More Troop Carrier Controversy

Worst Case Scenario Examined

Some other facts to consider: Former T.C. radio operator/Sgt Martin Boris Wolfe says in his book "Green Light", that of the 4 squadrons of his 436th group (the 79th, 80th, 81st, and 82nd), that the 79th and 81st flew the 1st Bn 502 PIR to DZ 'A' with fairly good results. Weisberg's rosters prove that Sgt Wolfe is mistaken as to which unit of paras were flown by his 81st. It appears that the 1st Battalion of the 'Deuce' was carried by the 79th and 82nd squadrons, while the 80th combined with Wolfe's 81st and the 85th, to carry the 377th PFA Bn. to DZ'A'.

You might be wondering: 'why did it require three squadrons of planes to fly a battalion of Parachute Artillerymen to the DZ, when the 1st Bn. 502 was conveyed by only two squadrons?' The answer is that most planes carrying Parachute Infantrymen bore sticks of 18-20 men per plane. But, because of the additional weight of 75mm pack howitzer components, artillery ammo, etc, the artillery sticks consisted of only 9 or 10 jumpers per plane. Incidentally, the jumpmaster on a plane of Artillerymen (usually an officer) jumped LAST in the stick, whereas in a Parachute Infantry stick, the jumpmaster went out the door first.

Regarding the mysterious 85th TCS, they almost "slipped through the cracks". They are not listed on the official 101st Division map overlay, showing which units dropped the 377th. Martin Wolfe explained in his book that the 85th squadron was borrowed from the 437th Group, at Ramsbury, to provide the extra 18 planes necessary to convey the 377th Bn. to France. Thus, 54 instead of 36 planes were required to transport the 377th PFA Bn. to France. This bit of information is crucial, because the entire 85th TCS dropped their passengers on the wrong map-an average of 8 miles(-and more-)north of DZ'A'. I suspect that this is verifiably the worst overall drop pattern of any TCS that night. Because of their 'borrowed' status, they nearly escaped identification. Of the Membury-launched planes the first 36 planes, manned by the 80th and 81st TCS, bore the 1st battalion of the 'Deuce'(502). Planes #37-90 bore the 377th. Planes 73-90 were manned by the 85th TCS. Of the 18 planes flown by the 85th TCS, only two (#77 & 78) dropped their men south of Valognes.
Stick #78 landed west of Montebourg.
Stick #77 landed at Azeville.
Sticks#'s 83-86-87-89 landed east and west of Valognes.
The remaining 12 sticks all landed three to four miles north of Valognes!
But one pilot of Wolfe's 81st squadron managed to outdo all of the above. That was plane #66, piloted by 1st Lt Leonard E. Braden, who turned on the green light near Cherbourg!
Only six of the 18 planes in Wolfe's 81st squadron managed to drop troopers on the right map. Stick 58 (Wolfe's plane) dropped at Chef du Pont. #59 dropped SW of St Mere Eglise, with planes # 67 and 68 at Gambosville, #56 at Gourbesville-and #69 closest to DZ 'A' at 405971 (south of St Martin de Varreville). I want to point out that these chalk numbers were used by multiple planes that night. In other words, the serial departing from each airfield started numbering their planes at #1,(although in no case should any chalk number have exceeded 90). The numbers I'm giving for the 377th mis drops are specifically for planes launched from the Membury serial.

A recent interview with Lt. Rollo Jacobs, the navigator on plane #79 of the 85th Squadron, shed some light on why his particular plane went to the north.

Jacobs told me his pilot 'Tommy'Thompson was flying at the extreme left end of the formation, with planes # 81 and 80 to his left rear and right rear. Their altitude when crossing the channel was 2500 feet. As they neared the west coast of the Cotentin, they dropped to 500 feet. Jacobs was standing behind the pilot and co pilot when the cloud bank was suddenly entered. Because Thompson was already at the left end of the formation, he made a decision to veer to the left to reduce the likelihood of colliding with other planes in the clouds. He told Jacobs: "I'm turning 45 degrees to the left; let me know when two minutes have passed."
Thompson's intention was to resume his west-east course after the two minutes were up. Jacobs recalls that the plane broke out of the clouds after the two minutes had elapsed and a number of things happened in a short amount of time. Several searchlights converged on their plane and machinegun tracers began to lead them. "The Germans were leading us by too much-probably because they were accustomed to firing at faster moving planes." The pilot put the plane in a dive, to make the plane a more difficult target and eventually returned to 500 feet altitude.

This plane passed over a sizeable French town, which the crew assumed was St Mere Eglise. Thompson asked Jacobs to bring the paratroop jumpmaster forward for a consultation. Thompson told the jumpmaster that he was off course but that he could circle back and drop the stick near St Mere Eglise. The jumpmaster asked "How many other planes are around us?" Jacobs looked out the dome and saw 2 other planes (presumably # 80 and 81, but who knows?) still echeloned to the left and right rear.

The jumpmaster was told "Two other planes." He responded by saying. "OK, give us the green light when you are ready-with two other planeloads of troopers, we'll take our chances."

The pilot said they were flying above the N13 highway and would drop the sticks astride that route. Apparently, the pilot of plane # 80 turned his green light on during this discussion, resulting in one of the 3 sticks landing about four miles away from the other two, above Valognes. From looking at the map with drop patterns marked, it also appears that pilot Thompson mistook Valognes for St Mere Eglise, and that the highway he was straddling was not the N13, but the Valognes-Quetteville road. The green light was turned on, and sticks #79 and 81 landed together, astride the above mentioned road about five miles NE of Valognes. This was about eight miles northwest of Drop Zone'A', the intended landing area.

One lingering mystery which remains unanswered about the pilots of the 85th TCS, is why they all veered to the left, resulting in all of their sticks landing too far north. If dispersion in the clouds caused them to break formation, why did they all veer in the same direction? Could it be that their leading plane was on a slightly wrong heading even before entering the clouds? I tried to contact the navigator in their lead plane, (Chalk #73), 2d Lt Max Wayne Demuth ASN: 0 699098, but have learned that he passed away several years ago, in Wichita, Kansas. This is quite regrettable, as he might have had some very enlightening information as to why this entire squadron strayed to the north. I did talk with the pilot of plane #73, Captain Joseph P. McGloin, but he had no idea what caused the eight mile drift to the left. He thinks his course was only partially predicated on consultation with Demuth, and lamented that they never saw the Pathfinder lights for DZ'A'. From eight miles distance, that is understandable.

Although proponents of Troops Carrier often contend that most paratroopers were lost in Normandy, and therefore their testimony as to location of landing can be dismissed out of hand, a few words must be said about that.
While it's true that almost every paratrooper who landed in the darkness of Normandy that night was initially lost, they could at least orient themselves by seeing the first road sign or remembering the name of the first village they entered.
Captain Joe Antrim and his radioman Don Bolce flying in chalk #82 of the 85th TCS, told me they shook hands on a successful drop upon returning to England. However the map overlay indicates their chalk number was dropped considerably NW of Valognes, about 12 miles off Drop Zone 'A' and on the wrong map. So it appears that in some cases, it was the Air Corps personnel who had a vastly inaccurate idea of where they had turned on the green light.

American PWs, some recognizable as paratroopers from their M42 jump uniforms, are marched through St Lo, enroute to Starvation Hill at Tessy sur Vire, France. ECPA French archival photo c/o L. Olivier

To put a reality check on what I've been writing about on the preceding page, it is interesting to view a partial list of 377th paratroopers who went into German captivity on and following 6 June, 1944, due to misdrops too far north of DZ'A'. This list comes from the National Archives collection. It is now computerized but incomplete, as the last five letters of the alphabet are missing on the surnames. Also, many names are ommitted because of inadequate information. Casualties of this magnitude were extraordinary. Bear in mind that this list does not include the men killed in action from the 377th for largely the same reason: Mis-drops.

Adams, Felix Capt.
Adkins, Brent W. Cpl.
Ashleman, Kenneth L. Pvt
Bacho, John F. Pvt
Baker, James R. Pfc
Barshaw, Raymond F. Pfc
Bratten, Robert L. Pvt
Buckowiecki, Joseph A., Pvt
Burkhammer, Wilbert E. Pvt
Butler, John P. Pvt
Carr, Elton Cpl
Ciccarelli, Alfred S. Pvt
Coen, Thomas J. Pfc
Compton, Loron R. Pvt
Conn, John R. Pvt
Coon, Fay L. Pvt
Crawford, George E. Pfc (9 June)
Davis, Harold M. Pfc
Deck, James M. Pvt
Deckard, Herman L. Pfc
Dewees, Alfred J. Pfc
Deyoung, Engbert Pfc
Dick, Charles W. Pvt
Dillahunty, Albert T Sgt
Doberer, George W. Pvt
Emrick, Clifford S. Sgt
Ewing, Harlie D. Pvt
Fealy, Gerald E. Pfc
Flery, Anthony J. Pfc (7 June)
Foster, George W. Pvt
Garris, Herbert L. 1st Lt
Goodenkauf, Arley L. Cpl
Green, Charles L. Sgt
Grimes, Fred V. Cpl
Gruenberg, Ernest M. Captain
Hall, Walter M. Jr T/5
Hande, Norman C. T/5
Hanik, Peter Sgt
Hanvey, Frank E. Pvt
Harkins, Hugh Jr. Pfc
Hart, Jonnie Pvt
Heller, Aurel S. 1st Lt
Hess, John F. Cpl
Hoffman, Roy F. Pfc
Hollomon, Robert L. Pvt
Hoots, Harry Pvt
Horton, Clifford L. Pvt
Horton, William W. Pvt
Huffman, Charles L. Pfc
Huggins, Vernon J. Pfc
Justice, James H. Pvt
Kaiser, Joseph A. Pfc
Kazmin, John C. Pfc
Kerr, Clifford B. Pvt
Kimpell, Wilfred F. Pvt
Koss, Ernest F. Pvt
Kreco, Michael S. Pvt
Krommendyk, Bernard Pvt
Kupiec, Stephen J. Pvt
Latta, Kermit Cpl
Landrau, Charles Pvt
Lewis, Arch J. Cpl
Little, Marvin Pvt
Marsh, Harold A. T/5
McConnell, Kermit B. Pvt
McKay, Albert J. Pvt
McKenzie, Franklin C. Cpl
Mulligan, Thomas Pvt
Mumaw, Sylvester B. T/5
Nichols, Marron A. Cpl
Odom, Ralph 1st Sgt
Palmer, James Pfc
Parrott, Marion A. Captain
Pepus, Frank J. Pvt
Pinkosky, John Pvt
Rabitsch, Haywood W. Cpl
Raniewicz, Henry J. Pfc
Repke, Clarence F T/5
Rey, Louis G. Pvt
Riley, Thomas W. Pvt
Robinette, Kenneth M. S/Sgt
Rush, Jack R. Pvt
Saffel, Kenneth B. S/Sgt
Sandburg, Harry O. Cpl
Sanwald, Walter Pfc
Schweizer, Robert W. Pvt
Schroeder, Herbert Pvt
Scullin, John Pvt
Sims, Broadway T/5
Smith, Verline Cpl
Smittle, Marion Pvt
Soliday, Richard C. 1st Lt
Soria, Daniel R. Cpl
Stajkowski, Sigmund Pvt
Stigall, Robert I. Pfc
Stewart, Melvin A. T/Sgt
Sullivan, Joseph H. Pfc
Tappenden, Alan F. Cpl
Tart, Howard Pvt
Thomas, Hallie W. Pfc
Tinley, Clyde S/Sgt
Note from the webmaster-On a visit to the National Archives in April 2001, I discovered the following 377th Normandy POW names from the end of the alphabet:
Underwood, Mitchell T-5
Williams, Newton A. T-5
Wooster, Royal J. Pvt

The 377th PFA Bn casualty report dated 14 July, 1944, lists Normandy casualties as: KIA: 6 officers, 26 EM
WIA: 1 officer and 64 EM
Missing in Action: 6 officers and 133 EM
Known captured: 4 Officers and 30 EMs. In his book, 'D-Day With the Screaming Eagles', George Koskimaki summed it up more impressively, when he wrote:
"Of the 450 men of the 377th dropped on D-Day, 218 were assembled for return to England to recoup for a new assignment. This included two officers and thirty enlisted men, who arrived with trucks and other vehicles over Utah Beach with seaborne elements during the evening of D-Day." What does this amount to overall-about 60-70% casualties?

Many of those originally considered as MIA, were later confirmed dead. The men on my list were definitely captured, but some, like Arch Lewis were actually captured a week after D-Day, after roaming thru German-held territory, trying to make it south to friendly lines. Some of them, like John Pinkosky, didn't survive long enough to make it to a Stalag.

Misfortune Compounded Into Tragedy
Arch Lewis was marching ahead of Pinkosky in a long column of PW's, guarded by marching German escorts. The German in command was an officer with a 'Z' shaped fencing scar on his cheek, riding a horse. When two American P-51 fighter planes began to strafe the column in the belief that it was all German, the PWs hit the ditches beside the road for cover. A .50 caliber slug from one of the planes severed the femoral artery in Pinkosky's leg; he bled to death in several minutes, without making a sound. After the attack, the Germans ordered Lewis and others to bury Pinkosky on a hillside across the road. Pinkosky's body has never been located nor recovered to this day. This happened in mid-June, outside Barneville, France. Arch Lewis recalls that before the Invasion, Pinkosky fabricated a barbell out of a metal rod and cans filled with concrete. This powerfully-built trooper would pump iron behind the barracks each night, in preparation for meeting the Germans. John Pinkosky is listed KIA in Rendezvous With Destiny, but is also on the 'Wall of the Missing' in Normandy.

American paratroopers captured in Normandy were photographed at Tessy sur Vire by French news correspondents in early July, 1944. After leaving this place, known as "Starvation Hill" or "Hungry Hill", they were hauled by train to Stalag XII-A at Limburg, Germany. ECPA news photo courtesy of Dick Winters.

A Summary by LTC Weisberg
Above is a hand-written draft of a memo later submitted to the Commanding General of 101st Airborne Division Artillery by LTC Benjamin Weisberg, discussing lessons learned on the Normandy mission. For those having difficulty reading section 1., paragraph a),it reads:
"The practicability of of employment of parachute field artillery battalions remains unproven. This based on the gross disregard of duty of the pilots of the IXth TC Command rather than any reflection whatsoever on the personnel or operational practices of this battalion. This battalion was dropped in scattered and small groups in an area roughly 18 miles wide and 8 miles deep; present reports indicate only 2 airplanes of the 54 carrying the battalion were dropped within 2 miles of any DZ of the Division."

Remember when reading this, that this was the personal outlook of the one particular battalion commander whose unit experienced the worst misdrops of any on D-Day. Therefore his general condemnation of the IXth TCC must be tempered with that consideration. LTC Weisberg at the time he wrote this, was no doubt unaware of the many individual pilots and units which had dropped correctly. Yet, the experience of the 377th PFA Bn. on the D-Day drop stands as a well-documented example of how some paratroopers were seriously mis dropped by certain squadrons of Troop Carrier Command.

Previous Page Trigger Time 101st Airborne in WW2 Next Page