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[82nd Airborne Division Patch]   All American: The Story of the 82nd Airborne Division

[All American: The Story of the 82nd Airborne Division]
"All American" is a small booklet covering the history of the 82nd Airborne Division. This booklet is one of the series of G.I. Stories published by the Stars & Stripes in Paris in 1944-1945.

See also: 101st Airborne Division: The Story of the 101st Airborne Division

[Dedication, Major General James M. Gavin: 82nd Airborne Division]

ere is a brief story of the 82nd "All-American" Airborne Division, which can but highlight your accomplishments. Every day, in training and combat, each of you has contributed your part in making this division what it is today. Our comrades who have died or who have been wounded and are no longer with us have contributed in a full measure individually their share to the creation of the present "All-American" Division. To you who have joined us recently, this is your heritage -- this incomparable courage, irrepressible fighting spirit and combat skill that have carried us through successful combat in every major battle in the European Theater, frequently with tremendous odds against us, always to decisive victory.

Good landings and good luck.

James M. Gavin
Major General, Commanding.


[The Story of the 82nd Airborne Division]

EPT. 17, 1944: It was a sunny Sunday afternoon when 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers tumbled from droning transports above the Nijmegen area. Troopers, and glidermen who followed, were veterans of Sicily, Italy, Normandy. This was the fourth combat jump for some; the second glider flight for others -- a record that still stands.

Landing more than 50 miles behind enemy lines, All-Americans were to blast a corridor through which the British Second Army could split Holland from the Albert Canal to Zuider Zee. The plan was designed to trap thousands of Germans troops to the west and blaze a path to the Fatherland.

The mission was in quadruplicate: to capture the Grave Bridge over the Maas River; to gain control of the huge "Gateway to Holland," Nijmegen Bridge, eight air miles northeast; to seize at least one span over the Maas-Waal Canal between Nijmegen and Grave; to take the highest ground in all Holland, at Berg En Dahl.

Official reports termed ground opposition to the 82nd's landing as "negligible." Such was hardly true as Pvt. Edwin C. Raub, Camp Lee, Va., 505th Parachute Inf., descended. With bullets ripping through his canopy, Raub slipped his 'chute to land near an AA gun. Without removing his harness, he killed one German, captured the crew, disabled the gun.

Surprised Germans fled but were quick to rally. Fierce battles raged before "Mission Accomplished" was written into the records. Such was the Battle of Nijmegen which Columbia Broadcasting System Correspondent Bill Downs described as "...a single, isolated battle that ranks in magnificence and courage with Guam, Tarawa, Omaha Beach... a story that should be told to the blowing of bugles and the beating of drums for the men whose bravery made the capture of this crossing over the Waal River possible."

[Holland: 82nd Airborne Division]

While the 504th Parachute Inf. made a daring, daylight crossing of the swift Waal in the face of direct machine gun and 40mm fire to take the north end of the bridge, a 505th battalion, aided by British tanks, swept through German defenses to capture the southern approach. Simultaneously, the 508th Parachute Inf. shouldered a Nazi counter-attack to the west, while the remainder of the 505th crushed another counter-thrust at Mook, seven miles south.

The 504th, under Col. Reuben H. Tucker, Ansonia, Conn., captured the Grave bridge in a dramatic fight. Troopers took over a flak tower, then turned its guns on a similar tower across the river. Men crossed in half sunken boats to remove demolitions from the bridge. The 508th grabbed Berg En Dahl and reached Nijmegen by nightfall. The 505th took Groesbeek and protected the south flank of the extended 82nd boundary.

All three regiments combined efforts to capture crossings over the Maas-Waal Canal Sept. 18. Except for the Nijmegen bridges, the 82nd's mission virtually was accomplished when contact was made with the British Guards Armd. Div. the next day. The Dutch Underground rendered invaluable assistance.

Division artillery glider elements and Special Troops glided in the second day. Some landing zones still were under enemy fire. It was men like 1st Sgt. Leonard A. Funk, Wilkinsburg, Pa., who kept glider landings from resembling another Normandy when counter-attacking Germans overran the 508th's drop zone, which also was the glider field.

[Paratrooper and Glider: 82nd Airborne Division]

Moving to the front of his company, the sergeant helped rally his men in a drive across 800 yards of open ground. Spotting four 20mm guns, Funk, with two others, attacked and destroyed each gun and crew. With glider landings imminent, he led a group to put three more AA guns out or action, killing more than 15 Germans.

IJMEGEN Bridge was taken intact Sept. 20. Describing the assault, Downs reported:

"American Airborne infantry and British tanks beleaguered the streets of Nijmegen only 300 yards from the bridge that night, but they couldn't get it... A daring plan was drawn up. Wednesday morning, the infantry (504th) made its way to the industrial outskirts along the river bank... British tanks protected troopers in street fighting, acted as artillery when the crossings were made...

"Twenty-six assault boats were in the water. Two hundred and sixty men would make the first assault. Waiting for them on the other bank were 400 to 600 Germans... the shelling continued. A smoke screen was laid, but it wasn't very effective because of the wind... Men slumped in their seats... of those 260 men, half were wounded or killed... only 13 of 26 boats came back... Others didn't wait for boats. Some stripped off equipment, took a bandolier of ammunition and swam the river, rifles on their backs.

[Glider Tow: 82nd Airborne Division]

"There was bitter bayonet fighting and Americans died, but more Germans died. That's only part of the story... British tanks and American Airborne Infantry (2nd Bn., 505th) began their frontal assault on the southern end of the bridge at the same time as the river crossing was started... Americans went through the houses on either side of the street.

"The southern end of the bridge has a large circular island approach. In this island were four self-propelled guns. There was nothing to do but rush the guns. So the tanks lined up four abreast and all roared into the street, firing... the American Airborne troops and British tankmen seized the south end of the bridge. Only tanks could get across at first because half a dozen fanatical Germans remained high in the girders, sniping... The Nijmegen Bridge was in our hands intact as a monument to the gallantry of the 82nd Airborne soldiers, those who crossed the river, those who stormed it from the south."

Bitter fighting continued. The German Sixth Parachute Div. launched a coordinated attack toward Mook from the south and Berg En Dahl from the west. A full regiment drove a wedge into the two-mile front held by the remainder of the 505th. Positions were restored, however, within 24 hours.

Nazis also smacked the 508th after it had plunged into the flat lowlands of Germany at Wyler and Beek. The fierce assault swept within a short distance of Berg En Dahl, but a counter-attack threw the enemy from the hills and Beek was regained.

Pvt. John R. Towle, Tyrone, Pa., posthumously won the Congressional Medal of Honor when the enemy attacked the 504th's toehold north of the Waal with infantry and tanks Sept. 21. A bazookaman, Towle left his foxhole, crossed open ground under heavy fire and beat off tanks with rocket fire. He killed nine Germans with one round and was attacking a half-track when killed by a mortar shell. His action helped smother the German attack which not only threatened the bridgehead, but also thwarted relief of British paratroopers at Arnhem.

[Parachute Drop: 82nd Airborne Division]

Delayed a week by bad weather, the 325th Glider Inf. landed Sept. 23 and immediately widened the corridor by ousting Germans from the Kiekberg woods. The enemy made only one more effort before settling back, attacking 508th positions in force Oct. 1. Artillery fire sprayed the division area, but the front was restored the next day.

Constant patrolling became the routine until Nov. 13 when the division was relieved by Canadian troops. During this period, Pvt Bennie F. Siemanowicz, Nashau, N.H., 505th, observed two Germans for 10 days as they built a foxhole, roofed it with sheet metal and turf and prepared to settle down for the winter. One afternoon, Siemanowicz took off from his OP, crossed a mined bridge and ran along a dike to reach the prize foxhole. He exchanged shots with the startled Nazis, wounding one. Making the other carry his wounded companion, Siemanowicz returned under fire to his lines.

Division Commander James M. Gavin was promoted to major general in October. "Slim Jim," as his men called him, now got another nickname -- "The Two-Star Platoon Leader." First out of his plane on four combat jumps, the General specialized in close contact with his men. One of his aides, Capt. Hugo Olson, Cambridge, Minn., was wounded on two occasions while accompanying Gen. Gavin.

Following the 82nd's action in Holland, Lt. Gen. Sir Miles C. Dempsey, British Second Army Commander, paid this tribute to Gen. Gavin:

"I'm proud to meet the Commanding General of the greatest division in the world today."

ATTLE standards of the 82nd Inf. Div. had been sleeping in their cases nearly 24 years when the new war brought the division to life March 25, 1942, at Camp Claiborne, La.

Out of moth balls came the red, white and blue All-American patch, a shoulder patch adopted in 1917 when men of the 82nd were gathered from every section of the country.

All-Americans began making battle history June 25, 1918, in the Lorraine sector. Remaining in that area until mid-September, the 82nd fought in the St. Mihiel operation and was a bulwark in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. From Oct. 10 to 31, the division made steady gains astride the Aire River to the region east of St. Juvin, where a sergeant names Alvin York killed 20 Germans with 20 shots and snared 132 prisoners at Hill 223.

The old 82nd spent a longer consecutive period under fire than any other American division in World War I. It had many heroes besides Sgt. York. One was a thin major called "Skinny," who later became a lieutenant general and headed a brilliant stand at Corregidor. His name is Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright.

The new All-Americans were eager, hard-working. Such rapid progress was made under Maj. Gen. (now Lt. Gen.) Omar N. Bradley and Brig. Gen. (now Maj. Gen.) Matthew B. Ridgway that the division was selected for a vital role in the new American Airborne forces.

[Loading for Ship Transport: 82nd Airborne Division]

Aug. 15, 1942, the outfit was split into two airborne divisions, the 82nd and the 101st. Gen Ridgway retained command of the 82nd, which lost the 327th Inf., 321st and 907th FA Bns., and sizeable portions of other units but added the 504th Parachute Inf. and created the 80th Airborne AA Bn.

Following movement to Ft. Bragg, N.C., for intensive Airborne training, the division underwent additional reorganization in Feb. 1943. The future Division Commander, Gen. Gavin, then a colonel, brought his 505th Parachute Inf. from Ft. Benning to replace the 326th Glider Inf. The 456th Parachute FA Bn. appeared on the morning report as the division prepared for overseas.

HE 82nd landed at Casablanca, May 10, 1943. Sicily was two months away. The period was spent training in the dust-covered Oujda-Marhnia area amid a setting of flies, atabrine and a monotonous diet. Parades were held for Gen. Eisenhower, Lt. Gen. Mark Clark, Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., and for the governor-general of Spanish Morocco. Short-barrelled 105mm howitzers were transported in gliders for the first time. Movement to Kairouan brought the training to an end.


[Operations Pay Extra Dividends, Sicily: 82nd Airborne Division]

UNE 9, 1943: the 505th Regt. Combat Team, reinforced by 1st Bn., 504th, tumbled out over Sicily at midnight. Mission was to block roads, prevent enemy troop movement from the north and east to the Gela area where the 1st Inf. Div. was to land. The remainder of the All-Americans would be held in reserve, prepared to land by parachute and glider if needed.

Under best conditions, the job was tough, but doubly so that night. Tricky winds played hob with aerial navigation. Parachutists were scattered along a 50-mile stretch. After landing and for the next few days, Airborne troopers fought slashing guerilla action, ferreted out and destroyed German and Italian forces. Some battled alongside British on Sicily's east coast. They harassed and confused elements of five enemy divisions, including part of the notorious Hermann Goering Panzer Div. A small number of the 505th ambushed and annihilated a relief column Germans had sent to Gela.

Led by Lt. Col. Arthur Gorham, Wichita, Kan., who was killed in the fighting, part of 1st Bn., 505th, accomplished most of the regimental mission. Farther north, Lt. Col. Charles W. Kouns, Ardsley-on-Hudson, N.Y., was captured after he and a handful of his 3rd Bn., 504th troopers, put up heroic resistance near Niscemi. Capt. Edwin L. Sayre, Breckenridge, Tex., led a small group against a fortified farm house where 60 Italians waited with 10 machine guns. Six grenades tossed by S/Sgt. Oscar L. Queen, Houston, settled the controversy.

Capture of Comiso, Noto and Ragusa were extra dividends paid by Airborne operations. Fighting as they went, troopers traveled by foot, mule, bicycle, truck and Italian tankette to assemble after landing.

Led by Gen. Gavin, 300 men, three 75mm parachute howitzers and two anti-tank guns, the last borrowed from the 45th Inf. Div., ran a large enemy force off Viazza Ridge. The customary German counter-attack swept within 50 feet of the general's CP before it broke in the face of artillery fire and raw courage -- courage like that of Pfc Lewis Baldwin. The Ohioan went forth to certain death in a captured tankette to reconnoiter Mark VI tank operations.

[Religious Service: 82nd Airborne Division]

The Silver Star was awarded Cpl. Wesley G. Snell, Lamoure, N.D., who, with his gun crew, "moved to the forward slope and while under heavy machine gun fire in plain view of the enemy, served his gun in a superior manner by laying fire directly into the enemy positions."

The remainder of the 504th awaited the take-off signal from Gen. Ridgway, who landed with the amphibious force on D-Day. The green light wasn't flashed until the next day because Germans occupied the landing area.

As the low-flying 504th approached the Sicilian coast, it flew into a wall of fire from friendly naval and ground forces. Twenty-three planes were shot down, six with troopers aboard; others were damaged. The scattered regiment required several days to reassemble. Brig. Gen. Charles L. Keerans, Ass't Division Commander, who made the flight to observe the drop, failed to return.

Glider flights of Division Special Troops and the 325th Inf. were cancelled after the 504th's misfortune, but part of Headquarters and detachments of Special Troops, were flown in July 16, landing on the newly-won Ponte Olivio airfield.

[Glider Tow: 82nd Airborne Division]

Moving by borrowed truck with the 39th RCT, 9th Inf. Div. attached, the 82nd jumped off from the Realmonte vicinity next day. The push was on through the vineyard-studded fields of western Sicily. The division moved 125 miles in seven days, corralled more than 23,000 prisoners. The entire western half of the island was under Allied control by July 14.

Churning through Ribera and Sciacca, the division then veered north and captured Menfi, Tuminellow Pass and San Margherita. The 2nd Armd. Div. sliced across All-American's front on its dash to Palermo as the 82nd turned northwest to capture the big port of Trapani. Castellammare and Capo San Vito were taken next day. The surrender of the Egadi Island group on July 29 concluded the 82nd's Sicilian campaign. The 207th, 202nd and 208th Italian Coastal Divs. were wiped out.


[Devils in Baggy Pants, Italy: 82nd Airborne Division]

EPT. 13, 1943: Parachutes blossomed over the Salerno beachhead. They belonged to the 504th RCT which was answering Gen. Mark Clark's urgent request for reinforcements.

No sooner did the first troopers land than Col. Tucker was asking VI Corps, "What next?" The colonel's only question to the outlined plan was, "When do we start?"

After training nearly a month, the 82nd had been ready to push off once before. The division had its sights set on dropping near Rome and seizing the Eternal City. But with troopers ready to board planes and others at sea, headed for the Tiber River area, the lines buzzed: "Hold everything!" Germans had taken over the landing area. The operation was postponed.

Now came the McCoy. The 504th set out by foot that night -- set out toward the rugged hills of Altavilla and Albanella to the battle destined to whip back the German counter-attack and secure the beachhead toe-hold. The 505th RCT dropped the following night, joined in the Altavilla battle and protected Fifth Army's right flank.

Ability of Swiss-born Pfc Peter R. Schneider, New York City, 504th, to speak German paid dividends at Altavilla. Spotting an enemy machine gun squad and an infantry platoon, Schneider crawled to meet them, shouting, "Move that machine gun to the right!" They did and were wiped out. When the German commander came up to see what had happened, Schneider dropped him too.

[Generals in Sicily: 82nd Airborne Division]

The 509th Parachute Inf. Bn., attached to the 82nd, landed the same night as the 505th, far back of enemy lines at Avellino to harass communication lines. The seaborne 325th Glider Inf. came up to reinforce the 504th and 505th, dropping off one company to grab the island of Ischia in Naples Bay. The regiment then moved up to the Maiori-Chiunzi Pass area, joining the Rangers and the 319th Glider FA.

Typical heroism was exhibited by Capt. Robert L. Dickerson, Henderson, Ky., Co. E, 315th Glider Inf., when be "successfully defended a salient 800 yards into enemy lines against a bold and aggressive foe through eight hours of continuous attack. Although... deprived of artillery support, Capt. Dickerson remained in his CP, in a position declared untenable by the troops he relieved."

Division Headquarters and Special Troops moved to the beachhead by plane and boat. With the 504th and 505th they arrived at the Maiori-Chiunzi Pass area by truck and LCI.

[Ste. Mere Eglise, Normandy: 82nd Airborne Division]

Germans withdrew the same night as British X Corps, including the 82nd and Rangers, attacked over Sorrento Ridge. The Allies plunged ahead, pouring onto the Naples plain in late September.

Attached to the British 23rd Armd. Brig., the 505th participated in the capture of Naples. Oct. 1, Maj. Edward Kraus' 3rd Bn. raised the American flag over the city. The 504th, with the British X Corps, skirted the base of Mt. Vesuvius, by-passed Naples, returned later to join the division.

While the 505th, again attached to British troops for a few days, swept north and cleared enemy troops as far as the Volturno, All-Americans began policing "Bella Napoli." A time bomb wrecked part of the post office building across the street from Division Headquarters; another destroyed the 307th A/B Engr. and 407th A/B QM. Co. buildings, causing casualties.

[82nd Airborne Division: All-Americans All Over]

[Nijmegen: 82nd Airborne Division]

Late October, the 504th went into action again. This regimental combat team, which had lost four field officers since entering Italy, was to remain in almost constant battle till March, 1944. It fought in the hills near Isernia, where supplies had to be hand-carried or mule-packed; assaulted mountain positions in the Venafro sector, then landed in the first wave at Anzio.

NZIO was a steel-ribbed beachhead where daylight movement produced instant enemy artillery fire and darkness brought constant patrolling. Second Lt. (then S/Sgt.) Bernard F. Karnap, Portsmouth, Ohio, one night led a patrol which killed 16 Germans, wounding many others.

A new nickname for paratroopers, "Devils in Baggy Pants," came out of Anzio when a German officer wrote in his diary, "Enemy patrols in baggy pants are 100 meters from my OP. We don't know who they are or from where they come. Seems like black devils (troopers blackened their faces for patrol missions) are all around."

Meanwhile, the remainder of the division sailed for the U.K., spending two months in Ireland after landing at Belfast Dec. 9. The 82nd moved to the Leicester and Nottingham areas mid-February. The 2nd A/B Inf. Brig., including the 507th and 508th Inf. Regts., was attached. The 504th RCT rejoined it in May but was to rest, not participate in the Normandy invasion.

For the All-Americans, the U.K. was like coming into a lighted room from the darkness. Although it was a well-earned breather, Airborne training soon was to be resumed. The main event was coming up!


[Paging the Main Event, France: 82nd Airborne Division]

UNE 5, 1944: Stars blinked overhead as grim-faced paratroopers, equipped to the hilt, moved quietly to transports. Props spun, the roar crescendoing as the operation the world awaited -- the invasion of Europe -- became a reality.

Fog blanketed the peninsula, the line of flight and drop zones. Then, hours before the huge bomber armada was to saturate Normandy, the Navy was to shell the coast and doughs were to wade ashore, All-Americans floated earthward to the heart of German defenses.

Parachutists bumped into hedgerows from Cherbourg to the deep mainland. Some dropped into the Merderet River. Gliderborne anti-tank six-pound guns and considerable equipment were lost as widely scattered gliders were wrecked or came under fife. The 505th landed in good order; the 507th and 508th were widely dispersed.

[GIs in Normandy: 82nd Airborne Division]

Startled Germans swung into action. The pencil lines of tracer bullets increased as the air train droned on endlessly. Burning planes lighted the countryside. Again, All-Americans fought to assemble.

This was the pay-off of hectic, rushed planning. Work of months fluttered into wastebaskets when Gen. Ridgway spoke to unit commanders on D minus 11. Germans had moved a division, the 91st, to the 82nd's proposed landing area.

The mission had to be moved eastward, nearer the beach-landing forces, to elbow the 91st and other enemy from the beachhead. The plan called for Gen. Gavin's Task Force A, the parachutists, to drop one regiment east of the flooded Merderer and two regiments to the west, forming a bridgehead for the 4th Inf. Div. and other VII Corps units. Only the Corps mission -- to cut the peninsula and capture Cherbourg in the shortest possible time -- remained the same.

[Squad and Rifleman Advance: 82nd Airborne Division]

Some Division Headquarters and Special Troops personnel would parachute. Others would form a 50-glidertrain. More glidermen would follow on D plus 1. The 82nd's fellow Airborne outfit, the 101st, would land between the 82nd and the beaches.

Third Bn., 505th, under Col. Kraus, swept into Ste. Mere Eglise, first French town to be liberated. Never was it to be relinquished. At 0500, the American flag that had waved proudly over Naples was unfurled. Waterborne invaders still were offshore.

Despite a broken leg, Lt. Col. Ben Vandervoort, Columbus, Ohio, stuck to his post as 2nd Bn. CO, 505th, and helped defend Ste. Mere Eglise. Col Roy Linquist, Pittsfield, Me., organized part of the 508th and moved south, capturing Chef du Pont.

The 507th was assembled, although Col. George V. Millett, Jr., Kansas City, Mo., was missing, and shoved south to protect the Chef du Pont bridge. Anchored in the middle of an island, the bridge was alive with German machine guns and artillery.

Some eight miles away, the waterborne assault was underway.

[Airborne Artillery: 82nd Airborne Division]

To the 82nd, the span over the Merderet became "Kellam's Bridge." Maj. Fred Kellam, Jennings, La., 1st Bn., 505th, his executive, Maj, Jim McGinity, and the two next senior officers were killed in the defense of the bridge. Lt. Col. Herbert Batchelor, Minneapolis, Minn., a 508th battalion commander and former CO of the 505th, also was killed. Desperate Germans failed to get troops across the river.

Two bazooka teams, which destroyed five tanks, were awarded Distinguished Service Crosses, for their gallant stand at the bridge. Team members were S/Sgt. (then Pfc) John Bolderson, West Plains, Mo.; Pfc Lenold Peterson, Viking, Minn.; Pvt. Marcus Hein, Jr., Buffalo, N.Y.; Pvt. Gordon C. Pryne, Van Nuys, Calif.

Gen. Ridgway, who jumped with the 505th, set up his CP in a ditch beside a hedgerow. Gen. Gavin's headquarters was a railroad embankment. Ste. Mere Eglise was under attack from the north and south. Troopers fought tanks with grenades.

That night, Col. (then Lt. Col.) Robert Wienecke wrote in his G-3 report: "Short 60 percent Infantry, 90 percent Artillery. Combat efficiency: Excellent."

[82nd Airborne Troops in France, 1944: 82nd Airborne Division]

It was a rough night for the All-American's. The enemy crept within a quartermile of the division CP, and intermittent 88 and sniper fire bounced off the hedgerow "roof." Germans were desperate to smash Airborne troops and gain the beachhead. Every man not actually in the line turned all but one clip of ammunition over to those who were.

When the 325th and Special Troops landed, many gliders overturned. However, Col. Harry E. Lewis, Sarasota, Fla., had nearly 80 percent of his regiment organized within two hours and on the march to Chef du Pont. Another German attack was beaten off at Kellam's Bridge. Enemy tanks nearly punched through to Ste. Mere Eglise.

Word trickled through that the 4th Inf. Div. was about to make contact. Gen. Ridgway's first message requested medical supplies and ambulances. Late June 7, the Corps Commander arrived. A tank company rolled up.

The same night, 400 troopers of the 508th were across the river under heavy attack; half a battalion was east of Amfreville. Garbled radio messages signed, "CO, 507," filtered in. Col. Millett and several hundred men were west of the town.

With the 505th and a 325th battalion already swinging north to capture Station and Le Ham, and to battle the German 243rd Div., nearly five miles northwest, a daring plan was drawn. First Bn., 325th, sloshed along a flooded railroad embankment the next night to carry it out.

Crossing the river, the battalion made contact with Lt. Col. Charles Timmes' unit cast of Amfreville. Bitter fighting stymied the plan for this force and Col. Millett's to meet. The Millett group was lost, only a few escaping.

Kellam's Bridge was the scene of fierce fighting again June 9 when 3rd Bn., 325th, with tanks attached, attacked across the river. Securing a bridgehead, the battalion eventually contacted the other crossing force. Troopers of the 507th took part in the battle, swinging southwest to meet Lt. Col. Tom Shanley's isolated 508th forces, which already had cleared the western approaches to the Chef du Pont bridge.

The German 91st Div. was through as a fighting unit.

Station and Le Ham were liberated June 12. The 90th Inf. Div. passed through the 82nd on the west flank. There were more surprises for the enemy. Col. Lindquist's 508th, with Division and Corps Engineers building bridges, forced a crossing on the Douve River at Beuzeville-La-Bastille the same day. The regiment plunged four miles southward through Baupte, knocking out or capturing 16 Renault tanks. The distance now separating the northern and southern elements was more than 11 miles.

[Parachute Drop: 82nd Airborne Division]

The 82nd turned westward. June 14, the 325th and 507th attacked through the 90th Div., moving forward in bitter, galling fighting against the German 77th Div. The 505th relieved the 507th next day, the step by step advance continuing. By late afternoon, the enemy's back east of the Douve was broken.

Germans split their forces. Next day, All-Americans crossed the river, took St. Sauveur le Vicomte and paved the way for the 9th Div. to complete cutting the peninsula. The 82nd front now stretched approximately 25 miles.

The 325th, with a 508th battalion attached, cleared the Vindefontaine area. Within a few days, the entire division was south of the Douve. In a driving rain, All-Americans surged forward July 3 as part of the overall VIII Corps assault. Hill 131, commanding terrain in the entire area, fell that morning. Before dark, La Poterie Ridge was captured. Corps orders kept the 82nd from entering La Haye du Puits.

ITHDRAWN into Army reserve, All-Americans returned to England July 14. The official division history read: "...33 days of action without relief, without replacements... every mission accomplished... no ground gained ever relinquished." One company came out of the line with only 16 men. Most division units received the Presidential Citation for their work.

Gen. Ridgway and some of his staff left to take command of XVIII Corps (Airborne). The first Allied Airborne Army with Lt. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton in command now came into being. Corps and three American Airborne divisions were commanded by former 82nd Div. generals.

The 507th Parachute Inf. was relieved of attachment to the 82nd in England. Gen. Gavin took command of the division Aug. 27, 1944.


[Victory the All-American Way, Belgium and Luxembourg: 82nd Airborne Division]

EC. 17, 1944: The telephone jangled at Gen. Gavin's headquarters. SHAEF was calling. Von Rundstedt was on the march. Could the division move out within 24 hours, if necessary? The division could!

Two hours later, the telephone rang again. SHAEF again. Trucks were on the way. The division could move to Bastogne at 0900 the next day. The 101st A/B Div. would follow.

The next 12 hours were organized confusion. Supplies and equipment were packed. Little new equipment had been drawn because "show down" inspections were underway. Thousands of items had to be drawn from warehouses 50 miles away. Movements had to be integrated. It was a period of triumphant cooperation, within the division and with Com Z. Less than 23 hours after SHAEF's first call, All-Americans were going into position 150 miles away.

[Winter in the Ardennes: 82nd Airborne Division]

A prime German objective was Liege. The All-American mission was to hold a rectangular area southwest of the town. They held it for a week. Another assignment was to contact elements of the 9th and 7th Armd. Divs., and to provide a withdrawal route for the 28th and 106th Inf. Divs., which had been cut off.

The 82nd set up a perimeter defense and sent out scouts to gather information. Within two days, the rectangle was occupied, German stabs across the Salm River blunted and a battalion combat team of the Adolf Hitler SS Div. put out of action.

The 504th send its 1st Bn. toward Cheneux Dec. 20 against an SS battalion equipped with flak wagons, half-tracks, self-propelled artillery and tanks. All-Americans battled this formidable force with rifles, grenades, bazookas and knives. The 82nd organized a "cannon company" with captured equipment after gaining a clear-cut victory.

[Artillery in Battle of the Bulge: 82nd Airborne Division]

During the fierce battle, S/Sgt. William P. (Knobby) Walsh, Waunakee, Wis., Co. B, 504th, crept within 15 feet of a flak wagon largely responsible for a high casualty toll. Before he could pull his grenade pin, shrapnel from a tree burst pierced his left arm and lodged in his side. His left arm useless, Walsh crawled back to a buddy and had him pull the pin. With the grenade fuse sputtering, the sergeant raced to the flak wagon and dropped the grenade into the cockpit, wiping out the crew. "Let's go! he shouted as he started for the next flak wagon. Walsh carried on until he collapsed.

Germans continued to peck away at the eastern and southern boundaries of the rectangle. Failing with each thrust, they would recoil and try further west. Each attack increased in intensity. With All-Americans holding the L'Ambleve River line, the 30th Inf. Div. spun a web around the entire SS regiment. The Hitler unit was trapped.

[Machine Gun Position: 82nd Airborne Division]

Contact with the surrounded American units was made Dec. 21 and their withdrawal through the All-Americans was completed three days later. The 82nd now shifted westward with the Germans until its lines were tight. Dec. 23, Germans took the crossroad south of Manhay. Higher headquarters ordered the division to shorten its front, to withdraw to a line running generally from Trois Ponts to Manhay. Even though the wreck of the 1st SS had eliminated the north boundary, All-Americans still had a 10-mile front.

HE 82nd withdrew that night, contacting 800 survivors of the SS regiment and wiping them out completely. Von Rundstedt's drive was petering out. The Allies struck from the north Jan. 3. With a shortened front, the 82nd moved out in a thick snowstorm.

Bone-weary and chilled, troopers pushed ahead to break the German "crust" of defense in two days of fighting. Typical was the heroism displayed by Sgt. Kenneth H. Tait, Miami Beach, Fla., 505th, who advanced over open ground to wipe out a German machine gun nest single-handed to open the way for others.

[Snow Transport: 82nd Airborne Division]

Before a week passed, All-Americans regained nearly all the ground they had relinquished, virtually destroying the 62nd Volksgrenadier Div. Six battalion commanders were among 2571 prisoners taken.

Relieved Jan. 10, the 82nd spent more than two weeks refitting. Coming up to the line again was one of the division's toughest assignments. Troopers beat their way over snow-clogged trails. There were highways on both sides bf the area, northeast of flattened St. Vith, but the 82nd could use them only for supply. All-Americans bored through snow, fought as they went.

The jump-off came Jan. 28, with the 325th on the left and the 504th on the right. At dusk, more than 7000 yards from their line of departure, 504th troopers foxed the enemy by striking Herresbach both from the northeast and the southwest. Without losing a man, they killed 138 Germans and captured 180.

[German Prisoners: 82nd Airborne Division]

Next afternoon, the 508th took Holzheim, 4000 yards northwest of Herresbach. Like the 504th, the 508th suffered no casualties while killing nearly 50 Germans and taking 150 prisoners.

Then occurred an incident only possible in snow warfare. Eighty prisoners had been collected in the western part of Holzheim when four English-speaking "paratroopers" approached and fooled guards by their "snow suit" attire. The "paratroopers" had armed the prisoners with abandoned weapons and were plotting a counter-attack when 1st Sgt. Funk, of Holland fame, stepped into the picture.

A German officer shoved the muzzle of his machine pistol in Funk's ribs, demanding surrender. The sergeant's sub-machine gun was slung, barrel up, on his shoulder. Taking a backward step and a 1000-to-1 chance, Funk shouted, "Surrender, hell!" catching his tommygun by the trigger in mid-air and ripping the German with a 20-round clip.

HE 82nd hit the Siegfried Line Jan. 31 with the 325th and 504th drawing the job of cracking it three days later. They were successful, but it took courage -- courage like that of Lt. Warren R. Williams, Jr., Dallas, 325th. The lieutenant took over when his company commander was killed. Although wounded, he refused to be evacuated and led his men through murderous crossfire of machine guns supporting concrete pillboxes.

Moving north in early February, the 82nd battled to the Roer near Hurtgen before returning to its base at Sissone, France, for reorganization and training.

On the move again, All-Americans guarded the west bank of the Rhine in the Cologne area in early April; Co. A, 504th, was awarded the Presidential Citation for a daring raid across the river.

While most of the division still was entrained, the 505th stormed across the Elbe River, April 30. Other outfits hurled themselves into the battle as fast as they arrived. The German Twenty-first Army, with an estimated strength of 144,000, surrendered to the 82nd at Ludwigslust, about 25 miles east of the Elbe, May 3. Next day, 25 miles further east, patrol contact was made with Soviet troops.

That's the story of a team.

Some of the men aren't here to read this story, but those who thumb these pages know the story can end only one way -- in Victory, the All-American way!

[The All-American Soldier, Official March of the 82nd Airborne Division]
[Rear Cover: The Story of the 82nd Airborne Division]

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