THE WAR HERO THAT HAMIL­TON FOR­GOT

Earl McAl­lis­ter sin­gle-hand­edly cap­tured 160 Nazis in one day. He was sup­posed to be hon­oured for his hero­ics, but the city failed to fol­low through. Decades later, his sis­ter is hop­ing to change that

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - MARK MC­NEIL

MORE THAN 70 YEARS AGO, Hamil­ton city coun­cil passed a res­o­lu­tion to hon­our an Ar­gyll and Suther­land High­landers sol­dier who died a hero and whose ex­ploits on the bat­tle­field made in­ter­na­tional head­lines.

But “Lance Sergeant Earl McAl­lis­ter Day” never hap­pened. No one fol­lowed through with civic recog­ni­tion of the 21-year-old Hamil­ton man who in­cred­i­bly cap­tured 160 Nazis in one day in Au­gust 1944, and then was killed by a sniper’s bul­let two months later while try­ing to help a wounded fel­low sol­dier.

Now that over­sight has be­come the fo­cus of a last wish of his 97-year-old sis­ter, Joyce (McAl­lis­ter) Ma­son, who wants to see her brother rec­og­nized be­fore she passes on.

“I would like to see it set­tled and have them do some­thing be­fore it’s too late,” says Ma­son, a widow who lives on her own in an apart­ment on the Moun­tain. “I feel very dis­ap­pointed that they didn’t do some­thing to rec­og­nize him at the time.”

Al­ly­ing her­self with a dis­tant cousin, Gary McAlis­ter — who came to know about the story from do­ing fam­ily tree re­search — she has asked the city to re­visit the is­sue.

“JOYCE 98

WILL BE this year,” Gary says. “She promised her par­ents that she would en­sure that Earl re­ceived the recog­ni­tion he rightly de­served but never re­ceived. It would make her ex­tremely happy and proud if the city could some­how hon­our her brother, per­haps by nam­ing a park or a street af­ter him.”

The fam­ily has been in con­tact with Mayor Fred Eisen­berger’s of­fice and was told the mayor will meet with Ma­son. No date has been set for the meet­ing. Eisen­berger is on va­ca­tion but sup­plied this

He did not suf­fer and let me as­sure (you) he died a hero. PTE. WIL­FRED DAY FROM A LET­TER OF CON­DO­LENCE TO LIL­LIAN SHACKLETON

state­ment: “My of­fice is pleased to ac­knowl­edge the amaz­ing con­tri­bu­tion of Earl McAl­lis­ter a na­tive Hamil­to­nian to our coun­try’s ef­forts dur­ing WWII. We are work­ing with staff to see what our City can do to rec­og­nize his brav­ery and courage that lead to him cap­tur­ing 160 Ger­man sol­diers sin­gle-hand­edly in France dur­ing the war.”

McAlis­ter says he re­al­izes that thou­sands of Hamil­to­ni­ans died in the first and sec­ond world wars, and de­cid­ing who among them to rec­og­nize would be dif­fi­cult. But the fam­ily notes there was an un­ful­filled prom­ise and that McAl­lis­ter’s story in Falaise, France is the stuff of leg­end, even if some of the sol­diers he cap­tured were prob­a­bly re­lieved to exit a war they were los­ing badly.

Ac­cord­ing to an ac­count in The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor, the then pri­vate used a com­bi­na­tion of “force, psy­chol­ogy and courage to put 160 fully-armed Nazis in pris­on­ers’ pens.”

He did this in three en­gage­ments. In the first two, he sim­ply fired over the heads of groups of hid­ing Ger­mans who threw down their weapons and sur­ren­dered. In the third case, about 70 Nazis came un­der his con­trol af­ter he com­man­deered a Ger­man ar­moured car.

The story made the New York Times and Time Mag­a­zine. A 30-sec­ond news reel from the time fea­tures McAl­lis­ter in film footage and shows the cap­tured Ger­mans. A comic book was printed about him and he was fea­tured on post cards.

IT WAS ALL so in­cred­i­ble for a five-foot-three, 135-pound Hamil­ton kid, who car­ried nick­names “Scotty” and “Mac.” His sis­ter says when he joined the Ar­gyll and Suther­land High­landers of Canada, they had trou­ble find­ing a uni­form that would fit.

“He got the short­est kilt he could find. He pulled it up un­der his armpits and put a belt on to hold it up and then put his jacket on. He was so proud of that uni­form,” she said.

Ar­gyll reg­i­men­tal his­to­rian Robert Fraser said, “He was not huge in stature but he was huge in terms of courage. He’s an im­pres­sive in­di­vid­ual. Clearly his feats cap­tured the lo­cal imag­i­na­tion in this com­mu­nity in 1944. It also got con­sid­er­able at­ten­tion around the world. Why noth­ing hap­pened (to rec­og­nize him in Hamil­ton), I have no idea. But noth­ing hap­pened.”

McAl­lis­ter grew up on Went­worth Av­enue North. He was a grad­u­ate of Hamil­ton Tech­ni­cal In­sti­tute, and an em­ployee of Jones Broth­ers’ fac­tory in Dun­das when he en­listed.

He first tried to join the Royal Cana­dian Air Force but was re­jected be­cause of a weak nerve in his left ear. But the Ar­gylls didn’t have a prob­lem with that. He ended up over­seas with the reg­i­ment’s 2nd bat­tal­ion in Fe­bru­ary 1944. He was not part of the June 1944 D-Day land­ing, but found him­self in Nor­mandy shortly af­ter.

Af­ter his death on Oct. 20 of that year in Kapel­len­bosch, Bel­gium, he was de­scribed in a let­ter sent to a Lil­lian Shackleton that even­tu­ally was pub­lished in The Spec­ta­tor. It was started by McAl­lis­ter, writ­ing about con­di­tions he was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing — “the worst thing we have to con­tend with is the in­fer­nal dark­ness when we’re on pa­trol and can’t see our hand in front of our face, let alone where we are walk­ing ...”

He never fin­ished it, and was car­ry­ing the let­ter in his pocket when he died.

Fel­low sol­dier Pte. Wil­fred Day wrote: “This is a let­ter that McAl­lis­ter started but I am very sorry, I must end it for him. Mac, my best friend and yours, was killed yes­ter­day, so I am writ­ing this foot­note to in­form you Mac and I were al­ways to­gether and as he died in my arms he gave me all his be­long­ings and told me to send this on.

“He did not suf­fer and let me as­sure (you) he died a hero. He was a friend of all and we miss him more than any one.

“You may won­der how he died. Well, one of his boys got hit and as Mac went out to get him, he got it as he walked out­side. Well, Lil­lian, I will close now, as I have to write to my Mom.

“Please par­don the blood — it could not have been helped.”

Ac­cord­ing to an ac­count in The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor, the then pri­vate used a com­bi­na­tion of ‘force, psy­chol­ogy and courage to put 160 fully-armed Nazis in pris­on­ers’ pens.’

Lance Sgt. Earl McAl­lis­ter sin­gle-hand­edly cap­tured 160 Nazi sol­diers in one day in Au­gust 1944.

Joyce Ma­son with a photo of her brother Lance Sgt. Earl McAl­lis­ter, who cap­tured 160 Nazi sol­diers. Ma­son, 97, is seek­ing some pub­lic recog­ni­tion for her brother’s ef­forts. Left: A fam­ily photo of Earl McAl­lis­ter.

Top: The place where Earl McAl­lis­ter and other Cana­di­ans died in Bel­gium. His body was later moved to the Cana­dian mil­i­tary ceme­tery in Hol­land. Above: A comic book cre­ated in recog­ni­tion of McAl­lis­ter’s cap­ture of Nazis.

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