On the evening of Thursday, 13 August 1944, a debriefing
conference was held at the Glebe Mount House, LEICESTER. During
the course of the conference each commander present who had commanded
a unit the size of a battalion or larger of the 82d Airborne Division
in Operation NEPTUNE, was permitted to talk for not to exceed ten
minutes. Instructions were that each officer was to speak freely,
without restraint, regarding any aspect of the operation during
its airborne phase and to offer any criticism he saw fit in the
interests of improving our operational technique in future combat.
Commnders spoke in the order in which it was planned that they would
land. Their statements were taken down verbatim as far as possible.
At the conclusion of the conference, considerable free-for-all discussion
took place of which no record was kept. However, it did have a bearing
on the conclusions attached to this report.
Lt Col. VANDERVOORT, 2d Bn., 505th Prcht
I feel that I have very little for posterity at
the moment. The flight until we hit the French coast was quite uneventful
for my Battalion. We reached FRANCE intact and in formation. As
we came in across the coast we saw a little ack-ack from the ground
and I thought that there were some planes from the 101st Division
shot down. As we approached our DZ the pilot informed me that he
could see our T. The pathfinder group had been dropped essentially
where they should have been, a little further inland, and they only
displayed two T's. One was lighted when we dropped. The pilot I
had was extremely reluctant to come down to the correct jumping
altitude. We came in at 1400 feet, and our speed was excessive.
I talked to the crew chief and asked him to slow down. We went through
a bit of scud as we came in and it caused the formation to break
slightly. At the time I thought the Germans had smoked the area.
I lost two platoons from Company "E". The green light
was turned on about 45 seconds before we reached the DOUVE River.
I told them to turn it off. We dropped pretty well on our DZ. I,
myself, was a quarter of a mile from the DZ, and I had a little
hard luck on the landing and banged up my foot. I watched the battalion
come in and they were all spread out, the ships being too high and
too fast. Within fifteen minutes after I got on the ground I started
putting up some green flares that worked out well. We encountered
no resistance fram the enemy at night, only some fire from ack-ack
around our DZ. Some members of the battalion were dropped in STE
MERE EGLISE and were engaged in a fire fight at once. There was
movement of vehicles on the road, one of the first things I heard
being vehicles moving on a road to the South. I went North to the
nearest hedgerow. I think it was about 0410 in the morning when
I felt I completed the assembly sufficiently so that I could move
out on our mission and take the town of NEUVILLE au PLAIN. In the
meantime, the regiment had told me to stand by. The news from STE
MERE EGLISE was so vague to the Regimental commander that he had
me stand by. General RIDGWAY happened to be in my CP during that
period and he also directed me not to move without consulting him.
It was not until daylight that I received orders to move. We actually
started moving at 0600. Later my mission was changed to STE MERE
EGLISE, and from there on it was essentially a ground operation.
The 2d Battalion met no resistance as we went into the town. A small
group of Germans attacked our left flank, but one platoon from "D"
Company was enough to drive them off, and as I said, it was a ground
operation thereafter. It was 0141 when I landed.
Q. Apparently it was 0730 when you were
ready to move out? A. We started moving at 0600. Reorganization was only partially
completed, but when I reached the town I had a battalion less two
platoons. In the meantime, I picked up quite a few people from the
101st Division, and some men from other regiments which I carried
along for several days and then returned them to their organization. Q. Do you think that your lighted T was a great factor in
your getting to your destination? A. It meant a great deal to us. I saw planes coming in from
various directions, from 40 degrees to 90 degress off course. They
came in close to the T, and dropped their personnel. I think some
planes from the 101st circled and dropped their people there. Q. Did you attempt to use your green assembly lights at all? A. None of my lights worked; anticipating that, I had a flashlight
I had fixed up with green facing and I flashed that. Q. None of your lights worked. Why? A. I don't know, I had no opportunity to inspect them. I
hid them, but later couldn't find them. Q. You say you had orders at 0410 to tell where you were.
How did you get these orders? A. We had radio contact with the regiment very early. Regimental
S-3, after daylight, came by my CP, and as I remember, the Regimental
Commander was also there at one time. Q. What do you think of the challenging system? A. Right at the moment, sir, I would make no essential changes.
I would like to impress upon the Air Corps the necessity for coming
down to the proper altitude, and flying at the proper speed. We
have stories at the battalion from men who spoke to pilots later
on, quoting pilots as follows: "--and the last time I looked
at the air speed indicator we were going at 190 miles per hour."
It was the hardest opening I ever had. I have jumped at 130 and
140 miles per hour, but this was the roughest I ever had. It tore
off some of my equipment.
I made a positive identification of where I was by sending an S-2
patrol to the nearest house. The Frenchman there gave us much valuable
information of the enemy.
I believe that the greatest single contribution to the assembly
of the 505 was the superior job done by our pathfinder teams, Air
Corps and parachute.
Lt. Col. KRAUSE, 3rd Bn., 505th Inf.:
I, too, experienced the same as Col. Vandervoort.
The trip was very uneventful on the way over. As we crossed the
coast of FRANCE, I talked to my pilot on the interphone; and said,
"It looks like a good deal". I looked back and saw my
ships behind me. Just about that time we hit the soup, (fog or cloud),
and we started to see fires on the ground, a little ack-ack and
we had some fighters come in on us and fire at us. An element of
three ships was directly under us and not more than thirty feet
below. One came up from under and passed miraculously between my
ship and the left wing ship. I would say that in the next three
minutes I came as close to being crashed in the air as I ever hope
to. We tried to keep our formation, but ships constantly over ran
each other. The pilot called for evasive action and we split up.
Some went high, some went lower, others right and left. This split
our formation and we were well spread. Just about two or three minutes
before drop time we saw this green T. It was a Godsend and I felt
that I had found the Holy Grail. I would say that I dropped from
over 2,000 feet. It was the longest ride I have had in over fifty
jumps, and while descending, four ships passed under me and I really
sweated that out. Just after I landed, a mine bundle hit about 80
yards away from me without a parachute and exploded. We tried to
orient ourselves very quickly, and ran upon a conical shaped field,
which I remembered as the conical shaped field that we had studied
during our preinvasion briefing. Northeast of this should be the
Battalion DZ Command Post which was to be in a wooded area on the
Southeast end of the DZ. Further investigation proved this to be
true and then I knew exactly where we were, or thought I knew where
we were, and I told the people all around me. Because we were so
split up, we did not have too much organization of the units. We
even had some men from the other Divisions contacting us. I composed
two groups, one under Captain DeLong and the other under Lt. Isaacs
and we began to form, but not too rapidly. I sent out patrols to
guide in assembling groups and about that time we saw the green
flares. I could not find my original signal which I was supposed
to use and likewise alternate signals were gone. We had absolutely
no visual signals to assemble on. Our method of assembly was to
roll up on our sticks. Our sticks formed up in good shape. The next
problem was that of people running through our area wanting to know
where they were. Major McGinity asked where we were and I told him
whereupon he put his map away and headed for the bridge with Captain
Dolan and most of Company A. We were starting to get close to 200
men in about an hour and a half of assembling. One of my officers
landed in the town of STE MERE EGLISE. On his way out he saw a group
of Germans and witnessed several chutists taken prisoner and others
killed, so he headed Northeast to join us.
On his way he picked up a slightly inebriated Frenchman, who stated
that this was STE MERE EGLISE, and we knew then exactly where we
were. It was just before four when I made the decision to move out
to STE MERE EGLISE. We moved in from the Northwest on the road that
the man had said the troops had departed from. It was mostly transportation
and service units that had remained in the town when the bulk of
the forces moved into field bivouac several days prior to D-Day
because of the bombing. Captain DeLong and I went in toward the
Northwest section of town. The civilian in a white coat was carrying
an American mine while guiding the way. We made him go out first
so that he would not lead us into any gun position. We met no opposition,
but we did meet some members of the other units, and they were all
heading for their missions. I would say that we arrived in town
just before light and had no opposition at all, mainly due to the
covered route the civilian took us by, but in the center of the
town there were spasmodic shots that became ever increasing. My
instructions to my men were not to fight with any other unit but
to fight with me in the town. This proved worthy because all my
men concentrated on getting to the town and the bulk of my Battalion
was with me by mid-morning. The remaining enemy troops in the town
were apparently scared out of the town. The force which we had was
just a jumbled group and in order to secure the town as quickly
as possible we endeavored to establish road blocks around the town
as hastily as possible, which we did. One important thing we were
going to do was to cut the communication lines. We thought we found
it, and severed the main cable from the town. As more troops came
in we put up road blocks around the whole town. We had about one
fourth of the force we expected at about five O'clock. A message
was sent to the Regimental CP. This message was dispatched at about
Q. About how many men did you have in the
town? A. We had 180 men and groups of 40 and 60 came in rapidly
throughout the morning. At about 10 O'clock 350 men of the second
Battalion came in. Q. What happened to your two artillery pieces? A. One we never found, sir, and one was in action before
noon. Q. Did you have color assembly lights to use? A. Yes sir. I think in the next operation for assembly we
should try to get weather balloons, and stick the light up on that.
I have nothing much to add about the ride over,
except the 1st Battalion Commander, Major Kellam, not being here,
being KIA, I can give his story. Regimental Headquarters and the
1st Bn. got in the planes, and just about five or six minutes prior
to taking off a huge explosion occurred. Someone had set off a Gammon
Grenade which in turn set off all the ammunition. I was initiated
into combat that way. I saw a lot of dead bodies lying around after
the explosion. Our ride over was uneventful except for the ack-ack
which came pretty close to our planes. Jumping out after going through
the clouds, I bailed out at about 0204 hrs. according to my watch.
I had a very hard opening, because we were going at least 150 miles
per hour. I do not remember the landing because I was pretty dazed.
I was in the midst of a field of cattle when I landed. No other
personnel was around me. It took me about ten minutes to get out
of my chute. I found out later that I had landed just a few hundred
yards South of FRESVILLE, which is well Northeast of STE MERE EGLISE.
I started out and the first man I met was Major Thomas of the 508th,
and he was treating a few men who were injured. I wandered around
still dazed for about two hours. Just before four o'clock I ran
across Major Norton, and we debated about where we were. About this
time we found a Frenchman and from him we got the direction to the
town and found that there were a number of Germans there. We started
out to our area and on the way we ran into the
1st Bn. under Major Kellam, heading toward the bridge and his area.
"A" Company had very speedily organized and was already
engaging the enemy just East of the bridge near STE MERE EGLISE. Rest
of the 1st Bn. continued on their mission to get on to the assembly
area, they being the Regtl. Reserve. We went further towards the CP
and ran into the 2nd Bn. At that time, the situation being a bit obscure,
we told Lt. Col Vandervoort to stand fast until further orders. At
the location of the CP was Gen. Ridgway, and we speedily established
the CP. It was a little after seven o'clock when I heard that the
3rd Bn. was in STE MERE EGLISE, that the 2nd Bn. was moving toward
their objective, and that the 1st Bn. was well down toward the bridge.
The situation was well in hand. Later on the 2nd Bn. fell back into
STE MERE EGLISE and with the 3rd Bn. organized for the defense of
the town against superior enemy forces which were attacking from the
North, Northwest and South. When action in STE MERE EGLISE ended,
these two units were all mixed up due to the speed with which they
had to move to meet enemy threats.
Q. Would you recommend any changes if you
were to do it over again? A. I see no reason to change the assembly plan except to
get the assembly lights where they can be seen. I also came in from
a higher altitude and a greater speed than I should have, and believe
the Air Corps should receive more training in dropping our units. Q. In your area you had two lighted T's, is that correct? A. Yes sir. The only comment I have on the operation is about
the speed, the altitude of the planes and the assembly lights. One
plane load returned to the base because of some trouble. The men
joined us about a week later in a C-47. When I was on the field
I was sure our plane had not come in from the proper direction.
I noticed planes coming in from all directions and all altitudes.
The assembly lights did not work in this case. I saw some flares
which I believed Col. Vandervoort put up. Q. How long were you in the fog? A. Right after crossing the coast and, I would say, maybe
three miles from ST SAUVEUR we hit a heavy cloud bank and it was
then that we lost control of the formation. Just a little ways this
side of the MERDERET my plane came down under the clouds, but I
could see few of the planes. Q. What do you think of the use of flares? A. I like the use of flares only in the event the assembly
lights won't work. The flares, if not shot straight up, that is,
if shot at an angle, will give the impression that they are two
or three hundred yards from the actual assembly point. The "T"
lights are not feasible to use for assembly except in case of extreme
emergency as they cast off so much light.
(Col. Vandervoort) - In regard to the flares try to pick a place
where the enemy is not, then the flares will work. In regard to
radios, you need 12 radios to do it right. Tie in everybody with
536 radios, we dropped our 300's in bundles, but through 536's we
tied in very quickly and were able to locate men right away.
Colonel Ekman continues--I think it is better to use BAR's in leg
packs in place of machine guns during the actual drop. You can move
out with BAR's in place of machine guns and come back later for
the guns which would be dropped in bundles. "A" Company
was delayed in moving out as they couldn't find their bundles immediately.
The weapons section we had contained machine guns in the squad,
we jumped with some BAR'S, but would like to replace the machine
guns with BAR'S, because looking for the machine guns holds us back
at first. Q. Do you want two BAR's in every squad and one machine gun? A. In the machine gun section we would like to have for the
drop two BAR's. A searching party to find the machine gun bundle
and bring up guns later. Each rifle squad to have two BAR'S. "A"
Company could have been able to secure the bridge if they had had
their bundles. We lost quite a bit of equipment. Someone can always
use the BAR'S after the machine guns are found. Q. How did you identify your bundles? A. (Col. Vandervoort) - We didn't use any bundle lights.
We daisy-chained all six bundles tied together. I lost one 60mm
mortar; I had the bulk of my machine guns. I had more radios than
the rest of the Regiment put together. Tie your bundles together
- it helps. We used a system of luminous paint to separate the bundles.
I believe that bundles should be painted lighter colors to be seen
easier. We used no vitrolite on our bundies, but we later used it
for marking roads, etc. The system of challenges and responses was
OK. One thing in combat people have no scruples about whose equipment
they have as long as they get it. Another thing, my men were reluctant
to get everything. It is important that the men are trained to get
everything they have. Jumping with an M-1 mine on the individual
Lt. Col. MENDEZ, 3rd Bn., 508th Prcht. Inf.:
I was in command of the 3d Bn. at the outset. I
didn't see my Bn. for five days. We ran into a lot of trouble as
soon as we hit land. The flak was terrific. We jumped from about
2100 feet, the entire serial, and were going rather fast. 2100 feet
is too much of a ride, I checked my field bag and found 3 bullet
holes in it. Lt. Daly was subsequently killed. I landed about 0230
in the morning and didn't see anybody for five days, with the possible
exception of my messenger. I batted 1000 with my pistol, I got three
Heines with three shots, two Heines with a carbine and one Heine
with a hand grenade. The Germans had a very good means of communication.
We seemed to run into antiparatroop groups of about 60 men and we
shot back and forth. We drew the conclusion that these groups called
other groups who were waiting for us. Altogether I had three men,
one officer and my messenger. The most outstanding thing I learned
was the accurate intelligence of the Germans. They used full name,
even nicknames to confuse my company commanders. My company commanders
stated that they received messages in my full name and even my nickname.
It is essential that the challenging system must be known to the
Air Corps as well, in case they end up on the ground. The reply
to the challenge must be given very quickly or it will be too bad.
Selection of words is very important. We landed about 3/4 or a mile
from the DZ, Southeast. I was on the North side of the DOUVE River.
In the five days that I was separated from the Bn. I walked 90 miles.
I was looking for the Second Battalion and all I found was ack-ack.
We never saw a T, we jumped on the green light. The pilot did not
see the T light either. It would be helpful to have earphones from
the jump master and the crew chief and the pilot. As a matter of
fact "G" Company was dropped in the ocean and several
men were drowned. Recommend the short method of challenging, bundles
be daisy-chained, one light per plane load of bundles.
I came in as Executive Officer, 1st Bn., Col. Batcheller,
commanding. Shortly after the drop he was KIA. The mission of the
508th was to go into Force "A" reserve in the vicinity
of Hill 30, West of the MERDERET River. Our flight across the channel
was very uneventful, it was routine. As we hit the coast we got
some flak. I checked and noted that all the planes were back there.
But then we hit the clouds and it spread us a little. I could still
see the leading V even in the fog. We passed over ST. SAUVEUR le
VICOMTE, and got a lot of flak which spread the formation. Then
we went over ETIENVILLE and got a hell of a lot of flak there. Then
I looked around and there were no ships around my plane. I jumped
on the green light, and just after coming out of the plane I turned
around and looked over my shoulder and saw the DOUVE River behind
me very close. I landed about half way between PICAUVILLE and the
DOUVE. I landed in an orchard. We got a great deal of flak practically
all along the entire route between SAINT SAUVEUR le VICOMTE and
ETIENVILLE. After coming down I only saw one plane which was towing
a glider and kept on going, and another C-47 which was shot down
in flames. I did have a light but I didn't put it up, because it
was obvious it would not be seen. I toured the area in ever widening
circles trying to collect as many men as I could. Daylight came
approximately 0430 or 0445 in the morning and I collected some 20
odd men and ran into Captain McRoberts who had the entire 508 radar
outfit. They put up no lights because their lights were lost. The
hedges were high, and the orchards were practically all over the
place near PICAUVILLE. I collected between 40 and 50 men and headed
for GEUTEVILLE just north of Hill 30. I got up to GEUTEVILLE and
found part of D and E Company and a platoon of the 505 under Lt.
Medaugh. We were on the verge of attacking GEUTEVILLE with 100 men,
but we had no supporting weapons - just rifles and carbines. Since
there was an estimated German Battalion in GEUTEVILLE we just stayed
on the hill and shot at them. About 15 truck loads of Germans went
by, going in the direction of LA FIERE. After shooting at them all
afternoon I got in contact with Col. Shanley and joined forces and
moved west about 500 yards of my position near Hill 30 and stayed
there for five days. No lights were used in the area south of PICAUVILLE
because the area was too dense. Hedges were high and orchards were
all over the place.
Colonel LINDQUIST, 508th Parachute Infantry:
I went out about 1200 feet near AMFREVILLE. It
was a good opening and a soft landing in about 2½ feet of
water. The light went up within ten minutes after hitting the ground.
The area was open and marshy, and the assembly light could be seen
for about 600 yards. The assembly light worked well for about twenty
minutes and then went out because of water soaking into the batteries.
When the light went I stayed there 30 minutes before we moved out.
There was no light on the embankment, the light was in the center
of the drop of Regimental Headquarters. The challenging worked fine.
There was very little challenging around the lighted area at first
as the men came in. The challenging system was o.k., the verbal
system should be used so long as it is consistent. I would make
no changes in regards to what was planned before the operation.
All of our equipment went into the water and went out of sight.
We stumbled upon two bundles, but it was nothing that we could use.
I think we should continue using radio communication and one light
per battalion for assembling. I think flares would work well. Anything
in regard to light should be used to get the unit together. As time
goes on I would take a greater chance in regard to lights to get
my units together.
Lt. Col. OSTBERG, 1st Bn., 507th Prcht Inf.:
We were scheduled to drop north of AMFREVILLE.
We ran into a fog. I saw my flight and it was all there for about
the first three minutes. We ran into a lot of flak. Pebbles kept
hitting, which I didn't have enough sense to realize what was going
on. We had no T to guide on, and only one radar set of the six we
dropped was set up. Don't sell the home-made lights short. They
are not so bright for a great distance but do allow for good identification.
We had no automatic weapons until two o'clock the next morning.
Phone communication should be in the plane. Second-hand information
is no good, but you can't tell the pilot what his job is. We dropped
from a low altitude. I landed in a very flat field, but it was inundated.
I would endorse the home-made light on the bundle. The method of
assembly lights should be kept as simple as possible. A lot depends
on the terrain. We had no flares. If we were to do it again I would
have flares, because I consider them well worth while. It would
be a good idea to have a flare to spare.
Lt. Col. KUHN, 3rd Bn., 507th Prcht Inf.:
Our mission was to establish a defensive position
just west of AMFREVILLE. The Air Corps sold us a snow job for they
changed the SOP. I was in the lead ship of my Bn. Telephonic communication
should be established between crew chief and jumpmaster. We had
a very uneventful trip until we hit the mainland, and then things
popped. There was no communication with the pilot whatsoever. I
never had such a hard opening in my life. I think that the flash
and thunder system is best for challenging, We dropped about 0240
in the morning. We landed about one mile southeast FRESVILLE. "H"
Company recovered a good deal of their equipment, but, they used
their home-made lights which was one flashlight bulb and two batteries.
We used no luminous tape. "G" and "I" Companies
landed up about the railroad tracks, closer to the DZ than where
we landed. The issue Air Corps light was not worth a damn. Short
challenging is the better way of identification.
Q. What's wrong with the Air Corps issue
lighting? A. The Air Corps light breaks. A good solid jar will knock
it out. The Air Corps light did not burn long enough, and you can't
tell one light from another.
Lt. Col. TIMMES, 2nd Bn., 507th Prcht Inf.:
I was in the group flown by Col. Mitchell. We
got below a lot of haze and we flew at about 550 feet above the
ground. We did not go too fast, and our landing was very good. We
jumped at 0230, and we did not see any lights on the ground. I had
a lot of difficulty in assembling. We had the mission of taking
AMFREVILLE. I never did get with the Battalion until about the fifth
day. As to lights, it would be a mistake to sell them short. The
Executive Officer had a light, and the Regimental Commander had
a light and the Radar Section also had a light. Our flares were
wet and did not work. I assembled small groups not far from the
LA FIERE bridge. Most of the bundles went into the swamp. We used
the knot system and lights on our bundles, but we only retrieved
a few. The mistake we made was that we used wooden container lights
and most of them wouldn't work. The radios were jumped right on
the radio men. The radio would come in handy but we had no radio.
It was tragic not to have a radio for the first five days. The challenging
system of using two words is excellent. The men were getting out
of the planes too slowly and this caused dispersion. Also teach
the men to get out of their equipment and chutes. Men should be
taught more about that. After Captain Swartzwalder came in we were
going to make a night attack on the bridge at AMFREVILLE, but we
didn't because the artillery fire was falling on us.
We tied our bundles together and I think it is
a good practice in using the knot system. We used no luminous lights,
but if we were to do it again we would use bundle lights. We would
use anything to help identify the bundles. We had to send out real
strong patrols to recover the bundles. I would have liked to have
talked to the pilot if there was an inter-phone. (Col. Mendez: One
light per daizy chain for the bundles is recommended.)
Lt. Col. SHANLEY, 2d Bn., 508th Prcht Inf.:
My original mission was to capture the town of
ETIENVILLE and blow the bridge there and also the bridge at BEUZEVILLE
LA BASTILLE. On the flight to the drop my Bn. did not experience
a great deal of flak. However, we experienced heavier flak than
has just been described. A lot of jumpmasters said the planes took
evasive action on the jump, and that may be the reason for the dispersion.
The planes started taking evasive action due to the flak. I threw
an A-4 radio bundle out, the chute on it failed, its contents were
smashed; my battalion assembly light in it was also smashed. S-3
was supposed to have a light, but I did not see it. I used flashlights
up in the trees when I landed. On the ground there was considerable
fire which was all around us. A lot of the men who came into the
assembly area had already killed a German or two. We landed just
north of PICAUVILLE, and there were quite a few Germans around there.
I sent several patrols out in different directions to get more men.
I had only about 35 men with me at dawn. At that time I sent more
patrols out and started encountering fairly heavy resistance. At
approximately noon we were very heavily engaged on three sides,
and I pulled out after I found that another group, larger than mine,
was east of us. I left behind in that place about ten men, most
of whom were jump casualties. Shortly after leaving the location
north of PICAUVILLE I collected approximately 200 men and officers,
lost members of the 508th and from all Battalions who had gotten
together there, and I set up in that location, which was 1000 yards
east of PICAUVILLE. With 200 men, I had two machine guns, no mortars
and no other automatic weapons. We didn't have much success in getting
the bundles on the ground. I did have SCR 300 radios however. By
radio I got in touch with another group which was commanded by Lt.
Col Warren. Several different groups of Frenchmen informed me that
there were about 500 Germans in PICAUVILLE and more than that in
ETIENVILLE. Having almost no heavy weapons and with so many Germans
between my group and the objective I selected the one mission that
the Regiment had that I felt I could accomplish--seizing a crossing
of the MERDERET River. Lt. Col. Warren's group joined mine and we
set up a defensive position on Hill 30, West of the MERDERET. Eventually
the remainder of the regiment joined us on the West of the MERDERET
River. I wish I had had flares to use for assembly after the jump;
lights were useless in that terrain. A Frenchman told us that PICAUVILLE
was a German bivouac area.
Q. Would you want to use flares there? A. If I didn't use them there, I could have moved elsewhere
and used them. Q. Didn't you have flares? A. No sir. I thought the Germans would have them and our
men would be walking into the Germans. Flares, however, are the
only feasible system of assembly in that hedgerow country. We used
vitrolite tubing on our bundles. All the bundles I found contained
ammunition. I did not find any heavy weapons. Q. Did you succeed in rounding up your own stick? A. No sir. I found many bundles, but found no one around
the bundle. Eventually I ran into some men, but found none from
my own stick for quite awhile. The men worked the challenging system
very well. I recommend that we have one system of challenging to
use throughout training and combat, and not change it later on,
because that causes difficulty. Changing over confuses the men.
In regard to assembly lights, we couldn't get them up high enough
to be seen any distance. Q. Would you have used a light that would flash up for one-thirtieth
of a second every five or six seconds, and that would light up approximately
a distance of six (6) miles (Krypton light). A. Yes, I would use a light like that if I had to, to assemble
Lt. Col. BOYD, 1st Bn., 325th Glider Inf.:
We came in at D plus 1 at about 0730 in the morning.
The men who flew the planes on D minus 1 scared the hell out of
us by painting a bad picture. The 437 at Ramsbury was in quite a
state of excitement. The landing zone was changed on us. The trip
was uneventful. We were supposed to land in the Southwest part of
STE MERE EGLISE, but the order was changed. We landed in the Southeast
corner of STE MARIE du MONT. We came in too close together. The
speed was 170 miles per hour and we were eight feet above the ground
when we hit the trees. The first aid man saw us hit and they got
to us immediately. The gliders should be strung out a little more
to avoid collision. We had our 300 radio and all the companies checked
in except "A" Company and we proceeded to the assembly
area. We landed at seven o'clock in the morning. Our medical detachment
came in about two PM and they took care of some casualties. Out
of seven hundred men we had 600 ready to operate at 2 PM. We should
have the glider pilots earlier for instruction. The Air Corps started
dropping tow ropes all over us, which was wrong. Some even went
over our troops. These ropes are an item of critical issue and should
be taken home instead of being dropped in the area in FRANCE. We
had no flak and plenty of air protection. We flew in column of fours,
but would like to fly in a column of twos. A single column-double
tow should be satisfactory, but would like to have some practice
before taking it up. We were cut out at about 200 feet which is
entirely too low.
Lt. Col. T. H. SANFORD, Exec. 1st Bn., 325th
The gliders as a whole, came in too low. Cutting
the gliders loose at 200 feet, traveling 120 miles per hour, in
an area with such small fields and tall trees doesn't give the glider
pilot any opportunity at all to select the field or to make the
proper approach for a landing. Tug pilots had been instructed to
go up to 700 feet after crossing the beach and very few if any,
of them increased their altitude. Many of the crashes of the gliders
were a direct result of the failure of the tug pilots to give the
glider pilot altitude enough to make a proper landing. In training
it had been demonstrated that gliders can be landed safely in very
small fields if the glider pilot has altitude enough to make a proper
approach and come in slow. Under the conditions under which our
pilots landed in NORMANDY they had no opportunity for selection
of the field, or to turn to make any approach to it. It was just
cut loose and land, which put a great many of our gliders into the
trees and resulted in rather high casualties. Most all of this was
due to the failure of the tug pilots to follow instructions and
to give the glider pilots an altitude of 700 feet.
Colonel MARCH, Division Artillery:
We use the system of tying our equipment together
and we had no trouble. We got one gun going at STE MERE EGLISE.
It would be a good idea to have a Battalion of parachute field artillery
go with every regiment. We can get the individual guns in but to
get them to work and assembled has not been very successful. This
was sometimes due to landing. The landing zones of the gliders was
SNAFU. LZ's were changed and the Air Corps was not informed of it.
Some fire was delivered on D-Day, and much more on D plus 1, and
it was built up as it went along. (At this point Col. March was
interrupted and the following incident of artillery support related):
"Col. Shanley who was on the West bank of
the MERDERET, Hill 3O, had an SCR 300 which was in contact with
the Regimental CP on the East bank of the river at CHEF du PONT.
At the Regimental CP an artillery liaison party had set up the radio
and wire net and was in a position to fire in direct support but
did not have contact with Col. Shanley direct. Col. Shanley was
being pressed by German infantry and requested fire through this
SCR 300 artillery support, and an infantry officer adjusted fire
through this medium with superior results".
Colonel March continued: If you are in a jam talk
to somebody and try to get some artillery.
The gliders were coming in two and four at a time.
I don't know whether I agree with that or not. Personally, I don't
know how much they are briefed, but they usually go for the first
field they see, particularly if someone is shooting at them. The
best thing is to have a zone marked for a group.
In regard to parachute artillery, it is practical
from the point of view of artillery. It will land and still be able
to shoot. To get four guns together is quite difficult. In SICILY
they got three together and did a nice job. (Statement made by an
Infantry battalion commander present-- "Artillery coming in
by parachute is good even if you can get one gun out of four".)
Lt. Col. SINGLETON, 80th AT Bn.:
We landed at 0420 in the morning at STE MARIE
DUPONT. Everything went well until we got just between the islands
of JERSEY and GUERNSEY, and then there was heavy flak. We came in
a column of fours, and it was a nice formation, and we ran into
a cloud bank, milky in texture, we could see very little. There
was a lot of flak, small arms fire, machine gun fire and snipers.
The glider pilots did a fine job. We came in 14 hours after the
last paratrooper landed. Anti-tank guns were scattered all over
the area. It seems that we landed when all the Germans were awake.
We landed at about four o'clock and we cut loose and glided about
ten miles before landing. We landed very smoothly. We took in 16
guns in the dark and the next day we had about five out of those
16 within the Division area. Ten men are needed by a squad. The
CG4s had one gun, a little ammunition and two men, or, two men and
a jeep which should have a machine gun on it to protect the men.
With CG-13 we could probably get guns and more personnel. The guns
were OK but we did not have enough personnel.
Brig. Gen. JAMES M. GAVIN (CG task force
(This statement was dictated on August 16th at
Hos., 82d A/B Division)
To begin with, the serial after leaving ENGLAND
was in good shape--tight formation--all ships apparently present.
The flight, as well as it could be observed from the lead plane,
was excellent. Some flak came up from the channel islands--tracers
were seen falling short. Shortly after crossing the West coast,
the first check point was seen which I had figured would be BRICOUABEC.
We then entered dense clouds. Ships which had been flying within
a matter of feet of each other could not be seen anywhere. The red
light went on, indicating four minutes before the drop. When it
was almost time for the green light we emerged from the clouds.
There were no ships in sight. A river appeared in the distance turning
to the West, which I estimated to be either the DOUVE or the upper
reaches of the MERDERET. The green light went on at about the instance
several of the ships appeared out of the fog, closing in on us.
After about a 3 second delay we went out, small-arms fire was coming
up from the ground when the chute opened--just general shooting
all over the area. Off to the right of the line of flight there
was considerable apparent gunfire and flak. I figured that it probably
was in the vicinity of ETIENVILLE, where there was supposed to be
located the only known heavy AA installations in the area. A lot
of firing was seen straight in the line of flight--tracers going
into the air--several miles away. I landed in an orchard, joined
my aide who landed nearby (LT OLSON) and proceeded to "roll
up the stick" as per plan, arriving on the edge of a wide swamp
where I found the remaining men of my stick who were endeavoring
to retrieve equipment bundles from the deep mud and marsh. At this
time parachutists were seen descending, landing in the swamp and
on the banks. After collecting my stick, I found that several men
had been injured during the landing, and two hit during descent.
About 20 minutes after reaching the marsh, a red assembly light
showed on the far bank. A few minutes thereafter a blue assembly
light showed to the South of the red light several hundred yards.
I sent Lt. OLSON at once to direct all the men that he could contact
to report to me in my location. As it happened, the blue light was
the 508 light--the red one of the 507 lights. Close-in security
was posted. The Germans took no aggressive action, despite the fact
that they were obviously in the area since there had been considerable
firing during the descent. The river bank was well dug with slit
trenches and prepared gun positions. Men from the 507 began arriving.
Within two hours, about 150 men were assembled--all 507 except my
own stick, and about one plane load of 508. Lt. OLSON reported that
there was a railroad embankment on the far side of the swamp, and
that it was passable for foot troops. We decided that we were on
the MERDERET River since it was the only river with marshes and
with a railroad running North and South alongside of it. Prior to
this point, I had estimated that we must be on the DOUVE because
of the depth and width of the water. Our pre-operational photo interpretation
had rather clearly established the fact that the MERDERET was a
narrow stream, about 20 yards wide and several feet deep. The value
of the MERDERET river as an anti-tank obstacle had been carefully
studied. The river bank was surrounded by marsh land, covered with
grass which on the fringes was used for grazing. Actually, it developed
that the grass was swamp grass several feet long, which showed above
the water and concealed the wide expanse of flooded area from the
photo interpreter. Heavy firing was seen in the direction of what
was thought to be STE MERE EGLISE. At about 0430, Colonel MALONEY
and Colonel OSTBERG, of the 507th, with about 150 men, had reported
to me, and I decided to move as soon as possible to seize the West
end of the LA FIERE bridge. I considered it necessary to accomplish
this before daylight because of the impracticability of fighting
through the swamps, of which there were several, in the face of
any German automatic weapons. Steps were taken to get the force
organized for movemont, but in a few minutes two gliders landed
about 400 yards West of our position. By this time I had definitely
decided that we were on the West bank of the MERDERET River several
miles North of LA FIERE. It had been reported to me that Colonel
LINQUIST had moved down the railroad with about 100 men towards
LA FIERE. Some individuals were still coming in. Everyone who was
not on security was working at retrieving bundles from the swamp.
I managed to get one bazooka and a few rounds of ammunition. All
other heavy equipment and radios were then in the swamp water or
impossible to get to. The glider landings appeared most fortuitous,
and steps were taken to get the equipment out of them. With luck
it would be a 57mm AT gun, which would come in very handy. At this
time gliders were going overhead moving in the direction of STE
MERE EGLISE. All indications tended to more clearly establish our
estimated location as being correct. In order to retrieve the contents
of the gliders, the move South was temporarily delayed while patrols
were sent to the gliders. Lt. GRAHAM was placed in charge of those
patrols. Lt. GRAHAM returned in about a half hour stating that he
needed at least 30 men. One glider contained a "57", and
one a jeep. They had landed in a marsh and it was very difficult
to extricate the gun and vehicle. Some German small arms fire was
being received in the vicinity of the gliders at this time. Lt.
Col. MALONEY was instructed to make the men available to Lt. GRAHAM.
About a half hour later Lt. GRAHAM returned and stated that he couldn't
get the men, couldn't get out the equipment with the men he had,
and that the German fire was increasing. I accompanied him to the
hedge along the field containing the gliders where the fire was
building up with considerable intensity. With some difficulty additional
men were obtained and finally either the gun or jeep, I forget which
now, was removed only to become impossibly bogged in the swampy
bottom. At my direction Lt. GRAHAM destroyed the jeep and removed
part of the breach mechanism of the "57"mm. It was just
barely possible to do this, since the German Force was becoming
increasingly aggressive. It was now broad daylight. It was about
6 or 6:30 AM. The degree of enemy build-up and his attitude made
the possibility of moving down the West bank at this time appear
impracticable, and I decided to move to the railroad embankment
and move in the direction of LA FIERE, and there pick up all who
could be found from the 508, contact the 505, and attack the bridge
from the East side. Orders were issued, and the movement started
across the marsh. The movement started and contact was established
with the 1st Battalion, 505th, under the command of Major KELLAM,
at LA FIERE. His battalion had landed as per plan, and was carrying
out its prescribed mission. His point was then engaged at the LA
1. Challenging.--Without exception, all
agreed that the system of challenging employed was the best; that
is, one word for a challenge, and one word for a response--no further
conversation being necessary. This further substantiates the findings
as a result of the SICILIAN operation. It is important that the
same challenging system be employed in training as in combat.
2. Assembly.--The assembly plan employed
appeared sound and took the following steps. Each stick rolls up
on the bundles. After securing equipment, sticks join each other
by sight or patrol contact, or rendezvous at a previously agreed
upon terrain feature, or by radio contact. The assembly lights,
one per battalion, were used and proved to be very valuable when
placed in operation. Except for not being high enough, were most
satisfactory for their purpose. Prior to this operation orders were
issued as follows: "Each battalion commander, or one of his
designated battalion staff officers, would take with him a flare
which he should employ if all other assembly aids failed".
It is unfortunate that this order was not carried out by all participants.
It is noteworthy, however, that the flare when used, served its
purpose well. It is believed that the present practice of limiting
the use of flares to a battalion commander or one of his designated
staff officers is sound. Too many flares create an impossible situation.
One light per battalion is all that is permissible. However, the
lights must be raised 40 to 50 feet above the ground. (Experiments
are now being conducted in this Division with a view to the employment
of large balloons capable of raising an assembly light to the proper
altitude.) It is believed that the assembly could be facilitated
by having more radios jumped on the individuals, and it is believed
that for this purpose more radios, in addition to the present authorized
number, must be obtained.
3. Equipment.--All unit commanders are in
agreement that bundles must be tied together. There appears to be
some disagreement as to the extent of bundle identification. As
has happened in the past, if a unit uses a bundle light and they
manage to recover their equipment without being shot up, it is felt
that this is unquestionably the proper method, whereas a unit using
lights and getting badly shot up finds it impossible to recover
its equipment and feels that the use of a light is a serious mistake.
All things considered, the soundest plan appears to be: First, to
tie all bundles together, so arranging the jumpmaster's trip switch
so they will be released simultaneously; next, identify separate
bundles with vitrolyte or similar luminous markings and, in addition,
use the rope knot system; further, it must be emphasized in training
that every weapon and round of ammunition and piece of equipment
must be recovered from the DZ without delay, and that units must
recover their own equipment. If a unit is unable to carry off all
of its loads, then a recover detail must be put to work and a dump
established. Bundles must be jettisoned in the stick and not before.
4. Individual Equipment.--The parachute
must be equipped with a quick-release device. Individuals whose
load permits must jump with an M-1 mine. A caliber .45 pistol should
be worn by each jumper during descent so as to be available immediately
upon landing. The use of the M-1 Rifle Container is not imperative.
Individuals must be trained to carry their full and complete combat
load, wearing all of their equipment in some training exercises
and, in addition, each individual load must be checked with a view
to his prompt and expeditious clearance through the door. Several
serious delays occurred because individuals could not get out promptly.
This was caused by faulty wearing of eouipment, improper carrying
of arms, etc., and must be eliminated by proper inspection and training.
5. Arms.--Because of the nature of the fighting
in NORMANDY, the BAR was most desirable, being of a high rate of
fire, long range, high penetrative power, light, and highly mobile.
As a result of this operation, all unit commanders feel that they
would like to have two BAR's jumped in every squad. This will permit
a unit to engage promptly in a heavy fire fight immediately upon
landing. However, LMG's must also be dropped by bundle. There is
no substitute for them on many missions. Obviously, more weapons
will be on the ground than parachute units can properly employ.
This will necessitate the use of a salvage crew. Steps are being
taken to jump the bazooka with a round of ammunition on an individual
in future operations. The Gammon Grenade with two fragmentation
grenades per man was very satisfactory.
6. Artillery.--All commanders were highly
enthusiastic in their praise of the artillery support received.
They also, without exception, would like to see more work done with
a view to developing and perfecting the use of parachute field artillery.
Even with the present small percentage of recovery of weapons, they
feel that the support available to them from the weapons recovered
more than sastifies the loss incurred in the drop.
7. Enemy Reaction.--The enemy appeared to
engage with all means at his disposal all airborne troops during
their descent. It was most significant, however, that the Germans
remained holed up after the parachutists landed, and attempted little
aggressive action for some long time. The gliders seemed to attract
particular attention, and were very vulnerable immediately upon
8. Our Own Troops.--The conclusions drawn
from the past operations appear after study of NEPTUNE to be sound.
Every stick must assemble on its own equipment promptly upon landing,
regardless of the situation at hand and the amount of fire. From
there the assembly must proceed as fast as circumstances permit.
All enemy communications must be destroyed immediately. All roads
must be mined. Troops must stay off the roads. Use the roads to
ambush the enemy. Move across country. Move promptly with all equipment,
arms, and ammunition that it is possible to get without too great
a delay. A unit will never assemble all of its men, so that every
commander will be faced with a decision as to when to move with
the strength at hand. Only he can make this decision on the spot.
It is most important, however, that the hours of darkness be used
for the seizure of key points and objectives. The enemy reaction
becomes increasingly violent with daylight.
It is most important that every officer participating
in the exercise, regardless of grade, be briefed on the mission
of the Division as a whole, and understand in a general way the
priority of importance of the Division's objectives, and how the
subordinate units of the Division are going to seize these objectives.
It is clear from both the Sicilian Campaign and the NORMANDY Campaign
that this common understanding on the part of all participating
officers is of the utmost importance.
9. Pathfinder Aids.--In country as heavily
held as NORMANDY, setting up and operating three lighted T's per
regimental DZ is impossible. One coded light, or a different type
light, appears to be more satisfactory. The size of the pathfinder
defensive group does not have to be as large as that of NEPTUNE.
A few automatic weapons and a bazooka can hold off most any German
force that will operate at night.
10. Airborne SOP.--The SHAEF Airborne SOP
in general appears to be satisfactory. It must be closely adhered
to, particularly in regard to the 20-minute warning, the 4-minute
warning, and the green light. It is of the utmost importance in
a combat operation that the speed of the troop carrying aircraft
not be excessive. With the extremely heavy load carried by most
jumpers, serious physical injury results, equipment is lost, and
frequently the parachute malfunctions in jumping from a high-speed
11. Weather Conditions.--It is interesting
to note in Opertion NEPTUNE that weather conditions were almost
ideal until shortly after crossing the West coast of the peninsula.
There a dense fog was encountered that lasted almost up to the MERDERET
River. This cause considerable dispersion and error in the drop
of the 507th and 508th Parachute Infantry Regiments, with the error
generally being that of dropping well beyond the DZ where the fog
first cleared. Unfortunately, this put most of the equipment in
the MERDERET River or the swamps or tributaries of that river. The
505th Parachute Infantry, jumping East of the MERDERET River, landed
with most of its men in the DZ area, and promptly undertook to accomplish
its mission. The 507th and 508th Parachute Infantries, with equal
promptness, moved to accomplish what was considered the next most
important mission, and that was the seizure of crossings over the
MERDERET River. Due to the wide dispersion of these units, this
took a bit more time than was anticipated.
12. Training.--Our present training policies
are sound. Night reorganization and assembly exercises must be held
at least twice weekly. Full combat loads carried whenever possible.
Prompt aggressive action by each individual is imperative immediately
upon landing, regardless of enemy interference and must be insisted
upon in training. An individual or small unit that "holes up"
and does nothing is ultimately isolated and destroyed, An airborne
unit has the initiative upon landing, it must retain it. This is
the essence of successful reorganization and accomplishment of a
A number of airborne commanders present recommended
that it be suggested to Troop Carrier unit commanders that they
conduct unit proficiency tests similar to those conducted in this
Division. Each unit to be given a mission and be required to execute
it under simulated combat conditions. Exact numerical ratings to
be given based upon marshalling, briefing, order, flight, timing
and accuracy of drop and these ratings then be made known to the
entire command. The troops and unit commanders of this Division
are willing and anxious to assist in any way possible in the conduct
of this type training.