Appearing here will be short military profiles of some of our members.
We profile our WWII members first with the historical events they witnessed.
William J. "Wild Bill" Guarnere
E/506th PIR 101st Airborne
Bill is a veteran sergeant of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) attached to the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army during the Second World War. He was portrayed in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers by Frank John Hughes.
William Guarnere was born in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the youngest of 10 children. When William was 15, the United States Government created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Citizens Military Training Camp (CMTC) programs to help boys during the depression. The CCC was a civilian project to get kids off the street. Guarnere's mother told the Government that he was 17 while he was only 15, and he spent three summers in the CMTC, which took four years to complete. Upon completing his training he would be an officer in the United States Army. Unfortunately, after his third year the program was cancelled due to the pending war in Europe.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, and six months before graduation from high school, Guarnere left and worked for Baldwin Locomotive Works making tanks for the Army. In mid-1942, Guarnere enlisted in the paratroops. Bill joined Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, to fight in World War II. He made his first combat jump on D-Day as part of the Allied invasion of France.
He earned the nickname “Wild Bill” because of his agressive pursuit of Germans. Another nickname for him was "Gonorrhea" because of its similarity to his last name (this was used in the miniseries Band of Brothers).
He displayed strong hatred for the Germans because one of his elder brothers, Henry, had been killed fighting the German Army in the Italian campaign at Monte Casino.
Guarnere lived up to his nickname of "Wild Bill." A terror on the battlefield, he fiercely attacked the Germans he came into combat with.
Guarnere received the Silver Star for combat during the Brecourt Manor Assault on D-Day, and was later decorated with two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts, making him one of only three Easy Company members (the others being Lieutenant Lynn "Buck" Compton and Major Richard Winters) to be awarded the Silver Star throughout the duration of the war while a member of Easy.
Bill was part of Operation Market-Garden jumping into Holland on September 17, 1944.
While recovering from injuries after being wounded on October 17, he went AWOL from the hospital to rejoin Easy Company before the Battle of the Bulge.
He lost his leg to German "88's" in Bastogne, Belgium on January 4th 1945 while trying to help his wounded friend Joe Toye, who also lost a leg.
Due to this injury, Guarnere's participation in the war came to an end.
In his recent autobiography entitled Beyond Band of Brothers; Memoirs of Major Richard Winters, Richard Winters refers to two men in Easy Company as being "natural killers": Ronald Speirs and Bill Guarnere. When making those statements about both men, Winters says it in a way that reflects respect, not in a negative manner.
Bill is current Vice President of our 101st Airborne Association - Southeast Pennsylvania Chapter and continues to support current troops in Iraq & Afghanistan.
He can be seen above showing the original WWII "Easy Company" guidon to Iraq War veteran Captain Kevin Messmer of the 10th Mountain Division.
Robert “Bob” Corey
HHC/509th Parachute Infantry Battalion &
HHC/508th PIR 82nd Airborne
Bob joined the West Virginia National Guard in 1938. In January of 1940 the Guard was activated as the 150th Infantry at Camp Shelby in Mississippi.
Bob’s first duty station was in the Panama Canal Zone in the Spring of 1940. His Guard unit had frequent contact with the 2nd Field Pack Artillery, a unit that had been in the PCZ since the building of the canal. Guy Anhorn had a great uncle in the 2nd FPA, which had a reputation for disrupting local liquor establishments when they came out of the mountains.
Bob confirmed this.
The Zone was also used as a training facility for parachute training, which was in its infancy. Bob Cory asked for a reassignment to airborne and was subsequently sent to Fort Benning in January of 1942, a month after the US was in the war.
He was one of the first members of the Demonstration Battalion at Benning and was shipped over to England in June of 1942 as part of the 509th Parachute Battalion (unattached).
In November of 1942, the 509th PIB became part of the invasion of North Africa. The first parachute jump had just occurred at Tafarquay Airport in Oran.
From December 1942 to June 1943, the 509th trained in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco in preparation for the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943. During the invasion of Sicily, the 509th was attached to the 82nd Airborne Division, but was held in division reserve and saw no action in that campaign.
One week later, after repacking their own chutes (every man was his own rigger in those days), the battalion conducted their second combat jump on 15 November 1942 to secure the airfield at Youk-Les-Bains near the Tunisian border.
From this base the battalion conducted combined operations with various French forces against the German Afrika Korps in Tunisia. One unit, the 3rd Regiment of Zouaves (French Algerian Infantry), awarded their own Regimental Crest as a gesture of respect to the American Paratroopers.
This badge was awarded to the battalion commander on 15 November 1942 by the 3rd Zouaves' Regimental Commander, and is worn today by all members of the 509th Infantry.
The invasion of Italy began in September 1943 with the amphibious assault at Salerno. The 509th was initially in reserve with the 82nd Airborne Division in Sicily until the beachhead was in danger.
On 14 September, while the 82nd Airborne Division dropped inside American lines to reinforce the beachhead, the 509th was assigned to what was called a “suicide” mission of cutting enemy supply lines behind the German defensive positions. The 509th launched its third parachute assault at Avellino, Italy, only to find that the valley DZ was occupied the night before by the 6th German Armored Panzer Division.
The 509th operated independently for weeks behind German lines in company and platoon size elements disrupting the German rear area.
Bob Corey found himself 50 miles behind enemy lines and scrounging for food and water among the Italian civilians for 30 days with a few other troopers. One of Bob’s men was wounded in one of their encounters with the German patrols.
They carried him with them until he later died. Bob’s men finally got back to friendly lines in Salerno in October 1943. Total casualties for the 509th Battalion were 123 killed and captured including the 509th commander and his entire staff.
According to Corey, he and the survivors of his last mission were going to be rolled into an infantry unit when their CO managed to keep their airborne status by having them reassigned to the 508th PIR, part of the 82nd in England.
On D-Day June 6th 1944, Bob jumped with the 508th into Normandy.
Their primary targets were Brienville and Beuzeville-la-Bastille. Clouds and heavy anti-aircraft fire caused the formations to break up and many of the planes to stray off course. The confusion was also compounded by the Wehrmacht’s presence in the drop zones. 508th troopers were widely scattered over the Normandy countryside but participated in battles at Saint Mare Eglise and Hill #30.
Bob returned to Nottingham, England until Operation Market Garden on September 17th. There, Bob participated in action in Groesbeck and Nijmegen. November 10, the 508th was relieved by a British Brigade.
On 16 December 1944 the entire 82nd Airborne was thrust into Ardennes Forest in the largest battle of World War II - The Battle of the Bulge.Bob and the 508th was ordered to Werbomont to pinch in the northern shoulder.
On December 19th the 508th set up positions in the vicinity of Chevron. The regiment held positions until January 3, 1945 when the 82nd Airborne Division counterattacked.
On January 7th the Red Devil's launched an attack in the vicinity of Thier-du-Mont where it suffered heavy casualties. Bob Corey received a commendation for retrieving maps and intelligence information from enemy territory after his commander was wounded.
On February 22, The Regiment moved back to Camp Sissonne where it became part of SHAEF reserve. Bob then became part of General Eisenhower’s Honor Guard until September 25th when he returned to the US as a Staff Sergeant. Bob went on to college with the GI bill and became an engineer for General Electric.
Panama, England, North Africa, Italy, France, Holland and Belgium. Not a bad tour for that National Guard fella from West "By God" Virginia.
Update July 2010 - We recently took Bob for a visit to a local gun range to see if remembered his skills from World War II.
As you can see, he was right at home with every weapon in the arsenal, even offering his advice on how to place the armaments in case any Wehrmacht were to "attempt a counterattack on our position."
Joseph Daniel McGinley
F/501st PIR 101st Airborne
Credit to Diary Notes by Clair Hess & an essay about 2nd Bn 501st PIR at Bizory by Mark Stephenson
As soon as Joe McGinley reached the age of 18, he joined the Army in Philadelphia in October of 1943. It was a tough decision, as he was the oldest boy of a large German-Irish family in North Philadelphia.
After initial processing at Fort Indiantown Gap he boarded a train for basic training at Camp Blanding, near Jacksonville, Florida.
Joe was trained as a radio operator and then volunteered for the airborne. His first influence to be a paratrooper was being impressed by the “shinny boots.”
During jump training at Fort Benning he learned that one of his instructors was Bob Flynn, also from Philadelphia. Bob began dating Joe’s sister and they corresponded throughout the war.
After a short leave for Joe’s girlfriend’s prom at Olney High School in Philly, he was shipped over to Southampton, England in July 1944 on the USS George Washington, a former captured WWI German ship that was used by President Wilson.
Joe arrived as a replacement radio operator with F Company, 501 PIR in August 14th 1944, moving into the tents of troopers who never returned from Normandy.
Joe McGinley’s first combat jump was into Holland on September 17th 1944, followed by 72 days on the line before rest and refitting in Mourmelon-le-Grande, France.
On December 16th, the men of Company F were awarded their CIB’s (Combat Infantry Badges) and on the 17th, a few headed off to Paris. But, on the 18th, Joe’s lieutenant, Clair Hess (of King of Prussia PA), received an ALERT for “an operation.” He even noted in his journal that he feared they would probably never return. They knew it was serious when orders came down to release all soldiers from the stockade.
Trucks, semi's pulling forty-by-eight open-topped trailers typically used to haul cattle, began to line the street. Many of Joe’s fellow troopers stood with dazed looks on their faces as if they had just gotten out of bed.
The battalion trucks crossed the embarkation point at 1400hrs.
Truck after truck carrying the division turned onto the road with the 501 PIR at the head of the convoy.
They were on the lookout for German paratroopers.
Rumor had it they were operating behind American lines to disrupt rear operations.
With little room to sit most of the men stood. The cold air and breeze forced some to huddle as close to the front wall as they could. Some men joked and discussed what might await them and night quickly fell over them. No one knew where they were going as the convoy wound its way east and then north.
The trucks with “Klondike White”, the code name for the second battalion of the 501st PIR stopped about a kilometer west of the ancient town of Bastogne on the Rue de March. In the distance could be heard artillery.
Lt Hess of Fox Company (left) wrote in his journal:
“Arrived in wooded area outside Bastogne 0300. Moved to town. 1st Battalion meet enemy on edge of town. Shells whiz into town near us. We move to Bizory. Move out into woods. All armored pulling back scared as hell. We withdraw to Bizory to dig in. Expect big attack in morning.”
The gray light of dawn had not yet broken the dark of night when the battalion began to move from their assembly area around 0530. The men fell out onto the road in two lines on either side.
The column followed the road into town. The streets were jammed with vehicles and VIII Corps headquarters personnel.
One of these was John Dimino (below right) of Norristown PA, a member of the top secret Machine Records Unit. He became a lifelong friend of chapter member Louis Zotti (bottom of story)also of Norristown PA, Lou was a Bazooka Team Leader for HQ 1-502nd PIR 101st Airborne.
Shells were still falling in the town and it was clear that everyone they passed were getting out. As Fox Company passed through the congested streets, civilians peered out from darkened doors and windows watching the frantic activity in the streets.
Lt Bill Sefton saw a Bastogne civilian hastily whitewashed over an American flag painted on a wall.
Sefton had found Lt. Clair Hess wounded on D-Day and became best of friends for the rest of their lives.
Retreating stragglers from American units were filtering into Bastogne along every road. “Wiped out…Tanks, tanks, tanks,” was all they could report. These men, despondent and some crying did not know from where they came or where they were heading.
General Anthony McAuliffe, acting commander of the Division, had instructed Colonel Julian Ewell, regimental commander of the 501st, to move east where he was to “make contact, attack and clear up the situation.”
During the continuous shelling, Pvt Joe McGinley and a few others took cover in the church (right).
It was filled with deceased local civilians, so they climbed over the pews. Joe found a communion prayer card with the name Jacque Martin, an altar boy. Joe kept the card for the rest of his life as a good luck charm. Martin was contacted 65 years later and is still a Bastogne resident.
As Joe and the other troopers left town and got closer to Bizory, the stream of refugees had ceased and now out of the mist more weary and scared soldiers appeared.
These men looked at the troopers with sullen bewilderment and some spoke with scornful contempt, saying, “If you wanna fight Krauts, they’re right over the hill.”
Joe McGinley and Fox Company were stretched along the farm track all the way to the high ground
northeast of Bizory over the Mageret/Bizory road.
Fox would hold these positions for the next eleven days.
On December 20th , all along the line from Bizory to Neffe, the Germans laid down a wall of artillery that some on the receiving end described as the worse they experienced the entire war.
Lt. Hess wrote in his pocket diary:
“Sgt Parks and I made up Molotov cocktails. Everyone dug in. The Jerri’s line up five tanks with infantry in front of woods and lay down big smoke screen. Thought this would be my last day.”
The attack came when the tanks and infantry emerged in front of Fox’s position.
All machine guns in Fox and guns from HQ company, as well as the four tank destroyers opened on the German assault columns simultaneously.
Within moments, all the artillery General McAuliffe could turn towards Bizory struck the attackers with hundreds of rounds. By 1400 hrs the attack was over.
The attack by the 26th Volks Grenadiers was not without losses for Fox.
Lt. Brown was hit making Hess the C.O.; Pvt. Melvin Heitsman was killed; First Lieutenant Charles Warrener was seriously wounded and would die of his wounds on Christmas Eve. Lieutenant Warrener stood up and was hit by shrapnel from a shell that hit ten feet from his hole; Pvt. Lester Randolph was killed and Pfc. Daniel Klores died of his wounds three days later. Several others were wounded but not all returned to duty.
PVT Joe McGinley escaped injury on this round. By December 21st all of the German assaults on the 501st had been repulsed and the Germans gave up any attempts to take Bastogne from the northeast.
The shortages of food, ammunition, warm clothes and other hardships endured by McGinley, Lt Hess and the men of Fox company through Christmas are too numerous to mention and could be the subject of an entire book.
On January 3rd 1945, Fox Company and the 501st attacked north across open fields and wood patches between the railroad tracks and Bourcy. Joe McGinley recalls the Germans on the other side of the tracks openned up.
Joe and several near him were wounded when an 88 round exploded in their midst. The trooper next to Joe was killed.
Joe lost consciousness, was eventually taken back to an aid station and awoke in a hospital in England.
He remained in England until March. Doctors determined that he should not be sent back to his unit.
He remained in Europe until March of 1946 assigned to guarding German prisoners and as an officer’s driver.
Learning exactly what had happened to Joe was hampered by his trauma, loss of memory and missing records from the military records fire in 1973.
The military was however, able to provide partially burned records which showed all his unit assignments and details of his wounds and treatment.
This information was aided by numerous wartime letters, diaries and photographs that he had put away and forgotten.
Several old troopers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey helped piece together Joe McGinley’s story, especially Retired Colonel Clair Hess, who was a onetime CO of Fox Company during the battle in Bastogne.
The story of 101st troopers Joe McGinley, Meron Costroff, Clair Hess, Fran Facenda and Lou Zotti was made into a documentary called A Paratrooper's Story. The DVD is available here.
On October 8th 2010, Joe McGinley passed. God bless him, our Screaming Eagles and veterans who helped save the world from tyrany.
Lou Zotti HQ 1/502nd, Meron Costroff H/502nd & Joe McGinley F/501st 101st Airborne Dividion WWII
Meron “Cass” Costroff
H/502nd PIR 101st Airborne
Cass turned 18 in July of 1943 and was drafted by September of 1943. He was sent to Camp Blanding, Florida, coincidently with Joe McGinley, also from Philadelphia. After jump training at Fort Benning he was shipped off to England, arriving there as his unit was flying out of Membury and Greenham Common in the first wave to Normandy in June 6th 1944 invasion.
In August 1944 General Eisenhower established the First Allied Airborne Army controlling the 17th, 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions under the command of Gen Matthew Ridgway. The new army was put to the test in September 1944 during Operation Market-Garden.
A plan by British Field Marshal Montgomery for September 17, 1944 was to use the paratroopers and glidermen of the 82nd and 101st U.S. Airborne Divisions and England's First Airborne Division in a daring daylight drop into Holland. The airborne Allied troops were to seize roads, bridges and the key communication cities of Eindhoven, Nijmegen and Arnhem, thus cutting Holland in half and clearing a corridor for British armored and motorized columns all the way to the German border.
The 101st mission was to secure the fifteen miles of Hell's Highway stretching from Eindhoven north to Veghel. After less than three months in England, the 502nd was to make its second combat jump. Still under the command of Col Michaelis the unit was to land in Holland on DZ C, seize the small highway bridge over the Dommel River north of Saint Oedenrode and the railroad and road bridges at Best.
Cass remembered landing on a picket fence, getting scratched up and forming up on flares. H Company sent patrols through the Zonsche forest, trying to move toward the town of Best and the bridge. Within 5 minutes, Captain Jones picked Cass and his squad to scout ahead. They immediately saw a German convoy approaching with motorcyclists in the lead.
Although Captain Jones ordered everyone to hold their fire, Cass said some shot the two cyclists causing the Germans to dismount.
The squad had to run for the tree line with Cass carrying a very heavy .30 Cal machinegun.
German resistance was tough in the vicinity of Best but the 502nd fought their way to within 100 yards of the bridge before the Germans blew it up.
In fierce fighting around the bridge, Private Joe Mann who was seriously wounded twice during the fighting was killed when he threw himself on a German grenade to save his fellow soldiers who were in the same foxhole with him. Mann was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for this act of selfless heroism.
Ironically, the only other Medal of Honor recipient of 101st during the war, Col. Robert Cole, was shot and killed by a snipers bullet in the action around the Zonsche Forest.
The fate of the third battalion was now in the capable hands of its executive officer Maj. John Stopka. On 22 September, Lt Col Michaelis and three of his staff were seriously wounded by an artillery shell outside of his headquarters.
Command of the 502nd passed to 2nd Battalion commander, Steve Chappuis.
After securing their hard-won objectives, the men of the 502nd moved north with the rest of the 101st to take hold of defensive positions on 'The Island', south west of Arnhem.
It was here that the 101st would fight some of its toughest battles during its time in Holland.
On 18 December, 1944, Cass and the men of H Company were ordered to Bastogne.
As Cas was jammed into a truck for an overnight rush to Bastogne he recalled his Sergeant J.B. Cooper with burlap wrapped around his feet to ward off the cold.
The defense of the north and northwest portion of the envelopment became the responsibility of the 502nd.
In this attack Sky Jackson of the 502nd won the Silver Star for single handedly hitting the two tanks with bazooka fire knocking out one. The other tank escaped only to be destroyed at Champs by another 502nd member John Ballard of A Company who was killed on January 3 1945 in another action.
Finally, on December 26th Patton's 4th Armor Division broke through the encirclement and the lifting of the siege of Bastogne began.
On 3 January 1945 the 2nd Battalion engaged in heavy fighting around Longchamps, Belgium.
On January 14, 1945 PFC Cass Costroff lost his Battalion commander, Lieutenant Col. John Stopka and thirty other troopers to friendly fire near Michamps when American planes strafed too close to the friendly positions. Cecil L Simmons then became his CO until the end of the war.
On 23 February 1945, Cass and his Company were relieved and returned to Mourmelon, France. Here General Eisenhower spoke to the 101st Airborne Division when the unit was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation for its stand at Bastogne.
This was the first time in the history of the United States Amy that an entire Division had been so honored.
As the war in Europe was nearing its end, the 502nd moved to the Ruhr Pocket on 2 April to help in mop-up operations. Here the 502nd went on the line facing the Rhine River south of Dusseldorf, Germany.
On the 4th and 5th of May, the 502nd received and carried out its final wartime mission - the capture of Berchtesgaden, Hitler's Eagles Nest.
Cass spent the summer of 1945 on occupation duty near Mittersill, Austria. He recalls many great stories with young Austrian girls serenading him at his guard posts.
Returning to France in September, Cass and the rest of the 502nd were transported stateside.
HHC 1-502nd PIR 101st Airborne
Lou had joined the Army in 1938 and became a drill sergeant and then an artillery soldier before the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7th 1941.
After that news he decided to volunteer for Airborne training, only to be made an instructor at Fort Benning because of his experience and rank.
He finally persuaded his superiors to let him into the fight and was soon in England preparing for D-Day with the 502nd Parachute Infantry, part of the 101st Airborne.
On D-Day, Zotti parachuted into Normandy with the 101st in the wee hours of the morning ahead of the main invasion. In September 1944, as he jumped from a C-47 airplane, he was hit in the chin by ground fire, which split his teeth.
Later, while firing a bazooka, he injured an eye.
Lou also participated in Operation Market Garden, the invastion of German occupied Holland on September 17th 1944. After 72 days on the line, Lou and his men retired to France where he made it to Paris.
He was abruptly alerted on December 18th to the German Offensive and was rushed to Bastogne Belgium with the whole division.
Soldiers were deep in the Battle of the Bulge, which took place in 1944 in Belgium's winter weather.
That's when paratrooper Louis Zotti was dug into a foxhole phoning in artillery strikes on Nazi tanks that rumbled through the snow toward his unit.
Fog hovered above the freshly fallen snow that blanketed the Belgian countryside while the air temperature plummeted to zero as the Battle of the Bulge entered its 19th day.
The Germans had broken through Allied lines near Longchamps, a Belgian village about four miles north of Bastogne, Jan. 3, 1944, and the 101st Airborne Division's 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment was called in to help close the gap.
Zotti and a soldier from his bazooka team pulled a dead GI out of a foxhole and set up a defensive line nearby.
The early morning fog obscured the enemy, but Zotti could hear the metallic clanking of the tanks' steel tracks as the machines climbed a hill above Longchamps.
When a German tank crested the hill, it was so close to the Norristown soldier's foxhole that he could have reached out and touched it.
"They were right on top of us," he said. "We were practically on top of the crest (of the hill)."
Bazookas and grenades disabled a few tanks, but the 2nd Battalion paratrooper admitted that to explode a tank, a bazooka shell had to penetrate the engine area, either underneath or behind the vehicle.
This was difficult. Artillery shells and tank destroyers, equipped with howitzers, were much more effective against the armored vehicles.
"If any one those shells hit, (the tank) was done," he said. "It can blow the turret completely off the tank."
Soldiers of the German Wehrmacht walked alongside and behind the tanks. As the fog lifted later that morning, the German infantry became visible to the Allied soldiers manning machine guns.
"When the fog cleared, that's when they started mowing them down," he said.
According to the "Rendezvous with Destiny," a history of the 101st Airborne Division, the fighting around Longchamps on Jan. 3 and 4 had been the bloodiest for the 502nd PIR since the battle for Carentan, in Normandy, in June.
Fortunately for Zotti, the fighting at Longchamps turned out to be his last battle. By the time his unit moved into Borcey a week later, the enemy had fled.
"That was the end of the Battle of Bastogne for us," he said. After nearly a month of fierce fighting in Belgium, Allied forces had ruptured the enemy's westward advance, or bulge, and by mid-January, Hitler's war machine was retreating to Germany.
But the cost of victory was high. During the Battle of the Bulge, the U.S. suffered about 70,000 casualties - servicemen killed, wounded or missing.
In "The Battered Bastards of Bastogne," author George Koskimaki estimates that the 101st suffered 982 casualties during the four-week campaign that began Dec. 16.
Zotti, who was awarded two Purple Hearts, admits being scared many times as he fought in several major battles. But "mostly up on that hill (in Longchamps)" at the sight of German tanks heading his way. Zotti arrived home from War on Oct.9, 1945.
Lou Zotti passed away in July 2008, but not before participating in a DVD Documentary about the 101st Airborne called, "A Paratrooper's Story" in which he recounted his experiences throughout the war.
C/502nd PIR 101st Airborne
Frank Facenda grew up in South Philadelphia, right behind his friend “Wild Bill” Guarnere of Eazy Company fame. He entered the Army about a year later, received his airborne training at Fort Benning and was moved to Camp Shank in New York in December of 1943. From there he boarded a ship to England. It was a horrible trip Frank recalled, saying he was sick for 13 days.
After arriving in Londonderry near Belfast in January of 1944, Frank was assigned to C Company of the 502nd. They then marched to Hungerford. After seemingly unending training in the cold, bleak English countryside, they finally received orders for the D-Day Invasion, flying in the first planes to depart from Membury.
He remembered being pushed up onto the plane because he only weighed 140 pounds with over 100 lbs of gear. Frank’s C-47 was off course because the pilots broke their three-plane ranks and everyone was ill because they had to take seasick pills that made them sicker.
He jumped with only a few hundred feet under him many miles from his assigned DZ. He described it like jumping into fireworks from the ground fire.
He wound up with medics from the 505th of the 82nd Airborne for nine days missing the whole battle at Carentan. They pulled security duties near Cherbourg for 30 days where it was very hot.
They had chemical impregnated uniforms to protect against gas attacks, but it made them feel twice as hot.
Frank sailed back to England on LSTs in July and managed to sleep on deck the whole time because it cooler and he couldn’t swim.
Once in London, he got a seven day furlough. He was supposed to go back to Scotland but stayed in an apartment in Kennett Square with an English girl he met. Sadly, she was killed with her whole family a few days later by a V-1 “Buzz Bomb” at her parent’s house near the train station.
On Sunday, 17 September, 1944, the 502nd landed by parachute on the Zon, Holland DZ. Frank described it as a beautiful jump with only two planes being shot down.
Their new chutes were a lot easier than D-Day. Frank was a trained Bazooka man, so B Company’s Captain Swanson ordered Frank to take out a sniper, but one of his riflemen got him first. With 72 days on the line he caught the scabies (a skin infection caused by infestation by Sarcoptes scabiei mites) and needed to be hospitalized for four days.
On another incident, a replacement officer ordered Frank to take out an artillery piece, but he refused and took out the forward observer instead.
It was about this time when he heard someone yell “Hey Frannie,” from the top of a dike. It was none other than his old neighbor from Philadelphia, “Wild Bill” Guarnere of E/506th. C Company then went north to capture and outpost St Oedenrode. German troops denied U.S. forces the bridge at Best by blowing it up.
Another odd occurrence was when he saw C Company’s Sergeant’s Wallace and Collins captured by a German.
Frank was going to shoot the enemy soldier, but then he saw Wallace and Collins turn on their captor “like in an old cowboy movie”, killing him with his own rifle.
Frank had more stories about waking up in his foxhole with a dead German beside him; an enemy shell landing under his Jeep - but fortunately it was a "dud". He also remembers a friend named Ferguson who Frank described as being a genius with math.
Ferguson confronted a German officer walking along the railroad tracks, only to find that Ferguson’s pistol and rifle didn’t work, so the German just turned and walked away
After arriving at Camp Mourmelon le Grand, France for Thanksgiving, Frank said his entire company got the GI’s from what he thought was the “awful” British rations.
The only good American food they got, said Frank, was from the cows, pigs and chickens they killed themselves. Right after Frank turned in his equipment, the 502nd was rushed north in trucks with the rest of the 101st to hold the crucial road and rail junction of Bastogne Belgium.
Frank said he was so cold and wet he had to take a sleeping bag, goulashes and pants off the bodies of dead GI’s.
He lost his gloves so he went to the CP only to find the CP staff warm as toast by the fire. At least he got a pair of gloves off them.
Surrounded there, the 502 held positions on the north and northwest portion of the circle.
Enemy probes began hitting them after failing elsewhere in the circular defense line.
During the Christmas morning fight at Champs, Belgium, followed by repulse of an armored attack on the C.P. at Rolle, Frank remembered a young trooper friend being blown up when a shell landed in his foxhole, right next to his.
On 3 January, 1945, a heavy engagement took place above Longchamps, Belgium involving 2nd Battalion of the Deuce.
The 19th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment of the Hohenstauffen division was able to capture almost forty American parachutists there, mostly members of F/502. The following week saw bloody fighting along the railroad line running NE through the Bois Jacques forest.
Frank described an incident where he was relieved on the perimeter by a young replacement from the 327th Glider. He loaned the kid his sleeping bag but told him not "to zip it up and don’t fall asleep".
The kid did both and was found dead in the morning after a German infiltrator came through the line an bayoneted him.
On the 16th of January 1945, Frank captured a young 15 year old German soldier and took him back to the CP.
Franks buddies encouraged him to just “shoot him,’ but Frank refused and insisted on making the trip to secure him at the POW compound.
Frank wanted to maintain his humanity even in this battle where Americans would sustain 80,000 casualties.
While Frank was walking back to his position, he was hit by an “88” that took off his left arm and left him severely wounded. That selfless act to save the German boy maimed him for life.
The war was over for PFC Francis “Frank” Facenda and years of rehabilitation began.
This Screaming Eagle "soared" on Veterans' Day November 11th, 2008, but not before contributing to a DVD Documentary about the 101st Airborne called, "A Paratrooper's Story" in which he recounts these experiences and much more.
We can still hear him now cracking sarcastic jokes at the monthly 101st Airborne Association meetings, objecting to motions and making the treasurer re-read the financial reports.
His wit, sincerity and contageous smile will be missed.
Now we profile the "younger" members...
Jack “Duke” Gallagher
Duke entered the US Army in 1958 at Fort Dix for basic training and AIT. He was assigned to Fort Benning for parachute training and by July 1959 he was at Fort Campbell, Kentucky to become part of the famous 101st Airborne Division until 1961.
His overseas assignment came when he was shipped over to what was then West Germany. His base was with the 28th Infantry in Munich.
After discharge, Duke joined the Philadelphia Police Department.
Since retirement, Duke is the current President of the Southeastern Chapter of the 101st Airborne Association.
Mike was inducted into the US Army July 9th 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War. He went to basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He was then assigned to Fort Sill, Oklahoma for advanced artillery training.
Mike volunteered for airborne and then received his jump training at Fort Benning Georgia.
Mike was shipped off to Vietnam in March 1969 where he was assigned to the 2ns Field Force Artillery, 7th Battalion 8th Field Artillery and the 2nd/35th Field Artillery with the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne at Ben Hoa.
Mike is currently the treasurer of the Southeastern Chapter of the 101st Airborne Association.
Martin "Marty" Tomkin
In April 1965, Marty enlisted in the US Army and following basic training and AIT (Advanced Infantry Training) volunteered for Parachute Training at Fort Benning, Georgia.
His first assignment was with the 101st Aviation Battalion. In July of 1966 he was sent to what was then West Germany. He was assigned to 10th Special Forces until October 1967.
In late 1967, Marty was sent to Ben Hoa, Vietnam and then on to Camp Eagle near Hue with the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division where he was assigned to the 101st Administration Company.
MARTY TOMKIN is 2nd from the right in this photo, which was taken at Ft Campbell in October of 1967, just before the division was sent to Vietnam to join the 1st Brigade.
This photo was taken in Vietnam at Camp Eagle in late 1967 or early 1968. MARTY TOMPKIN is on the right.