Tommy Prince

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From my Winnipeg Hall of Fame

Prince, Sgt. Tommy (1915-1977)
b.  Manitoba, of the Brokenhead Ojibway Native Tribe
World War II hero, 1940-45, member of the famous Devil's Brigade, an elite paratrooper unit of Canadian and Americans, sent into dangerous missions in France and Italy
From Answers.com "

Prince was awarded the Military Medal, for his heroics at Anzio, Italy in an event that in 1968 was turned into a Hollywood film titled The Devil's Brigade. It was at Anzio that his unit got the name "Devil's Brigade." The diary of a dead German soldier contained a passage that said, "The black devils (Die schwartze Teufeln) are all around us every time we come into the line." The soldier was referring to them as "black" because the brigade's soldiers smeared their faces with black boot polish for their covert operations in the dark of the night.

Then in recognition of his fighting efforts in France in '44, he went to Buckingham Palace where he received the Military Medal from King George VI and the American Silver Star. Prince was the most decorated aboriginal soldier.

I wish I could tell you that the story has a happy ending but it does not. Prince returned to Winnipeg where he started his own business which was successful. However, when he turned it over to friends to run, so that he could enter the world of Native politics the business was mismanged and left him broke. He became estranged from his family, an alcoholic, living in a world of racism towards his people. He was also in considerable pain from arthritis in his knees.

However, he did re-enlist to serve in Korea, and stayed on to train recruits in the Canadian Armed Forces. Always the hero, he did it again in 1955 saving a man from drowning at the Alexander Docks.

Prince spent his final years at a Salvation Army hostel, and then in Deer Lodge Center. It's nice to see that Winnipeg has come around a bit to honor his memory however, renaming a street in his old neighborhood of the North End.

Tommy Prince is both a native son that we can be proud of as Winnipeggers, as well as a sober reminder that the misfortunate people that we see on the streets every day are real people, with real dreams, and real pasts.

From Veterans Affairs Canada

From First Nation's Drum

I came pretty close to including Tommy Prince in my Top 50 Canadians of all-time. He may very well be.