Tag Archives: 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Chronology of the 440th Troop Carrier Group

Originally published as “Diary of Events” in DZ Europe: The Story of the 440th Troop Carrier Group.

7 June 1943:               Original cadre assembled at Army Air Force School of Applied Tactics, Orlando, Fla., held preactivation meeting, and began four-week course.

1 July 1943:                 440th Troop Carrier Group was formally activated at Baer Field, Fort Wayne, Ind.

5 July 1943:                 Original cadre arrived at Baer Field from Orlando.

10 July 1943:               440th arrived at Sedalia Army Air Base, Warrensburg, Mo., to begin training.

7 September 1943:      440th arrived at Alliance Army Air Base, Alliance, Neb.

17 December 1943:     440th air echelon arrived at Pope Field, Fort Bragg, N.C.

4 January 1944:           440th ground echelon arrived at Pope Field.

4-9 January 1944:        Training maneuvers. Five missions were flown with the 17th Airborne Division and the 282d Airborne Engineers.

17-29 January 1944:    Bivouacs at Knollwood and Lumberton, N.C.

14-15 February 1944:  440th arrived at Baer Field, Fort Wayne, Ind., to stage for overseas movement.

21-23 February 1944:  Air echelon took off from Baer Field on first leg of overseas flight.

23 February 1944:       Ground echelon arrived at Camp Shanks, N.Y., port of embarkation.

22-25 February 1944:  Air echelon departed Morrison Field, Fla., for United Kingdom via Porto Rico, British Guiana, Belem and Natal, Brazil, Ascension Island and Fernando Island, Liberia, Dakar, and Marrakech.

5-8 March 1944:           Air echelon arrived in England at St. Mawgan, Cornwall, and Valley, Wales.

8-11 March 1944:        Air echelon proceeded to AAF Station No. 481¸ Bottesford, Nottinghamshire, England, to set up its first overseas headquarters.

14 March 1944:           440th ground echelon sailed from New York Harbor on HMT “Louis Pasteur.”

15 March 1944:           Colonel Frank X Krebs assumed command of AAF Station No. 481 in addition to his duties as Group Commander.

18 March 1944:           The 440th flew its first mission in the ETO. Eleven patients were evacuated from a hospital in Pershore, North Ireland, to England.

22 March 1944:           The “Louis Pasteur” docked at Liverpool.

23 March 1944:           440th ground echelon joined the air echelon at Station No. 481, Bottesford.

11 April 1944:             Practice mission PAYLOAD. 440th executed paradrop with 456th Parachute Field Artillery.

13 April 1944:             Practice mission PITCH. 440th executed paradrop with 1st Battalion of the 507th Parachute Infantry.

15 April 1944:             First 440th formal inspection and review in ETO held on runway at Bottesford.

18 April 1944:             Practice mission FAITHFUL. 440th carried units of the 82d Airborne Division.

22 April 1944:             Practice mission PLAYPALL. 440th carried units of 82d Airborne Division.

24 April 1944:             Practice mission HOPEFUL. 440th carried units of 82d Airborne Division.

26 April 1944:             440th arrived at Station No. 463, Exeter, Devon, in change of station.

1 May 1944:                General Omar Bradley visited the 440th at Exeter.

10 May 1944:              440th Airdrome Defense Unit activated.

12 May 1944:               Practice mission EAGLE. 440th carried units of 101st Airborne Division in practice paradrop.

27 May 1944:              All personnel restricted to base.

3 June 1944:                Base completely sealed off. Recognition stripes of black and white were painted on all aircraft and gliders.

5 June 1944:                Final briefings were held. Paratroopers appeared on field with full equipment.

Paratroopers get final instructions before leaving on aircraft 43-15087, chalk #2, piloted by Capt. Matt J. Luoma of the 95th Troop Carrier Squadron

6 June 1944:                D-Day! Mission NEPTUNE BIGOT! 3d Battalion of 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment and two platoons of Company C, 326th Airborne Engineers Battalion, all of the 101st Airborne Division, were parachuted into Normandy from forty-five 440th aircraft at 0143.

7 June 1944:                Mission MEMPHIS! 440th participated in daylight aerial resupply drop to 101st Airborne in Normandy.

23-24 June 1944:         First 440th landings in France. Eleven serials flew resupply missions, carrying ammunition to newly-constructed airstrips on Normandy coast.

1 July 1944:                 First anniversary of 440th Troop Carrier Group celebrated with parade and field day at Exeter airdrome. The Group’s first Purple Heart was awarded to S/Sgt. Ernest Iannuccilli for wounds received on D-Day.

11 July 1944:              First Air Medal awarded to 298 air crew members of 440th for participation in the Normandy missions.

14 July 1944:             Colonel Frank X. Krebs awarded Distinguished Flying Cross.

16 July 1944:             Air excelons of 95th, 96th and 97th Squadrons took off from Exeter for secret flight to Italy via Marrakech.

18 July 1944:             Air echelon arrived at Ombrone airstrip, near city of Grosseto, Italy.

30 July 1944:             Ombrone based aircraft executed a simulated day paradrop.

5 August 1944:          Ombrone based aircraft executed a simulated night paradrop.

7 August 1944:           A 440th Provisional Troop Carrier Group was formed in England from an augmented 98th Squadron, 285 men arrived at Station No. 469, Ramsbury.

8 August 1944:           Lt. Gen. Eaker, Maj. Gen. Cannon, and Brig. Gen. Williams visited the 440th at Ombrone airstrip.

10 August 1944:         In a resupply mission to Mortain, France, from Ramsbury, England, the Provisional 440th dropped supplies to the encircled “Lost Battalion” during the Allied breakthrough in Northern France.

12 August 1944:         The 98th Squadron participated in a review of the 1st Allied Airborne Army by Gen. Eisenhower near Ramsbury, England.

15 August 1944:         The invasion of Southern France! Operation BIGOT DRAGOON, Mission ALBATROSS! Forty-five aircraft of the 440th at Ombrone, Italy, carried the 2d Battaltion of the 517th Parachute Infantry on the paradrop near LeMuy, France…Mission DOVE followed in the afternoon. 48 aircraft towed gliders carrying the 602d Field Artillery Battalion and the 442d Anti-Tank Company.

23 August 1944:          Distinguished Unit Citation awarded 440th Troop Carrier Group for work in Normandy.

24 August 1944:          Air echelon departed from Ombrone and arrived at Gibraltar.

25 August 1944:           Air echelon arrived back at Exeter Airdrome.

C-47 numbered 43-15076 seen in this photograph taken shortly after the explosion at RAF Fulbeck.

30 August 1944:           Air echelon departed Exeter and arrived at Station No. 488, Fulbeck, England, to prepare for new combat mission.

4 September 1944:      Air echelon returned to Exeter after mission had been cancelled.

9 September 1944:      Advance echelon departed from Exeter and arrived at airstrip A-62, near Reims, France, in the first change of station to the continent.

11 September 1944:    Air echelon departed from Reims for Fulbeck, England, after bringing more personnel to Reims.

12 September 1944:    Additional personnel brought from Exeter to Fulbeck.

Paratroopers drop from their C-47 transports during Operation Market Garden

17 September 1944:    Mission MARKET! 440th dropped paratroopers behind enemy lines in Holland, near Groesbeek, Colonel Frank X. Krebs and crew missing in action.

18 September 1944:    Second day of MARKET missions with gliders towed into Holland. Lt. Colonel Lloyd C. Waldorf assumed command of the 440th.

23 September 1944:    Second glider tow into Holland. Major William R. Cooper, commanding officer of 96th Squadron, missing in action with crew.

24 September 1944:    All personnel at Fulbeck returned to Exeter.

26-29 September 1944: Glider pilots returned to Exeter from Holland.


30 September 1944:
    Scattered elements of 440th finally gather from Reims, Exeter, Fulbeck at newly designated base, airstrip A-35, near LeMans, France.

5 October 1944:          Lt. Colonel George M. Johnson, Jr., assumed command of the 96th Squadron.

16 October 1944:        440th Troop Carrier Group awarded its first Bronze Battle Star for the Normandy campaign.

18 October 1944:        440th reviewed at A-35 by Lt. Gen. Bereton and Maj. Gen. Williams on occasion of presentation of Distinguished Flying Crosses for Normandy missions. Second Bronze Battle Star was awarded the 440th for participation in the Southern France campaign.

22 October 1944:        440th aircraft began to operate from the nearby airstrip A-38 because of poor condition of A-35.

29 October 1944:        Colonel Krebs returned to the 440th after his escape from German-held Holland and reassumed command of the Group.

4-5 November 1944:   440th moved from Le Mans to new station at A-50, Bricy, near Orleans, France.

1 November 1944:      440th participated in Armistice Day parade in Orleans.

12 November 1944:    Lt. Colonel Waldorf transferred to AAF Hq., London. Lt. Colonel Bridgman assumed duties as Executive Officer.

12-16 December 1944: Air echelon sojourned at Oakley airdrome, near Oxford, England, for the purpose of executing Practice Mission HOT with 17th Airborne Division. Weather was bad throughout the four days and the mission was cancelled. The 440th returned to Orleans.

24 December 1944:     The 440th was alerted and restricted as Von Runstedt’s counter-offensive in the Ardennes rolled forward! Precautions were taken against any possible outbreak by German prisoners of war.

25 December 1944:     440th celebrated its first Christmas overseas.

26 December 1944:     Operation REPULSE! The first plane and glider with medical supplies, and ten aircraft and gliders with gasoline were flown into Bastogne to resupply the trapped 101st Airborne Div.

27 December 1944:     Operation REPULSE continued! Thirteen aircraft towed gliders loaded with ammunition into Bastogne. 440th suffered its heaviest losses.

29 December 1944:     Glider pilots returned from Bastogne.

30 December 1944:     440th was awarded its third Bronze Battle Star for participating in the Rome-Arno campaign.

31 January 1945:         440th awarded its fourth Bronze Battle Star for participation in the Northern France campaign.

1 February 1945:         Ten aircraft of the 98th Squadron, led by Lt. Colonel Neal¸ departed for Marseilles to ferry French troops between the front and North Africa.

3 February 1945:         Three aircraft of the 96th Squadron dropped rations and ammunition in an aerial resupply mission near Durbuy, Belgium.

13 February 1945:       Mission REDBALL! The 440th executed a resupply paradrop of rations and gasoline to units on the front near Bleialf, Germany, who were cut off from rear supply depots by muddy, impassable roads. The paradrop, led by Lt. Colonel Johnson, was made five miles from the fighting front.

4 March 1945:             Major Howard H. Cloud, Group Glider Commander, transferred to Hq, IX Troop Carrier Command.

14 March 1945:           Practice mission COMET 440th carried the 3d Battalion of the 515th Parachute Infantry, 13th Airborne Division and Company C of the 129th Airborne Engineers in a practice paradrop in France.

17 March 1945:           Practice mission TOKEN. 440th participated in glider tow dress rehearsal for next combat mission.

C-47s and CG-4 Gliders prior to Operation Varsity in 1945

24 March 1945:           The crossing of the Rhine, Mission VARSITY! The 440th towed a Reconnaissance Platoon, a IX Troop Carrier Command Control Unit, the 517th Signal Company, and the 139th Airborne Engineers, all of the 17th Airborne Division, across the Rhine in 90 gliders to an area near Wesel, Germany.

26 March 1945:           Glider pilots returned from Mission VARSITY.

8 April 1945:                First enemy reaction for the 440th in the long series of gasoline hauls to the front in Germany. Two 97th planes were strafed on the ground at airstrip Y-38. The planes were destroyed, one man killed, and three wounded.

10 April 1945:             A 98th formation was attacked by an enemy plane over airstrip R-1, Germany, during a combat gasoline haul to the front. One aircraft was set afire and crash landed, the entire crew suffering burns and injuries.

21 April 1945:             440th advance echelon moved to A-94, Conflans-Jarny, to facilitate the daily gasoline hauls to the front.

8 May 1945:                V-Day in Europe! 440th paraded in Orleans for the combined Victory celebration and the first Joan of Arc Festival in Orleans for the past five years.

15 May 1945:              The 440th advance echelon returned to Orleans from A-94.

6 June 1945:               D-Day anniversary celebrated. In a ceremony at Chartres, the Croix de Guerre was awarded to Colonel Krebs, Lt. Colonel Bridgman, Lt. Colonel Cannon, Lt. Colonel Anderson, Lt. Colonel Southard, and Lt. Colonel Neal.

22 June 1945:              The 440th was awarded its fifth battle star for the Ardennes campaign.

25 June 1945:              The 440th was awarded its sixth battle star for the Central European campaign.

5 July 1945:                  The 440th was awarded its seventh battle star for the Rhineland campaign.

D-Day: The 96th Connection

by Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Williams
934th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

6/6/2009 – Minneapolis, St. Paul — Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of three articles detailing the 934th’s connection to WWII historical events.

On a dreary, overcast June afternoon in Exeter, England, Cpl. William Wildes attached nozzles to the wings of the green and white C-47 Skytrain aircraft formerly known as the “Pride of Minnesota.” Pouring approximately 100 gallons of fuel into each wing, he did it exactly like he had done several times before in the previous months for the training missions to prepare for the Normandy invasion. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, except the white invasion stripes and the large “6Z” that was painted onto the fuselage earlier in the day.

A C-47 belonging to the 96th Troop Carrier Squadron. Note the “6Z” marking on the fuselage.

“The planes were fueled in the afternoon of June 5th. We didn’t know where they were going. We just fueled them like normal,” said Cpl. Wildes, a special vehicle operator for the 96th Troop Carrier Squadron. “One pilot had ‘Pride of Minnesota’ inside an arrowhead painted on the nose, but they made him take it off when they put the invasion stripes on for D-Day.”

By evening, each of the 45 aircraft belonging to the 440th Troop Carrier Group was laden down with paratroopers from the 3rd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division for the flight across the English Channel.

Paratroopers get final instructions before leaving on aircraft 43-15087, chalk #2, piloted by Capt. Matt J. Luoma of the 95th Troop Carrier Squadron, prior to departing for the D-Day drop on Normandy.

Among the notables flown by the 96th TCS was the famed “Filthy 13,” a demolitions platoon from the 3rd Battalion Company Headquarters. Each member wore a Mohawk-style haircut and face paint and collectively they were quite tenacious fighters.

They also dropped Cpl. Bobbie Rommel, a relative of General Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, who was leading the German resistance in Normandy.
But not everything went without a hitch.

“I heard that somebody ran into the deicer boot and tore it up. They replaced this one plane and put another plane in its place. The crew chief was a guy named Bluestone. I remember him well and I fueled his plane,” the corporal recalled.

“It was all an unknown for us,” said Maj. George Johnson, who was an operations officer with the 98th Troop Carrier Squadron during the invasion. “We dropped at night and daytime for the preparations. When we went into Normandy, it was agreed that Col. Krebs, the group commander, would lead.”

Maj. Johnson was promoted to lieutenant colonel a short time later as the 96th Troop Carrier Squadron commander. After a stellar career, he retired in 1975 at the rank of major general.

At 11:53 p.m., Col. Frank X. Krebs, 440th TCG commander, took off from Exeter in aircraft number 292717, call sign ‘Ada,’ followed by 44 other aircraft from the 95th, 96th, 98th and 98th troop carrier squadrons that comprised the group. Capt. William R. Cooper led the 96th TCS in chalk 19, aircraft number 100965.

Once airborne, the only navigational aids used were blue lights on the tops of the wingtips and fuselage, as the aircraft rendezvoused with other Skytrains from the IX Troop Carrier Command and Royal Air Force. With only the moonlight to navigate them in complete radio silence, the American and British forces joined together to make the big jump across the English Channel as the lighthouses of England slowly slipped away beneath them.

Once they reached the coast of Normandy, a cloud cover enveloped the planes, followed by the blue hue of searchlights and flak from German anti-aircraft batteries.
Col. Krebs honed into the radio signal from the Pathfinders who jumped in an hour before to mark the drop zone. At 1:36 a.m., the paratroopers received the command, “stand up and hook up.” Four minutes later, the green light came on giving the okay to jump. In a matter of seconds, the sky was filled with the billowing white parachutes of the 101st Airborne Division heading for Drop Zone D, near Ste. Mere Eglise, France, 400 feet below.

Two members of the “Filthy Thirteen” complete a final pre-inspection before boarding their aircraft at Exeter. The “Filthy Thirteen” were identified by their distinctive Mohawk-style haircuts.

In his memoirs titled, “The Filthy Thirteen,” Sergeant Jake McNeice wrote the following regarding his flight into Normandy, “Those Germans were firing ammunition up at us that went all through the plane, our chutes and things like that. Those stinking automatic weapons had tracers about every fifth round. It just looked like a string of fire coming up at us. I did not know that there was any other color of tracer than orange but it looked like the greatest display of fireworks that I ever saw in my life. It was beautiful. They would have a blue one then a couple of red then a copule green. There was every color in the rainbow rising up to meet us. We lost several planeloads of paratroopers but the greater part came through it.”

Tech. Sgt. Charles Everett Bullard, a crew chief assigned to the 98th TCS, recorded a piece of 96th TCS history in his memoir, “Little One and His Guardian Angel.”

“Later, we found that two of the 96th squadron planes had crash-landed shortly after dropping their troopers,” he wrote. “One plane of the 96th squadron came in on only one engine with the radio operator wounded by a bullet in the neck. He was the group’s first Purple Heart winner; Staff Sergeant Earnest S. Iannuccilli.”

Cpl. Wildes remembers the scene when the aircraft returned.

“I was on guard duty when they left and was still up when they returned,” he said. “Some of the guys they brought back were shot up quite a bit. One of them got shot in the privates from flak that penetrated underneath the aircraft. It was a real mess. Tech. Sgt. Edward Bluestone, the crew chief whose plane I fueled earlier that day, well we lost him on that day at D-Day.”

While other troop carrier groups were scattered due to the cloud covering at the coast, misplaced their drops by flying in too fast, or were shot down by the Germans, only the 3rd Battalion of the 506th P.I.R. landed in close proximity to their designated drop zone.

The post-landing scene at Omaha Beach on 6 June 1944.

At 6:30 a.m., the main landing force of the 1st, 4th and 29th U.S. Infantry Divisions, 2nd Ranger Battalion, 3rd and 50th British Infantry Divisions and Canada’s 3rd Infantry Division landed at Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword beaches making a 60-mile long front.

But the battle was not over for the 96th TCS.

At dawn on the morning of June 7, Maj. Johnson flew the lead aircraft in the resupply mission.

“All of we operations officers were to fly on the resupply mission,” he said. “We carried ammunition, food, medical supplies and water.”

“We went in about 15 to 20 miles behind enemy lines, descended to 500 feet for the drop and came back across Omaha beach. We had a beautiful view of the landing craft,” Johnson said.

“There was lots of flak and small arms fire and aircraft damage. We were fortunate that we didn’t lose any aircraft. We were so low that all the people on the ground could shoot at us with small arms fire. I led them down to treetop level and then got out of there and back up to the proper altitude,” he remembered.

“It was quite an event in our lives. We got out of there quickly after we did our jobs. We were very fortunate,” he concluded.

The Memorial to the crew and passengers of C-47 #42-100905 flown by 1st Lt. Ray B. Pullen of the 95th Troop Carrier Squadron.

Little did anybody know, on the evening of June 5, that there would be heroes in the making who jumped out of the aircraft early the next morning. Of the 231 soldiers of the 506th P.I.R. who lost their lives at Normandy, 103 were from the 3rd Battalion, including those who died in three of the 440th TCG aircraft that perished in the operation.

The 96th Troop Carrier Squadron was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation, the precursor to the Presidential Unit Citation, for their efforts 65 years ago.

Part I: VE-Day – The 96th Connection

Part III: The 96th Connection – From Fulbeck to the Rhine