Stokes spent 2 years in the cavalry in Panama from 1939 to 1940. He was called back in 1942 with the 325th infantry at camp Clayborne LA. He was then assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. Stokes was with the 80th from Fort Bragg to Africa, Italy, Ireland, England, Normandy, and Holland until his death during the battle of the Bulge. Stokes had 3 other brothers who fought in WWII. Jim Taylor was killed in Action of Salvo Island when his ship the U.S.S. Quincy was sunk. Ben Taylor was in one of the Ranger outfits and was wounded in Europe. Dave Taylor was a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division. He was in one of the first Airborne Company’s formed in 1940. He was also wounded around the town of Bastogne, Belgium during the battle of the Bulge.
Lt. Jake Wertich was killed in action at the same time and place as Stokes and also won the Distinguished Service Cross Medal. The commander of the 2nd company M. B. Ridgway of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment said this gun dueled with heavy mechanized artillery and tanks from around 02:30 am till they were overrun by elements of the 1st SS Panzer Division.
A little 80th AAA History
They were always glad to see the 80th Anti Aircraft. While their biggest gun was the 57mm, no match for the German 88mm, they were a welcome addition. All told, the 80th Airborne Anti Aircraft Battalion lost 64 men of which five are not found in the Division records.
The 80th Anti Aircraft Battalion was activated on September 3rd 1942 at camp Clayborne, L.A. as the 82nd Division was being converted to Airborne. Personnel came from A and C Companies of the 326th Infantry and A and B Companies of the 325th of the 82nd. The first Commanding Officer was Colonel Whitfield Jack. When the 82nd became airborne, personnel were not volunteers but were assigned. As "Anti Aircraft" they wore the braid of the Coast Artillery, but were primarily "Anti-Tank" from Africa forward. The Battalion joined the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg and underwent glider training. The Battalion was a division resource and batteries were assigned to each of the three regiments as needed. It is probable that every battery was assigned to support the 505th.
The Battalion consisted of a HQ and six batteries A through F. Each battery had 8 guns and about 70 to 100 men. The first weapons for Batteries A, B and C were first 40mm Bofers AA, then 37mm AT and in Africa they converted to 57mm, known as the six-pounder. Batteries D, E and F retained the 50 caliber. Anti Aircraft ground mount and machine guns. On April 27th 1943 the Battalion went overseas on the George Washington, which along with the Monterey, carried the 82nd Airborne. The Battalion followed the 82nd through Sicily, Italy and onto Ireland.
In England, the 80th Anti Aircraft Airborne was stationed in Oadby Racecourse, where a plaque was placed in 1997 in remembrance of their stay there. In Normandy the first gliders carrying the 80th AAA arrived at 04:03 am. Batteries A, B and C flew into Normandy in 42 CG4A and 14 Horsa gliders carrying 24-57mm guns, 28 Jeeps and 9-1/4 ton Trailers. Batteries D, E and F came in by boat from Cardiff. Mark Alexander told of a crew with one 57mm near St. Sauveur le Vicomte, without gun sight, which he directed be "bore-sighted" to protect that location. All Batteries went into Holland by glider led by Batteries A and B. They were 126 CG4A gliders, 536 men, 32 57mm guns, 52 Jeeps and 24 1/4 ton Trailers. Battery E had been converted to 8 57mm. (We all remember those gliders out there in "no man's land".)
Entering Belgium Batteries A, B and C first took up defensive positions near Werbomont. During the Bulge one gun of Battery A was left behind to cover movements of the 505th 2nd Battalion when they were overrun and four men were killed, Lt. Wertich and Corporal Taylor receiving the DSC medal. While men of the 80th had not joined the 82nd Airborne as volunteers they became Airborne and they knew they were part of a first class force. The 80th remained in the 82nd until de-activation in the 1950's.