Original U.S. WWII 504th PIR 82nd Airborne British Made Oval and Jump Wings Set

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This is a rare set of sterling silver Airborne jump wings made by British manufacturer JR GAUNT of LONDON with pin back along with a British made fully embroidered 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment 82nd Airborne jump wing oval background. Both are offered in excellent condition.

History of the 504th PIR:

From England to the Netherlands

Although NSDAP broadcasters warned the unit by radio that German submarines would never let the Capetown Castle past the Straits of Gibraltar, the only danger the ship encountered came when all the troops rushed to the same side of the vessel as it pulled into Liverpool on 22 April 1944. The 82nd Airborne Division band greeted them with "We’re All American and proud to be...," and it was assumed that the 504th would rejoin the 82nd for the upcoming invasion of Normandy. As D-Day approached, however, it became apparent that the 504th would be held back. A lack of replacements prevented the regiment from participating in the invasion, so only a few dozen 504th troopers were taken as pathfinders.

The 504th thus remained in England as "Dry Runs" came one after another. Missions were scheduled for France, Belgium, and the Netherlands and then canceled at the last moment. For three days the troopers waited for the fog to lift to allow them to drop into Belgium, but the wait proved long enough for General George Patton’s U.S. Third Army to overrun the drop zones, thereby returning the 504th to its English garrison.

So, when the word came on 15 September for the 82nd to jump in ahead of the British Second Army, 57 miles behind enemy lines in the vicinity of Grave, few believed the mission would actually be conducted. The operation would require seizing the longest bridge in Europe over the Maas River and several other bridges over the Maas-Waal Canal. The men of the 504th became even more doubtful the mission would go when told that the planned flight was through the Scheldt Estuary (nicknamed "Flak Alley" by Allied bomber pilots) and that they were reportedly outnumbered by 4,000 of AH’s Schutzstaffeln (SS) troops and an unknown number of German tanks.

No cancellation was received, however, and on 17 September 1944 at 12:31 hours, the pathfinders of the 504th landed on the drop zone, followed thirty minutes later by the rest of the regiment and C Company, 307th Engineer Battalion, to become the first Allied troops to land in the Netherlands as part of Operation Market Garden—the largest airborne operation in history. By 18:00 hours, the 504th had accomplished its assigned mission (although the enemy had managed to destroy one of the bridges). In just four hours, the regiment had jumped, assembled, engaged the enemy, and seized its objectives.

For the next two days, the regiment held its ground and conducted aggressive combat and reconnaissance patrols until the 2nd Battalion, Irish Guards, part of the 5th Guards Armoured Brigade of the Guards Armoured Division, made the ground link-up, spearheading the advance of the British XXX Corps of the Second British Army. However, the Nijmegen road and rail bridges, which were the last remaining link to the British 1st Airborne Division fighting in Arnhem, remained in enemy hands, and the far bank was heavily defended by the Germans. An assault crossing of the river was necessary, but it was a seemingly impossible task. Gavin intended to make a pre-dawn crossing[4]:103 after consulting with British Generals Brian Horrocks and Frederick Browning in the presence of senior officers of the Guards Armoured and 82nd Airborne divisions, and Colonel Reuben Tucker of the 504th PIR, and during the night he drew up a plan, and alerted the troops at 06:00 in the expectation of the boats to be provided by the British XXX Corps.

However, the crossing did not commence until 1500 after the guns of 376th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion and 153rd (Leicestershire Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, and two troops of the Grenadier Guards Sherman tanks opened fire on the northern (Lent) bank. The British provided 26 canvas boats, each 19 feet (5.8 m) long, that the 504th used to cross the 400 yards (370 m)-wide river. The 3rd Battalion's H and I companies, and some engineers from the 307th Engineer Battalion crossed in the first wave, 15 men to a boat, and they were immediately on leaving the far shore the target of German 88mm cannons, 20mm cannons, flak wagons, machine guns and riflemen. Nonetheless, the crossing was launched. With only 2-4 oars in each boat, the remaining men rowed with the rifle butts. Only 13 boats made it across, and only 11 of those were in condition to return across the river to deliver succeeding waves.

The 1st Battalion formed the second wave, and they established a firm bridgehead from which the units carried the battle to the enemy defending the old Fort Belvedere and captured the bridge from the north side. Lieutenant-General Sir Miles C. Dempsey, commanding the British Second Army, after witnessing the crossing, characterized the attack with a single word as he shook his head and said, simply, "Unbelievable." Six crossings were made by 1900. It was there that Dempsey, upon meeting Major General Gavin, shook him by the hand and said "I am proud to meet the commander of the greatest division in the world today." Because only 11 boats returned from the first crossing, eight from the second and five from the third, A Company that followed used locally sourced wooden fishing boats.

France and Belgium, November 1944

On 16 November 1944, the 504th arrived at Camp Sissone near Rheims in Northern France on British lorries, greeted again by the traditional "We’re All American..." of the 82nd band. Soon after, the Division moved to Camp Laon and began training with the new C-46 Commando aircraft, the first aircraft with two troop doors for parachute exits.[2]

At 2100 hours on the night of 17 December 1944, Colonel Tucker was summoned to the 82nd Airborne Division headquarters. There he learned that the Germans had broken through into Belgium and Luxembourg with a powerful armored thrust launched south of Aachen in what became known as the Battle of the Bulge.

The next morning the 504th paratroopers started for Bastogne, not in airplanes, but in large trucks. Along the way, their destination was changed to Werbomont—a point more seriously threatened. The Devils conducted a night movement on foot for eight miles to take up defensive positions. On 19 December Colonel Tucker was ordered to Rahier and Cheneux to link up with the 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment at Trois Ponts. The 1st Battalion was ordered to take the towns Brume, Rhier, and Cheneux. At 1400 on 20 December 1944, 1st Battalion (less A Company) moved out toward Cheneux, where it was immediately engaged by a battalion of the SS-Obersturmbannführer Joachim Peiper's Kampfgruppe Peiper of the I SS Panzer Corps. Crossing an open 400-yard field laced every fifteen yards with barbed wire, the 1st Battalion faced the heaviest enemy fire the 504th had ever encountered, including heavy machine-guns, a 20mm gun, and a half-dozen German armored vehicles. Captain Jack M. Bartley was killed on 21 December 1944.

The 504th deployed a captured German halftrack armed with a 70mm gun manned by two paratroopers with no training in its use. They were successful in knocking out several enemy positions. Still, the 504th took very heavy losses crossing the open field, and at 1700 were ordered to withdraw 200 yards (180 m) to the edge of a wood. Colonel Tucker ordered the 1st Battalion to engage in an assault on the German forces in Cheneux that night. The Devils pressed forward, and by nightfall had given the Germans their first defeat of the Battle of the Bulge. Through heavy fire, Companies B and C wiped out an estimated five companies of German forces, as well as fourteen flak-wagons, six half-tracks, four trucks, and four 105mm howitzers. However, the two companies were decimated, with 23 killed and 202 wounded; eighteen enlisted men remained in Company B, and thirty-eight men and three officers in Company C.[10] the Minus Company A, the 1st Battalion of the 504, as well as the first platoon, Company C, 307th Engineer Battalion, were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for their outstanding performance during this action.

Throughout the initial days of battle with experienced German troops, the regiment wore down the enemy and discovered the Germans had only poorly organized and inadequately equipped follow-on forces. Soon thereafter, the paratroopers received the orders they had been expecting—to attack the Siegfried Line. The regiment was positioned on the right flank of the U.S. First Army, and on 28 January 1945 the 504th advanced through the Belgian forest of Bullingen in columns of two along a deep snowy trail, meeting only spotty resistance along the way.

While approaching Herresbach, the regiment encountered an enemy battalion in a head-on engagement that surprised both elements. The battle-wise paratroopers, without hesitation, accelerated their pace and moved on the enemy. The machine guns of the lead tank opened up on the Germans, while the men of the 504th fired their weapons from the hip at shooting-gallery speed. Within ten minutes, the enemy was overrun with more than 100 killed and 180 captured. Not a single 504th paratrooper was killed or wounded.

Finally, on 1 February 1945, the order came to conduct the assault on the Siegfried Line through the Belgian Fort Gerolstein. The following day the 1st and 2nd battalions jumped off on the attack. Moving cautiously from bunker to bunker, the troopers encountered heavy machine gun and small arms fire at all points. Ironically, the German Army’s own Panzerfaust (a light anti-tank weapon with which the 504th was well equipped) was the regiment’s most effective weapon against the German pillboxes. Despite the presence of thousands of mines and booby traps, only a small number of those disturbed actually detonated. Freezing temperatures, snow, ice and years of exposure had corroded the detonators. Vicious enemy counterattacks on 3 and 4 February were repulsed, and the unit was relieved. The regiment moved back to Grand Halleux where it spent several days before being trucked across the Belgian-German border. From Aachen, it moved by train back to Laon, France to await orders.

On to Berlin

Colonel Tucker and the advance detail left Laon on 1 April 1945 and traveled by jeep 270 miles to Cologne (Köln), Germany. Three days later the regiment arrived, mostly in "40 and 8s," and immediately took up positions along the West Bank of the Rhine River. 504th patrols crossed nightly in small boats, engaging in brisk fire-fights almost every patrol. The enemy made a few attempts to cross to the regiment’s side of the river, but all efforts were turned back.

On 6 April 1945, A Company crossed the Rhine at 0230 hours and immediately made contact with the enemy. Under heavy fire and in a minefield, the first wave of 504th troopers was split into two elements, each of which fought its way independently to the predesignated objective. There they rejoined forces, knocked out several machine gun nests, and established a roadblock. Using similar tactics, succeeding waves infiltrated the enemy and set up a defense in the village of Hitdorf. For a short time, all was calm. Company A was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for its action during this engagement.

Then the enemy counterattacked. The first counterattack was broken less than fifty yards from the perimeter, while the second was preceded by heavy artillery preparation. As enemy tanks and infantry closed in, the outnumbered and outgunned A Company fought its way back to the river's edge. The regiment sent I Company across to support the withdrawal. The 504th had lost only nine men to the enemy’s 150, and 32 troopers were captured for 10 days and forced marched 100 km to Plettendorf Germany then were liberated by the 83 Infantry Div. Whether the two companies achieved the higher aim of diverting enemy forces from a more important sector upstream is unknown. For the men involved, it was a small-scale "Dunkirk" with a hollow satisfaction achieved. The 504th was then relieved of its active defense of the Rhine and was directed to patrol the area north of Cologne until 1 May 1945. With little resistance to slow it down, the regiment established its command post in the town of Breetze, Germany on the west bank of the Elbe River. Although tanks had been attached to the unit, the 504th was outnumbered 100 to 1 by German troops clogging every road. Nevertheless, throughout the next several days, the Americans stood at 100-yard intervals collecting souvenirs by the jeep-load as almost never-ending columns of enemy forces poured through the regiment’s lines to surrender.

At 1000 hours on 3 May 1945, a jeep full of I Company men grew tired of waiting for a Russian element to link up with them, so they drove down the south side of the Elde and then twelve more miles to the town of Eldenburg. There they were entertained by a company of Cossacks, whose specific unit designation none of the men could recall after partaking of the various toasts offered in honor of Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin.

The war officially ended in Europe on 8 May 1945. The 504th returned briefly to Nancy, France until the 82nd Airborne Division, the British 11th Armoured Division and the 5th Cossack Division were called upon to serve as the occupation forces in Berlin. Here the 82nd Airborne Division earned the name, "America’s Guard of Honor," as a fitting end to hostilities in which the 504th had chased the German Army some 14,000 miles (23,000 km) across the European Theater.

Following their occupation duty with the 82nd Airborne Division in Berlin, the Devils reported to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
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