Helena, Montana

 

First Special Service Force

This elite WWII unit was formed in 1942 at the direction of President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Their mission: Parachute into occupied enemy territory and destroy vital axis installations. The “Force” required a top-notch area for special training in mountaineering, skiing, parachuting, demolitions and weapons. Fort Harrison in Helena was ideal. Rugged volunteers from the United States and Canada came to Helena to train. Combat casualties were high but the force never failed a mission. Named “The Black Devils” by the Germans, their ferocious nighttime fighting ability was legendary. The legacy of the FSSF proudly lives on today in the special forces of both countries. For more information on the FSSF click here.

One of the Canadian Army members who joined the FSSF was John Izatt (photo on left). John later joined the Edmonton Police Department in 1948 and joined the Pipe Band in 1962. He later became the second Pipe Major of the EPS Pipes and Drums where he served until his retirement in as an Inspector in 1981. A memorial to the FSSF stands today in Helena flying both the Canadian and American Flags.

In May of 2005, members of the EPS Pipe Band traveled to Helena and toured the FSSF museum, played at the FSSF memorial and had the opportunity to meet 85 year old Canadian FSSF veteran, Sgt. Joe Glass. Joe was originally from Sarnia, Ontario and moved to Helena after the war. Joe fought in World War II as part of the FSSF which the Germans called “The Black Devils” due to their stealthy and deadly night raids. Joe returned a hero in 1945 where he reunited with Dorothy and eventually settled in Helena, MT and raised their four children. Sadly, Joe passed away on April 1, 2012 in Helena.

Montana Police Officers Memorial

On May 15, 2005, the band also participated in the Montana Peace Officers’ Memorial Day ceremonies at the State Capitol along with members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police from Alberta. The Montana law enforcement community paid tribute to the four Alberta RCMP constables who were killed in the line of duty in March of 2005.