Veteran Stories:
Jim Summersides

Army

  • Jim Summersides' F.S.S.F. replica of the V-42 Stiletto. Known as the 'Force Knife', this weapon was used by the First Special Service Force in combat and survival.

  • Jim Summersides First Special Service Force Shoulder Flash, later dubbed 'Devil's Brigade',1943-1944

  • Jim Summersides, First Special Service Force, on leave in Menton, Southern France, November 1944

  • Jim Summersides and fellow First Special Service Force American Dan Cober. Pictured beside a 'Jerry Coastal Pillbox' in Southern France, November 10th, 1944

  • Jim Summersides at dedication ceremony for The Frederick Gate, Camp Petawawa, February 9, 2003

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"It was just fantastic to see a little bit of civilization, enjoy life which you sure could not do living in a stone foxhole up on the mountain."

Transcript

This is Jim Summersides. I served with the First Special Service Force and the 48th Highlanders during World War II. The First Special Service Force was a very elite group trained in parachute jumping, commando, mountain-climbing, a little bit of everything. Lots of learning how to fight with both American and enemy weapons. The First Special Service Force was called the Black Devils because we used to be night fighters that blackened our faces and went in particularly on raids during the night. First big operation was the breakout at Anzio. We broke out at Anzio the 23rd of May, 1944, and worked our way into the city of Rome. I was a scout for most of the time I was with them, particularly the time in Italy before we went to southern France. I acted as second scout to a lead scout who was more experienced than myself. On the breakout from Anzio, the chief scout and I were... we were in a foxhole. There was pretty heavy shelling taking place and he said to me, "Jim," he said, "I think we better get down." And for some unknown reason - I'll never know - we changed places in the foxhole and got down. A shell hit the corner where I had been and killed him. Although I was shaken up pretty badly, I was able to keep going on to Rome. It's something that I'll never forget and I'll never figure out why. Fifty years later, I laid a wreath in memory of those who had not made it home at the big 50th anniversary celebration in Anzio. My particular thoughts at that time were of Paul, the chap that was killed. When we went into the invasion of southern France, we went in eight hours before the paratroopers and took two small islands just off the southern coast of France, the island of Port-Cros and the island of Levant. I myself was on the island of Port-Cros. We had two or three casualties on the island of Port-Cros. The rest of us managed to make it into the mainland and then we took the spearhead. We were always used as the spearhead of an advance, and we advanced right across from the area of Nice to the French-Italian border in the Maritime Alps. We would spend our days sleeping in France and sneak over the ridge into Italy during the night to maintain our line there. We could see snow a little bit to the north of us. We did not have snow. But cold rain, wind, you had no cover whatsoever except a piece of tarpaulin spread overtop of some rocks to keep out the worst of the dampness. Never kept out the drafts. On occasion they would take some of us out of the mountains and give us a 48-hour pass into the city of Nice. It was just fantastic to see a little bit of civilization, enjoy life which you sure could not do living in a stone foxhole up on the mountain.
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