Shut the fuck up, Sir.

Okay, this Canadian war hero is just too cool. Not so much because he blew up some tanks at close range and saved a lot of his friends, but because he was demoted back to private from corporate nine times because of his dislike of authority and ended up being their only private to get the Victoria Cross.

6 thoughts on “Shut the fuck up, Sir.

  1. This guy represents everything I believe in. Thanks for the news.
    On Friday he’s going to be lying in state at Vancouver’s Seaforth Armoury right across the street from me.

  2. Shit, I didn’t know Smokey died…
    He was interviewed not so many years ago in a documentary about the reunion of the Seaforths with their erstwhile opponents at Ortona[*], where both units had spent a very miserable Christmas.
    The documentary itself is stunning, and one of its highlights is Smokey’s recounting of that very event. He was clearly someone who loved to laugh, and one could see that he worked hard to retain that attribute. The deftness and light touch he uses to describe these incredible events has a powerful effect.
    For more background on that campaign, consider reading ‘The Execution’, by Colin(?) MacDougall, published by New Canadian Press. Also ‘And No Birds Sang’ by Farley Mowatt. The former is a novel set in the Sicilian and Italian campaigns which rather transparently portrays some of the actual characters in the Canadian Forces at the time. The latter is a self-indulgent but honest autobiographical recounting of the same campaign.

    [*] Regardless of what US or Israeli army buffs will tell you, Ortona is a canonical example of urban warfare. It was the Seaforths and the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) who invented the tactic of ‘mouse-holing’ – blasting through the walls of adjoining buildings in order to avoid the sniper-infested streets.
    Canadians had a silly habit of trying to preserve the lives of their troops. This led to some important innovations in battlefield tactics, among them mouse-holing and close artillery support. Pity Rumsfeld forgot the latter….

    1. Re: Shit, I didn’t know Smokey died…
      Anyone who made it through the Sicilian battles at all, much less covered in medals, deserves tremendous respect. My uncle Richard was in that mess in the U.S. Army, at the invasion and all the way up the boot, and has not been the same since.
      Like Smokey, he is not a fan of authority.

    2. Re: Shit, I didn’t know Smokey died…
      Mark Zuehlke’s book, Ortona is also excellent even though Smokey himself only gets a couple of paragraphs (in fact, pretty much exactly the Christmas incident I related, brev).
      Ortona is a terribly under-studied battle (well, series of battles really) and for reasons that are hard to grasp. It was important (securing the port at Ortona was critical to progressing further up Italy), it was under manned, and it was (as gcrumb points out) probably the origin of many life saving tactics in future urban conflicts. The unit names are colourful (Hasty Pees, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, the Van Doos, and of course our own Seaforth Highlanders), the people are three dimensional, and the battle had at no time a certain outcome.
      The author begins and ends the book with a plea to talk to and record the recollections of veterans of the second world war while we still have them, which is an opportunity that slips further away every day that passes. Smokey at least got himself heard every chance he could. 🙂
      When I heard Smokey died I broke out my copy for a ninth or tenth reading, as well as a new bottle of scotch.

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