Researched and Written by Michelle Gilbert. Copyrighted, please do not reproduce without the author’s permission The Presidential
    Unit Citation
    Born on August 7th, 1917, Bernard R. Cooper grew up on a farm near Tolland, Alberta. Bernard had to quit school at grade 8 to leave home to work for room and board. He was paid 15 dollars per month. There is no question these difficult times made him ruggedly tough. In 1941 he completed compulsory military training in Camrose, Alberta. From there he joined the Edmonton Fusiliers. When stationed in Prince Rupert, BC, he was approached by a recruiting officer asking if he may be interested in joining a paratroop force being formed down in Helena, Montana. This was a refreshing offer as he noted he was getting ‘soft’ working as a staff car driver. Always up for a new challenge, Cooper jumped at the chance and signed up right away.

    He joined many other recruits from throughout Canada and the US at Fort Harrison. Along with his fellow comrades, Cooper was subjected to highly rigorous training involving parachute training, demolition, unit tactics, skiing, exposure to frigid temperatures - including cold showers, long route marches, rock climbing and hand to hand combat. The strategy for this hard core approach was to sift out the men who may not be the best of the best needed to complete the force’s missions that lay ahead.

    Promoted to Sergeant shortly after graduating paratrooper
    training, Sergeant Bernard R. Cooper was placed into Second
    Company, First Regiment (2-1). He and his comrades were soon on the USA liberty ship Nathaniel Wyeth soon bound for the
    Aleutian Islands, Alaska to face the Japanese but the enemy retreated after they arrived. Once back to the US, they soon headed east to Casablanca then Naples, Italy.
    It was in Italy where Sergeant Cooper had his first taste of battle on Monte La Difensa. In a letter he wrote enroute back from the Aleutian Islands, his strength and courage came through in his following words: “I followed with interest just how I felt at all times…and I didn’t feel a thing!”. Sergeant Cooper concluded it was the same for him even during the battles he faced in Italy,
    claiming one couldn’t feel, one had to keep going, to complete the mission no matter who you saw fall right beside you. Feeling was for once the missions were done.

    Receiving his first injury on Mt. Sammucro, Sergeant Cooper was able to continue fighting and was attended to by medics a couple days later. He would then receive his second injury during the Force’s mission at Mussolini Canal and his third injury while being sent out as a scout on
    breakout day at Anzio. Due to the extensiveness of his third injury he was hospitalized for sometime and had various pieces of shell fragments surgically removed from many parts of his face and body. Sergeant Cooper later joined his comrades just after the liberation of Rome. While serving in France, he heard those with tri-wounds were eligible to apply for compassionate leave and he eventually found himself Canada bound in 1945. Sergeant Cooper shared hisaccounts with the Force in his book he wrote just before his 100th birthday.
    Sgt. Bernard R. Cooper seen above in uniform 1943.
    His Edmonton Fusilliers pin on hat, FSSF Spearhead badge on left shoulder, paratrooper wings placed above left pocket and US Infantry collar insignia 1943.
    Image: Michelle Gilbert
    Sgt. Cooper was awarded the 1939-45 Star for six months’ service on active operations, Italy Star for operational service in Italy - Monte La Difensa, Monte La Rematanea, Monte La Sammucro, Mussolini Canal (Anzio) 1944,
    Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with clasp,1939-45 War Medal, Bronze Star Medal (fifth highest medal awarded by the US, and the fourth highest medal for bravery in the US), US Infantryman’s Badge for active ground combat, Medal of Honour awarded by France for service in 1944 and as a unit the FSSF was awarded the US Congressional Gold Medal of Honour in 2015 for their courageous service in WWII, never failing amission.