Veteran Stories:
Tom O'Brien

Army

  • S/Sgt. Tom O'Brien of the 5th Company, 2nd Regiment of the First Special Service Force from August 1942 to December 1944.

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"We were then shipped out to San Francisco, and to the Aleutian Islands for the invasion of Kiska."

Transcript

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. 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.
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