June 6, 1944, Ravenoville, France: holding the flag, James Flanagan (2nd Platoon, C Co, 1-502nd PIR) (L-R): Pfc Arthur A. Justice (B Co, 1-502nd PIR), unknown, Pvt Justo Correa (A Co, 1-506th PIR), Pfc Arthur J. Barker (B Co, 1-502nd PIR), Pvt Joe E. Ridgeway (B Co, 1-502nd PIR), Pvt Norwood
B. Newinger (B Co, 1-502nd PIR), unknown, Cpl Earl H. Butz (HQ, 3-502nd PIR), Sgt Smith C. Fuller (B Co, 1-502nd PIR)

The 2/506 drop was centered about four miles to the north of its prescribed zone; only one of its planes landed near DZ-C. The battalion mission of capturing the two southern beach exits was thus made more difficult by virtue of the additional distance interposed between landing and objective. The 3/506, while dropped in a fairly concentrated pattern, was unfortunate in that the German defenders in the selected drop areas had considered that area to be a likely parachute landing field, and had ringed the area with troops in elaborate defensive positions. A house in the center of the zone had been soaked in oil and was fired when the troops were in mid-air. This light, in addition to the light of the battle, was sufficient to permit better marksmanship than in the other zones, and more numerous immediate casualties resulted. This defense further prohibited any kind of assembly and made the seizure of the two wooden bridges across the Douve seem a remote possibility. The planes of the Regimental Hqs, Hqs & Serv Cos were also scattered far from DZ-C, but the most unfortunate result of this was that three of the sticks of communications personnel, with their equipment, were dropped miles from the area of the proposed operation.

The 1/506’s drop was comparatively concentrated and centered south of St Marie du Mont, about a mile from the prescribed zone. While this area was also defended, the resulting casualties were not nearly as heavy as the 3/506 had experienced, but the assembly problem was as great for the drop was centered between St Marie du Mont, which was occupied in strength by the enemy, and a battery of 105’s which had not been reported in any intelligence. Movement from this field was slow and hazardous, and many men took cover in drainage ditches and indentations and did not leave the field for several hours.

Airborne Apache from the 101st Abn taking five

Aside from the poor drop and enemy interference, the major factor retarding the assembly was the terrain. The carefully made map and terrain model studies were rendered worthless by the drop dispersion of troops outside of the division zone, but in addition, the size of the hedgerows and their influence on observation had not been taken into account. The hedgerows were man-high, averaged about three feet in thickness, and were surmounted by brush and other vegetation. These served to make each field, which was normally small, a compartment that denied observation out of the field and from the tops of the hedgerows permitted observation into only the adjacent field. Therefore, a man could have been dropped alone into a field and he would have been as effectively isolated from the other troops as if he had been dropped a mile away. It was the loneliness and darkness of the night, coupled with the lack of observation, that primarily slowed down the troops in their assembly. Daylight did little to improve the movement to the assembly areas, for the increased observation was shared equally with the enemy. Assembly lights had been of little assistance by virtue of their limited range; cowbells, whistles, and other sound means were equally poor for the noise of battle tended to drown them out, and the new sound of the high cyclic rate enemy machine guns commanded the greater attention.

D-Day, 501/101 A/B paratroopers on French soil

Supply problems were aggravated by the poor drop. Simultaneously with the debarkation of the parachutists, the pilots had salvoed the equipment bundles under the planes. Few bundles were retrieved during darkness, as each was marked with a small electric light and the dangers inherent in moving these lights about were all too fully realized by the troops. In the areas wherein the troops were under fire or near heavy firing, primary attention was given to departing those areas with the utmost speed. Consequently, equipment believed to be cumbersome or unnecessary was abandoned with the parachutes and Mae Wests at the drop site. Gas masks were most generally discarded. Some men were forced to leave their musette bags with the precious mortar and machine gun ammunition and the mines.

Supply details, working the fields in the succeeding few days, retrieved much of this equipment, although some were picked up by the natives and the enemy. Most of the enemy positions captured held several bundles and an abundance of American equipment, ammunition, rations, weapons, cigarettes, and souvenirs. Thus, until noon of D-Day, the troops had few automatic weapons, mortars, radios, or rocket launchers, other than those which had been jumped on the person of the jumper, a practice which had been unpopular in training, but which paid dividends in combat.

H minus 4 Hours

Col Turner, the battalion commander, assembled about thirty of the men who had landed with him on DZ-C, joined the regimental commander on the field and sent patrols to locate other parties assembling. The jump had taken place at about 0115, June 6, and it had been anticipated that in two hours the bulk of the battalion would be assembled and would move to its reserve position near Colville. When the battalion commander arrived at Culoville, his command consisted of two officers and about forty men. By 0400 small groups had wandered in and raised the strength of the battalion to nearly fifty.

Normandy Illustration

Seizure of the Exits

Col Robert F. Sink, CO of the 506-PIR, being without communications equipment, was unable to contact his 2/506 and 3/506 or to locate either unit by patrols. Knowing the importance of the seizure of the beach exits, at approximately 0430, he ordered Col Turner to take the 1/506 to seize Beach Exit 1. One officer was left behind to assemble the rest of the battalion as it came in, and the force moved off down the road to accomplish the mission of the 2/506. Meanwhile, the 2/506 was having a much better fortune in its assembly and with a strength of about two hundred was en route to the beach exits. The division commander not having been in communication with Col Sink, had committed his reserve and when the Turner force arrived at the exit, it was already in the hands of the division, whereupon the force returned to Culoville, meeting light resistance.

M-1919 Browning is a .30 caliber machine gun

Action at Holdy

The route of the Turner force from Culoville to the Beach Exit passed within five hundred yards of the 105-MM battery which was receiving attention from other members of the battalion. The battery was firing its four pieces toward the beach and its personnel had been engaging the troops in the field with small arms fire. The sound of this fire attracted several of the lost who gravitated to the sound in search of their units. At Holdy, the company commanders of Hqs and Charlie Cos joined a force of ten or more men from Hqs, Able, and Baker Cos who were attempting to place the battery under fire. This group was immediately increased by two men from the 82-A/B who were far from their landing zones. One of these men had an M-1903 Springfield rifle with a grenade launcher and some rifle grenades. The other principal armament of the force was a light machine gun with three belts of ammunition.

This group left the buildings at Holdy and moved to a stone farmhouse about twenty yards from the battery position. The machine gun was set up in the road and one belt fired at the position. The hedgerows on both sides of the road restricted the traverse of the gun to less than ten degrees, and it is doubtful that this firing caused any casualties to the enemy. However, the proximity of the fire did cause the gun crews to leave their pieces and take cover in the ditch surrounding the position and the pieces were thereafter not fired by the enemy. The attacking force realized that it had not yet accomplished anything of real value and would not until the guns themselves were seized. It was decided that a base of fire would be established with the machine gun and the grenade launcher, and the remainder of the force would cross the road and attempt to enter the ditch in which the gun crews were taking cover. The grenade launcher was set up at the edge of the building atop a hedgerow, but while targets were being pointed out to the gunner, he was shot in the neck; whereupon, he withdrew to Holdy where aid men had established an aid station. The machine gun and grenade launcher, under the command of one officer, were moved to positions on higher ground across from the farmhouse. The other officer and two men prepared to move along a hedgerow toward the position and then, under cover of the hedgerow surrounding the position, planned to enter the ditch from the northwest.

506 elements on their way to Carentan

Just as they were moving out, the battalion AT officer, with one rocket launcher and two men from the AT platoon, arrived from Holdy. They were oriented quickly and sent around a lateral hedgerow to get into a position where they could fire into, or preferably enter, the ditch from the southwest. These two flanking elements moved forward while the machine gun fired short bursts at the top of the hedgerow concealing the ditch. Both flanking units crossed the road at about the same time and advanced toward the entrances to the ditch, throwing hand grenades. The enemy threw grenades back. Although the potato masher grenade could be thrown further, its effect was not comparable to the fragmentation grenade. The ditch was entered from both directions as planned, and the two forces converged toward the center of the position. The ditch had been improved and made into a deep trench in which ammunition for the guns, hand grenades, and small arms had been liberally stocked. The defenders gave little resistance once the trench was entered because the blast of the rockets from one flank and the continual concussion of grenades from the other took most of the fight out of the artillerymen. Some fled down a drainage ditch to the east. About thirty prisoners were taken, and approximately fifty dead or wounded were found in the trenches.

The reduction of the position permitted many soldiers, who had landed near the position, to leave their cover and proceed toward their assembly areas. Some of these men had lain within fifteen yards of the ditch all night, and would have most certainly been killed or captured had the defenders left the cover of their trench and aggressively policed the field instead of attempting to cover the field by fire. Included in those released from their enforced retirement were the battalion S3, several division staff officers who had landed in the field by glider during the night, about forty 1/506 men, and numerous others from other organizations. The total casualties for the attacking force was one man wounded in the neck. Found on the position were numerous supply bundles, a quantity of small arms ammunition and hand grenades, an SCR-300 radio, and the bodies of several parachutists who had landed within the position.

Original caption reads - capture of Ste Marie du Mont (I don't know)

Ammunition was redistributed, the troops reorganized, and the decision reached to attack the village of St Marie du Mont through the ditch system to the east and north. A radio operator was located. The frequency was adjusted to the regimental command net on the retrieved radio and the regimental commander was notified of the situation and the decision to attack the village. He concurred with the decision and urged caution. He further requested that he be kept advised of the situation and progress, as he had radio contact with only one other force, the other 1/506 element at Exit 1. The force, consisting then men of the company commanders Hqs Co, Charlie Cos, the S-3, the AT platoon commander, and about ten men each from Hqs Able and Baker Cos, with an armament of one M-1919 machine-gun (.30) and one rocket launcher, entered the ditch to the east of the battery position and proceeded in a column of files toward St Marie du Mont. In the ditch and in the field, many seriously wounded men were found. These were assisted back to the Holdy aid station by members of the force. This so dissipated its strength that when a junction of two major ditches was reached, about two hundred yards from the edge of the town, only about ten men and the officers were left.

Meanwhile, A meeting of Senior American officers in the middle Gen Matthew B. Ridgeway 82-A/B

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