A Congressional Gold Medal is to be awarded to the First Special Service Force, a joint American-Canadian volunteer unit, in recognition of their World War II service. Before this happens, however, designs for the medal must be selected so that the United States Mint can produce it.
As part of the standard process for coins and medals, the United States Mint has artists create multiple designs which are then reviewed and possibly tweaked before the final selections. Eighteen different design candidates were recently revealed by the U.S. Mint for the obverse (heads side) of the First Special Service Force Gold Medal with twenty-one more unveiled for its reverse.
These designs feature varying imagery representative of individuals who served in the ‘Force,’ the multiple locations of battles they participated in and emblems associated with the unit.
Gold Medal Designs
More information about the First Special Service Force and the Congressional Gold Medal are below, but first, here are line art images of the design candidates.
Obverse First Special Service Force Gold Medal Designs
Reverse First Special Service Force Gold Medal Designs
Background on First Special Service Force and Congressional Gold Medal
Congress directed the gold medal be awarded to the First Special Service Force "in recognition of its superior service during World War II." Of note, two-thirds of the membership of both the United States House of Representatives and the Senate must co-sponsor legislation authorizing a Congressional Gold Medal according to committee rules. The authorizing act for the First Special Service Force Gold Medal became Public Law 113-16 on July 12, 2013 when it was signed by President Obama.
The ‘Force’ is also sometimes called the "Devil’s Brigade" or the "Black Devils." These nicknames were earned in combat based on its fierce style of fighting in blackened faces.
"Properly designated as the 1st Special Service Force, the Devil’s Brigade was a joint World War II American-Canadian commando unit trained at Fort Harrison near Helena, Montana in the United States," describes a website (www.firstspecialserviceforce.net) dedicated to the force. "Many modern American and Canadian Special Forces units trace their heritage to this unit."
In its short two and a half year history, the unit and support staff of just 2,300 would create an awe-inspiring legacy with thousands of enemy casualties attributed to it and thousands more captured. Their record did not come without a price, however, as it suffered a casualty rate listed at 134 percent of its authorized strength.
The medal honoring them is to be given to the First Special Service Force Association in Helena, Montana. It may also be displayed on temporary loan at other appropriate locations associated with the First Special Service Force.
Congress also authorized the United States Mint to produce and sell bronze medal replicas of the Congressional medal.