Original U.S. WWII 513th PIR Battle of the Bulge and Operation Varsity Named Uniform Grouping

Item Description

Original Items: One-of-a-kind set. Corporal Curtis C. Eldridge ASN 35073003 was a Light Machine Gunner in Company I of the 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 17th Airborne Division. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and in Operation Varsity the only combat jump made by the 513th PIR during the War which was also the largest Airborne drop of the conflict.

Thee 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) was constituted on 26 December 1942 and assigned to the 13th Airborne Division. It was activated 11 January 1943 at Fort Benning, Georgia and moved to Fort Bragg, North Carolina on 1 November 1943 then to Camp Mackall, North Carolina on 15 January 1944. The 513th PIR transferred to the Tennessee Maneuver Area on 4 March 1944 where the regiment was relieved from assignment to the 13th Airborne Division and formally assigned to the 17th Airborne Division on 10 March 1944. The unit immediately relocated to Camp Forrest, Tennessee on 24 March 1944. Staged at Camp Myles Standish, Massachusetts 13 August 1944. Departed the Boston Port of Embarkation on 20 August 1944.

The 513th PIR arrived in England under the command of Colonel James W Coutts (pictured above left)  513th PIR - Company I - 2nd Platoon (A tough looking bunch of troopers looking forward to going overseas.) who was formerly the assistant commandant of the Fort Benning Parachute School. The regiment was then shuttled to Camp Chisledon, the 17th Airborne Division staging area, on August 28, 1944. Flight and tactical training continued and night maneuvers were added to the training schedule. When Operation Market Garden was initiated, the 17th Airborne was still in training and was held in strategic reserve.

Battle of the Bulge - The Ardennes Offensive
Suddenly, on December 16, 1944, the Germans launched a surprise offensive through the Ardennes Forest which caught the Allies completely by surprise. The 17th was still in England. But the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisons were in Sissones, France and were rushed by truck to contain the bulge in the Allied lines. Between December 17 and 23, the Germans were halted near St. Vith by the 82nd Airborne and Bastogne by a roadblock, defended by the U.S. 7th Armoured Division and the 101st Airborne Division. To help reinforce the siege at Bastogne the entire 17th Airborne Division was finally committed to combat in the European Theater of Operations.

From 23 to 25 December, elements of the Division were flown to the Reims area in France in spectacular night flights then hastily trucked into Belgium. Meanwhile, Patton's Third U.S. Army had finally broken the siege at Bastogne with a marathon thrust from the south. Upon arriving the 513th PIR and the other elements of the 17th Airborne Division were attached to Patton's Third U.S. Army and ordered to immediately close in at Mourmelon. After taking over the defense of the Meuse River sector from Givet to Verdun on 25 December, the 17th moved to Neufchateau, Belgium, then marched through the snow to Morhet, relieving the 28th Infantry Division on 3 January 1945 and establishing a Division Command Post.

In the ensuing days, the 513th PIR would gain their baptism of fire that would have tested the mettle of the most experienced airborne units. General Patton had ordered the 17th Airborne to seize the town of Flamierge where the 11th Armour and the 87th Infantry Divisions had encountered brutal resistance from the Germans. The plan called for two regiments to push forward, the 513th PIR on the right while the 194th GIR under Col James R Pierce would be abreast of the 513th on the left. Almost immediately after the regiments jumped-off they encountered a relentless fusillade of mortars. E company of the 513th PIR 2nd Battalion lost three commanders in consecutive order while struggling forward. Finally, a platoon of F Company under the command of Lt Samuel Calhoun and a platoon of E company under the command of Lt Richard Manning made a fix bayonet charge that routed a superior German force while capturing many of the enemy.

Sgt Isadore S Jachman - Medal of Honor Recipient Meanwhile, the 1st Battalion reached Cochleval but was similarly pinned down by heavy machine-gun and mortar fusillades. When two German tanks broke out of the dense fog and threaten to overrun the 513th's position, S/Sgt Isadore S "Izzy" Jachman (pictured left)  recovered a bazooka from a fallen comrade and single-handedly engaged the two panzers knocking them both out. Unfortunately he was killed in a burst of machine gun fire. For his action on that day S/Sgt Jachman was awared the Medal of Honor. The 513th was hit hard and along with the 17th Airborne's two glider regiments sustained heavy casualties but they galantly achieved their objectives.

The 17th returned to camp at Chalons-sur-Marne in France on 11 February 1945 then back to Belgium on 21 March 1945 to prepare for the air assault across the Rhine.

Operation Varsity - The Airborne Assault on the Rhine
In early February 1945, the tide of battle was such as to enable an accurate estimate as to when and where the 2nd British Army would be ready to force a crossing of the Rhine River. It was determined that the crossing would be in conjunction with an airborne operation by XVIII Airborne Corps.

The sector selected for the assault was in the vicinity of Wesel, just north of the Ruhr, on 24 March 1945. Operation Varsity would be the last full scale airborne drop of World War II and the assignment went to the British 6th Airborne Division and the 17th Airborne Division.

This would be the last full scale airborne operation of the war and the first combat jump for the 513th PIR. As General Eisenhower watched the operation from a church tower on the west side of the Rhine the 513th had the misfortune of flying over a contingent of German antiaircraft weapons. Two-thirds of the C-46's were either damaged or in flames. The pilots remained with the aircrafts until the troopers jumped. However, the 513th landed in the wrong area in the midst of the heavily fortified town of Hamminkeln. Irregardless, the 513th began conducting frontal assaults on the heavily entrenched German positions as British gliders started to land practically on top of them.

513th PIR - Company E - 1st Platoon It was during this fighting that Pfc Stuart S. Stryker seeing his unit's exposed position ran to the front of his unit. He found his platoon leader and platoon sergeant laying dead. Acting on instinct he rallied his fellow paratroopers in a wild rush toward the enemy positions. Just short of the enemy positions he was riddled with machine gun fire and fell dead. However, the remainder of his platoon (pictured right)  overtook the enemy position capturing two hundred Germans and freeing 3 American bomber pilots. For this heroic action Pfc Stryker was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

By mid-afternoon on 24 March 1945 the 513th had secured all of its objectives including the capture of 1,100 German prisoners. By Easter Sunday, 1 April 1945, the 513th was positioned outside of the town of Munster, 50 miles east of the Rhine. The local German commander refused the surrender demands and heavy fighting broke out. It was during this engagement that Col Coutts was wounded by a piece of shrapnel ending the war for him. The war finally ended a month later on 7 May 1945 when General Alfred Jodl signed the unconditional surrender to the Allied powers.

The 513th PIR served in the Army of Occupation of Germany from 20 May - 4 July 1945. The regiment then went to Vittel, France on 15 August 1945. It returned to the United States via the Boston Port of Embarkation on 14 Sepember 1945 and inactivated at Camp Myles Standish, Massachusetts on the same date.

Included in this fantastic named uniform grouping are the following items:

- Excellent condition size 36R Ike jacket with ASN 3003 in ink on interior and wonderful condition patches, ribbons and material. Featuring Sterling silver paratrooper badge with jump star which backed in blue with red embroidered surround. 17th Airborne patch on right shoulder, 82nd Airborne patch on left shoulder. Medal ribbons as follows: Army Good Conduct, Army of Occupation, American Campaign, European-African-Middle East Campaign with INVASION ARROW HEAD and two bronze service starts for campaigns (Rhineland and Central Europe).  "Belgian Fourragère 1940" The decoration is 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. "Order of the Orange" shoulder cord awarded by the Dutch government for surviving Operation Market Garden. Presidential Unit Citation, Corporal Chevrons, 2 overseas bars indicating 12+ months in oversea service.

- Overseas Garrison Cap with embroidered Paratrooper Patch. 7 3/8 paper size label still intact.

- Research binder with copies of Honorable Discharge, Report of Separation, Final Payment Authorization, and a 1990 Authorization for Issuance of Awards which list all his awards including a Bronze Star.

Overall a really nice complete and fully researched grouping of a very hard to find 513th PIR paratrooper that participated in the two major Campaigns that the 513th participated in during World War Two.
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