Friday, June 22, 2012

William A. Clark and “Those Devils in Baggy Pants”

Unlike Sicily, Bill spoke very little at any time during or after the War about his involvement in the invasion of the Italian mainland. He told members of his family that he volunteered for the Salerno jump and he told his friend Herd Bennett some of his experiences during the invasion and subsequent liberation of Naples. Another source of information comes from the letter he wrote to his sister at the end of the War.

Even with these meager fragments, it’s quite surprising what can be deduced about Bill’s involvement in the events leading up to and including the jump into the Salerno Bay area of Italy, as well as the his stay in Naples. The next few posts will reconstruct this as much as possible and in the process reveal a story of astonishing heroism, resourcefulness, and adaptability by the men in the 82nd Airborne Division.

On June 13, 1945 Bill writes his sister:

“After Sicily we went back to Africa and then back to Sicily again. We were loaded in planes there to jump in the outskirts of Rome. Two hours before take off time our General who had went through the lines and worked his way to Rome Sent a message to cancel the jump. Because 5 German Panzer Divisions had moved into our ‘drop zone’.” Source: William Clark, letter dated June 13, 1945

Let’s start by taking a closer examination of the first sentence.

“After Sicily we went back to Africa and then back to Sicily again.” William A. Clark, June 13, 1945

Once the fighting in Sicily was finished, the 82nd Airborne performed occupation duty in Sicily before returning to the bases in Kairouan, Tunisia on August 19 - 20, 1943. The plan from that point was to train there with the  C-47 Troop Carrier Groups (TCGs) for the upcoming invasion of the Italian mainland; the main aim being to avoid a repeat of the misdrops, and friendly fire tragedy in Sicily.

To complicate matters further, while in North Africa the 504th and 505th were also burdened with the task of integrating much needed replacement paratroopers. The 505th had lost 195 men in Sicily (killed in action, missing in action, prisoners of war and wounded not returned to duty). The 504th had lost 281 men - 86 more than the 505th. These numbers do not count the number of wounded returned to duty and missing in action returned to duty: 107 and 234 for the 504th and 505th respectively. Source: “82nd Airborne Division in Sicily and Italy, Section IV”, Alexander, M. p. 39.

Once training was completed, the 505th, 504th and their accompanying TCGs were to move back together to the airbases in Sicily prior to the landings of the Allies on the Italian coast on September 9 at Salerno Bay – dubbed Operation AVALANCHE. However, due to bewildering shifts in strategy and subsequent, frequent changes in plans the TCGs were re-stationed from North Africa to Sicily on August 31 before coordinated jump training in the TCG C-47s and the paratroopers was completed. Five days later on September 5 the same C-47s flew back to Africa to move  the 504th  (minus the 3rd Battalion) and all of the 505th to their new bases in Sicily.

“Gone was the opportunity for any real air-ground training. It was impossible to parachute, rescue parachutes and repack them in time for the impending operation. However, because of its vital necessity, a week of such training was scheduled and some four days of same executed to a fairly satisfactory degree. The Division was only able to place the jumpmaster in each plane and have the ‘sticks’ of parachutists represented by a few replacements who had not had a night jump.” Source: “82nd Airborne Division in Sicily and Italy, Alexander, M. p. 44.

A few days after the arrival of the paratroopers in Sicily, Operation AVALANCHE would proceed on September 9 under General Mark Clark. Clark’s Fifth Army would make a seaborne landing in the Gulf of Salerno, push up the coast and take Naples.  The 82nd Airborne Division would be at General Clark’s  disposal for the operation.

In the first of several versions of the Airborne component of the plan, the 82nd Division would be used to block the passes around Nocera and Sarno so that the seaborne force would be protected from German forces trying to reach the Allied landing beaches in the Gulf of Salerno. However, to do this would require a moon lit night jump at altitudes of 4,500 – 6, 00 feet in the Nocera Pass on the Sorrento Ridge – some very rugged mountainous terrain. The plan was fraught with danger  from anti-aircraft gun positions and the possibility of German fighter attacks on the C-47s carrying the paratroopers. Source: “On to Berlin”, Gavin, J., 1978, p. 55-56

Map of the First Version of Operation AVALANCHE

View Operation AVALANCHE (1st Version) in a larger map

Note click on the blue place markers and line in the map for information

This first planned version of the Airborne component of AVALANCHE was scrapped on August 12 in favor of a new plan called Operation GIANT I put forth on August 18. It called for the 82nd Airborne Division to be dropped, 40 miles away from the 5th Army landing beaches in the Gulf of Salerno, in the vicinity of the Volturno River. Their mission would be to destroy the  river crossings on the Volturno from the town of Tiflisco all the way to the ocean, then occupy the area preventing the Germans from moving across the river. The plan included a seaborne landing of troops on beaches at the mouth of the Volturno. However, the US  Navy ruled that out stating that the beaches in that area were unsuitable for landing. Source: Ibid.

GIANT I was still on despite this set back. An elaborate plan to resupply the 82nd from the air was drawn up. The resupply plan was tenuous at best. Night supply drops with random flight schedules would be a necessity to avoid enemy fighters. Making air transport even more vulnerable, the area was beyond the range of Allied fighter cover. Moreover, aerial resupply would need to work for the planned five days it would take for the British 46th Division to fight their way from the beaches in Salerno to reach and reinforce the paratroopers at the Volturno. If those forces were late in coming, or the air resupply plan didn’t work accordingly (which was becoming more likely), things could take a dire turn for the 82nd. In Africa and in Sicily the Germans had  proved they were a fierce and determined enemy. A scenario where the 82nd Airborne was trapped on the Volturno would mean its destruction. Source: “On to Berlin”, Gavin, J., 1978, p. 56-57

To complicate matters further, intelligence confirmed that thousands of Allied POWs were being held in the Volturno River area around the towns of Capua and Caserta. Once liberated these prisoners would need food, clothing, shelter and medical attention. This compounded the resupply effort needed and would take away time, effort and resources needed for the 82nd to achieve their primary mission of blocking a German counter-attack launched from across the Volturno. Source: Ibid.

Map of Operation GIANT I

View Operation GIANT I in a larger map

Note click on the blue place markers in the map for information

Remarkably, yet naturally, none of these glaring faults in the GIANT I plan seemed to matter to the individual 82nd Airborne troopers. According to the then Colonel Gavin of the 505th PIR:

“It was also of the highest interest to the troopers of the 82nd that the rear echelons of the German 1st Parachute Division and the Hermann Goering Panzer Division were bivouacked near our proposed area of operations. Word was going around that if the Hermann Goering outfit had anything left after Sicily, it was about to lose it now. And every man was curious about the 1st Parachute Division and more than willing to meet it.” Source: “On to Berlin”, Gavin, J., 1978, p. 57

On August 31, during a meeting on Operation AVALANCHE, General Eisenhower decided to all but cancel the Volturno River operation. It was cut down to a two battalion operation of securing the bridges and capture of Capua. General Ridgeway assigned the mission to the 504th. Source: “On to Berlin”, Gavin, J., 1978, p. 58

The demise of GIANT I was finally met when the menace of enemy fighter squadrons was fully realized. According to Colonel Gavin:

“Still in the minds of all the pilots was the recent interception of a German air transport column on the way to North Africa with badly needed supplies for the beleaguered troops of General Jurgen von Arnim. Seventy-five transports were shot down in not many more seconds. Air Chief Marshal Tedder and General Clark decided in the end that the possible gain from our Volturno  mission would not be worth the probable losses. The mission was called off, and thus ended GIANT I.” Source: “On to Berlin”, Gavin, J., 1978, p. 57

Operation GIANT II – Airborne Capture of Rome

On September 2, General Matthew Ridgway, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, was notified of yet a new mission for the 82nd Airborne; one that would work in tandem with Operation AVALANCHE. This one was named Operation GIANT II -  the capture of Rome set for execution over successive nights of September 8 and 9.  It was an audacious plan calling for the landing of the largest airborne force possible on four airfields to the east and northeast of Rome until the Italian capitol was securely in Allied hands. As in GIANT I, seaborne troops – this time from the 82nd Airborne, would land at the mouth of the Tiber River and fight their way to reinforce their Airborne brethren. The flying distance to Rome meant that the C47’s would need to take off from airfields in Sicily. While the transports could make the trip, they would be out of fighter escort range at that time period of the war. The paratroopers would face the same danger that led to the final cancellation of GIANT I – enemy fighters.

“Right from the start, Ridgway had the greatest misgivings about the ‘Rome job’ [as General Eisenhower had come to refer to GIANT II] . He thought it was a ‘hare-brained scheme.’” Source: Clay Blair “Ridgway’s Paratroopers: The American Airborne in World War II” 1956, p. 132.



General Matthew Ridgway, Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Besides the danger of enemy fighters, General Ridgway and all of his senior staff saw that GIANT II suffered from serious problems. First, the proposed airfields were small and rough making them less than suitable for landing transport and supply aircraft at the rate needed to achieve success.

Second,  the cooperation of the Italian military forces was paramount to success. While such cooperation had already been secured during meetings between Italian and Allied representatives in August, 1943, nagging doubts persisted. During GIANT II the Italian military were to assist significantly with the operation. The transports were to land at night. The Italians would light the airfields, assist with the disbursement of men and materiale to safe locations, take out German antiaircraft positions, make safe the beach landing zones and the passage up Tiber River and so on.

However, by this time the German’s didn’t trust the Italian military, and were in the process of confiscating most of their their gasoline and ammunition. This is something the Allied soldiers eventually saw with their own eyes when they fought in Salerno during Operation AVALANCHE.

After the August talks the Allies came away thinking it was possible the Italian military would be unable to assist the Allies in liberation of Italy. Despite the potential problems planning went ahead hastily. In an all night strategy session on September 5, the details of GIANT II were hammered out 48 hours before the operation would begin. Normally this was a process that took three or four weeks.

The plan was approved by General Alexander, commander of the 15th Army group tasked with the invasion of Italy. However, none of the 82nd Airborne Division senior staff were comfortable with the operation:

“Neither Taylor nor his superior officers were wholly satisfied, however, that the help they were to get from the Italians was of a responsible sort, to be fully depended on. They were planning to risk an entire division of specially selected men , the best and most carefully trained soldiers in the American Army. Without absolute certainty of support when they had made their drops, the plan would fail. And the slightest false move by the Italians in making their preparations for assistance would, naturally, have betrayed the scheme to the Germans, and the division would fall into a trap where they would  probably be annihilated.” Source: “82nd Airborne Division in Sicily and Italy, Section IV”, Alexander, M. p. 61.

Something had to be done to cancel GIANT II, and fast, or the 82nd Airborne was headed for a suicide mission. Following the all night session it was decided that Brigadier General Maxwell Taylor, second in command of the 82nd Airborne Division and Colonel William Tudor Gardiner of the US Army Air Force would go to Rome and assess the situation and send back their recommendations for a go or no go on the operation via coded radio message.

All of what happened next is encompassed by the third sentence in Bill’s letter.

“…our General who had went through the lines and worked his way to Rome Sent a message to cancel the jump.”

On the morning of September 7th the two officers set out for Rome having only some 48 hours to journey there, assess the situation, and radio back their message in sufficient time for the Army’s administrative machinery to arrive at and implement a decision. 

It was with the a large measure of good fortune, and the tenacious investigation at great personal risk to Taylor and Gardiner, that disaster was averted by the narrowest of margins. Scroll down to see the map below entitled “Map of Taylor’s and Gardiner’s Journey to Rome”.

A gripping account (and one well worth reading) of Taylor’s and Gardner’s journey to Rome and the result can be found in the 82nd Airborne Division in Sicily and Italy, Section IV pages 60 – 71 (downloadable for free from The Combined Arms Research Library: Digital Library)

(Direct link:


General Maxwell Taylor, Second in Command, 82nd Airborne Division

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Taylor and Gardiner boarded a British PT boat in Sicily at 4:00AM on September 7th, and arrived off the coast of a small island named Utisca, 40 miles off the north western tip of Sicily. There they boarded an Italian corvette which bore them across to the Italian mainland port of Gaeta some 75 miles away from Rome. They were disguised as captured airmen shot down and taken prisoner. They were dressed in their uniforms so that if caught would have a better chance of not being shot as spies. They also decided to carry side arms for personal protection. Once on land they were transferred to car and then when out of sight were transferred to a small delivery truck or ambulance (depending on which source you read) which carried them to Rome via the Appian Way.

In the city’s outskirts they saw evidence of many German troop deployments. They arrived at General  Carboni’s residence – the head of Italian forces in Rome – after dark and were rushed inside and hidden in comfortable quarters. They were offered good food and wine for dinner and told that they would be received in the morning for discussions. Shocked, Taylor immediately demanded to see General Carboni. At that time there was only 30 hours remaining before the parachute drops would begin.


General Carboni

General Carboni, Commander of Italian Armed forces in Rome 

Source: “United States Army in World War II Mediterranean Theater of Operations: Sicily and the Surrender of Italy”, Garland, A. etal., 1993

Soon after Taylor’s request, Carboni arrived. At the outset the Italian General expressed his doubt of GIANT II’s viability:

“General Carboni took a most pessimistic view of the whole situation. Numbers of fresh German troops had been moved into the Rome area since the Armistice negotiations had got under way, and the problem looked far more difficult if not impossible. He thought that any announcement of the Armistice  [which was due to occur just before GIANT II began] just then would be highly undesirable and would result in the immediate occupation of Rome by the Germans. The airborne operation, he said finally, would be disastrous.” Source: “82nd Airborne Division in Sicily and Italy, Section IV”, Alexander, M. p. 64.

When asked why he didn’t think the operation would succeed, Carboni’s reasons for his pessimism were:

“His Rome troops, which were to have been counted on for help, were in an almost defenseless condition. The Germans had been keeping a close grip on supplies of ammunition and fuel in the area and doling it out to the Italian Army in the smallest possible rations. His soldiers had only enough ammunition for a few hours of combat. They had almost no petrol to ensure their mobility. They could not put their hands on the supplies needed to provide hidden stockpiles for the American parachute division. The Germans were alert, suspicious. They would come in and slaughter both his Italian soldiers and the Americans dropping from the skies.” Source: Ibid.

Alarmed by Carboni’s assessment, Taylor knew now that the operation was doomed to failure. He realized that to stop it in time would require not only his assessment of the situation, but also a statement to the same effect from the head of the Italian military establishment – Marshal Badoglio.



Marshal Badoglio, Commander of all Italian Forces and Interim Head of Government, following the death of Benito Mussolini 

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Again it took a determined effort on the American’s part to convince the Italians to let them speak with Badoglio at once. They eventually were able to meet with him. Badoglio’s English was bad. Taylor’s and Gardiner’s Italian was not good enough for conversation. The only language they all were fluent in was French. The discussions began in earnest. Taylor took the lead while Gardiner took notes. The Marshal’s main concern was retaliation by the Germans on Rome once the armistice was announced. If he were to write the letter Taylor wanted, the armistice announcement would need to be postponed. After a time they were able to help Badoglio write a letter advising cancellation of the drop, but with a stated desire on the part of Badoglio to delay announcement of the armistice. Source: “82nd Airborne Division in Sicily and Italy, Section IV”, Alexander, M. p. 67 – 68.

The coded message was sent via radio after Taylor signed it at 1:21AM , but due to atmospheric interference it didn’t arrive at Allied headquarters until 6:00AM September 8, the GIANT II D-day. It was not received by Eisenhower's headquarters until hours later where his staff immediately began working on it.

As a precaution, because no confirmation of the original message had been received , Taylor sent a follow-up message at 11:35AM which read “Situation innocuous”. It was a predetermined message which was agreed upon prior to his and Gardiner's mission.

If any message with the word innocuous was received, GIANT II was to be halted. Like the original message receipt of this one was also delayed. As it was, Taylor’s original message was acted upon at about 11:00AM, but the airborne troop command didn’t receive it until 4:30PM. At that time the Pathfinders of the 504th had already taken off along with the 504th 1st Battalion. Plane loads of other 504 paratroopers were already onboard their C47’s awaiting take off. The pathfinder's and the 1st battalion planes were ordered to return to base. The Paratroopers were naturally disappointed:

“…the order to stop the operation came as a blow to them, and they grumbled some as they stowed their kit back in their tents. ‘Why couldn't So-and-So Generals make up their minds?’ they wondered , as they tramped disconsolately away from the assembly area. They could not know that they had just been saved from dropping into what at the moment looked like the jaws of certain death.” Source: “82nd Airborne Division in Sicily and Italy, Section IV”, Alexander, M. p. 67 – 68.

But it wasn’t over yet for Taylor and Gardiner. In making their escape from Rome, they had to make a risky trip to a nearby German occupied airfield in an ambulance, where they were secreted onto an Italian military plane and flown out of Rome at 5:00PM. The flight to their destination in Tunis took about 2 hours. They arrived a little after 7:00PM. Announcement of the Armistice between the Italians and the Allies was made by General Eisenhower at 6:30PM, while they were still in flight. They had just made it out by the skin of their teeth. Source: “82nd Airborne Division in Sicily and Italy, Section IV”, Alexander, M. p. 70.

Map of Taylor’s and Gardiner’s Journey to Rome 

View Journey to Rome in a larger map

Note click on the blue place markers and lines in the map for information

Later that day, some of the top 82nd Airborne brass had a different reaction to that of the paratroops as revealed by this memoir of the events by Ralph (Doc) Eaton, 82nd Airborne Chief of Staff :

“Doc Eaton recalled: ‘That night after it was all over, I went back to my tent and sat on my cot. I was trembling, thinking that if Ridgway hadn't  fought that thing tooth and nail we’d have gone in and it would have been a disaster. Who should come into my tent but Matt [General Ridgway]. He was not a drinker – not a drunkard – but of all things he had a bottle of whiskey. We each took a drink – and then he began to cry. And so did I. It was so close and we felt so deeply about it and we were both exhausted. I sat there thinking that I owed him my life.” Source: as quoted in Clay Blair “Ridgway’s Paratroopers: The American Airborne in World War II” 1956, p. 141 based on an interview by the author with Ralph P. Eaton 82nd Airborne Chief of Staff from 8/15/1942 – 6/6/1944.

British Prime Minster, Winston Churchill had this to say in a speech he later gave to the House of Commons:

“We offered and prepared to land an American airborne division in Rome at the same time as the Armistice was declared,” the Prime Minister told the house, “in order to fight off the two armoured divisions which were massed outside it to help the Italians, but owing to the German investment of the Rome airfields which took place in the last day or two before the announcement of the Armistice, of which investment the Italian Government warned us, it was not possible to carry out this part of the plan, which was, I think a pretty daring plan – cheers – to cast this powerful force there in Rome in conditions which no one could measure, which might have led to its complete destruction, but were quite ready to do it. But at the last moment the warning came, ‘The airfields are not in our control.’” (Winston Churchill House of Commons Speech, September 21, 1943.) Source: “82nd Airborne Division in Sicily and Italy, Section IV”, Alexander, M. p. 60.

The second sentence of Bill’s letter states:

“We were loaded in planes there to jump in the outskirts of Rome. Two hours before take off time…” William A. Clark, June 13, 1945

As a rigger Bill was rotated on jumps. He had already jumped in Sicily so he possibly was not rostered to jump in Italy. In any case, he stated that he volunteered for the Italian jump. After losing his friend in Sicily Bill, full of vengeance,  wanted to fight the Germans very badly.

When Bill volunteered for the Italian jump, I think he was assigned to jump with the 504th PIR. I think he was jumping with the 504 because in his letter supports that conclusion:

“We were loaded in planes there to jump in the outskirts of Rome. Two hours before take off time our General who had went through the lines and worked his way to Rome Sent a message to cancel the jump. Because 5 German Panzer Divisions had moved into our “drop zone”.

The 505th PIR was not loaded on planes when the GIANT II jump was cancelled. They were scheduled to jump on the second night of September 9. The 504, however, was scheduled to jump the first night on September 8.

According to General Gavin in his 1947 book Airborne Warfare:

“The leading assault regiment, the 504th Parachute Infantry was to land on the Fubara and Cerveteri airfields near the seacoast. From there they were to push inland towards Rome. The regiment jumped on the second night, the 505th Parachute Infantry, would land on Guidonia, Littorio, and Centocelle airfields, all of which are considerably nearer the center of the city of Rome.” Source Gavin, J., “Airborne Warfare” 1947, p. 27

Writing about GIANT II Gerard Devlin, author of Paratrooper! states:

“The final plan, codenamed Giant Two, can be best described as being very ambitious. It called for the entire 82nd Airborne Division to be delivered into Rome on two successive nights. The signal to start Giant Two would be given at 6:30 on the evening of September 8. At that time, General Eisenhower would start reading the armistice announcement, live, over Radio Algiers. Upon hearing the sound of Ike’s voice broadcasting in from Africa, Colonel Tucker’s 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment would start taking off in order to jump on Cerveteri and Fubara airfields after dark. Both of these airfields are located on the northern outskirts of Rome, were well beyond the city’s antiaircraft defensive belt. Colonel Gavin’s 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment was to jump the following night on Littoria, Glidonia, and Centocelle airfields, all inside this antiaircraft belt and closer to the center of Rome.” Source: Paratrooper!” Devlin, G., 1979 p. 292

Map of Operation GIANT II – Airborne Capture of Rome

View Operation GIANT II in a larger map

   Note click on the blue place markers and lines in the map for information

Later Devlin writes:

“…hundreds of paratroopers began boarding their planes for take off. At precisely 6:30pm, the signal to launch Giant Two was given when Ike began reading the armistice announcement over Radio Algiers…From scattered airfields on Sicily, fully loaded C-47s had been taking off for Rome while Ike was reading the armistice announcement…Sixty-two planes already in the air on their way to Rome had to be called back to land.” Source: Ibid., p. 297

From these accounts, and Bill’s one testimony he must have been assigned to the 504 and not the 505. But which 504 battalion was Bill assigned to?

Bill was not among 1st Battalion 504 since it was already in the air by the time GIANT II was cancelled:

Our 1st Battalion aircraft were in the air and forming up to fly to Italy when jeeps came screaming onto the tarmac among the 2nd Battalion taxiing aircraft…The Rome operation was canceled. A sigh of relief was felt but the bravado talk began: ‘I was ready for that jump!’ ‘Too bad, I’d’ve really been hell on wheels!’ ‘let’s go anyway! I’m ready, I’m ready!’ And so forth. But while chuting up and taxiing there wasn’t a word. Just each man tending to his equipment keeping his thoughts to himself. The noise was unbearable. The aircraft already airborne returned to the airfield and everyone went back to their bivouacs. The next morning we learned the Germans didn’t trust Badoglio so several panzer units had [been] ordered in and were manning our proposed drop zone.” Source: “Beyond Valor” O'Donnell, P. 2001, p. 66 Excerpt of account by Joe Watts Company F, 504th PIR on the cancelled GIANT II jump on Rome.

Bill couldn’t have been assigned to jump with the 3rd battalion since:

“Due to the limited transport, only one regiment could be lifted per night, so as scheduled, the 504 (minus its 3rd battalion) would be dropped on the night of September 8th and the 505 on the night of September 9th…” Source: “Ready: A World War II History of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment” Langdon A., 1986, p. 30

All of the 3rd Battalion 504, except company H was at the time in Bizerte, Tunisia. The single company H was part of a larger mix of units to land via LCIs and LCT sat the mouth of the Tiber River in support of the GIANT II jump. This attack force  had already left Bizerte and while en-route to the Tiber was first diverted to the Gulf of Salerno and then to Maiori, to support Colonel Darby’s Rangers who were tasked with opening and securing the passes leading to Naples. Source: “The Sword of St. Michael: The 82nd Airborne Division in World War II”, LoFaro, G., 2011, pp. 137 – 138.

It was only later on September 13, the rest of the 3rd Battalion 504 having been transported from Bizerte to Licata, Sicily was loaded onto LCIs bound for the mouth of the Volurno River. Source: “More Than Courage: THe Combat History of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War II” Nordike P.,Langdon A., 2008, p. 77

That leaves only one possibility and that is that Bill was jumping with the 2nd Battalion f504 or GIANT II. With Operation AVALANCHE set to begin in the early hours of September 9 the whole of the 82nd Airborne Division was in a state of readiness, so it is unlikely that changes would be made to assignments of individual paratroopers at this late stage. It follows that Bill jumped into Salerno as part of the 2nd Battalion, 504.

How Bill came to jump with the 504 instead of the 505 is a mystery to me. His superiors may have been looking for volunteers from those who were jump qualified and had jumped a night mission. The replacements for the 504 and 505 had not made a night jump before. It’s possible that experienced volunteers were sought as a way to reassure the new paratroopers and build their confidence for the upcoming GIANT II night jump. With some 1,000 replacements assigned across the 504th and 505th after Sicily, and no time to train them in jumping at night it is possible there was a need for experienced volunteers. Perhaps there was a need for his experience in the 504 since they had lost some 86 more men than the 505. It is known that:

“Officers were shifted around to fill vacancies created by causalities.” Source: “Four Stars of Valor”. Nordyke, P., 2006, p. 99

If officers were shifted around, then why not other personnel such as riggers who were rotated on combat jumps.

Over the next few posts we’ll explore what happened to Bill and the men of the 504 - “Those Devils in Baggy Pants” in a place which has often been called “Bloody Salerno”.

Below is a news reel covering some of the events leading up to Italy’s Surrender on September 8, 1943.


Source: National Archives and Records Administration - ARC 38975, LI 208-UN-68 - ITALY SURRENDERS - DVD Copied by Thomas Gideon. Series: Motion Picture Films from "United News" Newsreels, compiled 1942 - 1945. Public  Domain.



© Copyright Jeffrey Clark 2012 All Rights Reserved.