force went to the Anzio Beachhead for 4 months, engaging in raids and aggressive patrols. On June 4, 1944, members of the Force were the first Allied troops to liberate Rome.
After Rome, the Force moved to southern Italy, where it prepared to assist in the liberation of France.
During the early morning of August 15, 1944, the Force made silent landings on Les Iles D’Hyeres, small islands in the Mediterranean Sea along the southern coast of France. They faced a sustained and withering assault from the German garrisons, as the Force progressed from the islands to the Franco-Italian border.
After securing the Franco-Italian border, the United States Army ordered the disbandment of the First Special Service Force on December 5, 1944 in Nice, France.
In 251 days of combat, the Force suffered 2,314 casualties, or 134 percent of its combat strength. It captured more than 30,000 prisoners, won 5 United States campaign stars, and 8 Canadian battle honors. It never failed a mission.
The United States is forever indebted to the acts of bravery and selflessness of these troops, risking their lives in covert missions for the cause of freedom.
The unparalleled work of the Force along the seas and skies of Europe were critical in repelling the Nazi advance and liberating numerous French and Italian communities.
The bond between the American and Canadian service members has endured over the decades, as they continue to meet every year for reunions, alternating between Canada and the United States.
The traditions and honors exhibited by the First Special Service Force are carried forward with its lineage embracing outstanding active units of 2 great democracies in the Special Forces of the United States, the Canadian Airborne Regiment, and the Canadian Special Operations Regiment.
Congressional gold medal
The Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate shall make appropriate arrangements for the award, on behalf of the Congress, of 2 gold medals of appropriate design to the First Special Service Force, collectively, in recognition of their dedicated service during World War II.
Design and striking
For the purposes of the award referred to in subsection
(a), the Secretary of the Treasury (in this Act referred to as the
Secretary) shall strike the gold medals with suitable emblems,
devices, and inscriptions, to be determined by the Secretary.
Award to Smithsonian and First Special Service Force Association
Following the award of the gold medals in honor of the First Special Service Force, under subsection (a)—
one gold medal shall be given to the Smithsonian Institution, where it will be displayed as appropriate and made available for research; and
one gold medal shall be given to the First Special Service Force Association in Helena, Montana.
Sense of Congress
It is the sense of the Congress that the Smithsonian Institution and the First Special Service Force Association should make the gold medals received under paragraph (1) available for display elsewhere, particularly at other appropriate locations associated with the First Special Service Force, including Fort William Henry Harrison in Helena, Montana.
The Secretary may strike and sell duplicates in bronze of the gold medals struck under section 2, at a price sufficient to cover the costs of the medals, including labor, materials, dies, use of machinery, and overhead expenses.
Medals struck pursuant to this Act are national medals for purposes of chapter 51 of title 31, United States Code.
Authority to use funds; proceeds of sale
Authority To use funds
There is authorized to be charged against the United States Mint Public Enterprise Fund, an amount not to exceed $30,000 to pay for the cost of the medals authorized under section 2.
Proceeds of sale
Amounts received from the sale of duplicate bronze medals under section 3 shall be deposited in the United States Mint Public Enterprise Fund.