Ninety-year-old John “Jack” Crawford will go down in history with the likes of George Washington, Thomas Edison and Winston Churchill.
Crawford’s exploits fighting in World War II with an elite Special Forces unit – considered the forebear to today’s Special Forces such as the Navy SEALs and Green Berets – were recognized Tuesday, Feb. 3, with a Congressional Gold Medal.
Crawford is among the ranks of World War II’s 1st Special Service Force, an American-Canadian elite commando unit organized in 1942. Participants fought in Italy and France before the unit was disbanded in December 1944.
Not to be confused with the Medal of Honor, the highest award for valor in action given to individuals serving in the U.S. military, the Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor that Congress bestows.
Crawford, who now lives in Clare County’s Harrison, said he jumped at the opportunity to join an elite fighting unit in 1943 after about a year on assignment in Maryland, where he said the weather was getting “too hot” and he was becoming bored stateside.
Some of Crawford’s unit’s exploits were immortalized in the 1968 movie “The Devil’s Brigade.”
The 1st Special Service Force received the Congressional Gold Medal in Washington D.C. at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 3. Of the 2,500 men who originally joined the unit, some 130 are still alive. Crawford chose not to attend the ceremony in Washington, instead celebrating in Jackson with family.
Crawford returned stateside in 1945 and married his wife Nina in 1947. The couple lived in and around Jackson for about 40 years before moving to Harrison. They have three children, and are just recently great-great-grandparents.
Will Forgrave, “Original member of first-ever Special Forces unit receives Congressional Gold Medal”, MLive, February 4, 2015.
Pat Maurer, “WW II SSF survivors get Congressional Gold Medal – Crawford tells about experiences in Devils’ Brigade”, Clare County Review.