Tuesday, June 06, 2017

June 6, 1944, Sainte-Mère-Église, Normandy, France

It was 73 years ago, on June 6, 1944, my late father, Edward Adelbert Slavin, Sr. was in Sainte-Mère-Église in Nazi-occupied France with the 82nd Airborne Division, 505th Parachute Infantry Division, F Company.   It was the first town in France that was liberated from the Nazis.

Dad was one of 11,000 American paratroopers; he was a non-com with 82nd ABN DIVN, 505th PIR, F Company and landed on a roof by a French farmhouse. The farmer offered him refuge, thinking dad was a pilot who had been shot down. Dad thanked the farmer, but declined, saying "No, I have to go fight" the Nazis. 

The Southern New Jersey Chapter of the 82nd ABN DIVN ASSN is named for my dad, the "CPL EDWARD A. SLAVIN Chapter." 

I sometimes wear dad's "CPL EDWARD A. SLAVIN Chapter" jacket to events, including occasions when our City of St. Augustine is violating human and civil rights. 

In his spirit, we band of brothers and sisters in St. Augustine have repeatedly defeated the forces of oppression more than 63 times since 2005.  

In his spirit, we wear oppressors' scorn as a badge of honor.  In his honor, we fight for freedom daily here in America. And in the words of UN weapons inspector Hans Blix, like any good diplomat, "we won't take no for an answer." (My late friend Stetson Kennedy, who infiltrated and reported upon the KKK in Georgia and Florida, called me a "freedom fighter.")

In the words of the weather prayer written by a Roman Catholic priest for Third Army General George S. Patton, Jr. before the Battle of Bastogne:  "Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations."

From Military History Online:

Sainte-Mère-Église stood in a pivotal location between Cherbourg and Caen whose capture fell to the 82nd Airborne. Unfortunately, sections of two planeloads of parachutists (2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 505th Parachute Infantry) were dropped directly over the village. To make the decent even worse, a farmhouse had caught fire either from tracers or the preceding aerial bombardment and illuminated the entire surrounding sky - making perfects targets out of the descending paratroopers. Many were killed on their way down, at least two were drawn into the fire itself, and many more were killed by the Germans after becoming entangled in trees and roofs. The few who did make it alive to the ground were almost immediately taken prisoner. After the initial excitement, curiously, the Germans went back to bed after the immediate threat subsided.

The commander of 3rd Battalion, 505th, Lt. Col. Ed Krause, had landed one mile west of the village and quickly began gathering stray men. Within an hour, he had managed to round up around 180 men and began heading straight into the village. As mentioned above, after all the immediate paratroopers were either killed or captured, and the fire had been put out, the German garrison went back to bed. Krause entered the town unhindered and was shown the German billets by a local Frenchman whom they ran across. 30 Germans were captured and about 10 were killed - while others fled to the nearby woods. By 6 A.M. Krause had secured the village and thus, cut off German communication and the main route between Cherbourg and the rest of the German Army.


Stained glass window in the chapel of Sainte-Mère-Églisedepicting the Virgin Mary and three paratroopers, one of whom is John Steele, my father's friend, who played dead after Nazis shot him in the foot as he hung from an architectural feature (he was played by Red Buttons in the movie, The Longest Day.

June 6, 1944: Sainte-Mère-Église

Wikipedia reports:

The 82nd Airborne's drop, mission "Boston", began at 01:51. It was also a lift of 10 serials organized in three waves, totaling 6,420 paratroopers carried by 369 C-47s. The C-47s carrying the 505th did not experience the difficulties that had plagued the 101st's drops. Pathfinders on DZ O turned on their Eureka beacons as the first 82nd serial crossed the initial point and lighted holophane markers on all three battalion assembly areas. As a result the 505th enjoyed the most accurate of the D-Day drops, half the regiment dropping on or within a mile of its DZ, and 75 per cent within 2 miles (3.2 km).

Another website states: "The paratroopers jumped prior to the actual start of the invasion "H-Hour". Because of the tradition of being the first into the fight, the 505th Regimental motto is "H-MINUS". For their performance in the invasions the 505th was awarded the Presidential unit citation, the unit equivalent of the Medal of Honor awarded to individual soldiers. In the words of author Clay Blair, the paratroopers emerged from Normandy with the reputation of being a pack of jackals; the toughest, most resourceful and bloodthirsty in Europe."

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