paratrooping

6

Simmons-Bond Inn - exterior

On our second night here a summer storm passed over.  I was finally staying somewhere with an outside, a nice view, AND there was a summer storm.  I couldn’t resist, I had to go out and sit on the porch swing for a while.

A while turned into a few hours.  I put on some swing music and got out a book, and eventually @purrdence and @penguinated joined me and we chatted into the sunset.

When people ask me what my favourite part of the trip was, despite there being many great things, I usually mention this evening.  It was just a chance to breathe and relax.

And to think, if I hadn’t developed an obsession with paratroopers, we would never have even known that this place existed.

Toccoa, Georgia
27 August 2016

Croatian paratroopers before boarding the transport Avia F-IX - Czechoslovak license Fokker F-IX, which were delivered to Yugoslavia in quantity of 2 pieces, and there received the designation F-39. One Yugoslav aircraft were destroyed by the Germans. The second went to the Croats, having received the name “Babaroga” (“Witch”).

2

The American Paratrooper Who Served in the Red Army During World War II.

When the United States entered World War II in 1941, Joseph R. Beyrle enlisted in the US Army and volunteered for the elite paratrooper service.  After completing paratrooper training and training as a demonlitions expert, he was assigned to the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division (Screaming Eagles) with the rank of sergeant. Little did he know where the winds of destiny would blow him. 

His first two missions were secret clandestine operations in which he covertly parachuted into German occupied France wearing bandoliers filled with gold, which he delivered to the French Resistance. On June 6th, 1944 Beyrle participated in the legendary D-Day drop during the Normandy Invasions. When his plane came under heavy fire he was forced to jump early and only 120 meters above the ground. Despite being separated from his unit, Sgt. Beyrle continued his mission, performing acts of sabotage behind enemy lines which resulted in the destruction of two bridges and a power station.  Unfortunatley a few days later he was captured by the Germans when he accidentally stumbled upon a German machine gun nest.  For the next 7 months he was held as a prisoner of war, where he became notorious as an escape artist, making several attempts, two of which were seccessful.  After each attempt, the Germans tortured, starved, and beat him, then transfered him to a different camp.  During his time in German captivity he was shuffled between seven different camps.  After his 7th escape attempt, which was successful except that he accidentally boarded a train for Berlin, the Germans sent him to a camp deep within Poland, with the idea that it’s distance from the Western Front would discourage him from further escape attempts.  Promptly after arriving at the camp in January of 1945, he successfully escaped and made his way to Soviet lines.

After his escape, he came upon the 1st Battalian of the 1st Tank Guards, where he met the famous lady tank commander Captain Aleksandra Samusenko, introducing her with the greeting, “Americansky tovarishch” (American comrade), while handing over a pack of Lucky Strikes. 

Wanting to get back into the war, Bayrle convinced Samusenko to allow him to join the Battalion. Samusenko agreed, and he was appointed a tank machine gunner.  For the next month he would serve with the Red Army, even taking part in the liberation of the POW camp from which he had escaped.  In February of 1945, he was seriously wounded after an attack by a Stuka dive bomber, and was evacuated to a Soviet hospital. During his recuperation, he met none other than the Soviet supreme military commander, Field Marshal Georgy Zhukov. 

 When Bayrle arrived at the US Embassy in Moscow, he learned that he was officially listed as dead, and that his family back home in Muskegon, Michigan had celebrated his funeral.  As it turns out, when he was captured during the Normandy Invasion, his uniforn and dogtags were taken and used by a German infiltration unit.  The German soldier wearing the uniform was unexpectidly killed in September, the corpse being recovered by the Allies and mistakenly identifed as Bayrle’s and buried in France.  Bayrle returned home in April of 1945, married in 1946 (coincidentally in the same church that held his funeral) and lived a happy life raising three children. In 1994 during the 50th Anniversary of D-Day, he was awarded with medals by both US President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin at the White House. He was also personally awarded a specially made presentation AK-47 dedicated to him by Mikhail Kalashnikov.  Joseph “Jumpin’ Joe” Beyrle passed away in 2004 while visiting the paratrooper training grounds in Toccoa, Georgia. He was buried with honors in Arlington National Cemetery.

7

Simmons Bond Inn - interior

Of all the places we stayed, this was my favourite.  We were only here two nights, I wish it had been longer.

The Simmons-Bond Inn was built in 1903 and has a storied history.  During WWII paratroopers training at nearby Camp Toccoa were entertained by U.S.O. shows in the back yard.

I adored the little details throughout the rooms and common areas - home-baked cookies, gloves and stockings, vanity sets.

The only train through Toccoa stops here at about 5:30am.  Our train ran late and the B&B is a short walk from the train station so it was about 6:30/7am when we arrived, but after contacting the owners on the phone they let us in (even though our booking was for the following two nights) so we could set up and shower and take a nap.  A big difference from where we stayed at Atlanta, where we were stuck waiting in a hallway with no seating that called itself a lobby for 8 hours until the reception opened up.

Toccoa, Georgia
26 August 2016

2

For the anniversary of the D-Day invasion, these Pathfinders of F Company, Task Force Eagle Assault at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Afghanistan paid special tribute to those original World War II Pathfinders of the 101st Airborne Division by giving each other Mohawk haircuts and painting their faces much like their forerunners had for a combat patching ceremony.

3

How to take out an armored vehicle with an umbrella.

Major Allison Digby Tatham-Warter  was certainly an odd fellow from the Second World War.  An experienced parachutist and commando, Major Tatham-Warter commanded Company A of the British 2nd Parachute Battalion.  To show just how British he was he often carried an umbrella into battle.  In one incident Tatham-Warter calmly escorted a chaplain through a barrage of mortar fire, holding his open umbrella over the priest’s head for “protection.” When a lieutenant pointed out the umbrella wasn’t going to do much good in a fight, Tatham-Warter responded, “What if it rains?”

In Sept. of 1944 Tatham-Warter and his men took part in Operation Market Garden, a bold offensive to take several strategic bridges in The Netherlands using paratroopers, paving the way for an invasion of Germany.  Tatham-Warter and his battalion was tasked with taking and holding the Arnhem Bridge which crossed the Rhine directly into Germany.  Unfortunately the operation would end in total failure.  The paratroopers dropped into Arnhem were in an especially desperate situation as they were surrounded by an entire SS Panzer division.  The light weapons of the paratroopers were almost useless against German tanks and armored vehicles.  However the British paratroopers found some creative ways to defend themselves from the steel behemoths, one of which involved an umbrella.

During a particular heavy firefight, Major Tatham-Warter and his men noticed an armored car approaching their position.  The major immediately ran up to the vehicle and shoved his umbrella into the viewport.  After opening the umbrella the driver was blinded and the umbrella could not be removed.  Taking advantage of the German crew’s confusion the British paratroopers swarmed the vehicle and attached a bomb which permanently destroyed it.

Despite a staunch and courageous defense, Arnhem would fall to the German Army.  Around 6,800 British paratroopers were forced to surrender.  Another 2,000 were killed in action.  Major Tatham-Warter was wounded in the action and captured by German forces.  He later escaped from the hospital he was held in and returned to friendly lines.