world war ii: 101st airborne

In this colorized photo of F-Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne Division underway to Normandy aboard C-47 #12. At 01.20 hours D-Day they jumped over DZ “C” (Hiesville). (L to R): William G. Olanie, Frank D. Griffin, Robert J “Bob” Noody, Lester T. Hegland.

Robert “Bob” Noody second from right with the Bazooka. “Bob landed behind the mayor’s house at Ste-Mere-Eglise. In the ensuing days, Noody utilized his bazooka to destroy a German tank that threatened his unit outside of Carentan.”

Later in the war he made the Operation Market Garden jump and fought with Fox Company from Eindhoven to the Rhine. His unit was rushed to stem the German breakthrough at Bastogne. They held the line in woods next to Easy Company. He was wounded by friendly fire, and re-joined his unit at Hagenau.“

He was only 20yrs old on D-Day.

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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.

Lieutenant Colonel Ronald C. Speirs (20 April 1920 – 11 April 2007) was a United States Army officer who served in the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division during World War II. He was initially assigned as a platoon leader in either Charlie or Baker Company of the 1st Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Speirs was reassigned to Dog Company of the 2nd Battalion prior to the invasion of Normandy in June 1944, before his unit was absorbed into Easy Company, of which he was given command during the assault on Foy after the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne. Speirs also served in Korea, where he commanded a rifle company, and later became the American governor for Spandau Prison in Berlin. He reached the rank of captain while serving in the European Theater during World War II and retired as a lieutenant colonel.

Members of the ‘Filthy Thirteen’ 101st Airborne, sport Indian-style mohawks and apply war paint to one another before going into battle, June 5, 1944.

The Filthy Thirteen was the name given to the 1st Demolition Section of the Regimental Headquarters Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, of the United States Army, which fought in the European campaign in World War II. The Demolition Section was assigned and trained to demolish enemy targets behind the lines. They were ordered to secure or destroy the bridges over the Douve River during the Normandy Invasion of Europe in June 1944. Half were either killed, wounded or captured, but they accomplished their mission. This unit was best known for the famous photo which appeared in Stars and Stripes, showing two members wearing Indian-style “mohawks” and applying war paint to one another. The inspiration for this came from unit sergeant Jake McNiece, who was part Choctaw.

Walter Gordon, Floyd Talbert, John Eubanks, unknown, Francis Mellet of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment in the 101st Airborne Division. D-Day

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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.

WWII Veteran Vince Speranza Leads Rousing Rendition of 'Blood on the Risers'

World War-II veteran and 101st Airborne Division member Vince Speranza visited the Frederick Army Airfield in Frederick, Oklahoma, and led a rousing rendition of the famous WWII American paratrooper song, Blood on the Risers. Credit: Hank Askin via Storyful

That, I’ve come to believe, is the hardest thing about war: to be faced with so many emotional situations involving people who’ve come to mean the world to you. Losing those people, sometimes right in front of you. And yet not being able to grieve for them. Even after the war, when you were expected to just get on with your life as if nothing more had happened to you than, say, a reshuffling of your living room furniture.
—  Donald Malarkey, Easy Company Soldier
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The Forgotten Paramarines of World War II,

When one thinks of World War II paratroopers, famous units such as the 101st and 82nd Airborne come to mind.  After all these units became famous for their daredevil combat airdrops all over Europe.  However during World War II in the Pacific, a little known force of “paramarines” was created.  

Called the 1st Marine Parachute Regiment, which consisted of 3,000 men, they were much like their Army counterparts in that they were an elite force who used special equipment and training to accomplish their unique missions.  They had higher standards of fitness, received higher pay, and because of the dangerous nature of their missions were required to be unmarried.  Another unique aspect of of the paramarines were that they were issued with some of the less common American weapons used during World War II, such as the Reising Submachine Gun, Johnson Semi-Automatic Rifle, and Johnson Light Machine (pictured below in order).

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Throughout the Pacific Theater the paramarines were known as some the toughest and hardest charging devil dogs in the corps.  Their list of combat tours include Guadalcanal, Bougainville, and the Soloman Islands Campaign.  Casualties were especially high at Guadalcanal where the unit suffered a 20% casualty rate, among the highest of all Marine units who participated in the battle.

Despite being highly trained and motivated parachutists, the paramarines never made a combat jump during the war.  The only exception was small group of paramarines who dropped into France to help the French Resistance.  Rather the paramarines conducted amphibious operations just like regular marines.  This was due to two factors.  The first was that the Marine Corps lacked aircraft from which to conduct paradrops.  Rather the paramarines were dependent on US Army Air Corps planes to conduct training and operations.  Finally, and more importantly, the Pacific Theater lacked the terrain needed for successful airborne operations.  Since most of the Pacific’s battles were fought in either dense jungle or small heavily fortified islands, there was little chance the paramarines would ever conduct a combat jump.

On December 30th, 1943 the 1st Marine Parachute Regiment was officially disbanded, and its marines transferred to other units.  Most would be transferred to the 5th Marine Division who landed at Iwo Jima on February 19th, 1945.   Former Paramarines, Cpl. Harlon H. Block and Pfc. Ira H. Hayes, assisted in the raising of the American flag on Mount Suribachi on 23 February 1945.  Of the 81 Marine Corps Medal of Honor recipients during World War II, five were former paramarines who fought at Iwo Jima.

My New Favorite Band

I love how a lot of their songs are based on historical battles and they do so with such awesome lyrics and some of the best power metal I’ve ever heard. A couple of my Favorite Songs:

1 6 4 8  (The 1648 battle of Prague)

Night Witches (Female WWII Fighter Pilots)

Resist and Bite (Battle of Belgium in World War II)

Screaming Eagles (101st Airborne Division and the Siege of Bastogne)

Fifteen years ago on this day (September 9, 2001) the first episode of Band of Brothers aired on HBO.

Drawn from interviews with survivors of Easy Company, as well as their journals and letters, Band of Brothers chronicled the experiences of these men from paratrooper training in Georgia through the end of the war. As an elite rifle company parachuting into Normandy early on D-Day morning, participants in the Battle of the Bulge, and witness to the horrors of war, the men of Easy knew extraordinary bravery and extraordinary fear - and became the stuff of legend. Based on Stephen E. Ambrose’s acclaimed book of the same name.