Owen B. (O.B.) Hill Served with distinction in the Hq1 Communications Platoon as Battalion Message Center Chief from March 1943 to August 1945. O.B. loved his family, his country, and the Association he founded in 1975. He was dedicated to the Association and the welfare of its members. O.B. was a distinguished member of the Greatest of the Greatest Generation. He was an outstanding soldier, a trusted comrade, and a cherished friend. O.B. provided information for this summary before his death in 2002, and his WW II comrades augmented it wherever appropriate.
I was born October 8, 1921 in Fort Branch, Indiana and educated there and in Princeton. On October 21, 1940, I married Margaret Boyles. We raised two children. Linda Ann born August 12, 1941 and Joe David arrived September 14, 1948.
Soon after Pearl Harbor, I enlisted in the Army and volunteered for airborne training. However, I had to complete basic training, before I was sent to the Parachute School at Fort Benning, GA. After I made the five jumps and qualified as parachutist, I was selected for additional training as a communications and demolition specialist. I completed the training, in March 1943, and was sent to Camp Mackall, NC for duty with the 508th Parachute Infantr,y Regiment (508th PIR). I was assigned to the Hq1 Communications Platoon, and served therein until the end of WW II.
At Camp Mackall, I received advanced infantry and airborne operations training. I participated in numerous field exercises, and made parachute jumps with equipment. Our regiment participated as the aggressor force in maneuvers in Tennessee, and someone decided we were ready for combat. At that time, I was a Sergeant, operating the Battalion Message Center. We sailed from New York, December 28. 1943. Eleven days later, we landed in Belfast, Ireland. After orientations on the local customs, physical training to restore muscles lost during the sea voyage, and weapons firing, we moved to Nottingham, England. Nottingham was an attractive city. It had ample pubs, nice people, and an exciting history. However, we trained night and day preparing for combat somewhere in Europe.
In early June 1944, we moved to an airport, and completed preparations for entry into combat. We spent many hours studying sand tables, mockups and maps, but no one knew where we would land in Europe. After we were in our C-47 aircraft, we were told the objective was in Normandy.
"The impact when I hit the water was violent. I was sinking rapidly in the muddy current of the Douve. I couldn't move and the inescapable feeling of death seized my mind and my body. Finally, my feet touched solid ground and I stood up and pushed myself out of the water. Suddenly a ray of hope - my mouth came up above the water!"
This is how O.B. Hill described his landing near Beauzeville-la Bastille in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
O.B. Hill went on to fight at Hell's Half Acre...(Hell's Half Acre was the nickname that the 508th gave to that patch of land around the town of Chef du Pont, a small arched bridge over the Merderet river had to be taken but the 508th met fierce German resistance. This area is also known as Hill 30). After fighting off German attacks in Hells Half Acre, O.B. Hill joined up with 508th PIR troops. On June 13, 1944 he was wounded and evacuated to England. He rejoined Hq1 in December 1944 at Sissonne, France. His joyful reunion with comrades was brief.
On December 17, the regiment was alerted to confront a massive German force moving swiftly though the Ardennes aimed at capturing the English Channel ports. Early on December 18, Hq1 loaded into open trucks for a terribly long cold ride to Werbomont, Belgium. During an attack, January 26, O.B Hill was again wounded and evacuated. He returned to Hq1 in Heddernheim, Germany. The 508th PIR was assigned occupation duty as security forces and honor guards for General Eisenhowerís headquarters in nearby Frankfurt. In August 1945, O.B. Hill bid an emotional farewell to his comrades and started home. He was separated from the Army in September and joined his family in Southern Indiana. O. B. immediately enrolled in the University of Evansville and graduated in 1950 with a degree in Accounting and Business Management. For the next two years, he worked for the Internal Revenue Service and then entered private industry as an accountant.
In January 1979, while working for the Hughes Aircraft Company, in El Secundo, California, O.B. had a severe heart attack and survived his first triple bypass surgery. Prohibited from returning to work, O.B. retired from the Hughes Aircraft Company in 1986 and moved his family to Cathedral City, California.
O.B. Hill often said: "My most significant accomplishments were marrying Margaret, raising our children, and founding the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment Association, WW II, 1942-1945."
Owen B. Hill was an outstanding soldier, a cheerful and helpful companion, and a dependable comrade. He earned:
Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster
Combat Infantry Badge
Three battle stars
Parachute Qualification Badge with a star (Normandy jump)
Presidential Unit Citation
French and Belgian Fourrageres
Numerous defense medals including the Occupation Medal with Germany Bar.
O.B. Hill died in June 2002 and his beloved Margaret died in January 2004. They are survived by daughter Linda and son Joe, and several grandchildren. A warm thank you to the Owen's familiy. This is an excerpt from: "We Served Proudly, The Men of Hq1" - George I. Stoeckert . Thank you to the 508th Association for their help on this story.
The 82nd Airborne Division is an airborne infantry division of the United States Army, specializing in parachute assault operations into denied areas with a U.S. Department of Defense requirement to "respond to crisis contingencies anywhere in the world within 18 hours". Based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the 82nd Airborne Division is part of the XVIII Airborne Corps.
The 82nd Airborne Division is the U.S. Army's most strategically mobile division. The division was constituted, originally as the 82nd Division, in the National Army on 5 August 1917, shortly after the American entry into World War I. It was organized on 25 August 1917, at Camp Gordon, Georgia and later served with distinction on the Western Front in the final months of World War I. Since its initial members came from all 48 states, the division acquired the nickname All-American, which is the basis for its famed "AA" on the shoulder patch.
The division later served in World War II where, in August 1942, it was reconstituted as the first airborne division of the U.S. Army and fought in numerous campaigns during the war.
The 82nd Division was redesignated on 13 February 1942 during World War II, just two months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the German declaration of war, as Division Headquarters, 82nd Division. It was recalled to active service on 25 March 1942, and reorganized at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, under the command of Major General Omar Bradley. During this training period, the division brought together three officers who would ultimately steer the U.S. Army during the following two decades: Matthew Ridgway, James M. Gavin, and Maxwell D. Taylor. Under Major General Bradley, the 82nd Division's Chief of Staff was George Van Pope.
On 15 August 1942, the 82nd Infantry Division, now commanded by Major General Ridgway, became the first airborne division in the history of the U.S. Army, and was redesignated as the 82nd Airborne Division. The division initially consisted of the 325th, 326th and 327th Infantry Regiments, and supporting units. The 327th was soon transferred to help form the 101st Airborne Division and was replaced by the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, leaving the division with two regiments of glider infantry and one of parachute infantry. In February 1943 the division received another change when the 326th was transferred to the 13th Airborne Division, being replaced by the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, under James M. Gavin, then a colonel, who was later destined to command the division.
With two combat drops 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 Allied invasion of Normandy. The division conducted Mission Boston, part of the airborne assault phase of the Operation Overlord plan.
In preparation for the operation, the division was significantly reorganized. To ease the integration of replacement troops, rest, and refitting following the fighting in Italy, the 504th PIR did not rejoin the division for the invasion. Two new parachute infantry regiments (PIRs), the 507th and the 508th, provided it, along with the veteran 505th, a three-parachute infantry regiment punch. The 325th was also reinforced by the addition of the 3rd Battalion of the 401st GIR, bringing it up to a strength of three battalions.
On 5 and 6 June these paratroopers, parachute artillery elements, and the 319th and 320th, boarded hundreds of transport planes and gliders to begin history's largest airborne assault at the time (only Operation Market Garden later that year would be larger). During the 6 June assault, a 508th platoon leader, First Lieutenant Robert P. Mathias, would be the first U.S. Army officer killed by German fire on D-Day. On 7 June, after this first wave of attack, the 325th GIR would arrive by glider to provide a division reserve.
In Normandy, the 82nd gained its first Medal of Honor of the war, belonging to Private First Class Charles N. DeGlopper of the 325th GIR. By the time the division was relieved, in early July, the 82nd had seen 33 days of severe combat and casualties had been heavy. Losses included 5,245 troopers killed, wounded, or missing, for a total of 46% casualties. Major General Ridgway's post-battle report stated in part, "33 days of action without relief, without replacements. Every mission accomplished. No ground gained was ever relinquished."
Following Normandy, the 82nd Airborne Division returned to England to rest and refit for future airborne operations. The 82nd became part of the newly organized XVIII Airborne Corps, which consisted of the 17th, 82nd, and 101st Airborne Divisions. Ridgway was given command of the corps but was not promoted to lieutenant general until 1945. His recommendation for succession as division commander was Brigadier General James M. Gavin, previously the 82nd's ADC. Ridgway's recommendation met with approval, and upon promotion Gavin became the youngest general since the Civil War to command a U.S. Army division.
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