Despite tragic news coming out of Ireland this Easter has the catholic church in controversy, once upon a time, the Irish catholic Priest or missionary was a heralded sort that was a rock of the ages. For those of the catholic faith, the message of Easter is clear: Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ our savior whose purpose was to save us all. To free us from oppression – something SF personnel have often embodied.
One year ago last Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009, U.S. Special Operations Forces, including Navy SEALs staged a dramatic rescue of a US Captain of cargo ship who had been taken hostage by Somali pirates. … His fate was worrisome and with God and country on his side
On Easter morning 1972, US Marine Captain John Ripley, while under intense enemy fire, blew up a bridge to stop a major invasion. The story of “Ripley at the Bridge” is legendary in the Marine Corps… He in fact called out to Jesus and his mother thoughout his heroic action that day ( See:http://www.specialforces.com/newsletter/2009_11/ )
The common thread on both operations was to prevent or if you will .– do the impossible .free the oppressed– de oppresso liber. While the modern Special Forces soldier or Air Force PJ serving so “That Others May Live” are a far cry from Christ’s physical rebirth, the intent behind their actions is very much part of the spirit which bounds a soldier to undertake an extreme duty.
De oppresso Liber — the U.S. Special Forces motto eptiomizes that which Christs teachings indicate.A US Army traditional phrase in Latin for “[to free from oppression]” or “[to liberate the oppressed]“.
“Learn to do well:
relieve the oppressed
judge for the fatherless,
defend the widow.
~Cf. Isaiah 1:17:
The phrase stems from the exploits of World War Two OSS Jedburgh/Sussex and Detachment 101 teams operating behind the lines in Europe and China Burma, India theaters. The unconventional warfare tactics of Colonel Bank differed from the conventional tactics of the rest of the US Army in that they included clandestine support for one side of an existing conflict and that they were subversive to the Nazi and Jap forces in power.
Of the near faceless, unsung many who served U.S. interests operationally– we find two of the most eccentric yet un-heralded characters whose unsung legends have a Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone about them. They were both Irishmen — Irish catholic missionaries to be exact . they were both part of the OSS operation in Burma; one who was to become known as the ‘fighting father’. His name ? :Father James Stuart. The other his senior Father Dennis MacAlindon. Two of the most hard charging Kick-butt- take-names -no nonsense- sacrament-giving – friars combat ever knew… or the Japs ever faced
.Like something from a Hollywood movie( which should be made about them) these two most colorful fellows and priests, Stuart and MacAlindon were both from County Derry Northern Ireland and their behind-the-lines combat operations were once actually chronicled by Irish American born Naval/ OSS Officer and Hollywood legendary director John Ford, by a OSS film crew at his disposal to follow them.
Together, Stuart and Mac Alindon spent three years plunging into the mythical and treacherous magical world of the OSS Detachments 101, 1942 Burma, under the stewardship of a Colonel named Eifler – somebody we’ll remember at another time
Stuart was born in 1909. A devote catholic his entire life, was an Irish missionary from the Missionary Society of St. Columban( also known as ‘The Columbans’, is a missionary, Catholic religious order, founded in Ireland in 1916 and approved by the Vatican in 1918…) was a crusader and converter for the Burmese Kachin tribesmen, Which he first met in 1936, nine years before the war.
When in 1942 Stuart watched the Japs burn down his jungle church and torture his parishioners, he saved the lives of many refugees and he swore vengeance.
Operating from an isolated tea plantation at Nazira, Assam , Burma in the heart of [Rudyard] Kiplings Jungle book country, Stuart organized the Kachin into a 250,000 man guerrillaArmy against the Japs. Tha Kachins were uncanny jungle fighters,and even with primitive weapons they had been wreaking havoc on the Japs.
OSS Director Donovan decided to support Stuart and his Kachin unit with Eifler first (and later Col. Ray Peers )leading them under OSS Detachment 101 becoming one of WW II’s most successful clandestine allied outfits. Father Stuarts quasi-mercenary army with Father Stuart and Father MacAlindon at the lead were all about ‘wreaking havoc on the enemy’.
With the OSS operatives and the Kachins at their side Stuart and MacAlindon were the embodiment of that Kipling-esque phrase:
“Good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” ~unknown
“…..Now a bit about Father Stuart. When the British retreatedin Northern Burma, Father Stuart decided to stay with his flock…”
“…The fact that he had been unable at that time to convert any of the Kachins to Catholicism had not in any way dampened his enthusiasm for his mission in life. After the British had left and he heard the Japs were advancing, he decided that perhaps a bold move on his part would be the best, so he walked down the highway until he had met the advancing troops. Picking the most imposing figure upon the best horse, and rightly surmising that this was the leader of the Japanese troops, he walked up to him, took the bridle of the horse in his hand and stopped it, and demanded of the rider “Are you Chinese?”
The Japanese officer looked at him, and thoroughly disgusted, turned his head and spat over his shoulder, and said, “Are you English?” The Father mimicking the Jap, looked at him in utter disgust, turned his head, spat over his shoulder, and said nothing. When the question was repeated he denied being English, and stated that he was an Irishman, of which “begorra” he is, but is from Northern Ireland. The Jap got off his horse, drew two half moons on the ground, pointing to one he said, “this is England,” and to the other, “this is Ireland. Where is your home?” Father unhesitatingly placed his finger on the southernmost part of the half moon representing Ireland. The Major was not completely satisfied, and wanted to shoot Father. However, there was a young lieutenant with the troop who was Christian, Father learned afterwards, and he spoke up in Father’s behalf, and the Major withheld his decision at that time, although later on he did order Father shot. The Lieutenant, however, sent warning to Father, and prior to the time that he could be arrested he had escaped into the jungle.”
~ Carl Eifler
Eifler then carried on about Mac Alindon
“…Now, in my opinion, Father MacAlindon would have chosen a much better profession had he chosen the profession of a pugilist instead of the priesthood. He surely loves a fight. When it was reported that the Japanese were marching upon the town which he had made his headquarters, he acquired some hand grenades that had been left back by the British, placed a shotgun in each window of his home, slept with an open box of hand grenades alongside of his bed, and succeeded in keeping the natives closely enough united that no Japanese to this day have managed to reach the town of Kajitu, which was his headquarters. He was afterwards ordered out of the hills and back into the British lines by the British Government…After being indoctrinated to my perverted ideas of warfare, Father MacAlindon returned to the hills, and has since been Major Wilkinson’s assistant, while Father Stuart stayed with me at my headquarters and became and instructor in the arts that I teach.”
~ Colonel Carl Eifler
What Eifler did not mention is how Stuart managed to wrangle a captured british.38 Webley revolver and ammo and pistol training from the Jap lieutenant( even though he had already been an experienced shooter…) under the guise of hunting wild pigs for shooting pigs for the villagers. Upon escaping them Stuart and MacAlindon teamed up and hiding from a pursuing Jap patrol, they “acquired ‘ grenades and shotguns and employed them to ward of their Jap pursuers as a diversion to further escape to India into the open arms of Eifler and Detachment 101.
In the true spirit of De Oprresso Liber serving God and Jesus on the side of truth, Father MacAlindon and Stuart with OSS Det 101 for the remainder of the war, liberated saved , feed, educated, taught and clothed the Kachin people; while also joining them to under go Eiflers “instruction in the arts’ (as he would put it of guerilla warfare . Stuart acted as the chief interpreter between the head of the Kachin volunteer Army and Director OSS , General Donovan as he visited the operation in the field with Colonel Eifler
Together the Two fathers partook in commando raids, and were said to have killed japs as necessary. Stuart a rescued American airmen in Northern Burma . In appreciation of the valuable service he rendered British and American Intelligence, the ‘ Fighting Father,’ as he was afterwards called, was awarded the O.B.E.( Order of the British Empire) at wars end. Stuart was killed either right before or soon after VJ day. Father Mac Alindon’s fate is unknown..
Since the ‘fighting fathers’ many chaplains and operatives in the SF world have taken part in many direct action and unconventional warfare tactics and operations which are all about freeing the oppressed. (The 1950 CIA para military commando operation to rescue the Dalai Lama from certain CHICOM execution, is just one example.)
In effect elite force operations are often to free more conventional forces from the costly rigors of sustained conflict. Thus, they can often take on a spiritual meaning as they commence, but by their completion, often surprise their participants with a ‘de facto’ , de oppresso liber spirit which propels though them to attain there objectives — as though Christ is there, with them .
To those unbelievers reading this – heathens , and agnostics -. a spirit of a greater good defined by all of Christ’s teaching’s often follows one into battle…. Something that continues to propel units that live de oppresso liber into their hearts even if they are not officially U.S. Army Special Forces troopers. Thi mindset is projected via groups like Oath keeprs .org for example
While Army SF troopers free the oppressed and Air Force Pararescue men serve so “That Others May Live” are a far cry from Christ’s physical rebirth, their operational tempo and drive is very much part of the spirit which bounds a soldier to undertake an extreme duty.
A prayer for them and all U.S. Special Forces of modern day comes to mind this Easter
The Special Forces prayer Written in 1961 for William Pelham “Bill” Yarborough by SF Chaplain John Stevey, the 7th SFG (ABN) Chaplain Exemplifies what goes behind the SF troopers
Special Forces Prayer
Almighty GOD, Who art the Author of liberty
and the Champion of the oppressed, hear our prayer.
We, the men of Special Forces, acknowledge
our dependence upon Thee in the preservation of human freedom.
Go with us as we seek to defend the defenseless and to free the enslaved.
May we ever remember that our nation, whose motto
is “In God We Trust”, expects that we shall acquit
ourselves with honor, that we may never bring shame
upon our faith, our families, or our fellow men.
Grant us wisdom from Thy mind, courage from Thine
heart, strength from Thine arm, and protection by Thine hand.
It is for Thee that we do battle, and to Thee belongs the victor’s crown.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, forever. AMEN
In sprit it is a prayer that embodies a lot of what Easter is all about –Hope. The real kind of non political balderdash – hope.
This Easter season, whatever your faith, whatever your branch of service or SOF unit, you or a loved one or friend are part of. Please pause and reflect for the blessings that have helped you/them in and out of harms ways and the noble duty you conduct each day. Remember all who served, and those who continue to serve our nation dutifully — the world over and always remember those like the‘ fighting fathers’ and their exploits so you may hand them down to younger generations of warriors. What ever its problems The catholic clergy may have its short comings but its message is clear and many an elite soldier needs to always remember that without Christ’s spirit in their actions those Americans despite what odds from within or externally are tossed our way , will find the mission of special forces an even tougher road to –free the oppressed on if we abandon it.