Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day November 11th 2008, Remembering the 82nd Airborne on D-Day






Sainte-Mere-Eglise, famous for being the first French town liberated D-Day, June 6th 1944.Parachutists from the 82nd Airborne Division had dropped the night before the beach landings and one of them was left hanging from the old church tower after his chute snagged on the spire. He hung there, wounded in the foot and playing dead, for hours as a battle raged below him. Finally he was cut down and taken prisoner. Freed by his own side soon after, he survived, John Steele was the guy’s name.


AT WAR AND HOME; Robert, William and Harry Warner were involved in the D-Day invasion of Normandy. James probably arrived in the war zone sometime after the initial assault. From air and sea, Allied troops invaded Normandy's beaches on June 6, 1944, with 5,300 ships, nearly 11,000 airplanes, about 50,000 military vehicles and 154,000 troops. The strategy was to establish five beachheads as gateways into the German-occupied territory. The assault eventually opened Western Europe to Allied forces and turned the tide against Adolf Hitler.

With two combat assaults under its belt, the 82nd Airborne Division was now ready for the most ambitious airborne operation of the war so far, as part of Operation Neptune, the invasion of Normandy. The 82nd Airborne Division conducted Operation Boston, part of the airborne assault phase of the Overlord plan.

In preparation for the operation, the division was reorganized. Due to a need for integrating replacement troops, rest, and refitting following the fighting in Italy, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment was not assigned to the division for the invasion. Two new parachute infantry regiments, the
507th and the 508th, were attached to provide it, along with the 505th, a three-parachute infantry regiment punch.

June 5, 1944 (just hours before midnight) and June 6, 1944, these paratroopers, parachute artillery elements, and the 319th and 320th Glider Field Artillery Battalions, boarded hundreds of transport planes and gliders to begin the largest airborne assault in history.

In the early hours of June 6, 1944, paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division dropped into Ste.-Mère-Église, a town of 1,500 astride a road network a few miles from the invasion sector called Utah Beach. Their mission was to block German troops from attacking the American infantrymen arriving at dawn in the vanguard of the D-Day invasion. The 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment and its attachments were to land east of the MERDERET River about 1,000 yards northwest of STE. MERE EGLISE. The 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment was to land west of the MERDERET River about 1,000 yards north of AMFREVILLE. By about 4:30 a.m., the paratroopers had seized the town, and Lt. Col. Edward Krause of the 505th Parachute Infantry raised an American flag outside the town hall. This action was depicted in the Movie "Saving Private Ryan", Cpt John Miller (Tom Hanks) locates a friend of Private Ryan's, who reveals that Ryan is defending a strategically-important bridge over the Merderet River in the fictional town of Ramelle. They also find Brigadier General Amend dead in a glider (based on the death of Brigadier General Don Pratt).

* In real life, Paratrooper Army Pvt.
Robert Warner, who was in his early 20s at the time, landed in Normandy (Ste.- Mere- Eglise) with the 507th Parachute Infantry (82nd Airborne). He had enlisted in April 1942 after graduation from the former St. Patrick Academy High School in Binghamton. A newspaper story reported him as getting injured in combat, although his injuries were not life-threatening.

* In real life, Paratrooper Robert Warner (one of 4 Warner Brothers at Normandy) of the 82nd Airborne, received the "American Service Medal", the "Distinguished Unit Badge", the "European African Middle Eastern Service Medal" and a "
Purple Heart"as he defended his position at the Merderet river.
The first time I watched the movie "Saving PrivateRyan," I began to understood why it was difficult for my father and my 3 uncles to talk about their war time experiences at Normandy, "When I saw the movie, I was stunned. I just never knew what it was all about or what they had to deal with or exactly how horrible it was," "I wish they would have talked about it. "
The movie, directed by Steven Spielberg, chronicled an Army rescue mission to find paratrooper Pvt. James Ryan (one of 4 Ryan Brothers at Normandy), who was in the 82nd Airborne and was dropped into the Ste Mere Eglise area (just as Robert Warner was) and send him home after three of his brothers were killed in combat at Normandy. Unlike the fictional Mrs. Ryan in the movie, Katherine Warner did not lose any sons in combat. Katherine, a house wife, kept 4 Blue stars in the front window of the family's Schubert Street home in Binghamton NY to wait for her four sons' return.

Bill Warner