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Royal Canadian Legion recognizes Sir William Stephenson honour

The Maple Leaf

24 June 2009

On 2 May 2009, Branch 637, The Sir William Stephenson Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion officially recognized the induction of the late Sir William Stephenson, CC, MC, DFC, as an honorary member of the United States Military Intelligence Corps.  This is a significant honour that has been bestowed upon only 2 other non-Americans, and one of many honours that have been bestowed upon this great Canadian.

Stephenson, a Canadian, is the man that many in the intelligence world consider to be the ultimate spymaster.  He founded Special Training School #103, otherwise known as “Camp X”, which was considered by many as the finest espionage training camp of the Second World War.  Agents from America’s intelligence services expressed an interest in sending personnel for training at Camp X.  Even before the camp officially opened on 7 December 1941, one day after the attack on Pearl Harbour, agents from the FBI and the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), including OSS head Colonel William “Wild Bill” Donovan, secretly attended Camp X.

In the process, he also became British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill’s personal representative to American President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Donovan would later credit Stephenson with teaching Americans all they know about foreign intelligence gathering and his influence would be credited in the creation of the CIA, as expressed by CIA Executive Director David W. Carey in 2000.  The CIA even named their recruit training facility “The Farm”; a nod to the original farm that existed at the Camp X site.

This praised continued in 1946 when Stephenson was presented with the Presidential Medal for Merit, the first non-U.S. citizen to receive the medal, for his “valuable assistance to America in the fields of intelligence and special operations”.

The fact that Stephenson had not been officially recognized by the United States Military Intelligence Corps for his work was quickly corrected in August 2008 by MGen John M. Custer, Commanding General of the United States Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca in Arizona, who agreed that this was an oversight.  MGen Custer rectified the situation by inducting Sir William Stephenson as an Honorary Member of the United States Military Intelligence Corps, an honour shared by only two other non-Americans.

A certificate issued by MGen Custer, was presented to Donna Bunting, President of Branch 637, The Sir William Stephenson Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion.   Guests in attendance included Royal Canadian Legion Provincial President George O’Dair, Deputy Zone Commander Lorraine Duncan and members of various veterans associations.  Guest speaker LCol David Rubin, HLCol of 2 Intelligence Company, gave an informative speech recalling his personal dealings with Sir William via messages, and his almost meeting with him in Bermuda.

Nothing remains at the former Camp site X today, and the property is now a passive park appropriately named “Intrepid Park”, a nod to Sir William’s code name.  One of the camp’s former buildings was re-located to Thickson Road in Whitby; the only one known to still exist.

A monument was erected in 1984 at Intrepid Park to honour the men and women of Camp X, a camp that many in the intelligence world consider to be the finest espionage training camp of the Second World War.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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