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101st screaming eagles mug

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The 101st Airborne Division—the "Screaming Eagles"—is a U.S. Army modular light infantry division trained for air assault operations. During World War II, it was renowned for its role in Operation Overlord—the D-Day landings starting 6 June 1944, in Normandy, France—, Operation Market Garden, the liberation of the Netherlands and action during the Battle of the Bulge around the city of Bastogne, Belgium. During the Vietnam War, the 101st Airborne Division fought in several major campaigns and battles including the fight for Hamburger Hill in May 1969.

Upon its arrival in Vietnam in 1965 (1st Brigade, followed by the 2nd and 3rd Brigades in 1968), the division was an airborne unit. In mid-1968 it was reorganized and redesignated as an airmobile division, then in 1974 as an air assault division. Both of these titles reflect the fact that the division went from airplanes as the primary method of delivering troops into combat, to the use of helicopters as the way the division entered battle. Many current members of the 101st are graduates of the U.S. Army Air Assault School and wear the Air Assault Badge. Division headquarters is at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. In recent years, the division has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The division is one of the most highly decorated units in the U.S. Army and has been featured prominently in military fiction since its first deployment.

The 101st Airborne Division was activated 16 August 1942 at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana.On 19 August 1942, its first commander, Major General William C. Lee, promised his new recruits that the 101st had "no history but had a rendezvous with destiny." In his first address to his soldiers the day the division was born, Lee read General Order Number 5 dated 19 August 1942:


The 101st Airborne Division, which was activated on 16 August 1942, at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, has no history, but it has a rendezvous with destiny.


Due to the nature of our armament, and the tactics in which we shall perfect ourselves, we shall be called upon to carry out operations of far-reaching military importance and we shall habitually go into action when the need is immediate and extreme.


Let me call your attention to the fact that our badge is the great American eagle. This is a fitting emblem for a division that will crush its enemies by falling upon them like a thunderbolt from the skies.


The history we shall make, the record of high achievement we hope to write in the annals of the American Army and the American people, depends wholly and completely on the men of this division. Each individual, each officer and each enlisted man, must therefore regard himself as a necessary part of a complex and powerful instrument for the overcoming of the enemies of the nation. Each, in his own job, must realize that he is not only a means, but an indispensable means for obtaining the goal of victory. It is, therefore, not too much to say that the future itself, in whose molding we expect to have our share, is in the hands of the soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division.

D-Day


Main article: Mission Albany


Private Ware applies last second camo to Private Plaudo in England June 1944.
The Pathfinders of the 101st Airborne Division led the way on D-Day in the night drop prior to the invasion. They left from RAF North Witham having trained there with the 82nd Airborne Division.

The 101st Airborne Division's objectives were to secure the four causeway exits behind Utah Beach, destroy a German coastal artillery battery at Saint-Martin-de-Varreville, capture buildings nearby at Mésières believed used as barracks and a command post for the artillery battery, capture the Douve River lock at La Barquette (opposite Carentan), capture two footbridges spanning the Douve at La Porte opposite Brévands, destroy the highway bridges over the Douve at Saint-Côme-du-Mont, and secure the Douve River valley.

In the process units also disrupted German communications, established roadblocks to hamper the movement of German reinforcements, established a defensive line between the beachhead and Valognes, cleared the area of the drop zones to the unit boundary at Les Forges, and linked up with the 82nd Airborne Division.

Drop Zone Able

The paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division "Screaming Eagles" jumped between 0048 and 0140 British Double Summer Time of 6 June. The first wave, inbound to Drop Zone A (the northernmost), was not surprised by the cloud bank and maintained formation, but navigating errors and a lack of Eureka signal caused the first error. Although the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment was dropped as a compact unit, it jumped on the wrong drop zone, while its commander, Lt Col. Steve A. Chappuis, came down virtually alone on the correct drop zone. Chappuis and his stick captured the coastal battery soon after assembling, and found that it had already been dismantled after an air raid.

Most of the remainder of the 502nd (70 of 80 sticks) dropped in a disorganized pattern around the impromptu drop zone set up by the pathfinders near the beach. The battalion commanders of the 1st and 3rd Battalions, Lt Col. Patrick J. Cassidy (1/502) and Lt Col. Robert G. Cole (3/502), took charge of small groups and accomplished all of their D-Day missions. Cassidy's group took Saint Martin-de-Varreville by 0630, sent a patrol under S/Sgt. Harrison C. Summers to seize the "XYZ" objective, a barracks at Mésières, and set up a thin line of defense from Foucarville to Beuzeville. Cole's group moved during the night from near Sainte-Mère-Église to the Varreville battery, then continued on and captured Exit 3 at 0730. They held the position during the morning until relieved by troops moving inland from Utah Beach. Both commanders found Exit 4 covered by German artillery fire and Cassidy recommended to the 4th Infantry Division that it not use the exit.

The division's parachute artillery did not fare nearly as well. Its drop was one of the worst of the operation, losing all but one howitzer and dropping all but two of 54 loads four to twenty miles (32 km) to the north, where most ultimately became casualties.

Drop Zone Charlie

The second wave, assigned to drop the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) on Drop Zone C 1 mile (1.6 km) west of Sainte Marie-du-Mont, was badly dispersed by the clouds, then subjected to intense antiaircraft fire for 10 miles (16 km). Three of the 81 C-47s were lost before or during the jump. One, piloted by 1st Lt. Marvin F. Muir of the 439th Troop Carrier Group, caught fire. Lt. Muir held the aircraft steady while the stick jumped, then died when the plane crashed immediately afterward, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Despite the opposition, the 506th's 1st Battalion (the original division reserve) was dropped accurately on DZ C, landing two-thirds of its sticks and regimental commander Col. Robert F. Sink on or within a mile of the drop zone.

Most of the 2nd Battalion commanded by Lt Col. Robert L. Strayer had jumped too far west, near Sainte-Mère-Église. They eventually assembled near Foucarville at the northern edge of the 101st Airborne's objective area. It fought its way to the hamlet of le Chemin near the Houdienville causeway by mid-afternoon, but found that the 4th Division had already seized the exit hours before. The 3rd Battalion of the 501st PIR, led by Lt Col. Julian J. Ewell (3/501), also assigned to jump onto DZ C, was more scattered, but took over the mission of securing the exits. An ad hoc company-sized team that included division commander Maj. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor reached the Pouppeville exit at 0600. After a six-hour house-clearing battle with elements of the German 1058th Grenadier Regiment, the group secured the exit shortly before 4th Division troops arrived to link up.

Drop Zone Dog

The third wave also encountered severe flak, losing six aircraft. The troop carriers still made an accurate drop, placing 94 of 132 sticks on or close to the drop zone, but part of the DZ was covered by pre-registered German machinegun and mortar fire that inflicted heavy casualties before many troops could get out of their chutes. Among the killed were two of the three battalion commanders and the executive officer of the 3/506th.

The surviving battalion commander, Lt Col. Robert A. Ballard, gathered 250 troopers and advanced toward Saint Côme-du-Mont to complete his mission of destroying the highway bridges over the Douve. Less than half a mile from his objective at les Droueries he was stopped by elements of battalion III./1058 Grenadier-Rgt. Another group of 50 men, assembled by the regimental S-3, Major Richard J. Allen, attacked the same area from the east at Basse-Addeville but was also pinned down.

The commander of the 501st PIR, Col. Howard R. Johnson, collected 150 troops and captured the main objective, the la Barquette lock, by 0400. After establishing defensive positions, Col. Johnson went back to the DZ and assembled another 100 men, including Allen's group, to reinforce the bridgehead. Despite naval gunfire support from the cruiser Quincy, Ballard's battalion was unable to take Saint Côme-du-Mont or join Col. Johnson.

The S-3 officer of the 3rd Battalion 506th PIR, Capt. Charles G. Shettle, put together a platoon and achieved another objective by seizing two-foot bridges near la Porte at 0430 and crossed to the east bank. When their ammunition drew low after knocking out several machine gun emplacements, the small force withdrew to the west bank. It doubled in size overnight as stragglers came in, and repulsed a German probe across the bridges.

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