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"Victory for the U.S.A." - Poem by World War II veteran of the 457th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion

This poem was written during the war
by Private Bronnell York
Battery D, 457th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion
APO #468, %Postmaster
San Francisco, Calif

We're the boys of the 457,
Earning our major pay,
Fighting Japs and jungle life,
For three sixty cents a day.

Back we're soon forgotten,
By girls and friends we knew,
Here in the South Sea Islands,
Ten thousand miles from home.

All night the rains keep falling,
It's more than we can stand,
"No", folks, we're not convicts,
We're defenders of our land.

We're the boys of many,
Holding the upper hand,
Hitting the silk and hoping,
We're living when we land

We're having it pretty tough now,
You can believe what I say,
Some day we hope to live again,
Back home in the U.S.A.

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The Landings at Atsugi, Japan on August 30, 1945

General MacArthur and Swing at Atsugi Air Field Japan After my grandfather, 1LT Andrew Carrico of Company D, passed away in October of 2016, my beloved grandmother Jane gave me some of his books on military history and leadership. They are a special part of my collection, but the funny thing is....Grandpa really disliked some of them. He was painfully aware of just how few of the tens of thousands of books published on World War II even mention the 11th Airborne Division, let alone his proud 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment (you can likely count them on two hands)

When Grandma shared Grandpa's books with me, she pointed to one with a smile and said, "Andy hated that one. It doesn't even mention the 11th." And as a historian for the 511th PIR, and the 11th Airborne as a whole, I have to agree with Andy. While researching, writing and publishing WHEN ANGELS FALL: FROM TOCCOA TO TOKYO, THE 511TH PARACHUTE INFANTRY IN WORLD WAR II, I found myself disappointed by the lack of media coverage regarding the Angels' history (I admit to some bias there).

One of the most important aspects of the Angels' history that is hardly mentioned anywhere is their incredible landings at Atsugi, Japan between August 28-30, 1945. Apart from further cementing the reality of the war's end, this made the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment the first fully-formed foreign regiment to land on Japan in the country's long history, not to mention the first Allied unit into Japan at the war's end.

"We're Going to Japan"

11th Airborne Okinawa 1945When Japan announced their intention to surrender on August 14, 1945, Major General Joseph May Swing's 11th Airborne Division sat, bored, on Okinawa near the National Cemetery, asking themselves if the surrender was all just a ruse to lure them onto the mainland only to destroy the first Americans to land. And since they were an airborne division, the Angels felt that they would indeed be some of those first "sacrificial lambs" sent in to secure some crucial target(s) or another.

Before the surrender was announced, however, the waiting Angels were somewhat “hellbent for election” according to one trooper. Even so, General Swing's men questioned if they would make it through the potential invasion on Japan, should the operation be called for. Leyte and Luzon had both bled the 511th PIR sorely and the paratroopers who had managed to survive both campaigns quietly wondered if the "third time was the unlucky charm."

But that didn't stop General "Jumpin' Joe" Swing from walking into the hospital treating many of his Luzon wounded and booming, “I want every man that can walk…out of here today. We’re leaving the island; we’re going to Japan.”

General Swing's battle-worn Angels were ready for the war's end and while all were ready to do their duty if called upon to jump on mainland Japan, no one shed any tears when news of the atomic bombs' destruction at Hiroshima and Nagasaki spread through the Division's Okinawa camps. But there wasn't any wild celebrating either; the Angels had fought Imperial Japan too long to believe that the enemy was ready to throw in the towel just yet. 

In truth, many were and another firebombing raid on Tokyo on August 14 sealed the decision. Before the last aircraft returned, Japan surrendered and President Harry S. Truman declared to reporters at the White House, “This is the day we have been waiting for since Pearl Harbor. This is the day when Fascism finally dies, as we always knew it would.”

“Victory in Japan Day”, or “VJ-Day”, celebrations erupted around the world from London to Luzon, Pearl Harbor to Paris, and New York to New Guinea. But on Okinawa, the Angels took several test jumps from modified B-24 bombers since a C-46’s fuel tanks could not make it to Tokyo and back with an acceptable margin of safety. The B-24s were quickly rejected as they lacked sizeable jump doors and could not slow down enough for safe jumping. In the end, Douglas C-54 Skymasters were selected as the Angels’ main source of conveyance and since most of the C-54s were commercial, the 511th’s paratroopers were beyond pleased to see ten rows of comfortable seats.

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Second Battalion Officers' Photo

 

Officers of 2nd Battalion

1943

511 Parachute Infantry

Camp McCall

Note: Click photo to enlarge. McCall mispelling above is on original photo. All names listed are from the photo's left to right and units are listed at time photo was taken

Row 1:
1LT Lemuel T. Pitts (E Co); 1LT Edwin B. Jeffrees Sr. (F Co); Capt. Matthew Platt, MD (Battalion surgeon / 511th Medical Detachment); 1LT John W. Norwalk (F Co); Capt. Charles E. "Baldy" Jenkins (CO HQ2); Maj. Wallace L. Chambers (Regimental surgeon / CO 511th Medical Detachment); LTC Norman Shipley (CO 2nd Battalion); Capt. Lyman S. Faulkner (CO D Co); Capt. Hobert B. Wade (CO E Co); ? Rath; ? Marshall; 1LT C. A. Disney (HQ2).

Row 2: 
2LT Randolph W. Kirkland (HQ2); 2LT R. T. Alsbury (HQ2); 1LT I. N. Raphael (HQ2); 2LT Robert Norris (HQ2); 2LT R. O. Macey (HQ2); 2LT R. W. Buckholt (HQ2); 2LT W. Ackerman; 1LT A. Fred Renaud (E Co); 1LT Winfred H. Samuels (F Co); 2LT William J. Light (D Co); 2LT G. L. Abernathy (D Co); 2LT H. J. Reid (HQ2); 2LT R. R. Culberston; 2LT L. C. Hover.

Row 3: 
2LT Ralph E. Ermantinger (F Co); 1LT Andrew Carrico (D Co); 2LT Ernest H. "Bud" Martin (F Co); 2Lt L. C. Manley (F Co); 1LT William E. Nellist (F Co); 1LT T. W. Brady (E Co); 1LT Patrick W. Wheeler (HQ2); 1LT Thomas A. Meserau (E Co); 2LT Glenn W. Freeman (F Co); ? Clark; 2LT Walter E. Kannelly (D Co); ? Moore; 1Lt Thomas P. Gannon (E Co); 2LT W. C. Joyner; 2LT Leo Crawford (HQ2); 1LT Francis P. Solomon (D Co).

To learn more about this historic regiment and the intrepid men who fought in it, you can order Jeremy C. Holm's new book, WHEN ANGELS FALL: From Toccoa to Tokyo, The 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War II by visiting our online store or purchasing a copy wherever books are sold. 

Dr. Dana Nance and The Sacred Eleven Nurses of Corregidor, Santo Tomas and Los Baños

Seventy-five years ago on February 23, 1945 the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment and the 11th Airborne Division ("The Angels") conducted their famous raid on the Los Baños internment camp on Luzon, Philippines. It is, perhaps, the regiment's most well-known operation (although their history is full of incredible campaigns). At Los Baños, the Angels were willing to risk heavy losses to rescue the 2,100+ men, women and children who had been prisoners of the Imperial Japanese forces since early 1942, so roughly three years. After the 11th Airborne landed on Luzon in late January and early February of 1945, Major General Joseph May Swing was tasked with effecting a rescue of the civilians held at the camp. The problem was that in early- and mid-February General Swing's Angels were heavily engaged in the fight for Manila and therefore he could not commit a force of sufficient size to conduct the raid for now. The internees would have to wait a few weeks more.

Despite horrendous conditions in the camp under the Imperial Japanese guards, the internees at Los Baños were in good hands, some would even say miracle-effecting hands. No, I am not referring to the camp's abundance of clergy who, after arriving in July of 1944, labored to keep up the spirits (and faith) of the internees (although some refused to help with the sick in the camp). 

Rather, I am referring to the expert care and attention given to the men, women and children by the camp's doctors and their well-known attendants, The Sacred Eleven, eleven US Navy nurses who had been stationed at Sangley Point's Canacao Naval Hospital at the Cavite Naval Yards on Manila Bay and helped the wounded during the invasion of Manila in 1941. After US military forces were surrendered to the Japanese on January 2, 1942, The Sacred Eleven became prisoners and were first interned at the Santo Tomas Internment Camp before volunteering to transfer to the Los Baños Internment Camp in May of 1943 to help with the “hospital” there (even they would agree that given the camp's conditions it was only a hospital by the loosest of definitions). 

Of note, the US Army nurses stationed at Santo Tomas refused to go to Los Baños. When Chief Nurse Laura Mae Cobb, who is the only chief nurse in navy medical history to continue her duties while in enemy captivity, asked her Navy nurses if they were willing to risk it, they all agreed. On the morning the nurses left Santo Tomas, someone managed to play “Anchors Aweigh” on the camp PA system to honor their spirit.

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Notice for Transfer from Santo Tomas to Los Baños Internment Camps

NOTICE TO ALL INTERNEES:
(Originally posted on May 8, 1945 at the Santo Tomas Internment Camp, Manila, Luzon)

 

This afternoon the Commandant of the Camp issued the following statement to the Executive Committee:

I am authorized by the Director-General of the Japanese Military Administration in the Philippines to make a statement regarding the change of location of enemy civilian's internment camp.

As all of you are well aware, released enemy nationals in the city of Manila are more than 2,000. Most of them, being unemployed, are in extreme difficulties in their living, and the number of applicants for internment is daily increasing. It is, however, to be pointed out that the present accommodations available in the Santo Tomas Internment Camp is not sufficient to have all of them interned there, and particularly so from sanitary point of view.

In consideration of these facts, the Military Authorities here have come to a decision, to change the location of the internment camp to a more spacious place where more permanent accommodations can be provided so that you will continue to live there until the time when you will repatriate to your respective countries or peace will be restored.

The new site is in Los Baños, Laguna, an ideal health resort noted for its hot springs, where new buildings will be erected for your housing and where you will enjoy fresh air and find easy access to fresh meat and vegetables, part of which you may be able to cultivate yourselves.

In carrying out the above plan, the first group of about 800 men to be selected from the present internees, which will constitute the core for the new camp, will be dispatched to Los Baños by trains on the 14th of the month. For this first group, the premises of the Agriculture College including its large track field will be available.

It is to be emphasized that this change of location is entirely based upon the humanitarian consideration of your own welfare, and that fairness to the treatment to be accorded to internees shall always be maintained.

In this connection, you are cautioned not to make and careless utterances which will distort the true intention of the Military Administration regarding the present plan, as they are sure that the new camp will promise a better and healthier life to all the enemy civilians in this country

Finally the authorities hope that the Executive Committee and all internees will render full cooperation in carrying out the above program.

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Who Was Colonel Orin D. "Hard Rock" Haugen? Part 2

This is Part 2 of our series on the legendary Colonel Orin D. "Hard Rock" Haugen #18254. You can read "Part 1: Who Was Colonel Orin D. "Hard Rock" Haugen?" by clicking here.

While there is an unfortunate scarcity of research out there in regards to the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and the 11th Airborne Division to which the 511th PIR belonged, there has been even less written or documented regarding the men who fought as Angels in World War II. While the 511th PIR served under two leaders during the war whom were greatly revered, the man who laid the foundation for the regiment's historic achievements was given an appropriate nickname for such accomplishments: Hard Rock.

Camp Mackall

Four days after Colonel Orin D. Haugen's 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment closed on North Carolina's Camp Mackall in March of 1943, they became the first fully-formed unit of Major-General Swing, Joseph May's new 11th Airborne Division, the first unit to headquartered at the new camp.

Opened just six weeks prior to the 511th’s arrival, the 56,000-acre post (a sub-installation of Fort Bragg) was originally named Camp Hoffman after the nearby rail station. On February 8, the War Department issued General Order Number 6 renaming the post after Private John T. Mackall, a paratrooper from the 503rd PIR killed by strafing Vichy French fighters during Operation Torch (John was wounded on November 8, the same day construction on the camp began, then died three days later).

When Colonel Haugen’s regiment arrived at Mackall, they found their new beds spotlessly made by the barrack’s previous tenants, the 82nd Airborne’s 504 and 505 PIRs. The luxuries did not last as Hard Rock ordered their clean, white sheets replaced with rough wool blankets. His paratroopers thought the actions harsh until they discovered that their small coal-fed heaters were less-than-adequate against the night’s chill (those bunking far from the stoves stoked them red hot at night which singed the eyebrows of the closer men).

Haugen’s young regiment was joined at Mackall by the 457th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion and the 187th and 188th Glider Infantry Regiments. Of the original 12,000 men who volunteered for the 511th, only 2,176 remained (2,000 enlisted, 173 officers and three warrant officers). Camp Toccoa’s endless PT, Haugen's enthusiastically-supported brutal runs on Currahee, the mock jump towers, and Hard Rock's demands for excellence had eliminated nearly 10,000 men who did not meet the Colonel's standards.

And yet, unlike their Commanding Officer, most of the men were not yet paratroopers and while they could wear parachutist patches on their garrison caps, they had yet to earn their jump wings. That was about to change. While Colonel Haugen's cadre fought to select who would serve as their NCOs and in their squads, Hard Rock decided to give his regiment one final test before jump school. Orin ordered a two-week bivouac maneuver that included a twenty-five-mile march out to the mission area where the 511th lived in pup tents and participated in several combat simulations and problems. The last night was spent hiking the twenty-five miles back to Mackall in full kits.

Averaging five miles an hour, the men were told that if they fell out, they would be transferred. Given that many were suffering from dysentery at the time, the march was doubly challenging, yet the regiment finished Haugen’s exam. When the column passed through Mackall’s gates and turned into the 511th’s area, Col. Haugen and his staff stood proudly outside RHQ where Hard Rock loudly proclaimed his congratulations for a job well done. 

“It almost made it worthwhile!” commented D Company’s new Company Mail Orderly Cpl. Murray Hale, reminding us of Orin's penchant for withholding praise. Not because he didn't care or was oblivious to his men's accomplishments, but rather because it just wasn't his style.

After three additional months of training under Haugen's watchful eye, the 511th changed locale once more and this time his men felt greater anticipation.

“We were on a high all the time,” Private First Class Billy Pettit explained.

On May 14, Orin's regiment loaded into trucks for the six-hour trip to Fort Benning’s parachute school.

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MacArthur's Angels: Mac & the 11th Airborne Division

With the anniversary of General Douglas MacArthur's death (January 26, 1880 – April, 5, 1964) approaching, I thought I would share a fascinating, yet abbreviated history of Mac and my grandfather's 11th Airborne Division which was a favorite "secret weapon" for The Napoleon of Luzon in World War II (a full review of MacArthur's relationship with The Angels can be found in my book, "When Angels Fall: From Toccoa to Tokyo, The 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War II" - Amazon $14.95). The Angels were associated with or touched by several of the war's most historic moments, including some that would thrill military historians and enthusiasts around the world.

A Meeting of the Generals - May 1944

As the 11th Airborne Division sailed for Dobodura, New Guinea in May of 1944, their commanding general Major General Joseph May Swing was was headed for Australia to meet with General MacArthur. Swing was widely recognized as one of America's most qualified airborne commanders having been artillery commander for the 82nd Infantry Division when it was converted to the 82nd Airborne Division where Swing quickly became a disciple of airborne tactics. 

After forming the new 11th Airborne Division at Camp Mackall, North Carolina in November of 1942, Swing had flown to North Africa to advise his old Westpoint roommate General Dwigh D. Eisenhower on the airborne operations in Sicily. After returning home General Swing chaired the famous Swing Board at Camp Mackall which published the training circular which became known as “Employment of Airborne and Troop Carrier Forces” which General Douglas MacArthur certainly received and studied. After Swing's 11th Airborne Division performed so admirably during the test known as The Knollwood Maneuvers in December of 1943 the War Department changed its tune regarding the future of airborne divisions, another victory that MacArthur surely noticed about the 11th Airborne as he himself was more than happy to stick it to Washington. 

While I have been unable to uncover any requests made by MacArthur to have General Swing's division sent to his theater, I imagine it was with some satisfaction that he received word that the 11th Airborne Division was being sent his way. To that end, in May of 1943 General Swing headed for 77-79 York Street in Syndey, Australia to meet with General MacArthur and his staff for several days of briefings to learn what role his beloved division would play in the Pacific. For now, the Angels would undergo several months of theater training on New Guinea, though the fresh division would remain in reserve for ongoing operations around Hollandia to the island's north.

After that the Angels would mostly likely be used heavily during the invasion of Luzon (with a bloody and grueling stop on Leyte first).

Eager to lead his division into combat, General Swing told his men, "Think, eat and dream of war. We’re fighting a desperate enemy." 

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The Raid at Los Baños: 75 Years Later

“I doubt that any airborne unit in the world will ever be able to rival the Los Baños prison raid. It is the textbook airborne operation for all ages and all armies.” ― General Colin Powell, former chairman, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff

 

75 years ago two incredible events occurred thousands of miles across the vast Pacific Ocean. The first took place at around noon six United States Marines raised a second, larger American flag atop Mount Suribachi, a moment that was captured in an iconic photograph by Associated Press (AP) photographer Joe Rosenthal. When AP Photograph Editor John Bodkin received the photo on Guam he exclaimed "Here's one for all time!" and immediately transmitted the image to the AP headquarters in New York City. It became one of the most recognized images from the war, indeed in American history.

The prominence of Rosenthal's photo in the press overshadowed, then and now, the accomplishment of another group of fighting men who risked it all to to rescue over 2,100 men, women and children from behind enemy lines over 1,500 miles southwest of Iwo Jima. Theirs was the second incredible event that took place on February 23, 1945 and it is as inspiring as it is impressive.  

When Imperial Japanese forces invaded the Philippines in December of 1941 it began a brutal occupation of the archipelago that lasted until 1945 and the Filipino people suffered tremendously at the hands of the invaders during those years. An estimated 500,000 Filipinos were killed before the occupation was broken by Allied forces, with the cooperation of local guerrilla groups, in September of 1945. 

511th parachute infantry regiment on New GuineaOne of the main forces battling for the liberation of Luzon in early 1945 was America's 11th Airborne Division, a unique fighting force that landed a portion of their TOE amphibiously at Nasugbu on January 31 and then the remainder on Tagaytay Ridge just south of Manila on February 3. Known as The Angels, the 11th Airborne fought up through southern Manila, breaking through the famous Genko Line, and went on to liberate Nichols Field, Fort William Mckinley, Intramuros, Cavite and several other "battlefields" in vicious engagements and close-quarters fighting that have received far too little attention from historians and both the American and Filipino peoples as a whole (which is one of the main reasons I wrote my highly-acclaimed book, "When Angels Fall: The 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War II - Amazon $14.95). 

In the midst of all the heavy fighting, the Angels were given another mission, or at least a directive, from General Douglas MacArthur himself who was growing increasingly concerned about the welfare of tens of thousands of POWs and interned civilians on Luzon. With the U.S. Sixth Army pushing southward from the Lingayen Gulf and Eighth Army (i.e the 11th Airborne Division) pressing north from Nasugbu, and after the massacre of 150 Allied POWs on Palawan, the consensus was that the Japanese appeared more ready to kill their prisoners than allow them to be rescued (a fear that was later confirmed with a discovered order from Japan’s Vice-minister of war LTG Kyoji Tominaga).  

In his autobiographical book Reminiscences MacArthur noted: “I hoped to proceed as rapidly as possible, especially as time was an element connected with the release of our prisoners.… I knew that many of these half-starved and ill-treated people would die unless we rescued them promptly.”

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Who Was Colonel Orin D. "Hard Rock" Haugen? Part 1

This is Part 1 of our series on the legendary Colonel Orin D. "Hard Rock" Haugen #18254. You can read "Part 2: Who Was Colonel Orin D. "Hard Rock" Haugen?" by clicking here.

While there is an unfortunate scarcity of research out there in regards to the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and the 11th Airborne Division to which the 511th PIR belonged, there has been even less written or documented regarding the men who fought as Angels in World War II. While the 511th PIR served under two leaders during the war whom were greatly revered, the man who laid the foundation for the regiment's historic achievements was given an appropriate nickname for such accomplishments: Hard Rock.

Early Years:

Orin Doughty Haugen (018254) was born on August 18, 1907 in Wyndmere, North Dakota, bringing the population at the time to around 570. Orin's health was poor for much of his developmental years and as such he became a target for school bullies who often picked on the future Angel. it was during these years that Orin decided he would never back down from a fight or run away in fear, an attribute he would instill in his paratroopers nearly two decades later. 

West Point to Pearl Harbor

After high school Orin attended first St. Olaf's College in Northfield, MN then Cornell College in 1925 before, at age 19, he was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point on July 1, 1926 where he spent four years learning what it meant to be a good soldier and an exceptional leader. For reasons Orin never fully clarified publicly, he hated his time at West Point, but he was dedicated to his pursuit and applied himself fully to the task. As such, Cadet Haugen graduated 3rd in his class with a Bachelor's of Science degree and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Infantry on June 12, 1930.  

His first posting was to historic Fort Snelling at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, an assignment that was made considerably brighter when he met Minneapolis-native Marion Sargent who was the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. W. E. Sargent. After the two were married in a happy, but modest celebration on June 1, 1931, Marion dutifully accepted the life of a "soldier's wife". The young couple shared many adventures and common interests together, including horse back riding which the two were quite proficient at. In fact, the Haugens appeared in several horse shows around the Twin Cities area and Marion's horse "Whiskey" has a prominent burial site at Fort Snelling.

By this time Orin had also become quite proficient in polo and over the course of the ensuing years would travel intermittently to play and compete for the Army. He also continued his passion for running, a habit he formed while running cross-country at West Point and one that would heavily influence the training of his future 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment (much to the men's dismay). 

It was somewhere around this time that, ironically, the athletic Haugen started smoking cigarettes, a habit that was common at the time and would lead to several officers who served with Orin to label him a definitive "chain smoker." In fact, when fighting alongside the paratroopers of his 511th PIR in the mountains of Leyte in late 1944, Haugen was seen searching for cigarette butts to spear with a stick to get one final puff. 

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Camp Toccoa & the 511th PIR

 

With America officially at war, in 1942 the country's military leadership began to accelerate the training of their still very new parachute troops. And Camp Toccoa, Georgia, now made famous by the HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers", played an important role in that effort.

While Toccoa was, by comparison, a “little camp outside a little town far off the beaten path", over 18,000 young men and officers would train there and go on to fight overseas in northern AND southern France, in Holland, and at the Battle of the Bulge then "liberate" Hitler's Kehlsteinhaus, or Eagle's Nest, and then march down Pennsylvania Avenue after the war was over "over there".

At least, that is the limit to what most airborne enthusiasts and even some historians believe to be the case. Far too often the story of the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment is overlooked or forgotten although it was the third of the four regiments (the 506th, 501st, 511th and 517th in that order) that formed at Camp Toccoa. Like all original Toccoa-men, the 511th cut its teeth (and "sweat blood") on the area's famous Currahee Mountain before, according to its future commander Colonel Edward H. Lahti, going on to create a "record unmatched in history".

But it is a record that most people know nothing about and it is of no surprise that my grandfather, 1st Lieutenant Andrew Carrico, III disliked most history books on the war since his beloved 511th PIR was hardly covered, if it was mentioned at all. His was a common sentiment among the "old troopers" of the 511th, and the 11th Airborne Division to which they belonged, a feeling of resentment they griped about at post-war regimental reunions for decades as attested to by my grandmother, Jane Carrico. Jane is a proud "Angelette" who became dear friends with many troopers and their wives and continues to champion the cause of the mighty 511th even after most of its men have made "the final jump."  

With countless Hollywood movies, documentaries, television series, magazines articles, blog posts, podcasts and books dedicated to the 82nd (517th PIR), 101st (501st & 506th PIRs) and 17th Airborne Divisions (517th PIR), the question many 11th Airborne Division troopers painfully had for the remainder of their lives was: What about us?  

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When the Angels Sang on Leyte, Christmas of 1944

 

December 25, 1944

It was “a gray morning carved out of gray clay and shadowed by fog.”

So penned T-4 Rodman “Rod” Serling of HQ1 a demolitions man who joined the several-miles-long column of bedraggled, trudging paratroopers coming down from Leyte’s hills. Rod and his comrades of the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment had just completed 33 days of combat in those jungle-covered heights and mountains and as one of those troopers later declared, “After Leyte, Hell was a vacation.”

Hobbling on a wounded knee that would pain him for the rest of his life, Serling, the future creator of the famous television series “The Twilight Zone” did not feel like celebrating his twentieth birthday on “a God-forsaken mountaintop”. Rod noted, “(I)t was not the weather, it was the mood, I remember—the kind of mood that is the province of combat and is never fully understood by those who have not lived with the anguish of war.”

With Samurai swords and Japanese rifles jutting out of their packs, their last cigarettes safely tucked in cartridge belts, and hunching over from the weight of their equipment, the emaciated paratroopers, known as The Angels, trudged toward the beach with faces muted by the hells of war.

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