Ojibway Nation’s Tommy Prince Indigenous WW2 War Hero T-Shirt
Canada’s Most Famous & Forgotten Indigenous War Hero
Born Thomas George Prince, on October 15th 1915, in Petersfield Manitoba. He was from the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, great grandson of Peguis, the Salteaux Chief. He was five when his family moved to the Brokenhead Reserve (now Nation) in Scanterbury, MB where his father taught him to become an excellent tracker and superb marksman. Prince applied to join the Canadian Armed Forces numerous times, but was rejected. Indigenous people faced widespread discrimination, which likely played a key role in these rejections.
As a residential school survivor, Prince was a fighter from the beginning. He was finally accepted into the Canadian Armed Forces in June 1940 and began his Military Career as a Sapper with the Royal Canadian Engineers. After two years, he answered a call for paratrooper volunteers & by late 1942, was training with the 1st Canadian Special Service Battalion. Shortly after, they merged with a new elite American unit, forming a spearhead of 1,600 men who possessed an assortment of specialist skills. Officially called the 1st Special Service Force, it would become known to German soldiers as the Devil's Brigade, a versatile assault group with a reputation for specialized reconnaissance and raiding. Prince was a perfect candidate to be a member of this elite volunteer Brigade whose members were picked for their rugged outdoor background.
One time in Italy, while watching a German position from an abandoned farmhouse, the Germans were shelling the area and a shell cut the communication wire. He dressed up as an Italian farmer & went out to “plow his field”. When he got to the break, he pretended to tie his shoes. He quickly fixed the wire in plain sight of the Germans and then went back to report the position. The position got hammered and Prince received the U.S. Silver Star for his bravery. After the war, Prince was summoned to Buckingham Palace and received the Military Medal, one of three Force men to do so.
He used to carry a pair of moccasins in his bag, put them on and slip away in the night. Brigade members would watch him leave and disappear in the shadows of the trees. They could never figure out how he passed the security of German camps. He was stealthy; sneaking into the camp to steal something, like a pair of shoes right off their feet. He would leave articles behind, like the Devil’s Brigade calling card with the ominous message in German, “The worst is yet to come”, just to let them know he had been there. Once in a while, he would kill a German, while he slept. When they woke up and found one of their own lying dead amongst them, that’s when they got scared. They didn’t believe that Prince could be real, so they figured he must be an evil spirit or better yet, the devil.
In addition to the two Decorations, Prince received six service medals for the Italian and North West Europe theaters of war: The 1939-1945 Star, The Italy Star, The France & Germany Star, The Defense Medal, The Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with Overseas Clasp and The War Medal 1939-1945. On June 14 1945 Prince was honourably discharged from the military.
Disillusioned with life, Prince re-enlisted for the Korean War with the 2nd Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in August, 1950. He was quoted as saying, “As soon as I put on my uniform I felt like a better man”. Once again, his bravery and strong leadership distinguished him and during his two tours of duty in the Korean War, he won the Korean, Canadian Volunteer Service and U.N. Service medals. He also won a U.S. Presidential Citation for helping to maintain a defense post on Hill 677 at The Battle of Kapyong. Desperate and overrun with heavy fire from Korean and Chinese soldiers, it was the first time in Canadian Military history an artillery strike was called in on their own position.
This demanding war took its toll on him physically and emotionally. He developed arthritis in his knees and P.T.S.D. He was given an honourable discharge in 1953. After retiring, his life became increasingly difficult and as a result, he became an alcoholic and battled the bottle, which he was able to overcome. Before he died, he was forced to sell all his medals in order to survive. Tommy Prince was a hero who died alone and homeless in Winnipeg November 25, 1977 at the age of 62.
He deserved better!
With our past fundraising initiatives, people have enabled us to donate over 85 THOUSAND DOLLARS of which, 54 Thousand was used to successfully commemorate the lives lost by Canadian soldiers on the beaches of Normandy during World War II. Now the fund-raising goal is focused on providing professionally trained service dogs to the members of our First Responders along with the Women and Men of the Armed Forces who suffer from P.T.S.D. We invite you to please give generously to your local Service Dogs Organizations: e.g. National Service Dogs which will complement funds raised here.
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