Lt Col Allen Bedell
R E L A T E D
B I O S
James M Gavin
Matthew B Ridgway
Gen Omar N. Bradley
Mark W Clark
George S Patton
Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) Recipient
Captain Wesley Harris
R E L A T E D
S I T E S
307th Engineer Battalion
Camp Claiborne, Louisiana
USAAF Airborne Troop Carriers in World War II
3rd Infantry Division
36th Infantry Division
The Drop Zone
ETO Cross Channel Attack (Hyperwar)
Silver Star Recipients
1/Lt John M Bigler
2/Lt Alfred H Conrad
Cpl Ludwig Kubish
S/Sgt Martin M Sedlak
R E L A T E D
R E S O U R C E S
Airborne (CMH) Center for Military History
R E L A T E D
A R T I C L E S
Hitler's Decision to defend Italy (CMH)
Stalemate in Italy
The Drop Zone: Memories of the Italian Campaigns
General Lucas at Anzio (CMH)
The Decision to Launch Operation Market Garden
Personal Rembrance of Crossing the Waal Canal
Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge
Click above to order The
History of the 307th AEB
Airborne Engineer Battalion
Between Grave and Nijmegen runs the Maas-Waal Canal. This key
bridge (right) was taken intact by the the 504th PIR and
the 307th Abn Engineers of the 82nd Airborne during Operation Market Garden.
For his part in the Waal River
Crossing of 20 September 1944, Captain Wesley Harris, C Company, 307th Engineer
Battalion, received the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC).
n 5 August 1917 The 307th Engineer Battalion was activated at
Fort Gordon, Georgia and attached to the 82nd Infantry Division.
During World War I the battalion participated in the first major American
offensive of the war - Ste. Mihiel. Subsequently, it also participated in the Lorraine and
Meuse-Argonne Campaigns. It was during this time that the battalion earned the motto " I maintain
the Right" when it protected the right flank of the 82nd Infantry Division by repulsing an
attack of a numerically superior German force.
After returning from Europe the entire 82nd Infantry Division was demobilized at
Fort Dix, New Jersey on 17 May 1919 and placed on reserved status.
On 25 March 1942 the Battalion was again ordered into active service at Camp Claiborne,
Louisiana as part of the 82nd Infantry Division under the command of General Omar Bradley.
Later the same year on August 15th the Battalion was redesignated the 307th Airborne Engineer
Battalion of the 82nd Airborne Division. The Battalion's first combat action would come 11 months later.The 307th AEB consisted of three Companies at this stage: Battalion Medical Company, Two Companies of Engineers B & C. D Company was created after Normandy from parts of B & C to support the 508th for the duration of the war. A Company also came into being to support the 325 Glider Infantry Regiment.
Sicily - Operation Husky
The 505th PIR and 307th Company B was scattered in their drop over Sicily on July 10th. A group of Engineers from Company B were plugged into the line at Biazza Ridge on July 11th. The rest of the Engineers were mis-dropped deep behind German lines.
After a day of heavy fighting, Patton decided to reinforce his battle-weary center with
over 2,000 additional paratroopers from his reserves in North Africa. He ordered that the 1st and 2d
Battalions, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), the 376th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion (PFAB),
and Company C from the 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion be dropped near Gela on the night of 11 July.
German aircraft had been active over the American sector all day, and consequently senior Army and Navy
officers went to great lengths to inform everyone of the impending nighttime paratroop drop lest
overanxious gunners fire on the friendly aircraft.
Nevertheless, when the transport planes arrived
over the beaches in the wake of a German air raid, nervous antiaircraft gunners ashore and afloat opened
fire with devastating effect. Allied antiaircraft guns shot down 23 and damaged 37 of the 144 American
transport planes. The airborne force suffered approximately 10 percent casualties and was badly
disorganized. Later investigation would reveal that not everyone had been informed of the drop despite
the Seventh Army's best efforts.
(^^ Click Picture to Enlarge ^^)
(picture above right: Officers of Company B the 307th AEB in Naples circa Fall 1943. They are (left to right) Seated: 1/Lt Robert E Klein and 1/Lt David G Connally Jr; 2nd Row (Standing): 1/Lt Alfred J. Cappa, 1/Lt James A. Rightley,
Captain William H. Johnson and 1/Lt Edward P. Whelan.)
After Sicily the 504th PIR,the 376th PFAB and Company C 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion were
formed into the 504th Regimental Combat Team (RCT) and fought together throughout the rest of World War II. Similarily, the 505th PIR, the 456th PFAB and Company B 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion were
formed into the 505th Regimental Combat Team (RCT).
Salerno - The Oil Drum Drop
At 0330 on 9 September 1943 the amphibious landings at Salerno began.
The Allied hold on the beachhead became tenuous when, on 12 September, the Germans launched a successful
counterattack. The situation became so critical that Gen. Mark Clark ordered the 82nd to
prepare to drop directly on the beachhead (see map). In order to guide the C-47 pilots to the shrinking
dropzone, oil drums filled with gasoline soaked sand were ignited every 50 yards when signaled.
On the night of 13 September, 1300 504'rs took off and parachuted on to a dropzone that was a mere 1200 yards long and 800 yards wide south of the Sele River near Salerno.
The sight of the paratroopers floating down gave the defending troops
a morale boost as well as badly needed reinforcements. On the following evening the 505th PIR repeated the drop onto the Salerno beachhead. The days that followed were, in the
words of General Mark Clark, Commander of the 5th Army,
"responsible for saving the Salerno beachhead." As the 504th (minus 3rd
Battalion) took the high ground at Altavilla, the enemy counterattacked and the Commander
of 6th Corps, General Dawley, suggested the unit withdraw. Epitomizing the determined
spirit of the Regiment, Colonel Tucker vehemently replied,
"Retreat, Hell! -- Send me my other battalion!"
The 3rd Battalion then rejoined the 504th, the enemy was repulsed, and the Salerno
beachhead was saved. By 18 September the Germans withdrew, conceding the success of the
To outflank the German defenses along the Gustav Line, an amphibious invasion at Anzio was planned.
Assigned as part of the invasion force was the 504th Regimental Combat Team (RCT). The 504th
had been fighting as "leg infantry" during the advance towards Rome until pulled from combat on 4 January 1944
to prepare for the Anzio operation. The 504th RCT was assigned to seize the town of Borgo Piave on 24 January. Although successful they
were soon driven out by German tanks and artillery. They then held a defensive position
along the Mussolini Canal until relieved on 28 January. After withdrawal the third
Battalion, 504th PIR was assigned to the 1st Armour Division, while the remainder of the
PCT was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division. The 3/504th soon saw intensive combat
fighting off a German counterattack. As a result of this action they became the first US parachute unit
to receive a Presidential Unit Citation.
Rejoined by the decimated 3rd Battalion the 504th PCT was soon back in their defensive
positions on the right flank where they carried out aggressive small unit infiltration
patrols across German lines. This demoralized the Germans as was noted by a German officer
who referred to them as "Devils in Baggy Pants",
a name proudly carried by the 504th until this day.
In late March the 504th was withdrawn to England to rejoin the 82nd Airborne.
Since their amphibious landing at Anzio, the 504th battled the elite units of the Herman Goering Division, the 3rd Panzer
Grenadier Division and the 16th SS Panzer Grenadier Division. Consequently, due to its depleted state following
the fighting in Italy, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment did not take part in the D-Day invasion.
The largest combined military operation in history,"D-Day", was to be
spearheaded by the 82d and 101st Airborne Divisions. Visibility was hampered by poor
weather conditions as the C-47's crossed the English Channel during the first hours of
the 6th of June 1944.
When the troop carriers finally did made landfall on the
Cherbourg Peninsula they came under heavy German flak scattering many of the troop
carrier flights. It was 0300 hours on 6 June 1944, when the 505th RCT were given the green
light to jump. Some Pathfinders were able to signal their dropzones. However,
many of the troop carriers missed their dropzones and the All-Americans of the 505th RCT began
landing across a large swath of the countryside around Normandy. For their performance in the invasions Company B of the 307th AEB was awarded the Presidential unit citation.
(^^ Click Picture to Enlarge ^^)
Operation Market Garden
(picture above right: Officers of Company B the 307th AEB in Burbage,England prior to D-Day. They are (left to right) Seated: 2/Lt James L. Durham, 1/Lt Edward F. Murray Jr.,
1/Lt Robert E. Klein, 1/Lt Edward P. Whelan and 2/Lt Adrian J. Finlayson ; 2nd Row (Standing): 1/Lt James A. Rightley, 1/Lt Alfred J. Cappa, Captain William H. Johnson, 1/Lt David G. Connally Jr. and 1/Lt Edward W.Helwig .)
On 9 September 1944 Field-Marshal Montgomery proposed a plan,
called Operation Market Garden, to secure a bridgegehead across the Rhine. The operation
called for a combined armor and airborne assault to seize and hold key bridges and roads deep behind German
lines in Holland. The airborne phase of the operation consisted of capturing five bridges ahead of the armored force.
The 504th now back at full strength rejoined the 82nd, while the 507th went to the 17th
The 504th's mission was to capture two bridges
across the Maas-Waal Canal. The operation began on 17 September. The 504th quickly secured
one of the most important objectives, the nine-span bridge over the Maas River, by hitting
both ends simultaneously.
On 20 September the 504th carried out an heroic
assault crossing the Waal. With artillery support
the first wave of the 504th assaulted, in twenty-six
assault boats, under intense fire, taking 200
casualties in the process. Finally on D+4 the 504th finally secured their
hold on the bridge, fighting off another German counterattack just before noon.
It was in this skirmish that Pvt. John Towle won the Medal of Honor.
The Regimental motto, "Strike Hold,"
had never before been more forcefully demonstrated on the battlefield. The 504th, tired
yet determined, had gallantly kept its commitment to accomplish every mission without ever
relinquishing any ground it had once occupied.
Its success, however, was short-lived because of the defeat of other Allied
units at Arnhem. The gateway to Germany would not open in September 1944, and the 82nd was ordered
back to France.
Battle of the Bulge - The Ardennes Offensive
Suddenly, on December 16, 1944, the Germans
launched a surprise offensive through the Ardennes Forest which caught the Allies
completely by surprise. Two days later the 82nd joined the fighting and blunted General Von
Runstedt's northern penetration in the American lines.
On the morning of 19 December the 504th was getting into position north of Bastogne,
while the 101st Airborne Division was assigned to Bastogne itself. The Germans quickly
infiltrated and cut off the road between the two elements and the
"Battle of the Bulge" offensive flowed around the two airborne units. The 82nd as a
whole faced great difficulty in holding position along the northern edge of the German
penetration. The 504th faced particularly heavy German attacks, winning their second
Presidential Unit Citation in the process.
(Picture above right: Members of the 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion defuse a German mine near Rudilgslust May 1945)
Driving deep into the heartland of Germany, the 504th finally took up positions along
the West Bank of the Rhine River. Then on 6 April 1945 A Company crossed the Rhine
near the village of Hitsdorf as a diversionary tactic to mislead the Germans from the full
scale crossing. The fierce fighting which ensued won A Company a Presidential Unit Citation.
The war offically ended in Europe on 5 May 1945 and the 82nd
Airborne Division was called upon to serve as the occupation force in the American Sector of Berlin. Here
the 82nd Airborne Division earned the name, "America's
Guard of Honor," as a fitting end to hostilities in which the 504th had
chased the German Army some 14,000 miles across the European Theater.
The 307th was the first Airborne Engineer Battalion and participated in 8 campaigns during
World War II.
307th Airborne Engineer Battalion - Pictures
R E L A T E D B O O K S
Badsey , Stephen & Chandler, David G (Editor)
Operation "Market Garden" (Campaign No.24) 1993
96p. ISBN: 1855323028
Breuer, William B
Agony at Anzio: The Allies Most Controversial and Bizarre Operation of WW II
Jove Publishing, 1989 ISBN: 0515102113
Breuer, William B Geronimo! American
Paratroopers in WWII. New York: St. Martin Press, 1989 621 p. ISBN: 0-312-03350-8
Breuer, William B Drop Zone Sicily:
Allied Airborne Strike,July 1943. Novato, CA: Presidio, c1983. 212 p. ISBN: 089 141 1968
Breuer, William B
They Jumped at Midnight Jove Publishing, (P) c1990 ISBN: 0515104256
Carter, Ross S
Those Devils in Baggy Pants Buccaneer Books, Reprint,1996 ISBN: 0899666132
Patton: A Genius for War 1024 pp ISBN: 0060927623
Falerios, Kenton J.
Give Me Something I Can't Do: The History of the 82nd Military Police Company, WW 1 to Iraq
Nov 2007, Authorhouse, 192 p ISBN: 1434337197
Gavin, James M.
On to Berlin : Battles of an Airborne Commander, 1943-1946 ISBN: 0670525170
Keegan, John The Second World War Penguin
(P), 708 p. ISBN: 014011341X
MacDonald, Charles B A Time For
Trumpets: The Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge Wm Morrow & Co
(P), 720 p. ISBN: 068151574
Messina , Phillip Anzio: Song of
Destiny A.G.Halldin Publishing Company, 1992. ISBN: 0 935 64838 0
Nigl, Dr Alfred J & Charles A Nigl
Silent Wings - Savage Death Santa Ana, CA: Graphic Publishing, Dec 3,2007. 288 p. ISBN: 1882824318
Nordyke , Phil All American All the Way: Combat History of the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II Zenith Press, April 2005. 880 pgs ISBN: 0760322015
Ryan, Cornelius The Longest Day
Touchstone Books (P), 350 p. ISBN: 0671890913
A Bridge Too Far 670p. ISBN: 0684803305
I Maintain The Right: The 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion in WW II Authorhouse, Oct 31,2005. 204 p. ISBN: 1420871447
van Lunteren, Frank Blocking Kampfgruppe Peiper: The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in the Battle of the Bulge Casemate, Sept 19,2015. 368 p. ISBN: 1612003133
van Lunteren, Frank The Battle of Bridges: The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in Operation Market Garden Casemate, June 1,2014. 336 p. ISBN: 1612002323
van Lunteren, Frank Spearhead of the Fifth Army: The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in Italy from the Winter Line To Anzio Casemate, Sept 16,2016. 320 p. ISBN: 161200427X
Wildman, John B All Americans 82nd
Airborne. Meadowlands Militaria, 6/83 ISBN:091 208 1007
The Center of Military History The War in the Mediterranean: A WWII Pictorial History Brasseys, Inc.,
465 p. ISBN:1574881302