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OVERVIEW OF THE 101st AIRBORNE IN WW2
In this 1942 photo, Sgt Edward Benecke of the 377th PFA Bn. stands near the sign at 101 Division HQ, Ft Bragg, N.C.-photo courtesy Ed Benecke.
In 1942, the 82nd Infantry Division at Camp Claiborne, LA was split in two, to form two new Airborne Infantry Divisions. The
82nd Airborne and the 101st Airborne. Both divisions were
stationed at Ft Bragg, N.C. before being shipped overseas. The
82nd departed first, heading to North Africa. The 101st absorbed
one parachute regiment, the 502nd, which had been originally activated as a battalion in 1941. This became the original Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) on the Table of Organizations & Equipment (TO&E) of the 101st Division. The division's original organic units were artillery and support battalions. In early 1943, the 506th PIR was attached to the division, which sailed for the UK in September aboard 3 different transport ships. A period of intense maneuvering and training, including practice jumps, ensued in England. The division was preparing for a landing on the Nazi occupied European continent, but the exact location was still unknown. The 501st PIR, which like the 506th, had initially trained seperately, was also attached to the 101st Division in January, 1944, in England. Although both regiments wore the 101st Airborne shoulder patch in battle, the 501st and 506th were only members by attachment until after WW2 ended. The 506th was accepted as a TO&E part of the division after VE-Day. The 501st was deactivated in July, 1945, having never been an official organic part of the division. When the 101st was reactivated in 1956, the 501 was incorporated as part of the TO&E. In the spring of 1944, General Bill Lee, the original commanding general of the 101st Airborne had to relinquish command due to a heart ailment. His replacement was
General Maxwell D. Taylor, who would lead the 101st through combat until the end of WW2. The 101st participated in Exercise Tiger at Slapton Sands on the south coast of England in April. In June, the Division landed in Normandy on, and behind the Utah Beach area. Paratroopers were dropped onto three landing zones, and relatively few troops of the 101st landed by glider. The rest of the division landed by sea. The three parachute regiments captured the four elevated roads leading inland from Utah Beach and secured various key terrain objectives behind the east coast of the Cotentin Peninsula. This was done with great success, and a new objective was added to their agenda: the taking of Carentan, France. This not only aided in linking the Utah and Omaha beachheads, it helped prevent the Germans from driving through to the coast in an area which would divide the Allied landings. One of the biggest pitched battles pitted part of the 501 PIR against 1st Bn of the German 6th Para Regiment on 7 June. This resulted in a great victory for Colonel Johnson's
regiment. The 502's 3rd battalion won particular honors in it's costly battle to secure the road into Carentan from the north-this became known as 'Purple Heart Lane', due to the many American casualties taken there. A Congressional Medal of Honor was awarded to LTC Robert Cole for his leadership in a bayonet charge at the south end of the causeway. This was the first of only two CMH's awarded to 101st personnel in WW2. The 101st took Carentan and the 506th, reinforced by CCA, 2d Armored Division, defended it against counterattacks by the 17th SS division and the 6th Para Regiment. The 101st was withdrawn from the lines in late June and sailed back to England on LSTs in July. After several false alerts, they invaded by air again in the Netherlands on 17 September 17, 1944. Their mission in Holland was to hold open a corridor for British armor to drive north and relieve their paratroops who had landed at Arnhem. Although the mission failed to achieve it's long range objectives, the 101st as well as the 82nd Airborne Division
accomplished all missions assigned to them. Once again, fierce fighting raged and another 101st man won the CMH. Pfc Joe Mann of H/502 laid on a German grenade to save his buddies; the CMH was awarded posthumously. Withdrawn from Holland at the end of November for recuperation, the 101st was sent to Camp Mourmelon le Grand, France. Less than 3 weeks later, the 101st was rushed north into Belgium in trucks, to counter the German Ardennes counteroffensive. Throwing a cordon around the key road and rail center of Bastogne, the 101st Division was surrounded for a week by elements of eight German divisions, but refused to yield the town to the enemy. Here, General Anthony McAuliffe, the acting commander rejected a German surrender ultimatum with a one word reply of "Nuts". The German ring around Bastogne was broken on 26 December, 1944, when elements of Patton's 3rd Army
shot their way into the town. But even heavier fighting ensued, as the 101st pushed north toward Houffalize for the first half of January, to help close the Bulge. The 463rd Parachute Field Artillery (PFA) Bn. was attached to the 101st just before the Bulge and remained with the division for the duration of WW2.
That unit had prior combat experience at Anzio, as well as in southern France, supporting the 1st Special Service Force. The 101st left Bastogne in trucks in mid January, 1945, and the weary Bastogne survivors were rushed to the 7th Army front in Alsace-Lorraine, to reinforce the line along the Moder River. A
month later, the 101st boarded trains (40&8 boxcars) and returned to the Reims, France area, this time Mourmelon le Petit, where they received a Presidential Unit Citation for their defense of Bastogne. In April, the division, minus the 501 PIR, boarded trucks and went to the Dusseldorf area. The Ruhr Pocket was closed by numerous American units, trapping most of the German 15th Army. The 501st stayed behind in the Reims area as a standby force, in case the Germans decided to massacre Allied POWs in the Stalags. Since the war was almost over and the outcome was a forgone conclusion, there were rumors that the Germans planned to carry out such a last hateful act. This didn't happen, and the anticipated jumps, to be guided-in by SAARF teams, did not materialize. Elements of the 101st rode in DUKWs to Bavaria to check out the possibility that Hitler had
established an Alpine Redoubt for continued resistance. This proved to be an overestimated threat, but elements of the 101st
participated in the capture of Hitler's Obersalzberg complex.
Elements of the divison were sent from Berchtesgaden down into
Austria, shortly after VE Day, where they held towns from Krimml to Taxenbach, as occupation forces. Despite rumors that the division would be rotated to fight in the Pacific Theatre, the war ended in August. Jumping elements of the division made one last pay jump at Auxerre, France in September, 1945. When it was
decided that the 101st would be inactivated and the 82nd retained as a postwar airborne division, the 101st lost its chance to march in the New York victory parade. By the time the victory parade took place in early 1946, most survivors of the heaviest fighting were already discharged under the 'points' system. They had been back working at civilian jobs for months.
Some former Screaming Eagles (mostly rookies) were among the 82nd Airborne troopers who marched down 5th Avenue.
The 101st Airborne Division was deactivated in late 1945, and ceased to exist as a U.S. Army unit until it was reborn in 1956. It has continued ever since, with combat tours in Vietnam and the Gulf War.
HISTORY OF THE 502 PARACHUTE INFANTRY REGIMENT
The 502nd Parachute Infantry under Colonel George Van Horn Moseley was activated as a battalion in 1941. The troops had already undergone significant training when the 101st Division was activated in mid 1942. The 502 or five-oh-deuce, as they became known, were increased in size to a regiment, and made the original TO&E Parachute Infantry Regiment in the 101st Airborne Division. Unlike other early Parachute Battalions, the 502 retained the same unit number and personnel when increased in size. To them for artillery support, was attached the only Parachute Field Artillery (PFA)battalion of the division, the 377th PFA Bn. The 321st was assigned to support the 506th and later, the 501 received support from the 907th,( both Glider Field Artillery battalions.) When the 101st settled in at Ft Bragg, N.C., the 502 made many practice jumps, becoming familiar with Maxton & Pope fields, and participating in war games near Evansville, Indiana. The Deuce sailed to England in September, 1943, with most of the divisional sub units. This ill-fated voyage aboard the SS Strathnaver was soon aborted, with the ship setting in to port at Newfoundland. There was salt water in the ship's fresh water tanks. On attempting to set sail once again, the Strathnaver struck rocks in the harbor and went to port again. Finally, another ship was arranged, the SS John Erickson, which transported Moseley's regiment the rest of the way to England. The total trip required six weeks. Meanwhile the 506th and much of the 327th GIR had already reached England on another transport.
The 502 settled in around the Chilton-Foliat and Hungerford areas, living in a combination of Nissen huts, tents, and English houses. After seemingly unending training in the cold, bleak English countryside, the Deuce finally received its orders for the D-Day Invasion. Flying in the first serials to depart from Membury and Greenham Common, the Deuce was primarily
responsible for securing the two northerly exits (each of them causeways across swampy ground), behind Utah Beach. These were exits #4 (St Martin de Varreville), and #3 (Audoville la Hubert). Southwest of St Martin was a field containing four concrete blockhouses with German artillery pieces sited on the
shoreline near Exit #4. Taking this position became the prime concern of the 502 regiment, which was to be aided by the 377th PFA Bn. On 6 June 1944, the Deuce had landed by parachute in France and discovered their primary objective had already been neutralized by air bombardment. Roadblocks were established to halt enemy traffic along Exit #4, and a makeshift force under LTC Robert Cole, the 3rd Bn C.O., took Exit #3. The regimental C.O., Colonel Moseley sustained a badly broken leg and would soon be forced to relinquish command. The planned regimental C.P. at Loutres was discarded and a new one at Objective 'W' at St Martin de Varreville, was opened by Moseley's successor, the
erstwhile EXO, Mike Michaelis. As the men of the Deuce assembled, the groups headed past Division HQ at Hiesville and reformed at la Croix Pan and Blosville, along the N-13, north of St Come du Mont. They migrated south and received their toughest mission of the war: to spearhead the drive south along the N13 Carentan Causeway. This attack, staged on 10-11 June, 1944 caused so many friendly losses that the 502 men dubbed the Carentan Causeway "Purple Heart Lane". Day and night, the Deuce,
with 2nd Bn in reserve, fought along the single, elevated road,
doggedly advancing even as they were picked off like clay pigeons by Germans firing from the swamps on either side of the road. After crossing the Madeleine River Bridge, known as Bridge #4, LTC Cole ordered all present to fix bayonets and charge the Ingouf farm. For leading this successful charge, Colonel Cole was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. All day fighting raged on 11 June, near the Ingouf farm and south of it, in a cabbage patch, where 1st battalion troops fought the 3rd Bn of the German 6th Parachute Regiment. The
Germans were finally swept away and Cole's surviving men went into reserve. The 2nd battalion came up on 13 June to aid the 506th near Bloody Gulch SW of Carentan. After pulling security duties near Cherbourg in late June, the 502 sailed back to England on LSTs in July, to await another mission.
On 17 September, 1944, the 502 landed by parachute on the Zon, Holland DZ. Second Bn was in reserve near Wolfswinkel at first. First Bn went north to capture and outpost St Oedenrode. Third Bn sent patrols through the Zonsche forest, probing toward the town and bridge at Best. German troops denied U.S. forces the bridge at Best by blowing it up. In fierce fighting just short of the bridge, Pfc Joe Mann was killed when he laid on a German grenade to save comrades who were in the same pit with him. Pfc Mann
received the second and only other CMH (both awarded posthumously), in the WW2 101st division. Germans of the 15th Army, migrating east toward the German border, were thrown into the fighting near Best in increasing numbers. LTC Cole was fatally wounded by a sniper in the Zonsche Forest. Second battalion was committed to the fighting there. With help from British armor, the Deuce, minus 1st Bn, turned the tide and captured many hundreds of German troops near the Zonsche Forest. The Third Bn EXO, Major John P. Stopka assumed command of Cole's Battalion. On 22 September, LTC Michaelis was WIA by an artillery shell and command of the 502 passed to erstwhile 2nd Bn commander, Steve Chappuis. When the 101st migrated north to hold positions on the 'Island', SW of Arnhem, the 502 was in reserve near Dodewaard, where action was limited to patrolling. Some losses were sustained there, mainly from landmines such as the German mercury tilt and Riegle mines.
After a brief rest period at Camp Mourmelon le Grand, France, the 502 rushed north in trucks with the rest of the 101st to hold the crucial road and rail junction of Bastogne Belgium. Surrounded there, the 502 held positions on the north and northwest portion of the circle. Enemy probes began hitting them after failing elsewhere in the circular defense line. A Christmas morning fight at Champs, Belgium, followed by repulse of an armored attack on the C.P. at Rolle, were memorable events. On 3 January, 1945, a heavy engagement took place above Longchamps, Belgium involving 2nd Battalion of the Deuce. The 19th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment of the Hohenstauffen division was able to capture almost forty American parachutists there, mostly members of F/502. The following week saw bloody fighting along the railroad line running NE through the Bois Jacques forest. During this drive, LTC John Stopka was KIA, and Cecil Simmons became the third and final commander of 3/502. The objective, Bourcy, Belgium, was finally taken. (The railroad line mentioned no longer exists-it was salvaged for steel in 1995-96).
After Bastogne, the Deuce traveled to the 7th Army (Alsace) front with the rest of the 101st Airborne in mid January. After holding a line along the Moder River for over a month, they took 40&8 boxcars to Mourmelon le Petit, France. April 1945 saw the Deuce in the vicinity of Dusseldorf, helping to close the Ruhr Pocket along the Rhine River. In May, the Deuce arrived at Berchtesgaden a bit later than the 506th, 327th and 321st, who led the division advance into the Obersalzberg area.
Members of the Deuce with high points sailed home in the summer of 1945, while others, awaiting discharge were absorbed into the Deuce in the interim.
Returning to France, this time the Joigny-Auxerre area, the Deuce made one final 'pay jump' in September, 1945. The regiment and the division were deactivated in December, 1945. The unit would be resurrected with the 101st Airborne in 1956.
HISTORY OF THE 506th PARACHUTE INFANTRY REGIMENT
U.S. Paratrooper outfits have always been solely comprised of volunteers. In the months following Pearl Harbor, many men entering the Army volunteered for the Airborne, whether they had enlisted or were drafted via Selective Service. In mid 1942, a
new experiment was tried by the U.S. Army. A new regiment was forming under Colonel Robert Sink at Camp Toombs (later Toccoa), GA. The 506th began accepting recruits straight from civilian life, who had volunteered for Parachute duty. They were given many weeks of intensive physical training, intended to prepare them for successful completion of jump school at Ft Benning.
Runs to the top of local Mt Currahee and back were part of the
torturous training at Toccoa. This mountain became a symbol of the 506th, providing it's motto and insignia. Also at Toccoa, a fiendish obstacle course was developed. The various battalions began leaving for jump school in November, 1942. It was decided that 2/3 of the regiment would march there, to break the world's marching record, held up til then by the Imperial Japanese Army. First battalion, for some reason was allowed to ride to Benning on a train. The second Bn completed the march of over 120 miles, and third Bn marched further, totalling almost 140 miles. After qualifying the troops as jumpers, the 506th moved to Camp Mackall, N.C. substituting their GHQ Reserve shoulder patches for Airborne Command patches. These insignia were used by members of units not part of divisional organizations. Soon
after, the 101st patch was substituted as the 506th became members by attachment of the Screaming Eagle division at Ft Bragg, N.C. In September, the 506th sailed to the U.K. aboard the SS Samaria.
The troops were billeted in the Aldbourne-Ramsbury area, and reopened the jump school started by the 509 Bn (before their drop in North Africa) at Chilton Foliat. Also at Chilton Foliat, parachute riggers from the various regiments set up their maintenance and repair shops. During the latter
part of 1943 and the first half of 1944, a continuous flow of parachutist replacements arrived and were absorbed into the 506th and other regiments as last minute reinforcements for the Normandy Invasion. On the night of 5 June, 1944, 1st and 2d battalions of the 506th departed their airfield at Uppottery, England, with the mission of securing the two southerly exits leading inland from Utah Beach. These were the causeways running through Pouppeville (Exit #1), and St Marie du Mont (Exit#2). Company 'E' especially distinguished itself in knocking out a four gun battery of 105mm artillery near le Grand Chemin. The 3rd battalion had a totally seperate mission. Departing from Exeter airfield, they were to land on Drop Zone 'D' above Carentan, and capture two bridges across the Douve River near Brevands. Despite horrible drop zone casualties,
this mission was accomplished. 3rd Bn commander LTC Robert Wolverton had been killed on the DZ along with his EXO, Major George Grant. Only 120 of the 680 men of 3/506th who jumped on D-Day, made it to their objective. Regrouping on 7 June, the 506th drove south to Dead Man's Corner, during which LTC Billy Turner, the C.O. of 1st battalion was killed by a sniper. The troops were withdrawn to Beaumont for the night and on 8 June, once again took Dead Man's Corner, and in concert with 3/501, captured St Come du Mont. Elements of the 506th held the line in such diverse locations as les Quesnils and La Croix, before flanking Carentan, France from the west and meeting the 501 at la Billonnerie to complete encirclement of that city. Second battalion entered Carentan, and met the 401 Glider Infantry in the town to complete its liberation. 13 June, 1944 was an especially costly and difficult one for the 506th regiment. They
launched an A.M. attack which happened to coincide with a German attack by the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division. This battle of 'Bloody Gulch' ended when the SS were repulsed with welcome assistance from the 2/502 and the Rose Task force from CCA, 2nd Armored Division. Late in June, the 506th moved north from the Carentan area with the rest of the 101st division. They spent two nights near St Saveur le Vicomte before moving into positions near Cherbourg for security duties. In July, they sailed back to England on LSTs to await another mission.
On 17 September, the 506th parachuted onto DZ 'C' NW of Zon, Holland. The Zon bridge was destroyed by the Germans before the 1st battalion could sieze it. Many losses were suffered from direct 88mm fire. Most of the 506th headed south to link up with British armor which was driving up along 'Hell's Highway'. Eindhoven was liberated on 18 September, and other 506 elements defended the 101st C.P. from armored probes back at Son. Later,
the 506th leapfrogged north, to Veghel, then Uden. They helped hold Veghel against numerous German attacks and went back south to Koevering, above St Oedenrode, to reopen Hell's Highway when a British column was decimated there. Passing up through the 82nd Airborne's sector, they crossed the Nijmegen bridge in early October, staged at Zetten, then went into a west-facing line at Opheusden. While 1st and 3rd Bn units fought off attacks from the west, 2nd Bn secured the dike facing north across the Neder Rhine, from Randwijk to Ophesuden. Relieved on the Opheusden line by elements of the 327th GIR, the 506th held static positions and participated in the rescue of Arnhem survivors one night in late October. Over 120 starved and exhausted British paratroopers were successfully brought across the river. Later,1st battalion was physically seperated from the regiment and held the 'Coffin Corner' area, east of Driel. There they stayed until the Germans blew the dike just east of the railroad bridge,flooding the entire area.
Withdrawn for rest and refitting like the rest of the 101st, the 506th settled-in at Camp Mourmelon le Grand, France. Some men got passes to Paris, but the vacation was over all too soon. The Ardennes offensive began on 16 December and the 101st Airborne rushed north in trucks, arriving in Bastogne, Belgium on the night of the 18-19th of December. On the morning of the 19th,the 506th marched north from Bastogne, with 2nd and 3rd battalions forming a line facing north. This line extended from the RR track which crossed the Foy-Bizory road, to a point just SW of Recogne. The 501 was east of the RR tracks and the 3/502 was west of Recogne. First battalion continued north, joining Major Desobry's task force from the 10th Armored division at Noville. For the rest of Dec.19th and part of Dec. 20th, this group held out against overwhelming odds, and LTC Laprade, the Bn commander of 1/506th was KIA in Novile before the order was received to withdraw. In the next several weeks, the hamlet of Foy changed hands at least six times, and elements of 1st Bn were rotated to the west perimeter, between Hemroulle-Champs. Counterattacks to the north began in early January, and went as far as Cobru and the Fazone woods. Heavy losses were sustained to direct artillery fire from German tanks around 10 January. The bloody defense and counteroffensive at Bastogne ended for the 101st in mid January, and the 506th went from Bastogne to Alsace-Lorraine by trucks.
Winter warfare continued along the 7th Army front near Hagenau.
Withdrawn by train to Mourmelon le Petit, the 506th marched in review for Generals Eisenhower, Ridgeway, and Brereton along with the rest of the 101st, as the entire division was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for the Bastogne campaign. This
was the first such award to an entire division and was said to be the equivalent of awarding every man in the division the Distinguished Service Cross. The 506th joined the division in holding a line near Neuss, along the Rhine River. Next, they boarded Ducks (DUKWs), and rode toward Bavaria, passing through Mannheim and Landsberg enroute. Near Landsberg, the 506th liberated a concentration camp, which revealed that anti Nazi propaganda had not been exaggerated. Continuing east along the autobahn, the 506th reached the only bridge giving access to the Obersalzberg area at Piding. A Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division held up the 506th as well as the French 2d Armored division for some hours, before the 3rd division colonel granted passage across that bridge. The 506th with their accompanying 321st Artillery Bn, were among the first Allied troops to enter Hitler's Berghof as well as the Eagle's Nest on Kehlstein mountain.
Shortly after VE-Day, the 506th was rotated south to hold a line from Taxenbach/Rauris, west to Niedernsill, Austria. Colonel Robert Sink, 'Uncle Bob' was still in command-the only regimental commander in the 101st who remained in place throughout the war. In the summer of 1945, the 506th was made an official TO&E member of the 101st Airborne Division on paper.
But this honor didn't last long, as the division was inactivated at the end of 1945. Photo of Kidnap HQ sign taken along Hell's Highway in September, 1944, courtesy J. Reeder.
HISTORY OF THE 501 PARACHUTE INFANTRY REGIMENT
In this 1943 photo, Jimmie "Tex"Fritcher and Stan Butkovich, both members of the 501st color guard, are preparing to case the 501st regimental flag. This flag, designed by regimental commander H.R. Johnson, depicted the Geronimo emblem on a rectangular white field, with a gold-fringed edge. Johnson's staff officers pointed out (and P.M. Winston Churchill later commented on this), that white is the traditional color of surrender. But this was the design adopted, and the 501 regiment made a glorious record in WW2. The regimental colors disappeared during the war and current whereabouts are unknown. Photo by Albert A. Krochka.
Radio callsign:"KLONDIKE". In mid November, 1942, the 501 PIR was activated
at Camp Toccoa, GA, following the same idea that Colonel Sink's 506th had utilized. Colonel Howard R. Johnson was the dynamic commander of the 501 regiment. Volunteers both drafted and Regular Army, who had joined the Army to be paratroopers, arrived by trainloads, fresh from induction centers. For them the 501 WAS the Army for the next several years. The 506th was departing for jumpschool at Benning as the first volunteers for the 501 began to arrive at Toccoa. The 506 guys tossed cherry bombs into the barracks of the 501ers the night they departed ("We thought they were a rowdy bunch at the time", one 501 man recalled later). The recruits were trained by a cadre, some of whom were already jump qualified. Putting the troops through special pre-jumpschool Basic Training at Toccoa, many men who were not capable of long distance running were weeded out of the 501. Distance running was the main emphasis in Colonel Johnson's
In spring, 1943, the 501 left Toccoa, one battalion at a time to attend the Parachute School at Ft Benning, GA. The 511 and 517 regiments had arrived to train at Toccoa in the same manner,
(although they were destined for different divisions.) Some 501
commanders, like Major "Big Red" Shelby of 3rd Bn, were disappointed that the regiment rode to The Parachute School (TPS) on trains. He had wanted to march there, as the 506th had done. The troops were not disappointed and Shelby was shipped out before the 501 sailed for overseas. After completing jump training, the troops received furloughs and then settled-in for many months of large unit training at Camp Mackall, N.C. In
September-October, 1943, the 501 went to 2nd Army Maneuvers in Tennessee. In December, 1943 another round of furloughs was granted. In January, 1944, they sailed to England aboard the USS George W. Goethals, landed at Glasgow, Scotland and took trains to camps at Newbury and Lambourne, England. They became members by attachment only, of the 101st Airborne Division. This was actually a disappointment in loss of identity for the original 501 members, who believed Colonel Johnson's prediction that the 501 would make a name for itself as the crucial element in winning WW2.
On 6 June, 1944, departing from airfields at Merryfield and Welford, the 501 parachuted into Normandy behind Utah Beach. RHQ, and First Bn were to seize the lock at la Barquette, over the Douve River. Second Battalion was to destroy Bridge #2 over the Douve on the N-13 highway and secure the town of St Come du Mont. Third Bn, jumping in "reserve" was to land on DZ 'C' and provide security for 101 Div. HQ at Hiesville. Despite mis drops of some of the units, some of these objectives were accomplished on D-Day, except for the destruction of Bridge #2 and the capture of St Come du Mont.
Both of those events occurred on 8 June. The biggest pitched battle of the 501 in Normandy took place at Hells Corners, Peneme, France near the Lock on 7 June, 1944. A force led by Col. Johnson wiped out the 1st Bn of the German 6th Parachute
Regiment there, and Colonel Johnson received the Silver Star Medal. The 501 re grouped at Vierville, 9 June, then crossed the Douve River near Brevands, passed through Catz, and staged for the encirclement of Carentan at St Hilaire Petit Ville. On
12 June, they attacked Hill 30, where several 501ers won the D.S.C., and met elements of the 506th at la Billonnerie. Carentan fell, with 2/506th and the 401 Glider Infantry entering the town from opposite sides. On the following day, the 501
repulsed counterattacks by the 17th SS division south of Carentan. The 501 Regiment was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for their role in the Normandy Invasion.
Returning to England via LSTs, the regiment received replacements and on 17 September, 1944, parachuted into combat again in Holland. Elements of the 501 landed on DZA-1 near Heeswijk, and others on the DZ between Veghel and Eerde. The mission was to secure the part of Hell's Highway which would tie-in with the 82nd Airborne below Grave. Heavy fighting raged around Veghel and Eerde, and the 501 was later reinforced by elements of the 506th and other division sub units. Schijndel, Holland was briefly captured but troops were soon withdrawn to keep the highway open for northbound British armor. The Guards Armored Division was headed for Arnhem but arrived too late to help their Airborne comrades. The 501 moved north in early October, 1944, with the rest of the division and took up positions facing the Neder Rhine river along the 'Island', west of Arnhem. While across from Renkum, Holland a six man patrol from 501 crossed the Neder Rhine and returned with 32 German POWs, including an SS captain. This epic called 'The Incredible Patrol' was reported in LIFE Magazine, making the 501 world famous. Also while on the dike positions on 8 October, 1944, Colonel H.R.'Jumpy' Johnson, the unique and dynamic leader of the 501 was KIA by German artillery fire. He was initially buried at Nijmegen, Holland but has since been re interred in Arlington National Cemetery. LTC Julian J. Ewell assumed regimental command. The dike positions were held until late November, when the regiment was sent to Mourmelon le Grand, France with the rest of the 101 division for recuperation.
The rest was short-lived, as the 101 was sent north to help stop the German Ardennes breakthrough on 18 December. Arriving at the city of Bastogne, Belgium, where seven roads converged, the 101st threw a cordon around the town. Arriving on the night of 18-19 December, 1944, the entire division found itself surrounded by Dec. 21st. The 501 was sent east on the morning of the 19th, in the most direct path of the German attack. Contact was made at Bizory, Neffe, and Mont, and much of company 'I' was lost in a battle with Tiger Royal Tanks and Panzer Grenadiers of the Panzer Lehr Division, at a town called Wardin. Establishing a C.P. in the Bastogne seminary, LTC Julian J. Ewell commanded until WIA at Recogne on 9 January. Heavy attacks against the east perimeter were fended off on 20-21 December, 1944. January 3-4 saw more heavy fighting as the 501 attacked north through the Bois Jacques forest as part of the push to close the Bulge at Houffalize. When LTC Ewell was WIA, LTC Robert A. Ballard took command of the 501 for the duration of WW2. The 501 was awarded another Presidential Citation for the defense of Bastogne.
The 501 moved with the 101st Division to the 7th Army front in mid January, and held a line along the Moder River, in Alsace-Lorraine, until relieved in February. They rode 40 & 8 boxcars to Mourmelon le Petit, France, where they lived in a tent city (M34 Pyramidal tents) for over two months. They remained there when the rest of the 101st departed for the Ruhr Pocket near Dusseldorf. The 501 was held in strategic reserve for possible deployment to jump on enemy Stalags to avert last minute massacres by the Nazis. These reprisals never occured, and the 501 eventually rejoined the division at Berchtesgaden. The 501 was inactivated in July, 1945, and throughout its existence was never a TO&E part of the 101st Division. This was changed in 1956, when the new 101st Airborne Division was activated.
Radio callsign:"KIWI"(under construction)
Radio Callsign:"KEEPSAKE"(under construction)
Radio callsign:"KITE"(under construction)