101st Airborne Division

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502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment Patch

(above picture)
502nd PIR Patch

502nd PIR WW II
Medal of Honor Recipients

  Lt Col Robert G Cole

Pfc Joe E. Mann


Battle At Best

USAAF Airborne Troop Carriers in World War II

6 juin 1944 - Normandy

D-Day: Etat de Lieux

ETO Cross Channel Attack (Hyperwar)

D-Day and Beyond (Memories)

Carentan Historical Center


The 101st Airborne (CMH) Center for Military History

Normandy (CMH)

Battle of the Bulge (CMH)

hat patch

502nd PIR WW II
Distinguished Service Cross(DSC) Recipients

Lt Col Patrick F Cassidy
Lt Col Steve A Chappius
Pfc William Conklin
1/Lt George H Craft
Capt Fred O Drennan
1/Lt George M Eberle
Pfc William Evans
Pfc Frank Garofano
1/Lt Ernest O Harris
Sgt Bailey Harrison
Pfc Fred S Jones Jr
Capt Frank L Lillyman
Pfc Floyd P Marquart
1/Sgt Hubert Odom
1/Lt Robert C Pick
Capt St Julien Rosemond
T/4 Jack Rudd
1/Sgt Kenneth N Sprecher
Lt Col John P Stopka
2/Lt Harrison C Sumners

The 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment
Unit History

lthough the airborne assault on Crete on 20 May 1941 sounded the death knell for the German airborne, the American military planners were oblivious to the unacceptably high casualty rate suffered by the Germans. Instead, they focused on the tactical and strategic successes of the operation noting that Crete had been captured entirely by an airborne force.

Consequently, the Army accelerated its plans to organize and activate additional airborne units. On 1 July 1941, the 502nd Parachute Infantry Battalion was quickly activated at Fort Benning, GA under the command of Major George P Howell Jr, the former Executive Officer of the 501st Parachute Infantry Battalion. The unit was initially comprised of a small detachment taken from two companies of the 501st.

Col George Van Horn Moseley Jr. Commanding Officer 502nd PIR (Source:M Bando) December 7,1941, "a day that will live in infamy", again prompted an acceleration of airborne planning and strategy. On 30 January 1942 the War Department hurriedly authorized the activation of four Army parachute regiments. A month later, on 2 March 1942, the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) was activated at Fort Benning, GA from the 502nd Parachute Infantry Battalion. Howell was promoted to Colonel but left that same month to command the parachute school at Fort Bragg, NC. He passed the regiment's command to Col George Van Horn Moseley Jr. (picture right) who came from a long line of West Point graduates. Like the other airborne regimental commanders of his day, Col Moseley made enormous demands on his troops as well as himself.

In July of 1942 the activation of two full airborne divisions the 82nd and 101st was ordered and the 502nd was assigned as a permanent unit of the 101st Airborne Division. Shortly after they became part of the 101st the 502nd PIR moved from Fort Benning GA to join the rest of the division, at Fort Bragg NC. Throughout the rest of 1942 and into 1943 the 502nd PIR took part in a grueling training program, which consisted of individual, unit, and combined division training. During March of 1943 they took part in division maneuvers in Southern Pines. This was followed by the Camden maneuvers which started on May 23rd of that year. Shortly after the Camden Maneuvers the big Tennessee maneuvers were held.

On September 4 1943 men of the 502nd boarded the SS. Strathnaver bound for their new home in England. The Strathnaver sailed for 6 days before she had to make port on September 11 in St. Johns Newfoundland for repairs. The journey eventually would end up taking a total of 44 days because of the discovery of salt water in the ships fresh water tanks and other non-related mishaps. On October 4th the SS John Ericsson picked the men up and finally set sail for England arriving in Liverpool on October 18th. They settled into quarters in the Chilton Foliat and Denford near Hungerford, Berkshire which would be their new home for the next seven months. The Five-O-Deuce's troopers continued their rigorous training which included 15-25 mile hikes and daily close combat exercises. Instructions were given in a wide variety of items from 1st-aid, map reading, chemical warfare and the use and firing of German weapons. Company and battalion size parachute drops where also rehearsed during this period.

Normandy - D-Day
Flying out of Membury and Greenham Common in the first wave to depart, the 502nd PIR headed for drop zone (DZ)A. Their mission was to secure two northern causeways leading inland from Utah Beach and destroy a German coast-artillery battery (122 mm Howitzer)near Ste Martin-de-Varreville. In the predawn hours of D-Day a combination of low clouds, and enemy anti-aircraft fire caused the break-up of the troop carrier formations. Lt Col John H Michaelis Executive Officer 502nd PIR (Source:M Bando) The scattering of the air armada was such that some troopers jumped while still over the English Channel and drown. Consequently, the sporadic jump patterns caused most of Col Moseley's battalions to land far afield of their designated DZ. Some of the sticks landed as far away as 5 miles from the designated area. Unfortunately during the drop Col Moseley broke his leg and had to relinquish command to his Executive Officer, Lt Col John H Michaelis (picture left) . Meanwhile, the 3rd Battalion led by Lt Col Robert G Cole was responsible for securing the two causeways. Undaunted by the confusion, Lt Col Cole gradually collected his men and achieved his objective.

Lt Col Robert G Cole Commanding Officer 3rd Battalion - Medal of Honor Recipient The rest of June found the airborne troops fighting as infantry. After regrouping the 101st received the new objective of seizing the city of Carentan. It was during this operation that Lt Col Robert Cole (picture right) received the Medal of Honor for leading his battalion in a fix bayonet charge on the Ingouf farm house, a German stronghold defending one of the bridges over the Carentan Causeway. His Executive Officer, Maj John P Stopka, led the charge on Cole's left and received the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC). Lt Col Cole never got the chance to wear it since he was killed by a snipers bullet 3 months later in Holland. Maj Stopka was killed two weeks after receiving his medal at Bastogne.

T/4 Jack Rudd receives the DSC from General Omar Bradley for his action during Normandy On 29 June the 101st was relieved from the VIII Corps and sent to Cherbourg to relieve the 4th Infantry Division. The 502nd PIR returned to England shortly thereafter for rest and training. At about the same time General Eisenhower called for a headquarters that would oversee the Allies' airborne troops. In August 1944 he established the First Allied Airborne Army, controlling elements of the American and British (and Polish) Armies. Concurrently,the 17th, 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were assigned to the newly created U.S. XVIII Airborne Corps under the command of Gen Matthew Ridgway. The new army was put to the test in September 1944 during the Allied thrust in northern Europe: Operation Market-Garden.
(picture above left: General Omar Bradley conferring the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) on T/4 Jack Rudd (Company B) for his action during the Normandy Campaign. (^^ Click Picture to Enlarge ^^) )
Operation Market Garden
Market Garden drop This was an audacious plan concocted by British Field Marshal Montgomery that would be the first major daylight air assault attempted by a military power since Germany's attack on Crete. Similar to the Germans assault of four years earlier, the Allies initial plan for September 17,1944 was to use the paratroopers and glidermen of the 82nd and 101st U.S. Airborne Divisions and England's First Airborne Division in a daring daylight drop into Holland. The airborne Allied troops were to seize roads, bridges and the key communication cities of Eindhoven, Nijmegen and Arnhem, thus cutting Holland in half and clearing a corridor for British armoured and motorized columns all the way to the German border.

The 101st mission was to secure the fifteen miles of Hell's Highway stretching from Eindhoven north to Veghel. After less than three months in England, the 502nd was to make its second combat jump. Still under the command of Col Michaelis the unit was to land in Holland on DZ C, seize the small highway bridge over the Dommel River north of Saint Oedenrode and the railroad and road bridges at Best. The 502nd was also given the mission of guarding DZs B & C for the subsequent glider landings. Shortly after 1315 hours on the afternoon of 17 September 1944, after a n uneventful daylight drop, the men of the 502nd gathered up and headed for their objectives.

Pfc Joe E Mann - Medal of Honor Recipient First Battalion went north to capture the little town of St Oedenrode. Third Battalion sent patrols through the Zonsche forest, trying to move toward the town of Best and the bridge. German resistance was tough in the vicinity of Best but the 502nd fought their way to within 100 yards of the bridge before the Germans blew it up. In fierce fighting around the bridge, Private Joe Mann (picture right) who was seriously wounded twice during the fighting, was killed when he threw himself on a German grenade to save his fellow soldiers who were in the same foxhole with him. Mann was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for this act of selfless heroism. Ironically, the only other Medal of Honor recipient of 101st during the war, Col. Robert Cole, was shot and killed by a snipers bullet in the action around the Zonsche Forest. The fate of the third battalion was now in the capable hands of its executive officer Maj. John Stopka. On 22 September, Lt Col Michaelis and three of his staff were seriously wounded by an artillery shell outside of his headquarters. Command of the 502nd passed to 2nd Battalion commander, Steve Chappuis.

After securing their hard-won objectives, the men of the 502nd moved north with the rest of the 101st to take hold of defensive positions on 'The Island', south west of Arnhem. It was here that the 101st would fight some of its toughest battles during its time in Holland.

The Ardennes - Battle of the Bulge
On 16 December, 1944, The Germans had launched a major offensive at dawn on 16 December, west through the Ardennes Forest, in the lightly held sector of our VII Corps. Their goal was the port town of Antwerp where they hoped to choke off the allied supply lines. At that time Shaef's Reserve consisted of the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions. The 101st was ordered to the vitally important town of Bastogne which was the key to the German counteroffensive. From Bastogne radiated several roads that were essential to the German juggernaut. The 101st was jammed into trucks for an overnight rush to Bastogne in Belgium on Dec. 18th. The defense of Bastogne by the 101st presented a formidable obstacle to the surging Fifth Panzer Army of Hasso von Manteuffel. In the ensuing days the encircled 101st engaged in vicious fighting. The 502nd held positions on the north and northwest portion of the envelopment.

After the Germans had failed to break through in other sections of the circle, they sent probes, which attempted to penetrate the areas defended by the 502nd. Without appropriate look outs or the use of such modern day equipment as security cameras, the squad was somewhat vulnerable. In an attack that took place on Christmas morning in the Hemroulle area of Belgium, numerous German tanks penetrated the line. Simultaneously farther north strong German infantry elements infiltrated the town of Champs. Two of the German tanks which drove north from Hemroulle attempted to bypass the 502 Regimental C.P. at the Rolle Chateau. In this attack Sky Jackson of the 502nd received the Silver Star for single handedly hitting the two tanks with bazooka fire knocking out one. The other tank escaped only to be destroyed at Champs by another 502nd member John Ballard of A Company who was killed on January 3 1945 in another action. Finally, on December 26th Patton's 4th Armor Division broke through the encirclement and the lifting of the siege of Bastogne began.

On 3 January 1945 the 2nd Battalion engaged in heavy fighting around Longchamps, Belgium. The Germans pressed forward and as many as forty jumpers, mostly from F company, were rounded up and taken prisoner that day. On January 14, 1945 3rd Battalion 502 would again suffer the loss of its commander. Lieutenant Col. John Stopka and some of his troopers were advancing through a pine forest along an elevated rail line. Enemy Tanks were advancing along the other side. Someone called in for air support and the planes strafed too close to the friendly positions, resulting in the death of Col. Stopka and thirty other soldiers near Michamps. With that unfortunate incident, the command of the 3rd Battalion was given to Cecil L Simmons who would lead the unit until the end of the war.

The 101st Airborne held a line along the Moder River for over a month as part of the US 7th Army. On 23 February, the Screaming Eagles were relieved and returned to Mourmelon, France. Here General Eisenhower spoke to the 101st Airborne Division when the unit was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation for its stand at Bastogne. This was the first time in the history of the United States Amy that an entire Division had been so honored.

As the war in Europe was nearing its end,the 502nd moved to the Ruhr Pocket on 2 April to help in mop-up operations. Here the 502nd went on the line facing the Rhine River south of Dusseldorf, Germany. On the 4th and 5th of May, the 502nd received and carried out its final wartime mission - the capture of Berchtesgaden, Hitler's Eagles Nest.

The 502nd spent the summer of 1945 on occupation duty near Mittersill, Austria. Returning to France in September, the soldiers continued waiting for transport stateside. The 101st Airborne Division was deactivated in December of 1945.

( Sources: " Paratroopers" by Gerard M. Devlin  &  Deuces Are Wild, The 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment in WW II.)

502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment - Pictures  Photos 502nd PIR  
  • Headquarters Co. 1st Battalion - Photo of members of Headquarters Co. 1st Battalion - 502nd PIR. Somewhere in England 1944.   (Photo courtesy of Robert Depinquertaine Jr)
  • Headquarters Co. 2nd Battalion - Photo of members of Headquarters Co. 2nd Battalion - 502nd PIR. Hungerford England 1944.   (Photo courtesy of Mary Ann Nichols)
  • Company H 3rd Battalion - Photo of members of Company H 3rd Battalion - 502nd PIR. Fort Bragg circa 1943   (Photo courtesy of Cassandra Vaughan)
  • D-Day Pathfinders - Photo of members of the 1st Stick of D-Day Pathfinders - 502nd PIR (Capt Lillyman's Stick). 1st Lt Reed Pelfrey is kneeling in the front row extreme-left.    (Photo courtesy of Gordon Stewart: WW II Airborne Demonstration Team)
  • 502 Training Group - Photo of members of the 502nd PIR Training Group 2 at Ft. Benning from July 28, 1941.    (Photo courtesy of Pat Schilling)
  • 502 Training Accident - 1942 - List of members of the 502nd PIB who perished while on a Training Mission from Pope Field, NC on august 15, 1942.

R E L A T E D   B O O K S

Ambrose, Stephen E D-DAY June 6,1944: The Climatic Battle of WW II. 6/93, Simon & Shuster ISBN: 0671673343
Ambrose, Stephen E Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest. Simon & Schuster, (June 2001) 336 p. ISBN: 0-743-21638-5
Ambrose, Stephen E Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany, June 7, 1944-May 7, 1945. Simon & Schuster, (Nov 1997) 528 p. ISBN: 0-684-81525-7
Badsey, Stephen & Chandler, David G (Editor)  Arnhem 1944: Operation "Market Garden" (Campaign No.24) 1993 96p. ISBN: 1855323028
Bando, Mark A  Avenging Eagles: Forbidden tales of the 101st Airborne in World War 2. Bando Publishing, (2006) 183 p. ISBN: 0977911705
Bando, Mark A  101st Airborne: The Screaming Eagles at Normandy. Zenith Press, (Apr 2001) 156 p. ISBN: 0760308551
Bando, Mark A  Vanguard of the Crusade: The US 101st Airborne Division in WW II. The Aberjona Press, (June 2003) 320 p. ISBN: 0971765006
Black, Wallace B.& Blashfield, Jean F. Battle of the Bulge (World War II 50th Anniversary Series). Crestwood House, 48 pp May,1993 ISBN: 0896865681
Bowen, Robert Fighting With the Screaming Eagles: With the 101st Airborne from Normandy to Bastogne. Greenhill Books/Lionel Leventhal, (Sept 2001) 256 p. ISBN: 1853674656
Breuer, William B Geronimo! American Paratroopers in WWII. New York: St. Martin Press, (1989) 621 p.
ISBN: 0-312-03350-8

Breuer, William B Unexplained Mysteries of World War II. John Wiley & Sons, Sept 1998 256 p. ISBN:0471291072
Burgett, Donald R Currahee!. Presidio Press, (Sept 1999) 256 p. ISBN: 0-891-41681-1
D'Este, Carlo  Patton: A Genius for War 1024 pp ISBN: 0060927623
De Trez, Michel  American Paratrooper Helmets: Mediterranean & European Theater of Operations  June, 2010, Histoire & Collections, 272 p. ISBN: 2352501415
De Trez, Michel  American Warriors: Pictorial History of the American Paratroopers Prior to Normandy  July, 1998, D-Day Pub, 212 p. ISBN: 2960017609
De Trez, Michel  Cpl Forrest Guth: E Company 506 PIR 101st Airborne Division (WW II American Paratroopers Portrait Series)  March, 2002, D-Day Pub, 56 p. ISBN: 296001765X
De Trez, Michel  Orange is the Color of the Day: Pictorial History of the American Paratroopers in the Invasion of Holland April, 2004, D-Day Pub, 506 p. ISBN: 2960017633
De Trez, Michel  At the Point of No Return : Pictorial History of the American Paratroopers in the Invasion of Normandy 7/98, D-Day Pub, 200 p. ISBN: 2960017617
Devlin, Gerard S  Paratrooper! St Martin's Press, (P) c1976 ISBN: 0312596529
Gavin, James M.  On to Berlin : Battles of an Airborne Commander, 1943-1946 ISBN: 0670525170
Golden, Lewis Echoes From Arnhem Penguin ISBN: 0718305213
Ingrisano, Michael N. Jr And Nothing is Said: Wartime Letters, August 15, 1943 - April 21, 1945 Sunflower University Press, Sept 2002, 540p. ISBN: 0897452631
Killblane, Richard  Mc Niece, Jake The Filthy Thirteen: From the Dustbowl to Hitler's Eagles Nest: The 101st Airborne's Most Legendary Squad of Combat Paratroopers Casemate Publishers and Book Distributors, 288 pp May 1, 2003 ISBN: 1932033122
Koskimaki, George E D-Day With The Screaming Eagles Casemate Publishers and Book Distributors, 356 pp September 11, 2002 ISBN: 1932033025
Koskimaki, George E Hell's Highway: Chronicle of the 101st Airborne Division in Holland, September-November 1944 Casemate Publishers and Book Distributors, 453 pp March 1, 2003 ISBN: 193203305X
Koskimaki, George E The Battered Bastards of Bastogne: A Chronicle of the Defense of Bastogne, December 19, 1944 - January 17, 1945 Casemate Publishers and Book Distributors, 484 pp December 1, 2002 ISBN: 1932033068
La Sala, Jenny  Comes a Soldier's Whisper: A Collection of Wartime Letters with Reflection and Hope for the Future Trafford (P), 256 pp. February 15, 2013 ISBN: 1466976861
MacDonald, Charles B  A Time For Trumpets: The Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge Wm Morrow & Co (P), 720 p. ISBN: 068151574
Malarkey, Don & Bob Welch Easy Company Soldier: The Legendary Battles of a Sergeant from WW II's "Band of Brothers" . St Martin's Press, (May 13, 2008) 288 p. ISBN: 0312378491
McKenzie, John  On Time, On Target Novato, CA: Presidio, May 15,2000. 304 p. ISBN: 089 141 714 1
McLaughlin, Jerome J D-Day+60 years Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse, April 20,2004. 300 p. ISBN: 1418402699
Ryan, Cornelius  A Bridge Too Far 670p. ISBN: 0684803305
Stokes Jr, G G  Camp Toccoa: First Home of the Airborne.: 1942-1944 CreateSpace, 3/14/2011. 28p. ISBN: 1461005868
Yardley, Doyle R  Home Was Never Like This. Yardley Enterprises, Aug, 2002, 312 p. ISBN:0971743908

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