Glen Louis Nesmith was born in small town in northern Kansas. After having being turned down by the Air Force, Marines and Navy due to deafness in his left ear he enlisted in the Army. At the inception of World War II, his disability didn' t seem to matter anymore and he joined the Army and left college in Kansas.
In 1940, the US Army began testing the viability of Parachute Infantry Units at Fort Benning, Georgia, and Glen became a jump master there during 1943 and 1944. With the intitial tests being successful, the Army began forming different Parachute Infantry Regiments plus invested in new jump towers for better training and Glen was one of the first instructors to use them.
During his training in the Training Centers, he wore a patch worn by members of the 1st Airborne Brigade Paratroopers. Once the training was terminated, and a unit was joined, this patch was replaced by the appropriate division patch. Glen became a Staff Sergeant with F company, 2nd Battalion, 501st - which was added to the 101st Airborne in January 1944.
He got the orders to replace a 1st Sergeant who was killed in action on D-Day, and was shipped to Europe in June 1944. As so often happened, Glen was misdropped behind the German lines accidentally and was forced to seek refuge. Determined not to get caught, he laid silently in a mass grave for days without moving because of numerous German movement in close vicinity of his position. Somehow he managed to escape this terrible ordeal and was able to relocate his unit.
The 501st, being the first to arrive at Bastogne, was ordered to seize the road junction beyond Longvilly. The regiment moved out at dawn and ran into the enemy near Neffe, a few kilometers out of Bastogne. The 501st managed to stop the enemy and hold its position until the rest of the 101st Airborne Division arrived. The 501st paid a high price, nearly 600 men were killed, wounded or captured among the soldiers Colonel Ewell.
After Bastogne, the 501st was ordered in great haste to the Alsace where another German offensive was threatening the Seventh Army front. Being at 60% of its strength after Bastogne, the 501st occupied defensive positions there until returning to France early in March.
In Joigny and Auxerre, the 501st prepared for a special mission. They began training to rescue allied prisoners of war. But due to low priority of the mission and shortage of transportation means, the mission was never carried out. On August 25th 1945, the 501st was detached from the 101st and sailed home to be deactivated at Fort Benning.
My father was, like so many veterans of this war, in that he never spoke of it, he took no glory in the battles and hardships he participated in. Many years have passed since his death, and as his only daughter, I am trying to piece together his sterling military career. I hope to somehow find someone who served with him. One of the few stories he shared with me was of his unit, weary, tired, dirty and really shell-shocked walking into a small French village that had been completely destroyed. Not a single building had been spared, but one wall of the local church was left, on that wall hung a crucifix. My father and the men with him stood silently by taking solace in that one moment.
May we always remember the bravery, the sacrifice, the gallantry of each and every individual who suffered for others during World War II. I am grateful that people like Frank Everards (D-Day, Normandy and beyond) are generous enough to maintain a website in their memory.
Glen's daughter: Theresa Nesmith.