Author Topic: S/Sgt. Tom O達rien 5-2, First Special Service Force  (Read 6113 times)

Offline RoyA

  • Trade Count: (0)
  • ***
  • Join Date: Dec 2015
  • Posts: 104
  • Total likes: 54
  • Referrals: 5
S/Sgt. Tom O達rien 5-2, First Special Service Force
« on: December 11, 2015, 01:34:07 PM »
Thomas Francis O達rien was born in Toronto, Ontario in December, 1913. He had been working as an assistant manager in sales when on 30 May 1942 he volunteered for active duty with the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. He was initially posted to the 7th Division Petrol at Camp Borden but one month later was TOS to the 2nd Army Tank Brigade, R.C.A.S.C. By the end of July he had qualified as Driver I/C Class III (Wheel).

On 27 August 1942 O達rien volunteered for a special unit that was looking for volunteers. He reported for the selection process at NDHQ, Ottawa and 2 days later and was accepted into the 2nd Canadian Parachute Battalion. He immediately proceeded to Fort William Henry Harrison in Helena Montana, and became a qualified parachutist on 5 September.

FSSF Enlistment Photo

Tom O達rien in full dress uniform, October 1942

O達rien went on to participate in all major engagements undertaken by the First Special Service Force; the Aleutians, Italy and Southern France. After the battle for Monte la Difensa and the Italian mountain campaign, Pte. O達rien was double-promoted to Acting Sergeant on 25 January 1944. That rank was confirmed on 12 July and on 20 August he was promoted to Staff Sergeant.

Here is his story, courtesy of The Memory Project...

My name is Thomas F. O'Brien, and I was with the 1st Special Service Force, which was a special unit from 1942 to 1944 in the Second World War. I joined the Paratroops - as we thought - in August, '42, and we thought we'd be going to Fort Benning, Georgia, because there were no paratroop facilities in Canada. However, we ended up in Helena, Montana, at Fort William Henry Harrison, and the first item on the program was to become qualified as paratroopers. So from Sunday to Friday they gave us a fast course in paratrooping, and we made our first jump in five days. We were there from August, '42, until April of '43, but we shipped out to Norfolk, Virginia, for amphibious rubber boat landings. And we did that in Virginia for about six weeks. Then we were sent to Burlington, Vermont, to Ethan Allen, where we took night training. We were then shipped out to San Francisco, and to the Aleutian Islands for the invasion of Kiska. And we made the invasion, but fortunately the Japs had left, and we were back in the States shortly. From there we went back to Virginia, and from there to Casablanca. We were there for a couple of days and then on to Oran, and into Italy in late November of '43. We had our first combat mission at a little town called Mignano, and we were to take Mount La Difensa, which the Germans held, and they were holding up the drag on Rome. We were taken up to the front lines one evening, and from there we marched up the mountain - or walked up the mountain, climbed it - and when daylight appeared we bivouacked. It was silent all day, and on the second day we made the final assault on the mountains, which we took. From there we went on to other mountains. And from there we went to the Anzio beach head. We were there from February until the break out in May. I was wounded just south of Rome, and never did get to Rome, but I got back to the force in July, and we made the invasion of southern France on August 15th, '44, two islands off the coast of Marseilles [Levant and Port-Cros]. From Marseilles, we marched through to the battalion frontier, and we were there from probably September until December when the force broke up. We went back to Italy, and of the original members that went to Helena, Montana, we were all sent back to England, and of the nine hundred or a thousand of us, there were a hundred and fifty of us. From there, I did a little instructing and got a lower category. I was shipped home in May of '45, and was demobilized in August of '45.

(L-R): Lt. Hugh Savage 1-3, Sgt. Albert Sproule 5-2, Sgt. Morris Lazarus 5-2, Sgt. Thomas O'Brien 5-2 and Sgt. Delbert Stonehouse 5-2, Anzio Beachhead, 1944. O達rien is using his V-42 Stiletto to cut the ties on the parcel.

Sgt. Charles Shepard 6-2 and S/Sgt. Tom O達rien, England, 1945. Shepard wears the Spearhead SSI on his right sleeve, while O達rien is wearing a French SAS cap badge.

S/Sgt. Tom O達rien痴 Specialized Training Record.

S/Sgt. O達rien received the 1939-45 Star, the Italy Star, the France and Germany Star, the Defence Medal, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and Clasp, and the War Medal 1939-45.

Little else is known of him, but fellow Force member Charles Mann did have this to say, 典om O'Brien was the president of the Force Association and a good one at that.

Tom O達rien passed away on 23 October 2004, 2 months shy of his 91st birthday.

S/Sgt. Tom O達rien痴 Memorabilia
Included are a piece of cord for the US Garrison cap and a 1960痴 era Canadian Parachute Badge.

Type 3 SSI removed from S/Sgt. O達rien痴 uniform

S/Sgt. O達rien痴 Collar Discs

Note the correct 4-piece design of the Canada disc. The solid version, often seen on ebay, was ordered by the Force but never issued.

S/Sgt. O達rien痴 ID bracelet

S/Sgt. O達rien痴 Souvenir of Italy wrist bracelet which he likely obtained in Rome

S/Sgt. O達rien痴 Shoulder Loop; this is the type that Force members acquired in Southern France

Offline littlebuddy

  • Trade Count: (+2)
  • ***
  • Join Date: Mar 2014
  • Posts: 4,614
  • Total likes: 400
  • USAAF SPOKEN HERE 24/7 365
  • Referrals: 6
Re: S/Sgt. Tom O達rien 5-2, First Special Service Force
« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2015, 01:43:34 PM »
What a fantastic group !!  The photo of the 2 Sgts together is very strange indeed , in the fact they are wearing British battledress but have their trousers "blousoned"  over the high leg boots !!  goes to show how much i know, doesnt it ??

2018 and STILL WANTED! a pair of RAF 1940 Patt boots and RAF life vest
Always looking for quality condition USAAF stationary,ephemera,equipment and clothing.
Starting to look for the harder to find items e.g. survival kits and items also woukd like to add a complete "Gibson Girl " set up
We are here for the collectors, not for profit. (PERIOD!)

Offline Tom E. Gunn

  • Trade Count: (0)
  • *****
  • Join Date: Mar 2014
  • Posts: 6,311
  • Total likes: 916
  • Referrals: 5
Re: S/Sgt. Tom O達rien 5-2, First Special Service Force
« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2015, 01:46:35 PM »
"Wow"...just "wow"! 
"He who dares, wins!"

Offline RoyA

  • Trade Count: (0)
  • ***
  • Join Date: Dec 2015
  • Posts: 104
  • Total likes: 54
  • Referrals: 5
Re: S/Sgt. Tom O達rien 5-2, First Special Service Force
« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2015, 02:49:25 PM »
Thanks for the kind words fellas.

When the Force disbanded in Dec. 1944, the Canadians were sent back to the UK.
Many joined the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, many were assigned to the training cadre, and some went back to their original units.

Once in the UK, they reverted back to their Canadian Battle Dress; that's what you see on O'Brien and Shepard in that photo.

As Force veterans, they were allowed to retain the wear of the Spearhead SSI.
The regulations stated that it was to be worn on the right sleeve however in conversation with Force Veteran Charles Mann..."we wore them on the right sleeve, the left sleeve or both sleeves. We did as we wanted".

The same applied to headgear. Those who remained in a training function wore the maroon para beret with typically either the Force crossed arrows or the British para badge. The "French SAS cap badge" that O'Brien is wearing is a British para badge with the crown removed.
With respect to the crossed arrows badges, officer's wore one of their Force collars.
Some other Ranks wore a crossed arrows badge that was made in the UK.
These are very rare and most on ebay are knock-offs.
I'll be able to show both versions in future threads.

« Last Edit: December 11, 2015, 02:50:46 PM by RoyA »