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
Good landings and good luck.
||James M. Gavin|
Major General, Commanding.
THE STORY OF THE 82nd AIRBORNE DIVISION
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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."
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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"
13, 1943: Parachutes blossomed over the Salerno
beachhead. They belonged to the 504th RCT which
was answering Gen. Mark Clark's urgent request for
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
Some Division Headquarters and Special Troops personnel
would parachute. Others would form a 50-glider
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
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."
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
INSIDE REAR COVER