Dad started his military "experience" so to speak working at the B-24 bomber assembly factory in Willow Run, Michigan. From there, He enlisted in the Army in 1943 and received training in heavy artillery. Once in England, He was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, 319th Glider Field Artillery, A Battery. He trained on the much smaller 75mm Pack Howitzers. Under ideal situations, each artillery piece would be loaded into a glider,(in Normandy it was the British "Horsa" gliders and in Holland, it was the American CG4A). There would also be ammo and supplies along with 6 or 7 soldiers. Another glider was paired up with the piece that had a jeep, ammo/supplies, and a half dozen soldiers. The two gliders would try to stay together and land near each other so the jeep and howitzer could be connected upon landing.
Dad landed in France on 6/6/44 in the early evening hours near Ste. Mere Eglise. Although having the unit scattered all over, They were able to put a few jeep/howitzers combination's together to make an effective fighting force. They assisted various units with artillery support helping to prevent the Germans from reinforcing their beach positions and taking vital bridges and intersections for the Allied advance.
After D-Day, the unit returned to England in preparation for the Holland invasion. For Market Garden, Dad was picked to co-pilot a glider only because of his Willow Run experience. While inbound, the nylon tow rope had a communication wire coiled around it and he had the headphones on so he could talk with the C-47 tow pilot. Once the Germans started throwing up flak, the C-47's increased their speed to the point where the gliders airspeed indicator went into the red and the CG4A started shaking badly. Dad called the tow pilot to slow down as he was pulling them apart. The pilot responded, "You're coming with us so hang on". About then, a flak shell exploded between them and the tow plane. A piece of shrapnel hit the nylon tow rope and it started to unwind a bit. Dad added you could hear the shrapnel striking the plexiglas windshield of the glider and the "zip, zip,zip as pieces and small arms fire penetrated the wings. They were able to release and glide down to their designated landing area. Dad assisted in landing the glider and they all exited the CG4A quickly as the field was under attack with German machine gun fire. The enemy had captured the landing area only to be driven back by our paratroop forces already on the ground.
The 319th assisted in the capture of the bridge at Grave and Nijmegen. Dad has told me several things about Holland. He remembers seeing the exhaust trails from V-1 rockets being launched toward England before the advancing Allies overran the launch sites. It was in Holland he first heard about the German jets and actually saw them. Dad remembers a large German railway gun fired twice a day at the Nijmegen bridge trying to knock it out. He told me there never was a hit by the big gun and sometimes they would hear the large shells incoming and not going off on impact with the mud. The Germans would move the gun between shots to help conceal its location. There was a German plane that made daily passes at the bridge trying to bomb it. The troops nick named the plane "Bed Check Charlie" as it was always near dark. The plane score one hit but the damage was quickly repaired and it did not deter traffic across the bridge.
The 82nd Airborne crossed the Rhine near Cologne and eventually met the advancing Russians near the German city of Ludwigslust. It was there they discovered the Wobbelin concentration camp. When the German's finally surrendered, Our unit was sent to Berlin for occupation duty in the American sector. Dad was discharged in January of 1946.
This account was completed by his son Greg.