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.
After 72 days of combat in the Netherlands the division returned to a new staging area in Mourmelon, France, for what everyone thought would be a long, well-deserved rest. Accordingly, many men were on leave or pass, the Division Commander was in the United States, the Assistant Division Commander was in England (leaving the Artillery Commander, General McAuliffe, in command), and there still were major shortages of equipment and supplies that had not been replaced after the Netherlands.
The division was ill-prepared for the word they received in the late evening of 17 December. The Germans had launched a major offensive at dawn on 16 December through the Ardennes in the lightly held sector of VII Corps. At that time SHAEF's Reserve consisted of the 101st and the 82nd. The 101st was ordered to move "truckborne" to Bastogne, the hub town of a major radial road net, to stem the oncoming Germans. General McAuliffe ordered the move by regimental combat teams without waiting for any absentees. The 501st was the lead combat team in the division move, and after a grueling truck ride, reached Bastogne at about 2230 hrs. Thus, by midnight, the 501st was the only regiment combat team ready for action. Ewell asked McAuliffe for a definite assignment and was ordered to move out on the eastern road through Longvilly and seize and hold a key road junction beyond Longvilly. The 501st was the first to fight at Bastogne when one of its battalions ran into the enemy near Neffe, a few kilometers out of Bastogne.
Thus began the defense of Bastogne in which the 501st gave up not one foot of ground, and in which the division, and its comrades in arms, stopped cold everything the Germans could throw at them, ruined Hitler's offensive time table and eventually won the 101st the first presidential unit citation ever awarded to a full division.
Once again, the 501st paid a dear price of 580 killed, wounded or captured. One casualty was Colonel Ewell, who was badly wounded and relinquished command to LTC Robert Ballard, who had commanded 2nd Battalion from the beginning. Bob Ballard was a quiet Floridian who was not a professional soldier like Johnson or Ewell, but a fine officer who had learned how to command quietly and effectively while winning the admiration and respect of his men. Ballard continued in command of the 501st until the end of World War II. Operations after Bastogne would have been anticlimactic under most any circumstances, except for the light skirmishing in Alsace, and the drive into Germany's last redoubt, Bavaria, truly seemed like a cakewalk. The living in Germany after V-Day was good indeed, but rudely interrupted by orders to move back to billets in Joigny and Auxerre, France. Troops were advised not to take any captured cars or loot with them.
Once in France the 501st began training for an invasion of Japan. On 20 August 1945, the 501st was disbanded, ahead of the inactivation of the 101st Division in November 1945.
This website is made out of respect for the victims, the civilians and the veterans of WWII. It generates no financial gain what so ever and it is merely a platform to educate the visitor about WWII.
A big THANK YOU to the United States Army Center of Military History for their help in providing the input for these pages. All pages on this website are constantly being refitted with acurate data and texts and it is an ongoing process.