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Original U.S. WWII 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment Named Uniform Grouping - Battle of the Bulge

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Original Items: One-of-a-kind Set. Tech 5 Albert Ernest Koch, Jr. ASN 39476683 was assigned to the Headquarters Company, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne during World War Two and for occupation duty he transferred to the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and into Germany for the fall of the Third Reich. What sets the grouping apart is a binder full of original photos, sketches (of Paratroopers), original paperwork and dozens of letters he wrote home to his parents while training at Fort Benning, Georgia in 1944, and in Europe throughout 1945 and 1946.  

Included in this wonderful grouping are the following items:

- Excellent condition size 34S Ike jacket with KOCH 261-48 in ink on interior and wonderful condition patches, ribbons and material. Featuring Sterling silver paratrooper badge with 502nd PIR Oval. 82nd Airborne patch on left shoulder, 101st Airborne patch on right shoulder. Medal ribbons as follows: Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct, European-African-Middle East Campaign with two bronze campaign stars. Tech 5 Chevrons, overseas service bars and ruptured duck patch. The "Belgian Fourragère 1940"- composed of one round smooth cord, partially braided, and of TWO other cords, of which one is terminated by a knot and a brass ferret - it is made of wool and cotton for NCOs and EM, and of silk for Officers - all threads are tinted in colors resembling the ribbon of the Belgian Croix de Guerre 1940 (i.e. basic red, dotted with green threads) - the Fourragère encircles the shoulder and passes under the armpit, and is fixed by 2 tiny loops onto the button of the shoulder loop

- Overseas Garrison Cap with embroidered Parachute/Glider Patch approximately 7 1/4 size.

- Binder full of dozens of original wartime photos, sketches (of paratroopers), original paperwork and dozens of letters he wrote home to his parents while training at Fort Benning, Georgia in 1944, and in Europe throughout 1945 and 1946.

- Fort Benning, GA Paratroop Training Log with photos of training where Koch has written quips and comment on most pages.

Overall a comprehensive grouping from one of the best know Parachute Infantry Regiments of WW2.

History of the 502nd PIR in WW2:
Flying out of Membury and Greenham Common air bases in the first wave to depart, the 502nd PIR headed for Drop Zone A. The Deuce's mission was to secure two northern causeways leading inland from Utah Beach and destroy a German battery of 122 mm howitzers near Ste Martin-de-Varreville. Captain Frank Lillyman, officer in charge of the regiment's pathfinder platoon, was the first American jumper of the night - celebrated as the first American paratrooper to drop behind German lines in the Allied invasion of Normandy.[1] He hit the ground at fifteen minutes after midnight on the 6th, his habitual jump cigar clenched in his teeth. The pathfinders soon learned they'd been misdropped, so they made no effort to get the rest of the regiment lost with them and left their radios and beacons turned off. Coming in unguided in an age before GPS, the formations of C-47's broke up in a combination of low clouds and heavy enemy anti-aircraft fire. Some planeloads, including two sticks of A Company, were dropped over the English Channel and drowned. Consequently, most of Colonel Moseley's troops landed way off their designated DZs, up to five miles away. Colonel Moseley badly broke his leg and had to relinquish command to his XO, LTC John H. "Iron Mike" Michaelis.

1st Battalion, under LTC Patrick "Hopalong" Cassidy, was the only battalion of the entire 101st to come down on target, and that through blind luck. 1st Battalion secured Saint Martin-de-Varreville by 0630, sent a patrol under SSG Harrison C. Summers to seize a German barracks at Mésières, "XYZ" objective, and set up a thin line of defense from Fourcarville to Beuzeville.

2nd Battalion, under the taciturn LTC "Silent Steve" Chappuis, moved inland from its drop zones.

Meanwhile, the 3rd Battalion led by LTC Robert G. Cole was responsible for securing the two causeways coming inland from Utah Beach. Undaunted by the confusion, LTC Cole gradually collected whatever men he could find both from his unit and anyone else's (at one point including 1LT Dick Winters of E/506th). Cole eventually achieved his objective in time to secure the beach landing of the 4th Infantry Division.

LTC Cole was in the lead five days later as the 502nd was part of the division's effort to capture the town of Carentan. Moving the 3rd Battalion down the causeway toward the Ingouf farm under heavy German fire, LTC Cole ordered a bayonet charge. Capturing the objective, LTC Cole was nominated for the Medal of Honor. His XO, Major John Stopka, was nominated for the Distinguished Service Cross. On 29 June the 101st was relieved from the VIII Corps and sent to Cherbourg to relieve the 4th Infantry Division elements who had the German garrison pinned down in that seaport city. The 502nd PIR returned to England shortly thereafter for refitting, earning a Presidential Unit Citation for the campaign.

The summer of refitting was punctuated by several planned combat jumps to capture objectives in front of the advancing Allied ground forces, yet every jump was cancelled as the tanks got there first.

Operation Market Garden
Operation Market Garden was a British plan that would be the first major daylight jump attempted since the German jump on Crete four years before. Set for 17 September 1944, the airborne troops were to seize roads, bridges and the key communication cities of Eindhoven, Nijmegen and Arnhem, thus cutting the Netherlands in half and clearing a corridor for British armoured and motorized columns all the way to the German border.

The 101st mission was to secure the fifteen miles of Hell's Highway stretching from Eindhoven north to Veghel. Under the command of Colonel Michaelis, the unit was to land in the Netherlands on DZ C, seize the small highway bridge over the Dommel river north of St. Oedenrode and the railroad and road bridges over the Wilhelmina Canal at Best. The 502nd was also given the mission of guarding DZs B & C for the subsequent glider landings. Shortly after 1315 hours on the afternoon of 17 September 1944, after an uneventful daylight drop, the men of the 502nd gathered up and headed for their objectives. 1st Battalion went north to capture the little town of St. Oedenrode. 2nd Battalion secured the glider LZ. 3rd Battalion sent patrols through the Zonsche forest, trying to move toward the town of Best and the bridge. German resistance was tough in the vicinity of Best but the 3rd Battalion spearheaded by Captain Robert Jones' H Company fought their way to within 100 yards of the bridge before the Germans blew it up. In fierce fighting around the bridge, Private First Class Joe E. Mann, already hit twice, was killed when he threw himself on a German grenade to save the other soldiers in his foxhole. That same day, LTC Cole was shot and killed elsewhere in the Zonsche Forest. Cole died before formally receiving his Medal of Honor for the Carentan charge. Private Mann would never know he would receive it posthumously. They were the only two Screaming Eagles of the Second World War to earn the nation's highest honor.

On 26 September, a German artillery shell, possibly the luckiest German shot of the war, hit a tree by the 502nd's Regimental CP. LTC Michaelis, 1st Battalion's "Hopalong" Cassidy, the regimental S2 and S3, the division G2 and G3, and the commander of the supporting 377th Artillery Battalion were all hit. Without a regimental XO, and with Cassidy and Cole both down, 2nd Battalion commander Steve Chappuis took command of the regiment. Michaelis recovered to return as Division Chief of Staff and later served as a decorated regimental commander in Korea before going on to four stars. Cassidy ended up the three-star commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps. After securing their hard-won objectives, the men of the 502nd moved north with the rest of the 101st to take hold of defensive positions on 'The Island', southwest of Arnhem. It was here that the 101st would fight some of its toughest battles during its time in the Netherlands. Living in trenches and eating British rations, it was like World War I all over again. Eventually they were withdrawn to Camp Mourmelon, France for rest and refit.

Just after dawn on 16 December 1944, the Germans launched a major offensive west through the Ardennes Forest. Their goal was the port city of Antwerp where they hoped to choke off the Allied supply lines. Almost the only American theater reserve were the two refitting airborne divisions. The 101st was ordered to the vitally important town of Bastogne, the central road junction in the Ardennnes. The 101st was jammed into trucks for an overnight rush to Bastogne in Belgium on 18 December. They were soon surrounded along with elements of several armored and artillery outfits. The 502nd held positions on the north and northwest portion of the surrounded city. In an attack that took place on Christmas morning in the village of Hemroulle, numerous German tanks penetrated the line. Simultaneously farther north strong German infantry elements infiltrated the town of Champs. Two of the German tanks which drove north from Hemroulle attempted to bypass the regimental CP at the Rolle Chateau, only to be tracked down by bazooka and grenade-toting paratroops. Finally, on 26 December, the 4th Armored Division of Patton's Third Army broke through the encirclement to reinforce the defense.

On 14 January, the 3rd Battalion lost another commander. LTC John Stopka and some of his troopers were advancing through the forest near Michamps, Belgium, along an elevated rail line when enemy tanks began advancing along the other side. Someone called in for air support and the planes strafed too close to the friendly positions, killing LTC Stopka and thirty other paratroopers. With that unfortunate incident, the command of the 3rd Battalion was given to Major Cecil L. Simmons, who'd started with the battalion as a lieutenant at Ft. Benning.

The 101st Airborne held a line along the Moder River for over a month as part of the Seventh Army. On 23 February, The Screaming Eagles were relieved and returned to Mourmelon, France. They began a refit period while the leadership began planning for potential combat jumps in and around Berlin to end the war. There was also a ceremony in which General Eisenhower awarded the entire 101st Airborne Division the Presidential Unit Citation for gallantry in action during the fighting for Bastogne. This was the first time an entire division had been so honored. This was added to the one awarded to the 502nd for Normandy.

As the war in Europe was nearing its end, the 502nd moved to the Ruhr Pocket on 2 April to help in mop-up operations. Here the 502nd went on the line facing the Rhine River south of Düsseldorf, Germany. On 4 and 5 May, the 502nd followed the 506th into the securing of AH's private residence in the town of Berchtesgaden. The area was home to many high-ranking NSDAP Party officials and German military officers, and the detainee camps filled quickly.

The 502nd spent the summer of 1945 on occupation duty near Mittersill, Austria. Returning to France in September, the soldiers continued waiting for transport Stateside for the promised victory parade down New York's Fifth Avenue. However the reduced peacetime Army only had room for one of the European Theater's four airborne divisions, and the 82nd was senior in terms of combat experience. The 101st Airborne Division was deactivated 30 November 1945 at Auxerre, France. Much of the unit property and records was burned- only nine boxes of the 502nd's records making it to the States for eventual inclusion in the National Archives. For comparison, the 506th sent sixteen boxes. Even the blue silk regimental colors were burned before First Sergeant Paul Dovholuk of the regiment's Headquarters Company decided they'd make a good souvenir.
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