When we jumped into Sicily, the units became separated, and I couldn’t find anyone. Eventually I stumbled across two colonels, a major, three captains, two lieutenants, and one rifleman, and we secured the bridge. Never in the history of war have so few been led by so many… General James M. Gavin, USA


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Descending from the clouds : a memoir of combat in the 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82d Airborne Division  Spencer F. Wurst and Gayle Wurst  Havertown, PA : Casemate, 2004  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xvii, 266 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [259]-260) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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Wurst, a rifleman, spent the most of World War II in the European Theater of Operations as a squad leader or platoon sergeant in Company F, 505. He made three of the four regimental combat jumps, dropping into Italy, Normandy, and Holland. Highlights include his baptism of fire in Italy during the Battle of Arnone; the jump on D-Day and the liberation of Ste. Mère Eglise (for which he was awarded a Purple Heart); a grueling month of combat in the hedgerows of Normandy (a second Purple Heart); the ferocious battle with the SS for the highway bridge at Nijmegen, Holland (Silver Star); and survival in the Ardennes, where he found himself as point man on his twentieth birthday, in a long, bitter march toward the shoulder of the Bulge.

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Wurst’s narrative, set against a carefully researched historical background, offers a unique view of the heat of battle as experienced by a noncommissioned officer in the 82nd Airborne Division. Initial chapters chronicle his training before mobilization, when he lied about his age (15) to the National Guard in Erie, Pennsylvania, and his later experience in a heavy weapons company of the 112th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division. In 1941, Wurst was on a truck returning from First Army maneuvers in the Carolinas to Indiantown Gap Military Reservation when he heard the news of the attack at Pearl Harbor. He recounts life at Camps Livingston and Beauregard in Louisiana, and at the newly formed Parachute School at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he was stationed in the infamous “Frying Pan” area.

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Descending from the Clouds portrays the passage from innocence to experience. Wurst begins as a 135-pound kid marching down his hometown streets in the National Guard, wearing the remnants of a World War I uniform and pulling by hand a water-cooled .30-caliber machine-gun mounted on a wooden cart. Five years later, he is a hardened platoon sergeant, leading his troopers through the frozen killing fields of “Death Valley” in Germany’s Huertgen Forest.

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His story is the story of the coming of age of the American military: fewer than twenty men per company who started with the 505 in the Frying Pan returned home.

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Abundance of valor : resistance, survival, and liberation, 1944-1945  Will Irwin  New York : Ballantine Books, c 2010  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xviii, 378 p., [32] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [347]-366) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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The operation known as “Market Garden” — made famous in A Bridge Too Far —was the largest airborne assault in history up to that time, a high-risk Allied invasion of enemy territory that has become a legend of World War II, even as it still invites criticism from historians. Now a thrilling and revelatory new book re-creates the operation as never before, revealing for the first time the full adventures of the bold “Jedburgh” paratroopers whose exploits were almost unimaginably risky and heroic.

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Kicked off on September 17, 1944, Market Garden was intended to secure crucial bridges in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands by a parachute assault conducted by three Allied airborne divisions. Capture of the bridges would allow a swift advance and crossing of the Rhine by British ground forces. Jedburgh teams — Allied Special Forces — were dropped into the Netherlands to train and use the Dutch resistance in support of the larger operation. Based on new firsthand testimony of survivors and declassified documents, Abundance of Valor concentrates on the three teams that operated farthest behind enemy lines, the nine men whose treacherous missions resulted in deaths, captures, and hair-breadth escapes.

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Here in unprecedented detail are the heat and stench of fuel, oil, and sweat in the troop carriers going over, the remarkable (and misleading) initial success of the daylight parachute landings, and the deadly, brutally effective German response, particularly by crack SS armored units in the blood-soaked town of Arnhem. Abundance of Valor portrays with stunning verisimilitude the experiences of Lt. Harvey Allan Todd, who fought from a surrounded position against overwhelming numbers of the enemy before surviving capture, near-starvation, interrogation, and solitary confinement in German POW camps, and Maj. John “Pappy” Olmsted, who made a hazardous journey, in disguise, from safe house to safe house through enemy territory until finally reaching friendly lines.

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With piercing criticism of the mission’s ultimate failure from faulty use of intelligence — due to Field Marshall Montgomery’s distrust of the Dutch underground — Abundance of Valor is a brutally honest and truly inspiring account of fighting men in a noble cause who did their jobs with extraordinary honor and courage.

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