C-47 Carried the Paratroopers On D-Day

Most of us are familiar with the C-47, or the Dakota as it was called by British and Commonwealth forces, because it’s the plane paratroopers jump out of in movies or longer productions about D-Day such as Band of Brothers. In the movie, A Bridge Too Far, about the British drop on Arnhem, there is a magnificent scene of C-47s rolling slowly to the runway then taking off.

These two photographs show C-47s during World War Two:

The pilot of a C-47 cargo transport crash lands safely after having dropped supplies to elements of the 101st Airborne Division which has successfully repulsed all attempts to capture the besieged city of Bastogne, Belgium. 30 Dec 1944 (US Army photo)
War Theatre #12 (France) – Douglas C-47 “Skytrains”, 12th Air Force Troop Carrier Wing, loaded with paratroopers on their way for the invasion of southern France, 15 August 1944. (US Air Force photo)

[Images courtesy of the US Air Force Website and the US Army Website.]

Cat Leads D-Day Invasion

Of course, after yesterday’s post, the cat lovers of the world had to have their moment of glory. Slate decided to fulfill that need by showcasing the role of cats in the US military which is “less publicized – and far more essential to top-secret US military operations.”

Since I’ve discussed World War Two extensively here, the following images caught my eye:

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The CATS program originated during World War II and was instrumental in the invasion of Normandy. Photo illustration by Holly Allen, photograph by STF/AFP/Getty Images.

 

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An upcoming 10-part HBO series will tell the true story of an elite feline unit during World War II and will be directed by Tom Hanks. Photo illustration by Holly Allen.

[Images courtesy of Slate.]

Saving Private Webster: A Review of Parachute Infantry by David Kenyon Webster (Part 4 of 4)

Webster was wounded in Holland and writes about it with a certain humor:

Martin, another man, and I ran toward the hedge to open fire. We had only gone a few feet when a German machine gun fired a short burst at us. A two hundred pound man swung a baseball bat and drove a spike clean through my leg. The force of the blow spun me around and knocked me down. ‘They got me,’ I cried. What a cliche I thought as I lay on the ground. ‘They got me.’ I’ve been seeing too many movies.

Because of this wound, Webster missed the Battle of Bastonge, and he returned to Easy Company several months afterwards.

One of the more interesting details in Webster’s memoir is about how Private Hoobler actually died. This is a very dramatic scene in the HBO Series Band of Brothers. Hoobler is showing everyone the Lugar he got from killing a German officer. He accidentally shoots himself with the Lugar and bleeds to death. This is all true. In the series, one of the medics, Doc Roe, highly thought of by the men, comes running but can’t save Hoobler, who bleeds to death. But that isn’t what happened.

Upon his return, Webster asks about Hoobler, who was a friend. Writes Webster: “And Hoobler. Where’s Hoobler?” Someone tells him Hoobler is dead. “…McCreary told me how he (Hoobler) had died while the medic was off looting the dead. They wanted to shoot the medic when they caught him…” To read this is to understand why so many World War Two combat veterans have said the real war will never be in the history books. The medic in question, was not “Doc Roe”, who is prominently featured in the HBO Series and highly thought of by the men both in reality and in the series.

While Webster himself never says it, and probably would never had said it, he was a brave soldier. On David Kenyon Webster’s website, Burton P. Christenson, fellow soldier, wrote:

I watched a man during the peak of one of our most epic struggles with the Germans. We had fought for twelve hours. The enemy fire was showing on our nerves. The men were done in. The look of death showed in the faces of the living. The men of the first platoon were trying to blend into anything that made them inconspicuous. Tension mounted. Then far up ahead at the closest point to the enemy, standing erect, stood Dave Webster, shouting to the Germans to surrender. And as they sheepishly passed this hunk of a man, going to the end of their war, the first platoon again moved forward.

It is a tragedy that Webster did not live to see the extraordinary HBO series Band of Brothers in which he is featured in almost every episode but also that he never saw his memoirs become so widely read and admired.

Saving Private Webster: A Review of Parachute Infantry by David Kenyon Webster (Part 3 of 4)

David Kenyon Webster died tragically and mysteriously on the 9th or 10th of September 1961. Webster had gone shark fishing for the day on the 9th in his small boat. He had a fascination with sharks and had written a manuscript about them published after his death as Myth and Maneater: The Story of the Shark. He did not return that evening as expected. His wife phoned the USCG. In a search the next day they found the boat but David Kenyon Webster was never found. Did he accidentally fall overboard? Or did he jump overboard for a brief swim and somehow drown? Or did he choose to jump overboard and drown?

A whisper of suicide seems to accompany the final days of David Kenyon Webster. Having suffered from depression in my own life, now thankfully controlled by medications, and having read and re-read Kenyon’s memoirs, I get the sense he suffered from bouts of depression which easily could have gotten worse as he got older and would have been exacerbated by some of his war experiences. I’m not saying that he did commit suicide. I have no idea. Just a gut feeling.

Because Webster was from a socially prominent background, and a year shy of graduating in English literature from Harvard, he was a wonderful writer, capturing detail and emotion which less skillful writers could not do. These things alone made him different. Yet Webster had another unusual distinction, he spoke fluent German. He wasn’t from a German background. He had taken German in school and must have really studied hard since German is a very hard language to learn. His abilities were often needed both to question prisoners and deal with the German civilians once Webster’s unit moved into Germany. A fascinating man. The kind of man one wishes one had known.

More about World War Two in his own words:

Being under intense German artillery fire for several hours:

No wonder men went crazy in a shelling. It was the worst experience on earth…I dissolved and wanted to die. Each salvo came closer; this was the closest of all.

After being wounded and sent to a rear dressing station:

I rolled up my .45 (pistol) in my identification scarf and hid it in my jacket pocket, to keep it from being stolen by the rear echelon medics.

Replacements:

Of the four, Lamb appeared to be the most competent, probably because he was a Southerner, and I never met a Southerner who wouldn’t fight.

(I’m from the South so I had to put this in.)

Sex with German girls:

Although it was forbidden by the clean-minded young men at SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces) – farther in the rear than ever before – some of us even fraternized with the local Madchen. Kommen Sie here, baby!

After the Nazi surrender:

The Third Reich was a cancer on the face of Western man. I was glad now that I had played a part, however small, in helping to remove that cancer…I was only sorry that I had not shot more of them.

On his Company CO Captain Winters:

A big, strong young man with sandy hair, he had won the Distinguished Service Cross at Normandy.

On his platoon sergeant, ‘Wild Bill Guarnere’:

…calm and fearless…decorated with the Silver Star in Normandy…

Their medic, Doc Roe:

…a fine medic, Roe, who had a warm, brave heart.