U.S.Airborne

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Capt Robert W Dalrymple





Silver Star Recipient
Pfc Ernest R Coffelt
















The 596th Airborne Engineer Company
Unit History


he 139th Airborne Engineer Battalion (AEB) was constituted on 10 March 1943 at Camp Mackall, North Carolina (NC). It was activated 15 April 1943 at Camp Mackall, North Carolina under the command of Lt Colonel Stanley Johnson.

Company C, 139th Airborne Engineer Battalion, was redesignated the 596th Airborne (Parachute) Engineer Company. The 596th had a company headquarters and three platoons with an authorized strength of eight officers and 137 enlisted men. It was commanded by Captain Robert Dalrymple. (picture left) He and his officers had been hand-picked, and had attended a 30-day course at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, prior to the Company's activation. The Engineers were lightly armed and equipped, but highly trained in their missions of construction and destruction. This training -- particularly in the removal of mines and booby-traps--was to stand them in good stead on the battlefields of Europe.

When the 596th AEC was combined with the 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment (517th PIR) and the 460th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion (460th PFAB), the combined unit formed the 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team (517th PRCT). In early May, the RCT components staged through Camp Patrick Henry near Newport News, Virginia. On May 17th the troopers climbed the gangplanks for their great adventure. The 517th boarded the former Grace liner Santa Rosa, while the 460th and 596th loaded onto the Panama Canal ship Cristobal.

The 517th Parachute Infantry Regimental Combat Team (CT) baptism of fire occurred as a unit of the 36th Infantry Division.  This ground operation placed the 596th Parachute Combat Engineer Company in a position to provide direct combat support to any element of the 517th PRCT engaged in operations. In Italy The principle chore of the 596th Engineers was road reconnaissance and mine-sweeping.

During Operation Dragoon as part of the First Airborne Task force, One platoon of the 596th had dropped with the 509th. One platoon had dropped with the 2nd Battalion and one with the 3rd Battalion. The 1st Platoon of Capt. Bob Dalrymple's 596th engineers had joined assault operations with elements of the 509th Parachute Battalion near Le Muy. The 2nd Platoon conducted operation south of Les Arcs. The 3rd Platoon had joined attack operations with 3rd Battalion.

The 596th moved with the combat team to Soissons, France in early December 1944. Soon the company was alerted for duty at the Battle of the Bulge. Movement orders came for the 517th at 1100, December 21st. The company was subsequently moved by Transportation Corps semis to the vicinity of Werbemont Belgium. The combat team was assigned to the XVIIIth Airborne Corps under General Ridgway. There followed a series of combat team operations, attachments to larger units, detachment from units, transportation to a new sector sometimes by transport, sometimes marching, another attachment and another combat operation. One Battery of the 460th and a platoon of the 596th were attached to each rifle battalion for movement. The directive to recapture Manhay arrived in RCT Headquarters at 1400 on December 26th. The 517th was to attach one battalion to the 7th Armored Division for the mission. The 3rd Battalion (less Company G) under Lt. Col. Forest S. Paxton was given the assignment. One platoon of the 596th Engineers and a section of the Regimental demolitions platoons was attached. The battalion would have to cross two miles of terrain covered with snow and underbrush, in darkness, before reaching the line of departure.

By 0600 on the morning of February 5th In mid-morning the 596th Engineers began working in relays to clear a lane through the largest minefield encountered by the Allies in World War II while under direct enemy observation and fire. For 36 hours the 596th continued this genuinely heroic effort. In the 1st Battalion area, Company A sent a patrol from Hill 400 to Zerkall. Over the course of the next several days, as US troops gained the initiative and began overrunning the enemy, the 596th was able to recapture and recoup enough heavy equipment from the battlefield to give the company the necessary capability to respond to normal ground force engineer combat support operational requirements.

596th Airborne Engineer Company
- picture above: Men of the 596th AEC -

(^^ Click Picture to Enlarge ^^)


books
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
Badsey , Stephen & Chandler, David G (Editor)  Arnhem 1944: Operation "Market Garden" (Campaign No.24) 1993 96p. ISBN: 1855323028
Breuer, William B Geronimo! American Paratroopers in WWII. New York: St. Martin Press, 1989 621 p. ISBN: 0-312-03350-8
Breuer, William B Operation Dragoon: The Allied Invasion of the South of France. Presidio Press, Sept 1987 261 p. ISBN: 0891413073
D'Este, Carlo  Patton: A Genius for War 1024 pp ISBN: 0060927623
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
De Trez, Michel  First Airborne Task Force: Pictorial History of the Allied Paratroopers in the Invasion of Southern France 7/98, D-Day Pub, 500 p. ISBN: 2960017625
Gassend, Jean-Loup Operation Dragoon: Autopsy of a Battle: The Allied Liberation of the French Riviera August-September 1944 Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. (May 28, 2014), 560 p. ISBN: 076434580X
Gavin, James M.  On to Berlin : Battles of an Airborne Commander, 1943-1946 ISBN: 0670525170
Golden, Lewis Echoes From Arnhem Penguin ISBN: 0718305213
Hicks, Anne The Last Fighting General: The Biography of Robert Tryon Frederick Schiffer Pub Ltd, 320pp, ISBN: 0764324306
MacDonald, Charles B  A Time For Trumpets: The Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge Wm Morrow & Co (P), 720 p. ISBN: 068151574
McKenzie, John  On Time, On Target Novato, CA: Presidio, May 15,2000. 304 p. ISBN: 089 141 714 1
Ryan, Cornelius  A Bridge Too Far 670p. ISBN: 0684803305
Wildman, John B All Americans 82nd Airborne. Meadowlands Militaria, 6/83 ISBN:091 208 1007
The Center of Military History The War in the Mediterranean: A WWII Pictorial History Brasseys, Inc., 465 p. ISBN:1574881302
Yardley, Doyle R  Home Was Never Like This. Yardley Enterprises, Aug, 2002, 312 p. ISBN:0971743908


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