101st Airborne Division

"Courage is the first of all human qualities because
""""it is the quality that guarantees all the others. "

................................................... ...Sir Winston Churchill
Unit History
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Lt Col John T Cooper
Lt Colonel John T Cooper


History of the 463rd PFAB

USAAF Airborne Troop Carriers in World War II

The Drop Zone

ETO Cross Channel Attack (Hyperwar)


History of the 463rd PFAB

Parachute Field Artillery Hat Patch

Operation Dragoon
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The 463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion
Unit History

463rd Pocket Patchhe 463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion was organized on February 21, 1944, near the small Italian village of Borgo Bainsizza on the Anzio beachhead. It was formed from the 82nd Airborne Division's 456th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, less Batteries "C" and "D", and commanded by Maj. Hugh Neal, the first of only three men to lead the battalion in combat in World War II. The 456th designation was transferred with the 82nd to the European Theater.

Officer and men of the newly organized unit were veterans of the 82nd drop into Sicily in July 1943, campaigns on the southern Italian front near Casino, and weeks of bitter fighting at Anzio in support of the First Special Service Force along the Mussolini Canal. Many had been members of the Army's original Parachute Field Artillery Test Battalion.

With its new designation, the battalion remained in support of the FSSF which, in early June 1944, led the Allied Forces into Rome. A marble plaque in that city commemorates the FSSF accomplishment, noting the assistance of "the armored units of Task Force Howze, 463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, and the Italian Resistance." The battalion commander now was Maj. John T. Cooper, Jr., (picture above left) formerly the executive officer, who has assumed command when Maj. Neal was seriously wounded and evacuated form Anzio on May 31.

After the fall of Rome, the battalion received some 200 replacements to fill out "C" and "D" batteries and bring its rosters to full fighting strength. A month later, the battalion was on its way to the invasion of Southern France with the First Airborne Task Force as part of a combat team with the 509th Parachute Parachute Infantry Regiment. Divided to operate as two separate units, if necessary, the battalion flew from loading zones at Grosseta and Follonica airports near Rome.

Southern France - Operation Dragoon
In the early morning hours of August 15, one group under the command of Major Stuart M, Seaton, the battalion executive officer, jumped near Le Muy, France. The second contingent under Cooper's command were dropped across a wide area around St. Tropez, France, some 12 miles from the drop zone, where they fought as infantry against heavy German concentrations. Cooper was injured in the drop; and the third person to command the unit, Maj. Stuart Seaton, the executive officer, served as battalion commander until Cooper returned October 14.

The Battalion was credited with capturing 375 prisoners during the first two days of the invasion, more than the remainder of the entire Task force over the same period. As the seaborne invasion troops drove inland, the 463rd moved eastward along the coast until on August 30, 1944, when it was shifted northward to the Alps and attached to the 55Oth Airborne lnfantry. Its mission was to cutoff an important German escape route from Italy.

The Battalion was credited with capturing 375 prisoners during the first two days of the invasion, more than the remainder of the entire Task force over the same period. As the seaborne invasion troops drove inland, the 463rd moved eastward along the coast until on August 30, 1944, when it was shifted northward to the Alps and attached to the 55Oth Airborne lnfantry. Its mission was to cutoff an important German escape route from Italy.

In mid-November, the 463rd was relieved by the 6O2nd FA and moved into bivouac near Nice. Over the three-month period of the Southern France campaign, the battalion conducted 1,000 fire missions and fired approximately 35,000 rounds of 75mm ammunition. With the "Champagne Campaign" concluded, the 463rd moved northward by truck and train in December. Scheduled to join the 17th Airborne Division then on its way to Europe, the battalion arrived in Mourmelon, France, on December 12, 1944, where the 101st Airborne Division was recuperating from the Holland campaign. The German break through into the Ardennes came just four days later. The Battle of the Bulge had begun.

The Ardennes - Battle of the Bulge
As the 101st prepared to depart for Belgium, Cooper, by how a Lieutenant Colonel, offered the services of the battalion to Gen. McAuliffe, who said the 463rd was outside his command; but he suggested that Cooper talk with Col. Joseph H. Harper, commanding the 327th  Glider Infantry. Harper readily accepted Cooper's offer, and the 463rd was off to Bastogne "attached" to the 101st although technically A.W.O.L.

During most of its existence, except for the airborne drop info Southern France, the 463rd, unlike most airborne units, had been utilized as a ground-equipped unit provided with its own transportation. It had arrived in Mourmelon with 27 2 1/2-ton trucks, 26 1/4-ton trucks, and a sizable supply of 75mm ammunition, including more than 200 anti-tank rounds, a factor to be of significance at Bastogne.

Unlike some units heading for the Ardennes, it had been fully supplied with wool overcoats and "mud-pack" overshoes before leaving Southern France. With the addition of 12 2 1/2-ton trucks attached from the 645th Quartermaster Company, the 535 men of the 463rd headed north from Mourmelon at 9:30 p.m. December 18. 1944. Although the destination listed on the Unit Report dated 11 p.m. of the same date reads "now enroute to Werboment, Belgium," the 101st would instead be shifted to Bastogne, Belgium, an important road center.

At 9 a.m. on December 19, the unit reached an assembly area near Flamizoulle, Belgium, and moved on later the same day to establish positions around Hemroulle in support of the 327th. By December 20, the 101st Airborne Division, including the 463rd, was completely surrounded in the three-mile wide Bastogne "doughnut", by at least five German divisions. The fighting was intense. On December 22, the Germans delivered a note demanding the 101st surrender, to which General Anthony McAuliffe issued his famous reply, "NUTS". With the weather clearing on December 23, C-47 transport planes dropped badly needed ammunition and supplies. Finally, on December 26, General Patton's 4th Armored Division broke through from the south to relieve the besieged city.

During the Battle of Bastogne, the 463rd howitzers conducted fire missions over a 360- degree sector. From December 19 through January 17, its 16 howitzers fired 21,748 rounds. When the first aerial re-supply mission was flown on December 23, the battalion was down to nine rounds of high explosive shells, a small supply of anti-tank rounds, and no rations. The battalion casualty report for the Ardennes campaign was 11 killed, 24 wounded, and one missing.

During the Bulge, Lt. Col. Cooper and Sgt. Joseph F. Rogan were awarded the Silver Star. Cooper for action during the encirclement and Rogan for action as a forward observer on December 25 and 26. In addition, seven men received the Bronze Star, two posthumously. Thirty-two received the Certificate of Merit, 29 of them for action during the German attack on Christmas morning.

Colonel Thomas L Sherburne Jr - Division Artillery Officer There is disagreement about the tank battle on Christmas morning when one spearhead of enemy tanks attacked toward Hemroulle from the west. Col. T. L. Sherburne, Jr., (picture left) the Acting Field Artillery Commander of the 101st credited the battalion with two medium tanks destroyed and one captured. Cooper maintains that eight of 11 enemy tanks in the thrust at Hemroulle were destroyed by the battalion, with one captured intact and two escaping only to be destroyed by armored units. He tells the story this way:

"At the conclusion of the battle on Christmas mornings, General McAuliffe, Col. Sherburne, and others of their staff came to our headquarters and we inspected the battle area."
"General McAuliffe looked at each tank and asked the question. 'Which gun got this one?' Only two of the tanks were in direct line of fire as shown by 'ricochet marks in the snow.' The others were hit, but had been moving and were not in line of ricochet marks. Also, all direct fire does not hit the snow along its path of flight."
"Col. Sherburne took notes and wrote the commendation as decided by Gen. McAuliffe. I did not object, as I was a new Lt. Colonel unknown to any of the brass at the time. Nor was I looking ahead to 50 years later. No other unit has ever claimed any of the Christmas morning kills in our area."
Relieved in Belgium on January 17, 1945, the 463rd moved with the 10lst to the French Alsace region on January 20 and went into direct support of the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment from positions near Keffendorf and Winterhouse. The battalion was relieved by the 36th Division Artillery on February 25, and moved from Sarrebourg to Mourmelon by train and truck. It was at Mourmelon that General Dwight Eisenhower presented the 101st with the Presidential Unit Citation for its defense of Bastogne, the first such citation to be awarded an entire division. Operating as a unit attached to the 101st during the Bastogne encounter, the 463rd was formally assigned to the division in March 1945.

Joigny France circa Aug - Nov 1945 (Source: Donald Straith)Remaining in Mourmelon until April 3, the battalion, still in support of the 327th, moved to the vicinity of Neuss, Germany, where it completed its last day of direct contact with the enemy at 4 p.m. April 17, 1945. It was then on to Schillingstadt, Schwabsoin, Starnberg, Thalham and Bad Reichenhall --arriving at the last on May 12. The final moves were to Saalfelden, Austria, on July 8, and Joigny, France, on August 2. Most of the remaining members of the unit were transferred for deployment and discharge in October, 1945. The 463rd was inactivated November 30, 1945.
( picture above right: Joigny, France circa Aug - Nov 1945.(^^ Click Above Picture to Enlarge ^^) )
The Unit Citation and Campaign Participation Credit Register of the U. S. Department of the Army lists the following campaigns for the 463rd in World War II: Anzio, Rome-Arno, Southern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe.

( Source: The above historical summary of the participation of the 463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion in World War II was written by Ken Hesler , Btry. D, 463 PFA. It is based upon more than 2,000 pages of documents copied from the U.S. Military archives at Suitland, MD, and other historical materials, mostly documents and personal interviews with members of the battalion, including Lt. Col. John T. Cooper (Ret.), who read the article and concurred in its accuracy.)

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 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
Gabel, Kurt The Making of a Paratrooper: Airborne Training and Combat in World War II Univ Press of Kansas (Jan 1990), 282 p. ISBN: 070060409X
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
Inglesby, Leo C A Corporal Once Xlibris  2/2/2001, 108 p. ISBN: 0738838209
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
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
Webster, David Kenyon Parachute Infantry: An American Paratrooper's Memoir of D- Day and the Fall of the Third Reich 352p. ISBN: 0385336497

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