General James M Gavin
R E L A T E D
B I O S
Gen Omar N. Bradley
Matthew B Ridgeway
James M Gavin
Lt Gen Lewis H Brereton
Mark W Clark
George S Patton
82nd Airborne WW II
of Honor Recipients
Charles N. DeGlopper
Sgt Leonard Funk
R E L A T E D
S I T E S
USAAF Airborne Troop Carriers in World War II
Camp Claiborne, Louisiana
Etat de Lieux
R E L A T E D
R E S O U R C E S
Airborne (CMH) Center for Military History
Battle of the Bulge (CMH)
R E L A T E D
A R T I C L E S
The Drop Zone: Fractured -
the Douve Line (CMH)
D-Day: The Paratroopers Experience
Decision to Launch Operation Market Garden
Rembrance of Crossing the Waal Canal
Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge
Airborne during World War II
82nd Airborne Friend in Need
Col Barney Oldfield, USAF retired.
Marlene Dietrich's mother, Frau von Loesch, was only one of the
many problems encountered by the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II, but handled in
such a manner that makes old-timers from that fighting outfit get teary-eyed even yet.
The 82nd sustained heavy casualties as a result of its steadfastness in
the face of the enemy. Its paratroopers accumulated Congressional Medals of Honor,
Distinguished Service Crosses, Silver Stars and Bronze Stars from the American government,
and decorations from The Netherlands, Belgium, the Birish Empire, France and the Soviet
Union. Of its casualties, several thousands are buried in the graveyards of Africa and
Europe. But Marlene Dietrich's mother ?
when she entertained troops along the front (she played
a saw, believe it or not) told all combat troops and war correspondents that whoever go to
Berlin should go to an address she would give them and ask for Frau Von Loesch. She then
asked that word be sent to her if Frau von Loesh was alive.
Lt Gen James M. Gavin,
US Army retired, then the 82nd Airborne Division's commander and I were two who heard Miss
Dietrich's request. Another, Lt Col Albert McCleery, has since died. Col McCleery and I
were in the first American column to enter Berlin on 1 July 1945. Once inside city limits
Col McCleery made a beeline for the Von Loesch address, found Miss Dietrich's mother alive
and well, but meagerly fed and caring for a 95-year old aunt. Word was sent to Paris to
her daughter, who immediately caught a flight to Berlin on the military shuttle, as she
was in the USO then.
When her estimated time of arrival was known at Berlin's Tempelhof
airport, I gathered up Frau von Loesch and two photographers, and took them to meet her.
Frau Von Loesch was instructed to stand alone on the runway's great
cement apron and I asked the tower to have a shuttle taxi up for her. When her daughter
burst from the plane, it made for one of the most touching reunions of the war.
Later, when Gen Gavin and I were in London, two terrible messages were
forwarded to us - the Army had selected the 101st Airborne Division to be the regular
Army's postwar airborne unit so the 82nd would be dismantled and Frau von Loesch had died.
As our plane flew us back to Berlin, Gen Gavin, softspoken as always and with his own
grief about seeing the division which was so much a part of him consigned to oblivion,
turned to me and said: "Do everything you can about her". He did not say her
name, but it was obvious that he meant Frau von Loesch. After all, the nonfraternization
regulation was in existence and no legal interrelationships were possible between
Americans and Germans, even concerning burial of dead.
Once on the ground in Berlin, we learned that Miss Dietrich was flying in.
There was not much time. I got four 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers to go to a nearby
cemetery and dig a grave. A German undertaker was contacted to perform his role, which
included the hiring of three professional mourners, who were part of such ceremonies.
Under the cover of darkness, the four paratroopers went to the
second-floor flat once occupied by Frau von Loesch, where her body lay in a plan coffin.
They took the coffin down the steep stairs, placed it reverently in a truck and
transported it to the cemetery, where it was placed in a grave. The sun was about to come
up on the dreary scene, so they went into hiding.
Marlene Dietrich arrived, escorted by Time magazine war correspondent
William Walton. He had jumped with the 82nd in Normandy and since he was a member of the
press, attending a German funeral would not be held against him. The graveside finalities
were short. Miss Dietrich cried constantly. At the end of the service, she and William
Walton cast handfulls of dirt on the coffin, turned their backs and walked away. That
night, the four paratroopers filled in the resting place. It was a macabre scene, as the
cemetery had been heavily bombed by artillery. Only the grave of Frau van Loesch was
To this day, Marlene Dietrich loves every member of the 82nd Airborne
Division. They could do anything - and did - including giving her mother a descent burial,
no matter what the regulations said. Not many know this story. So many war correspondents
then in Berlin wrote stories which questioned picking the 101st over the 82nd that the
headquarters of the Army ground forces switched signals and saved the 82nd, thus canceling
the 101st. To live in the 82nd's neighborhood was to be engulfed by the specialness of it,
even the hard-bitten press types were. Those who served with that division feel sort of
sorry for all who do not know what it is was like to have been in an outfit like that.
The above story was included in a 504th
An Unsung Hero - The Battle of the Bulge
Tom Bailey served with the 143rd AAA Battalion and was involved in a skirmish near
Webormont while his unit was attached to the 82nd Airborne.
Tom Bailey - 143rd AAA Battalion.
December 18th- 20th 1944 Near Werbomont
The 82nd Airborne came up to assist us on about the 18th of the month. The German
infantry was heavy. There were elements of the 1st S.S. Panzer Div.(15 to 20 armored vehicles) between A and B
Batteries and were attempting to advance. Forward elements of the 82nd troops (504 PIR) found it difficult and
withdrew to improve their situation, (leaving weapons behind) They regrouped and returned in force the morning of
the 20th and drove the SS back. We remained in our positions as support to the troopers.
The 82nd lost the majority of there medics (someone said all of them) and
were relying on ours for help. I recall one of our medics telling of a situation where a 82nd Lt. was hit three
times. Our medic dragged him into a basement to apply first aid. He informed him he would have to walk; there was no one to carry him and transporting him via mobility scooters, jeeps and aircrafts were not an option. The Loey said he couldn't make it, the injury was to severe. About that time a Mark 5 stuck
its barrel down the steps and fired. When the smoke cleared the tank was gone, a hole was blown in the back wall
and the Lt. was gone. When the medic looked back threw the hole, he saw the Lt. running across the field, (he made
The 50 Caliber Gunner December 20th Near Werbomont
I remember I believe 3 of us from the 143rd heading north on a rural road, followed by
some 82nd troops, maybe 17 of them, (mid-afternoon, some snow but still cold). I made a left turn at a
intersection coming upon 6 to 10 infantry firing from the edge of the road, north across a field at German
inf., (maybe a little bigger then a foot ball field.) Others and myself moved up to assist resulting in a force of
around 30, including a couple 50 cal. (pulled behind a trucks) a Quad 50, and two Tommy-guns. I don't remember if
this situation was by request or just evolved. The action seemed to intensify when we joined in, as if the Germans
didn't realize we had arrived. We faced a German force of 50 to 60 inf. (ones that were visible,) spread out and
charging in small groups, 3 hear, 6 there, spread out around 70 ft., they were getting mowed down, there were also
some artillery. I was kneeling then lying, simultaneously shooting my M-1 and evidently hit many. One got within 15
ft. before falling; I could see a hole thru his gut area the size of a softball. One 50. cal. was manned by a
stocky light complected reddish-blonde haired G.I., this was to the left of me. A machine gun opened up from our
left flank shearing off the gunner's legs at the knees, he fell near me (within 15 ft.). He grabbed a rifle and
fired until he died. Sgt. Munday and another guy picked up carbines and walked into the Germans firing.
I remember that I didn't think the Sgt. was a good soldier until I saw him do this. Firing continued until the
Germans were wiped out, it lasted around a half an hour. Dead Germans covered the area in the middle of the field
and back to us. Few surrendered on down further to the west from where I was. Later on we withdrew, I believe this
situation was when the 82nd beat back the SS thrust back near Webomont.
A Sgt. and myself on our own initiative, decided to go ahead to inform the 80th
AA (?) that we were available (90 mm guns and men) to help stop the German threat coming at Isenborn. I believe he
was a mess Sgt., I remember that he knew the way and I didn't. We arrived, reporting to a Col., he was elated to hear
there was help available and stated "we need all the help we can get!" The Sgt. returned to retrieve our Battalion,
I however decided to do a little scouting and see what we were up against. I, along with a 03 rifle with scope (I had
stored in the jeep) headed east along a dirt road, carefully staying in the ditches and behind trees. At approximately
500 yds. down the road I sighted the enemy. They were far enough away not to detect me. I slipped south of the road
(down a ridge,) I was positioned high overlooking a field on a fairly steep hill containing sporadic trees and rock.
In the field below (about 150 yds. away,) was a group of around 15 Germans. I while lying down, sighted in the one
I thought to be in command (in a group of 4) I hit him in the head neck area, causing the other 3 to scatter. I moved
around 10 ft. down, (essential in case the Germans had a accurate sniper) sighted in another, looking as if he were
retrieving equipment of some sort, probable a weapon. I hit him square in the back (as he was facing the other way.)
I moved another 4 to 5 ft. further to the right and picked off another moving in to help the second victim, hit him
square in the chest. I doubled back, and then up the ridge, snapped off two more shots hitting two more infantry.
During this a German was yelling and pointing towards the hill. Germans were beginning to move into position up the
hill (bringing up a machine gun,) a group of 5 fanned out. one reached the ridge below me, he was climbing the hill
using his hands for balance on the ground. I pulled a knife in my right hand (I carried 3; 1 in my boot, 1 on my side
and 1 up high on my back behind my right shoulder, they were Italian made, well balanced for throwing.) I rolled off
the ridge, landing on the Germans back, with my left hand simultaneously knocking up his helmet and pushing down on
his head, exposing the soft area between the head and neck.
I cut his spinal cord. There wasn't much noise. I withdrew carefully but rapidly. I returned to the above ridge to
retrieve the 03. and headed back. Along the road back, I heard to the north, the engines of a lot of tanks running.
I reported the incident to the 80th (?) AA Col. I remember there still wasn't much activity; neither his
unit nor mine had arrived yet.
17 spies near Webomont December 19th
Three of us, (myself an acting Sgt., a Pvt. and a Lt.) were sent up to the front,
(by Col. Fleming), to establish communications relay between the Col. and the batteries. This area was a road running
east. We set up our radio trailer (pulled by a weapons carrier) in the front yard of a two-story farm house (dull
in color, maybe gray) sitting on the south side of the road. The radio used to contact the Col. was a 177, a two
sectioned (stacked) radio. The radio to the batteries was smaller with less power; I do not recall the name. We
arrived around late afternoon. The Lt. disappeared, I first believed into the farm house to sleep, however, he never
did return. I established contact for the three-way relay immediately, dusk was settling in. It was cold; I do not
recall any snow. With one transmition completed I believe from the colonel to B-battery, resulted in B-battery
responding " Tell that silly son of a bitch, we aren't gonna to do that." I responded to the colonel, "Message is
given," I then created static to act like the connection was lost. I proceeded to assume the command of the
batteries. I gave a command to B- battery; the command seemed to be acceptable, by the result and reply of B-battery.
This went on for approximately 4 hours; strangely no one came to investigate. During that time, at about five to ten
minute intervals, Two American jeeps and a weapons carrier came west up the road. I stopped the first vehicle, a jeep,
by standing in the middle of the road with my M-1 drawn, at the same time telling the Pvt. to position himself unseen.
I proceeded to the jeep singling out one individual at a time, questioning determined that they were German (Some with
slight accents.) One soldier spoke excellent English; I switched to question others, resulting in little English.
I arrested them by, saying "leave your guns and get out of the jeep now! There are many guns pointed at you,"
(I could speak some German.) When they got out of the jeep they showed me there fatigue hats, I told them yes they
could where them (they believed the hats would distinguish them as Germans preventing them from being shot as spy's,
as taught to them, by Otto Skorzany.) I walked them past a fence to a woodshed behind the house, locking them in with
a clasp. I returned to the jeep, parking it sideways using it as a roadblock.The following jeep and weapons carrier
were detained in the same manner. I indicated their comrades were already detained and there are many weapons drawn
on you.A total of seventeen, four in the first jeep, five in the second, and eight in the weapons carrier were caught.
The second jeep was also used as a roadblock. I left the weapons carrier where I stopped it. With in a hour coming
from the north (a field) approximately 24 troops I believe from the 30th div. showed up. After being
questioned, and it was determined that we were both American. I was wearing an officer jacket lined with a women's
fur coat and also wearing a multi colored scarf, (only an American). We discussed how I caught the spy's,
I told them " I don't know who they were trying to fool coming from the German side of the lines, its almost
like they wanted to be caught", this seemed to have no bearing on the troops attitude towards the spy's. They agreed
to take the spy's when they realized there were only two of us. Comments were made by the infantry about taking them
out in a field and shooting them.
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