Second World War hero who resided in Stoney Creek dies at 98

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Published November 19, 2021 at 6:21 pm

Jack Callowhill, who was part of a special ops army unit in the Second World War, died at age 98 on Wednesday. He was the last member of a Canadian-American regiment called "The Devil's Brigade." (Instagram/Chad Collins)

Jack Callowhill, who fought in a commando unit that helped the Allieds take some of the toughest terrain during the Second World War, died earlier this week in Hamilton.

Callowhill, who lived in Stoney Creek, was 98 years old. A notice from the Donald V. Brown Funeral Home said he “passed peacefully” on Wednesday (Nov. 17) at Juravinski Hospital.

As a young man, Callowhill fought in the in First Special Service Force, a joint Canadian-American special ops unit. The soldiers’ bravery and accomplishments led to them, in 2015, becoming the only Canadian military unit ever to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, which is the United States’ highest military honour.

A 2020 feature in Legion magazine, which is devoted to Canadian military history, detailed how the unit was comprised of “only the hardiest men,” those who had experience working outdoors. They were trained as specialists in winter and mountain warfare, and ended up deployed to mountainous regions of Italy, which was Germany’s main ally in the war.

The regiment often attacked at night, using dark shoe polish to hide their faces. A German soldier dubbed them “The Devil’s Brigade,” which inspired a 1968 film of the same name that starred William Holden.

In December 1943, Callowhill was part of the unit’s capture of Monte la Difensa in Italy. That clearly the way for an American advancement later in 1944 that helped decide the war.

The unit fought through Italy, and landed in France before being disbanded in late 1944. Over 22 battles, the unit suffered 576 killed and a 134 per cent casualty rate, since many soldiers were wounded more than once.

That included Callowhill, who was hit by shrapnel from a German bomb. That later caused him difficulty using his arms.

 

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In later life, Callowhill was active in the Kiwanis club and the YMCA, and also helped load food hampers for the Salvation Army, according to an obituary notice. He also sang with barbershop groups and church choirs.

Callowhill often attended military functions and also spoke to schoolchildren about his experience.

Callowhill is survived by his daughter Norma and son Douglas. He was pre-decreased by his wife, Donna Callowhill. A brother, William Callowhill, died in the Second World War in 1943.

Friends will be received at the Donald V. Brown Funeral Home at 36 Lake Ave. Dr., Stoney Creek, Monday (Nov. 22) from 1-4 p.m. A celebration of life will be held at the Legion Hall at 12 King St. E. immediately after, the funeral home said.

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