Original U.S. WWII 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment (508th PIR) Named Grouping

Item Description

Original Items: One-of-a-kind grouping. Keith H. Christen was a Technical Sergeant in the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment and spent over three years overseas and in combat as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment originally stationed in England then saw action in Belgium, Holland and finally Germany.

The 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment participated in Operation Overlord, jumping into Normandy at 2:15 a.m. on 6 June 1944. Their immediate objectives were to capture Sainte-Mère-Église, secure crossings at the Merderet River near laFiere and Chef-du-Pont, and establish a defensive line north from Neuville-au-Plain to Breuzeville-au-Plain. There they were to tie in with the 502nd Parachute Infantry, of Major General Maxwell Taylor's 101st Airborne Division. Like most paratroop units involved in Overlord, the 508th were dropped in the wrong locations and had extraordinary difficulty linking up with each other. During the assault on June 6, a platoon leader of the 508th, First Lieutenant Robert Mathias, of Company E of the 2nd Battalion, was the first American officer killed by German fire on D-Day.

Portions of the 508th regrouped and remained in contact with German forces until relieved on 7 July when they became the divisional reserve force. On 13 July, they were transported back to England in two LSTs and returned to their station at Wollaton Park. Of the 2,056 paratroopers of the regiment who participated in the D-Day landings, only 995 returned. The 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment had, by this time, suffered 1,061 casualties, out of an initial strength on D-Day of 2,056. 307 had paid the ultimate price, including the Commanding Officer (CO) of the 1st Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Herbert F. Batchellor, the highest-ranking officer to lose his life in the regiment.

For its gallantry and combat action during the first three days of fighting, the unit was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation (later re-designated as the Presidential Unit Citation), quoted in part below:

The 508th Parachute Infantry is cited for outstanding performance of duty in action against the enemy between 6 and 9 June 1944, during the invasion of France. The Regiment landed by parachute shortly after 0200 hours, 6 June 1944. Intense antiaircraft and machine-gun fire was directed against the approaching planes and parachutist drops. Enemy mobile antiairborne landing groups immediately engaged assembled elements of the Regiment and reinforced their opposition with heavily supported reserve units. Elements of the Regiment seized Hill 30, in the wedge between the Merderet and Douve Rivers, and fought vastly superior enemy forces for three days. From this position, they continually threatened German units moving in from the west, as well as the enemy forces opposing the crossing of our troops over the Merderet near La Fiere and Chef-du-Pont.

They likewise denied the enemy opportunity to throw reinforcements to the east where they could oppose the beach landings. The troops on Hill 30 finally broke through to join the airborne troops at the bridgehead west of La Fiere on 9 June 1944. They had repelled continuous attacks from infantry, tanks, mortars, and artillery for more than 60 hours without resupply. Other elements of the 508th Parachute Infantry fought courageously in the bitter fighting west of the Merderet River and in winning the bridgeheads across that river at La Fiere and Chef-du- Pont. The regiment secured its objectives through heroic determination and initiative. Every member performed his duties with exemplary aggressiveness and superior skill. The courage and devotion to duty shown by members of the 508th Parachute Infantry are worthy of emulation and reflect the highest traditions of the Army of the United States.

After their success in Normandy, the 508th PIR returned to its billet at Wollaton Park and prepared for its part in Operation Market Garden, jumping on 17 September 1944. The regiment established and maintained a defensive position over 12,000 yards (11,000 m) in length, with German troops on three sides of their position. They seized a key bridge and prevented its destruction. Other units prevented the demolition of the Waal river Bridge at Nijmegen. The regiment additionally seized, occupied, organized and defended the Berg en Dal hill mass, terrain which controlled the Groesbeek-Nijmegen area. They cut Highway K, preventing the movement of enemy reserves, or escape of enemy along this important international route. After being relieved in the Netherlands, they continued fighting the Germans in the longest-running battle on German soil ever fought by the U.S. Army, then crossing the border into Belgium.

The 508th later played a major part in the Battle of the Bulge in late December 1944, during which they screened the withdrawal of some 20,000 troops from St. Vith and defended their positions against the German Panzer divisions. They also participated in the assault led by the 2nd Ranger Battalion to capture (successfully) Hill 400. The regiment saw little further service in the war, and in April 1945 they were detached from command of the 82nd Airborne Division, coming under direct control of the First Allied Airborne Army. Lindquist, now a full colonel, relinquished command of the regiment to Lieutenant Colonel Otho Holmes in December, 1945. The 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment returned to the United States soon after, settling at Camp Milner, New Jersey and was inactivated on 25 November 1946.

Included in this astonishing set are the following:

• Ike Jacket, and medal ribbon bar with the following awards: Army Good Conduct Medal, European- Africa- Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with invasion Arrow and battle star, American Campaign Medal, Belgian Red and Green Fourragère shoulder cord, as well as the French Croix De Guerre Fourragère shoulder cord, Sterling silver parachute jump wings, a Combat Infantryman Badge, 82nd airborne shoulder patch and an allied airborne should patch.

• Standard issue OD wool shirt with tie.

• 2 x photos of Keith H. Christen in uniform.

• Honorable discharge record for Keith H. Christen dated 9 August 1945. This paper also gives various details of the soldier’s service, such as enlistment and deployment dates, as well as selected training and awards.

This grouping belonged to a true American hero who saw action in some of the most famous and gruesome battles in WW2 begging with the D-day invasion.

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