DURHAM REGION-Graham Clapp, a 102-year-old WWII veteran who lived in Oshawa has died.
The Canadian Forces says Sergeant Clapp was one of the last remaining members of the Devil’s Brigade.
At the age of seven, he immigrated to Canada. By age 22 he was with the First Special Service Force, Monte La Difensa, Anzio.
Properly designated as the 1st Special Service Force, the Devil’s Brigade was a joint World War II American-Canadian commando unit trained at Fort Harrison near Helena, Montana in the United States.
Force members received rigorous and intensive training in stealth tactics; hand-to-hand combat; the use of explosives for demolition; parachuting; amphibious warfare; rock-climbing; mountain warfare, and as ski troops according to a website dedicated to the history of the force.
“At Monte la Difensa, near which was located the ancient town of Rocca d’Evandro (about 10 miles south east of Cassino) and was part of the Bernhardt Line Defenses on the Camino hill mass, between December 3 and December 6, 1943, they immediately earned a reputation for being able to take impenetrable objectives when no one else could. Here, in the dead of winter, the 1st Special Service Force wiped out a strategic enemy defensive position that sat high atop a mountain surrounded by steep cliffs. Previously, American and British forces had suffered many casualties in futile attempts to take the important target. The 1st SSF was successful, and this incident was the basis for the 1968 motion picture titled “The Devil’s Brigade”.” states the website.
The 1st SSF immediately continued its attack, assaulting Monte la Remetanea from December 6 to December 9. It captured Monte Sambúcaro on December 25, and assaulted Monte Vischiataro on January 8, 1944. During the mountain campaign the 1st SSF suffered 77% casualties. Clapp survived and went on to Anzio.
“The Special Force brigade was withdrawn from the mountains in January and on February 1 was landed at the beachhead created by Operation Shingle at Anzio, south of Rome, replacing the 1st and 3rd Ranger battalions which had been decimated at Cisterna. Their task was to hold and raid from the right-hand flank of the beachhead marked by the Mussolini Canal/Pontine Marshes. Shortly after the SSF took over the Mussolini Canal sector, German units pulled back up to a half-mile to avoid their aggressive patrols.
It was at Anzio that the Germans dubbed the 1st Special Service Force the “Devil’s Brigade.” The diary of a dead German soldier contained a passage that said, “The black devils (Die schwarzen Teufel) are all around us every time we come into the line.” The soldier was referring to them as “black” because the brigade’s members smeared their faces with black boot polish for their covert operations in the dark of the night. During Anzio, the 1st SSF fought for 99 days without relief. It was also at Anzio that the 1st SSF used their trademark stickers; during night patrols soldiers would carry stickers depicting the unit patch and a slogan written in German: “Das dicke Ende kommt noch,” said to translate to “The Worst is yet to Come”, placing these stickers on German corpses and fortifications.” states the website.
Canadian and American members of the Special Force who lost their lives are buried near the beach in the Commonwealth Anzio War Cemetery and the American Cemetery in Nettuno, east of Anzio.
Rest in Peace and thank you for your service.