Another interesting document is Bill’s Separation Qualification Record. It reveals some of the detail about Bill’s military skills or his Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). He completed three months of basic training (MOS 521) and received his qualifications as a Rigger and Parachute Repairman (MOS 620). MOS 620 was a skill he practiced for thirty months covering the entire duration of the war, culminating in his promotion in grade to Technical Sergeant T-4.
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All enlistees to the Army had to complete basic infantry training to earn the MOS of 521. The War Department’s 1944 “Military Occupational Classification of Enlisted Personnel” (TM12-427), gives a description of what MOS 521 is used for on page 68.
Page 80 of the same document gives a more detailed account of the MOS 620 skill set.
Like all other would be paratroopers, once basic training was completed, Bill underwent the grueling four week long airborne training program. As per his discharge papers he was awarded his jump wings in February 1943. Upon graduation troopers were assessed for skills that would be useful in the context of airborne operations and were subsequently assigned to subordinate units within the 82nd Division. In addition to combat troopers, men were needed to drive vehicles, cook meals, operate artillery equipment, and rig parachutes etc. Part of the decision of where they would go was based upon their basic training reports. Other information was used including any civilian skills they possessed.
I don’t have access to Bill’s basic training evaluation report, but page 2 of his separation record does indicate he was a back tender at the Aetna paper mill in Dayton, Ohio. The work there required skills in operating and maintaining machinery used to make paper. It seems very likely that this was a significant contributing factor in the decision to assign him to parachute rigging and repair. To complete the final part of his airborne training, Bill attended the parachute packing and maintenance school at Fort Benning which had been established since 1942.
Being a “rigger”, Bill was responsible for the vital and morally onerous task of repairing and packing parachutes for troops prior to combat and training jumps. If a chute failed to open the responsibility fell on the riggers. Bill also customized equipment satchels to overcome design faults at the request of commanders and as favors for fellow troopers.
Riggers comprised part of an airborne regiment’s service company. Other service company personnel such as ambulance drivers, runners, stenographers, cooks, orderlies etc had to attend jump school as well. But they usually landed in gliders instead of making combat jumps. However, riggers were routinely asked to volunteer (and indeed were required) to make combat jumps to instill confidence in the hearts of troopers that their parachutes were packed correctly.
In all, Bill made 52 jumps during the war including all four combat jumps made by the 505th PIR . I’ll talk more about his involvement in these jumps in the coming months.
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