Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day

I just read a column in the St. Augustine Record that stated that 1400 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) soldiers were killed by naval gunfire during the invasion of Sicily in 1943 (other accounts give lesser numbers, but it was reportedly the worst friendly fire event in U.S. history).

I had never heard of that before.

My father jumped into Sicily that day with the 505th PIR; one digit off and he would have ceased to exist, and I would never have been born. Dad never mentioned the naval gunfire deaths of his comrades. Never. I've been to 82nd reunions with him, heard him tell stories about three combat jumps and sequelae (North Africa, Sicily and Normandy).

Reading about the 504th PIR carnage for the first time this morning, it seems that the Navy commanders told the 82nd generals they could not guarantee the paratroopers safety, and that sailors were never told of the paratrooper planes. Army anti-aircraft artillery on Sicily joined the Navy in killing the 504th PIR paratroopers.

Later, for D-Day, stripes were painted on the underbellies of C-47s so that the Navy wouldn't kill any more paratroopers.

Many of the soldiers, sailors, marines and coast guardsmen we honor on Memorial Day were killed due to "mistakes" by unaccountable, malfeasant officers and policymakers.

Vietnam comes to mind.

As former U.S. Navy Lt. (JG) John F. Kennedy said when he was President, "There's always some poor SOB who doesn't get the word." That would include policymakers and military leaders alike, it would appear.

My father taught me to question authority, and he did so in the 82nd, and for that he is honored to this day. The South Jersey Chapter of the 82nd ABN. DIVN. ASSN. is named for my father, the "CPL Edward A. Slavin Chapter).

No comments: