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473rd Fighter Group

473rd Fighter Group


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473rd Fighter Group

History - Books - Aircraft - Time Line - Commanders - Main Bases - Component Units - Assigned To

History

The 473rd Fighter Group (USAAF) was a home based training unit that operated in 1943-44.

The group was constituted on 12 October 1943 and activated on 1 November 1943. It was assigned to the Fourth Air Force, in the US south west and was based at the Grand Central Air Terminal for most of its existence.

The group was used as a Replacement Training Unit for P-38 Lighting pilots, preparing pilots to fill gaps in existing units.

At the end of March 1944 the group was moved to Ephrata AAB, Washington State, where it was disbanded on 31 March 1944. This was part of a general reorganisation of training, in which the existing groups and squadrons were disbanded and new Base units were formed. In this case that was probably the 355th Army Air Force Base Unit, which was based at Ephrata.

Books

Pending

Aircraft

1943-1944: Lockheed P-38 Lightning

Timeline

12 October 1943Constituted as 473rd Fighter Group
1 November 1943Activated with Fourth Air Force
31 March 1944Disbanded

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Lt. Col Robert L Johnston: Nov 1943
Col Romulus W Puryear:27 Nov 1943
Lt Col Milton H Ashkins:20 Dec 1943-31 Mar 1944

Main Bases

Grand Central Air Terminal,Calif: 1 Nov 1943
Ephrata AAB, Wash:28-31 Mar 1944.

Component Units

451st: 1943-1944
482nd: 1943-1944
483rd: 1943-1944
484th: 1943-1944

Assigned To

1943-44: Los Angeles Fighter Wing; IV Fighter Command; Fourth Air Force


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World War II

The unit was constituted as the 52d Pursuit Group (Interceptor) on 20 November 1940, activated at Selfridge Field, Michigan on 15 January 1941 with the 2d, [ 2 ] 4th, [ 3 ] and 5th Pursuit Squadrons [ 4 ] assigned as its original squadrons. It was redesignated as the 52d Fighter Group in May 1942. [ 5 ] The group trained with Bell P-39 Airacobra and Curtiss P-40 aircraft, and participated in maneuvers with them until 1942 when it moved to the United Kingdom, the air echelon arriving in July 1942 and the ground echelon in August. [ 5 ]

The group trained with the Royal Air Force as part of Eighth Air Force, reequipped with Supermarine Spitfires and flew missions from England to France during August and September of that year. [ 5 ]

RAF Code Letters
2d Fighter Squadron QP
4th Fighter Squadron WD
5th Fighter Squadron VF
[ 6 ]

Group pilots flew Spitfires from Gibraltar to Algeria during Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa on 8 November 1942. [ 5 ] The remainder of the group arrived by ship after the campaign in Algeria and Morocco had ended. [ 5 ] The group then operated as part of Twelfth Air Force through April 1944, thereafter becoming a part of Fifteenth Air Force, serving in combat in the Mediterranean until the end of World War II. It flew escort, patrol, strafing, and reconnaissance missions to help defeat Axis forces in Tunisia. [ 5 ] In Sicily, it attacked railroads, highways, bridges, coastal shipping and other targets to support the Allied operations. Having converted to North American P-51 Mustangs in April and May 1944, the group escorted bombers that attacked objectives in Italy, France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia. [ 5 ] It received a Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC) for a mission on 9 June 1944 when the group protected bombers that struck aircraft factories, communications centers, and supply lines in Germany. [ 5 ] The 52d flew one of the first shuttle missions to Russia from 4–6 August 1944, and received a second DUC for strafing attacks on a landing field in Romania on 31 August 1944, destroying a large number of enemy fighter and transport planes. [ 5 ] On 24 March 1945, the group's aircraft flew the longest escort mission ever flown in Europe—1600 miles round-trip to Berlin. By the end of the war, the group's Mustangs had adopted yellow markings that covered the entire tail of the aircraft, earning them the nickname of "Yellow Tails. [ 6 ] The 52d returned to the US in August 1945 and was inactivated on 7 November 1945. [ 5 ]

Aerial Victories Number Note
Group Hq 1 [ 7 ]
2d Fighter Squadron 102.33 [ 8 ]
4th Fighter Squadron 109 [ 9 ]
5th Fighter Squadron 103.5 [ 10 ]
52d Group Total 315.83

Cold War

German Occupation Force

The 52d was reactivated in Germany on 9 November 1946 and was assigned to United States Air Forces Europe as the 52d Fighter Group (All Weather). [ 5 ] [ 11 ] It received Northrop P-61 Black Widows in early 1947, From 1946 to 1947, the 52d served as part of the occupation forces in Germany.

Air Defense Command

In June 1947 the group was transferred without personnel and equipment to the United States, and became the 52d Fighter-Interceptor Group in May 1951 again flying P-61s and later North American F-82 Twin Mustangs, receiving its first jets, Lockheed F-94 Starfires beginning in 1950. In 1947, the Air Force began a service test of what was called the Hobson Plan [ 12 ] to unify control at air bases. [ 13 ] As a result of this test, the group was assigned to a provisional fighter wing at Mitchel AFB, New York. This test proved the wing-base plan to the satisfaction of the Air Force [ 12 ] and in 1948 group was assigned as the operational element of the 52d Fighter Wing before moving with the wing to McGuire AFB, New Jersey. [ 14 ] In a major reorganization of Air Defense Command (ADC) responding to ADC's difficulty under the existing wing base organizational structure in deploying fighter squadrons to best advantage. [ 15 ] the 52d was inactivated along with the 52nd Fighter-Interceptor Wing on 6 February 1952 [ 5 ] and its two operational squadrons were transferred to the recently activated 4709th Defense Wing. [ 16 ] [ 17 ]

The 52d was redesignated the 52d Fighter Group (Air Defense) and activated at Suffolk County AFB, New York on 18 August 1955, replacing the 519th Air Defense Group [ 18 ] as part of ADC's Project Arrow, a program to restore fighter units that had achieved distinction in the two World Wars. [ 5 ] [ 19 ] Because one of the additional objectives of Project Arrow was to reunite groups with their traditional squadrons, the 2d [ 2 ] and 5th [ 4 ] Fighter-Interceptor Squadrons (FIS) moved to Suffolk County from McGuire AFB and took over the personnel, equipment, and radar equipped and rocket armed North American F-86D Sabre aircraft of the 75th and 331st FIS, which moved elsewhere. [ 20 ] It also became the USAF host organization for Suffolk County and was assigned several support units to fulfill this function. [ 21 ] [ 22 ] [ 23 ] [ 24 ]

The 2d FIS converted to F-102 Delta Daggers in January 1957, followed by the 5th FIS in April. [ 25 ] In December 1959, the 2d FIS began to fly F-101 VooDoos, while the 5th FIS retained its F-102s until moving to Minot AFB, North Dakota two months later. [ 4 ] [ 25 ] The group served as an air defense unit in the New York/New Jersey area of the United States and also flew anti-submarine warfare missions until being inactivated in 1963 and replaced as the host unit at Suffolk County by the 52d Fighter Wing (Air Defense). [ 14 ] [ 26 ] In 1968, as USAF operations at Suffolk County were reduced, it once again activated with F-101s to replace the 52d wing and close down USAF operations at the station in 1969. [ 14 ] [ 26 ]

Return to Germany

The 52d was redesignated the 52d Tactical Fighter Group and activated at Erding AB, West Germany under Seventeenth Air Force in 1971. [ 14 ] The group provided administrative and logistical support as the USAF host unit at Erding for F-102 Delta Dagger NATO air defense operations, but had no tactical units assigned. In 1972 the F-102s were withdrawn from Europe and the 52d FG was inactivated. [ 14 ]

Modern era

On 31 March 1992, the group was redesignated the 52d Operations Group (OG) and activated as a result of the USAF objective wing reorganization. [ 14 ] Upon activation, the 52d OG assumed responsibility for the 52 Fighter Wing's operational squadrons and the newly activated 52d Operations Support Squadron.

During the 1990s, the wing supported no-fly zone operations over Bosnia and northern Iraq and combat operations against Serbia during Operation Allied Force in 1999. After terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001, the wing supported Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, deploying combat and support elements in support of US and NATO missions. Although the group has also provided forces for Operation Urgent Fury, Operation Just Cause, Operation Southern Watch, Operation Coronet Macaw, Operation Restore Hope, Operation Support Justice and Operation Uphold Democracy, its forces were organized into provisional organizations, rather than remaining under group control for operations.


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In the spring of 1944, after years of pressure from the black community, the government grudgingly rescinded its policy excluding African American soldiers from combat. On July 30, 1944, the first wave of Buffalo Soldiers — the 370th Regimental Combat Team —–disembarked at Naples, Italy, where they were greeted by a jubilant crowd of black American soldiers from other service units. The rest of the division would arrive a few months later.

American troops were facing an uphill battle in Italy, and at that point, the Allies were desperately short of infantry troops. After months of hard fighting, the Allies had managed to push German forces under Field Marshal Albert Kesselring almost 500 bloody miles up the Italian peninsula. But even after the fall of Rome on June 4, 1944, the Germans had simply retreated in an orderly fashion from one line of defense to another rather than acknowledge defeat.

On D-Day, two days after the victory at Rome, Allied soldiers swarmed across the beaches of Normandy. For the duration of the war, the American Fifth Army and the British Eighth Army, under the overall command of British General Sir Harold Alexander, would play second fiddle to the Allied push in France. During the summer of 1944, nearly 100,000 men of the Fifth Army, out of a total strength of 249,000, were transferred to the fighting in France. As the Allies stood at the south bank of the Arno River in July, preparing to assault Kesselring’s most formidable barrier yet–the infamous Gothic Line–the Americans clearly had too many tanks and not enough infantrymen. Kesselring had built the line on the slopes of the Apennine Mountains, the 50-mile-deep range that, in northern Italy, runs diagonally from coast to coast and affords natural protection for northern industrial and agricultural centers.

In addition to the 370th, at that point the 92nd consisted of two other infantry regiments, the 365th and the 371st four field artillery battalions, the 597th, 598th, 599th and 600th plus headquarters battery, the 92nd Reconnaissance Troop, the 317th Engineer Combat Battalion and 317th Medical Battalion, as well as a medical battalion, signal company, quartermaster company, maintenance personnel and military police. The Buffalo Soldiers were assigned to the IV Corps of the U.S. Fifth Army in two primary areas of operation, the Serchio Valley and the coastal sector along the Ligurian Sea.

They occupied the westernmost end of the Allied front, while the Eighth Army attacked across the eastern portion of the Italian peninsula. The 92nd would face not only mountainous terrain and tremendous resistance–including the German Fourteenth Army and its Italian Fascist soldiers, the 90th Panzergrenadier Division and the 16th SS Panzergrenadier Division–but also an array of man-made defensive works.

/>Members of a mortar company of the 92nd Division pass the ammunition and heave it over at the Germans in an almost endless stream near Massa, Italy. This company is credited with liquidating several machine gun nests. November 1944. (U.S. Army)

By fighting an impressive defensive campaign, Kesselring had gained time to build up his Gothic Line. Using 15,000 Italian laborers and 2,000 Slovaks, the Germans constructed bunkers, tank emplacements, tunnels and anti-tank ditches reinforced existing Italian castles and laid carefully designed minefields intended to herd enemy troops into interlocking fields of fire.

At this stage in the Italian campaign the Allies did have one advantage. Italy was in a state of civil war, and the Italian partisan forces were proving more than a nuisance to the German cause. Guerrillas had even managed to kill one Luftwaffe division commander. As a result, one German commander, General Fridolin von Senger, discarded his general’s insignia and rode in an unmarked Volkswagen.

When the Buffalo Soldiers deployed along the front, they began to work together with the tankers of the U.S. 1st Armored Division. In addition to this division, the IV Corps consisted of the 6th South African Armored Division, the Brazilian Expeditionary Force and Task Force 45, composed of British and American anti-aircraft gunners who had been retrained and re-equipped for combat infantry duty.

After landing on the Italian mainland at Salerno on September 9, 1943, the Allies had unsuccessfully attempted to destroy Kesselring before January 1944. Now they once again hoped to make significant advances before the snows came in the winter of 1944. The Fifth and Eighth armies planned an all-out attack on the Gothic Line in August, with the Eighth Army positioned along the Adriatic Coast and the Fifth Army directing its efforts against the center of Italy, toward Bologna.

The IV Corps would cross the Arno River, take Mount Albano and Mount Pisano on the plain, extend their front and draw the enemy’s attention. Meanwhile, the Fifth Army’s II Corps, to the right along with the British XIII Corps, would drive the main assault into the center of the Gothic Line. The thinly spread IV Corps also had the task of guarding the Allied west flank against a German counterattack and protecting the crucial Allied port of Leghorn, or Livorno, on the coast.

On September 1, the three battalions of the 370th Regiment, along with elements of the 1st Armored Division, crossed the Arno River and advanced north for two to three miles. By the early morning hours of September 2, the 370th Engineers and 1st Armored Engineers had cleared minefields, worked on fords and placed a treadway bridge across the Arno for the upcoming armored infantry assault. Task Force 45 was bogged down by heavy minefields, but the 370th pushed on. The 3rd Battalion of the 370th moved to the west of Mount Pisano, while the 1st Battalion advanced east of the mountain. Using mule trails, the 2nd Battalion advanced straight over the mountain.

/>Officers of the 92nd Infantry Division, Company F, 370th Combat Team, look at maps and orders at a farmhouse one-fourth of a mile from the Arno River, Ponsacco Area in Italy. A half hour later these troops successfully crossed the river in the push toward the Gothic Line on Sep. 1, 1944. (U.S. Army)

The Germans retaliated with small-arms, machine-gun and artillery fire while their forward elements began to pull back behind the Gothic Line. The Buffalo Soldiers advanced north beyond Mount Pisano and attacked the city of Lucca. They eliminated remaining enemy resistance around the road connecting Pisa to Lucca and spent the next several days patrolling and waiting for the rest of the Fifth Army to move up.

The main attack started on September 10, and three days later the Buffalo Soldiers and 1st Armored tankers stood at the base of the northern Apennines. By September 18, the II Corps had breached the Gothic Line at Il Giogo Pass, and many of the 1st Armored tanks were shifted to that area. The IV Corps consolidated its units while holding its section of the line until late in the month, when patrols of Buffalo Soldiers entered the Serchio Valley.

The men of the 370th had also penetrated the Gothic Line in their sector and now controlled Highway 12, which served as a crucial east-west communications artery for the Germans. In early October, they were ordered to take the city of Massa, near the coast, which was the first step in capturing the naval base at La Spezia. Although the Germans had been in continuous retreat in Italy, they resisted fiercely at Massa. They were determined to protect the western edge of the Gothic Line, especially because La Spezia’s naval base was nearby. Beset by cold autumn rains, the Buffalo Soldiers found themselves fighting a new enemy–mud–in addition to dug-in enemy troops. They did not take Massa at that point, and all across the Gothic Line, Kesselring’s forces held on. Meanwhile, though the II Corps made some impressive headway, it failed to reach Bologna before the snows set in.

After a six-day battle for control of Massa, the Buffalo Soldiers pulled back and regrouped. As the rest of the 92nd Infantry Division began to land in Italy, the Buffalo Soldiers of the 370th kept up the offensive on a smaller scale with power patrols consisting of between 35 and 75 men and at times machine-gun and mortar crews. The Fifth Army spent most of November conducting defensive actions in preparation for a renewed offensive in December.

By late November, the last elements of the remaining two 92nd Division regiments, the 371st and 365th, had arrived. In addition to the 92nd’s own regiments, a fourth regiment came under the division’s control–the 366th Infantry Regiment, with black officers and men. The 366th had originally trained for combat but had been initially assigned to guard duty on Allied air bases throughout Italy. The men of the 366th had performed so well in their former assignment that their commanding general did not want to give them up.

As the 370th moved deeper into the Serchio Valley–later with elements of the 371st–resupply became a logistical nightmare. No vehicles could reach the Buffalo Soldiers as they fought their way to the high ground of the 35-mile-long valley. Despite a wealth of technology and industrial might at their command, the Americans found themselves dependent upon pack animals, the same mode of transport employed by Hannibal Barca when he had invaded Italy more than 2,100 years earlier.

One officer and 15 enlisted men formed the nucleus of the 92nd Division Mule Pack Battalion, which included an Italian veterinarian, two blacksmiths and 600 Italian volunteers who were given American uniforms and even wore the Buffalo insignia. The Americans scoured the countryside for mules and horses, which the U.S. government then purchased from locals. They eventually procured a total of 372 mules and 173 horses. Because the U.S. Army lacked the necessary equipment for pack animals, the blacksmiths had to hammer out their own horseshoes from German barbed-wire pickets. The animals brought up water, ammunition, anti-tank guns and other crucial materiel and transported the wounded to where they could receive treatment. As it turned out, however, the mules were apparently spooked by the smell of dead men and balked at carrying corpses.

The 92nd was expected to launch a major offensive on December 1 in support of the II Corps’ renewed attack on Bologna. The attack was rescheduled for Christmas Day due to a predicted German counterattack. When intelligence reports indicated a large German build-up in the northern region of the Serchio Valley, the men of the 371st were transferred to the coastal sector, and elements of the 366th were sent to the valley to support the 370th. Although the Fifth Army never launched its early December assault, it was not a quiet month in the Serchio Valley. The Buffalo Soldiers continued to advance, town by town, against German artillery, mortar and small-arms fire. American engineers at first repaired bridges and roads for the advance, but soon shifted to defensive work, laying minefields, rigging bridges for demolition, and helping to evacuate civilians in anticipation of the German counterattack.

On Christmas Eve the Fifth Army called off its Christmas Day assault, but the Buffalo Soldiers, who were deployed on both sides of the Serchio River, continued to advance, facing German mortar and artillery rounds as they moved through more of northern Italy’s mountain towns. The 366th’s 2nd Battalion held the town of Barga on the American right flank, while the 370th held Gallicano, west of the Serchio River. On Christmas Eve, the 370th sent its 2nd Battalion east of the river into the little village of Sommocolonia, the northernmost edge of the American line. Light artillery and mortar rounds hit Sommocolonia but there seemed to be little enemy activity, so most of the 2nd Battalion moved out for duty elsewhere, leaving behind only two platoons. On the extreme right, just east of Sommocolonia, lay the villages of Bebbio and Scarpello, occupied by two platoons of the 92nd Division Reconnaissance Troop.

Before sunrise on the day after Christmas, the Germans attacked the villages just north and east of Gallicano. Although the primary German assault seemed to come from west of the river, toward Gallicano, partisans were also battling enemy soldiers north of Sommocolonia later in the morning. Within two hours, Sommocolonia and the two American platoons there were surrounded. A third platoon moved up to reinforce the embattled Sommocolonia troops. Lieutenant John Fox, an artillery forward observer for the 366th, exemplified the impressive fighting spirit of the black soldiers. When enemy troops surrounded the lieutenant’s position inside a house and were about to overrun him, he ordered artillery fire directly on his own position, sacrificing his life. Fox’s heroic action bought valuable time that helped save other troops, and he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

The two platoons of the 370th, along with a group of partisans, engaged in house-to-house fighting with the enemy during that battle. Many of the Germans were dressed as partisans, making the situation even more confusing and dangerous. Just before noon, the platoons were ordered to evacuate the village, but they were trapped. They managed to hold out until nightfall, but of the 70 Americans involved, only one officer and 17 men managed to fight their way out of the village that night as ordered.

Meanwhile, the two reconnaissance platoons at Bebbio and Scarpello were overrun by enemy troops and ordered to fall back. Despite heavy fighting, they managed to withdraw to their command post at Coreglia. German artillery fire began to cut deeper into American lines, and the 370th ordered its troops to quit Gallicano and secure the high ground nearby.

With the Allied port of Leghorn threatened, the Fifth Army called back the 1st Armored Division from II Corps control, and the 8th Indian Division, a British unit, moved to the area as reinforcements. On December 27, American fighter-bombers roared into the valley and hammered Sommocolonia, Gallicano and other front-line areas. By January 1, the Allies had more or less re-established their original positions.

/>The gun crew of the 92nd Infantry Division, Battery "B," 598th Field Artillery, readies their 105 howitzer before receiving a fire mission on September 1, 1944, near the Arno River in Italy. (U.S. Army)

With the Germans less of an imminent threat, the 8th Indian Division pulled out, leaving the valley to the Buffalo Soldiers. The Fifth Army postponed its major offensive until April, but General Almond decided that his division would launch its own attack in February. Almond devised his operation not as a breakthrough assault but as a division-strength ‘feeler movement’ intended to determine enemy strength and deployment, draw more enemy troops to the area and enhance the division’s own positions. Troops in the Serchio Valley were to seize the Lama di Sotto Ridge, overlooking the German supply center at Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, and create a diversion while the main assault concentrated on the coastal sector. Almond hoped to reach the Strettoia hill mass on the coast, just north of the Cinquale Canal, and then take Massa. Once in Massa, American artillery would come within firing range of La Spezia.

Units were moved around again so that the 370th and 371st occupied the Coastal Sector while the 365th went to the Serchio Valley. The 366th was divided between both areas. On February 4, the 366th held Gallicano, and the next day it pushed its lines into the outlying villages. The 365th, to the east of the Serchio River, took the town of Lama, just north of Sommocolonia, and occupied Mount Della Stella at the foot of the Lama di Sotto Ridge. The 365th held out against numerous counterattacks until February 8, when a full battalion of Germans pushed the Americans off the hill and out of Lama. At nightfall on the 10th, after encountering grueling enemy artillery fire and grenadier counterattacks, the Buffalo Soldiers retook Lama.

The Buffalo Soldiers on the coast were hit just as hard as their comrades in the valley. The Germans had tanks, field artillery and thousands of ground troops to protect La Spezia, and they could call on a weapon unavailable to the Americans–heavy coastal guns. Emplaced at Punta Bianca, just southeast of La Spezia, the German coastal guns could not only lob shells into Massa but also reach all the way to Forte dei Marmi, which lay south of the Cinquale Canal. Fire from the powerful coastal guns left craters so large that Allied tanks literally fell into them.

The remainder of the 366th and its supporting armor–including another black unit, the 758th Tank Battalion–advanced along the coast. The 371st attacked on the far right through the coastal hill masses but ran into extensive minefields. The 370th advanced in column with its left flank on Highway 1 and its right flank in the hills. As they advanced, each battalion of the 370th leapfrogged the battalion directly to its front in order to keep up a continuous attack.

Riding on the tanks, the 366th rolled into the sea to avoid mines, then came back onto dry land north of the Cinquale Canal. The first two tanks to hit the beach were knocked out by mines and blocked the way. Before long, four more tanks were destroyed by mines, but the 370th reached the canal and started to cross, taking a pounding from local mortar and machine-gun positions as well as from the coastal guns. The artillery fire prevented engineers from laying a bridge, and foul weather meant no air support for the Buffalo Soldiers that day. Three tanks were lost when they fell into underwater craters while crossing the canal.

Despite numerous German counterattacks, the Buffalo Soldiers did manage to establish a line of defense north of the canal. Without a bridge, they had to hand-carry supplies across the water. Casualties were mounting, and the coastal guns kept pounding away. On the night of February 10, Almond called off the attack and ordered his troops back across the canal. The February operation cost 22 tanks and more than 1,100 casualties, including 56 officers.

The 92nd underwent drastic changes before its involvement in an offensive in the spring of 1945. The Allies considered it absolutely crucial that the 92nd seize La Spezia during the April attack, but the previous months of fighting had depleted the division’s strength. Although the U.S. Army had hundreds of thousands of black troops, it could not find enough combat-trained replacements for the 92nd, so the 371st went to the Serchio Valley under IV Corps control while the 366th and 365th were sent elsewhere. The 92nd built up the strength of the 370th, the only black regiment left in the division, while it gained two new regiments. In addition to the 473rd, made up of white anti-aircraft gunners turned infantrymen, the division received a ferocious fighting unit composed of Nisei soldiers–the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team. These descendants of Japanese immigrants served in one of the most highly decorated American regiments of the entire war.

/>The gun crew of the 92nd Infantry Division, Battery "B," 598th Field Artillery, readies their 105 howitzer before receiving a fire mission on September 1, 1944, near the Arno River in Italy. (U.S. Army)

The 370th formed the left flank, with the 442nd on the right and the 473rd in reserve in the nearby Serchio Valley. In order to avoid the relentless barrage from the coastal guns, the 92nd Division, now jokingly referred to as the ‘Rainbow Division,’ advanced toward Massa through the hills east of Highway 1. Even though fighter-bombers flew sorties over Punta Bianca and British destroyers shelled the German positions, the coastal guns continued firing.

In less than two hours on April 5, 1945, the 370th’s lead element, Company C, reached its initial objective: Castle Aghinolfi. The company’s artillery forward observer had to convince the artillery twice to give him fire support. Artillerymen could not believe that the riflemen had advanced so far. The Germans were surprised, too in fact, many were still eating breakfast when the Buffalo Soldiers arrived.

Company C radioed for reinforcements, but the regiment had problems of its own, with two company commanders already killed. No help arrived. The Germans within the castle fired on the lone company with machine guns and mortars. Before long, the company had suffered 60 percent casualties. The forward observer and radioman were both hit and the radio was destroyed, cutting off all contact with the outside. The company had no choice but to pull back. Lieutenant Vernon J. Baker, the company’s only black officer, volunteered to harass the enemy so that the wounded could escape. Armed with hand grenades, and on two occasions supported by Private James Thomas’ automatic-rifle fire, Baker personally destroyed three machine-gun nests and an observation post. Baker, who had already received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, would receive the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions that day [Editor’s note: That award was upgraded].

Meanwhile, the 442nd fought the enemy ridge by ridge and systematically blew up German bunkers with bazookas. By April 6, the Nisei had control of Mount Belvedere. The 370th, Company C included, made another assault against the same hills but needed more troops to succeed. The 473rd moved up, and the hard-hit 1st Battalion of the 370th, which had had three company commanders killed in the first two days, went to the Serchio Valley to protect the American flank against a German counterattack.

The 370th and 473rd, along with their supporting armored battalions, pushed through the hills and also advanced along Highway 1, although the German guns at Punta Bianca continued to pound away. On April 9, American tankers rolled into Massa but were driven back by staunch enemy resistance. In a supporting maneuver, the 442nd pushed forward through the mountains and flanked the city’s eastern side. Finally, the Germans withdrew, and on April 10 the Americans controlled the city.

The 92nd Infantry Division continued to press forward, though the bitter fighting continued as the Germans moved their reserve men and panzers into position. With the German lines receding, a full battalion of tank destroyers finally came within range of the coastal guns and over a six-day period sent more than 11,000 rounds into Punta Bianca. By April 20 the big guns were silent and the Germans were retreating.

The Buffalo Soldiers fighting in the Serchio Valley had also been busy. The 370th had taken Castelnuovo on April 20 and pressed forward. They planned to meet up with the 442nd at Aulla, northeast of La Spezia, and cut off the German retreat.

The fighting had left so much destruction that the Americans could not even use their mules, and the division was accumulating more prisoners than it had time to deal with. Partisans had been fighting at La Spezia, and on April 24 the 473rd moved into the city. Three days later, the 473rd and its supporting armor crushed the German resistance at Genoa. The 370th and 442nd in their sector helped prevent two enemy divisions from escaping through the Cisa Pass before the May 2 cease-fire officially ended the hostilities in Italy.

The vast majority of African Americans in uniform were assigned to segregated construction or supply units or placed in units that performed unpleasant duties such as graves registration. The government’s view was that blacks were not motivated enough or aggressive enough to fight.

Although Allied forces were ecstatic over their success in Italy, for the Buffalo Soldiers, it was a bittersweet victory. The military establishment considered the 92nd, which comprised less than 2 percent of all black Americans in the Army, a failure. Regarded as an experiment from the outset, the division had been closely watched and roundly criticized.

Much of the blame for the setbacks in February 1945 and other similar occurrences was attributed to confusion between the junior officers and enlisted personnel. However, their officers were rotated so often that the men sometimes had no idea who their commanders were, and in many cases the most outstanding officers and NCOs were killed in action.

In defense of the black junior officers, Lt. Col. Markus H. Ray, commander of the division’s 600th Field Artillery Battalion (which had all black officers and men) wrote on May 14, 1945: ‘I believe that the young Negro officer represents the best we have to offer and under proper, sympathetic and capable leadership would have developed and performed equally with any other racial group….They were Americans before all else.’

The numbers alone tell an impressive story. Of 12,846 Buffalo Soldiers who saw action, 2,848 were killed, captured or wounded. The Buffalo Soldiers did, in fact, break through the Gothic Line. They reached their objective, captured or helped to capture nearly 24,000 prisoners and received more than 12,000 decorations and citations for their gallantry in combat. The soldiers of the 92nd Division had proved their worth through months of bitter combat in the Italian campaign.


Hatsumi is an extremely relaxed and blasé person. This lackadaisical attitude shows in most of his Kengan losses: nine by oversleeping, four from bailing and two from forgetting there was a match on. Γ] However, when he gets serious, he gets serious. Hatsumi is also a known womaniser who has an issue with keeping it in his pants, so some consider him nothing but a lech. His characterisation is like an elusive floating cloud. Ώ]

Eighteen years ago, in his early 20s, Hatsumi first met and soon started dating Soryuin Shion for the first time. Δ] During that time, he took Shion to Tochigi Destiny Land, but they had a fight and broke up afterwards because she caught him cheating. Ε] Two years after they first started dating, Hatsumi left again, telling Shion he was going on a journey to fight powerful fighters, but Shion realised the truth when she picked up an adult tour programme that he had dropped. Δ] He then left Japan to travel the world and fight in several underground matches to train himself (and enjoy the company of women).

At the age of 28, he was scouted by Katahara Metsudo to be the fifth Fang of Metsudo. However, a week into his candidacy, he ducked out because he was bored, and Kanoh Agito was chosen in his place. Ζ] He subsequently became the fighter for Nogi Hideki through certain unspecified connections. At his debut match, Hatsumi reencountered Shion where he explained to her that he had achieved his dream he then began flirting with the Nogi Group's new secretary. Δ] While he was the most powerful fighter in Nogi's employ, his unreliability led Nogi to hire other fighters.

Kengan Ashura

First appearing after Nogi had told Ohma he wouldn't be the Nogi Group's representative fighter, Hatsumi introduced himself before getting into a brief fight with the injured Ohma. Nogi then revealed that while Hatsumi was the Nogi Group's fighter, Ohma and Yamashita Kazuo still had the opportunity to get into the Annihilation Tournament. A few days later, Hatsumi asked Nogi whether he was going to tell Ohma and Yamashita the real reason for them participating, but Nogi waved it off.

On the day, Hatsumi was alarmed to hear Akiyama Kaede wouldn't be travelling with them onboard the S.S. Kengan. Asking if Nogi was okay with Kaede boarding the S.S. Annihilation with Yamashita, Nogi told him it would be better for Yamashita that way.

Onboard the S.S. Kengan, Hatsumi tried to woo Matsuda Tomoko until a certain someone cockblocked him. Realising the certain someone was none other than Soryuin Shion, she began threatening him, but he slipped out of her grasp and escaped. Safe, Hatsumi then noted the various personas in the room who appeared to be fighters. Later, while showering, he mused that things would soon get rough.

On the day that the tournament began, Hatsumi went off on his own to meditate. With Kaede coming to collect him for his match, Hatsumi entered the arena representing the Nogi Group in the Kengan Annihilation Tournament. He fought Chiba Takayuki in the first round. Unsettled by Chiba's claim of being able to mimic any technique he'd seen performed before, Hatsumi was initially put on the back foot until Chiba made the wrong decision, allowing Hatsumi to knock him out in only 26 seconds.

In the second round, Hatsumi's next opponent is against a surprisingly healed Bando Yohei. Despite Bando being the worst matchup for Hatsumi, he managed to attain victory over Bando after breaking the man's right arm and then defeating him with a Hatsumi-style Aikido technique. He then thanked Bando for allowing him to "get into peak condition". After the close of the second round, Hatsumi was seen running away from Hayami's Guardians during the man's attempted coup.

On the final day, before his fight against Kanoh Agito in the quarter-final, he sparred with Ohma and honed his evasive movements. As the fight began at Hatsumi's pace, he initially looked to have the advantage, but he was eventually defeated after Agito "evolved" and proved his superiority. After getting some first aid, Hatsumi watched the rest of the tournament up in the stands by himself.

Kengan Omega

Around a year after the Kengan Annihilation Tournament, Hatsumi was known to have travelled to China, but his whereabouts from there are unknown. Η]


Zephyrhills Museum of Military History

View all photos

In the early 1940s, Zephyrhills Army Airfield served as a training ground for hundreds of Army pilots during World War II.

When the airfield was built in 1942, Zephyrhills, Florida, was home to some 800 people. Over the course of the war, the population doubled as Army pilots came to the small town to train. Between January 1943 and January 1944, about 500 men from the Army’s 10th Fighter Squadron were stationed here, filling the skies with fighter aircraft that would eventually make their way to the European theater.

The airfield was used to train pilots in air defense tactics and ground intercept missions. In June 1944, the 10th Fighter Squadron supported Allied ground forces during the invasion of Normandy. Pilots trained on P-51 Mustangs, single-seat planes that served as the American military’s main fighter-bomber crafts for many years. Through the rest of that summer, the 10th squadron operated out of bases in northeast France.

After the Allies won the war, the Zephyrhills airfield and many other training facilities around the country were no longer needed. Much of the military equipment was sent to other bases and ownership of the airfield was transferred to the city. Though most of the military barracks were demolished, one infirmary building still stood on the former training ground.

But at more than 60 years old, the exterior of the building was deteriorating. In March 2015, the city government set out to renovate the historic building, which is now the Zephyrhills Museum of Military History.

Today, visitors to the museum can see period weaponry, military uniforms, wartime supplies and archival photographs. These are the treasured memories of the veterans who fought in World War II and other wars, including the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Outside the museum stands a Douglas DC-3 aircraft.

Know Before You Go

The museum is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.

Experience Florida’s Sports Coast strives to make sure every visitor experience is the best it can be by providing up-to-date information. The safety of our visitors is our highest priority and we always want you to have the resources you need to make informed travel decisions when it comes to COVID-19 (or Coronavirus).


177th Fighter Wing

The 177th Fighter Wing traces its roots back to September 1917 as the 119th Aero Squadron. The 119th Aero Squadron, an active duty training squadron during World War One, was demobilized in May 1919.

In 1930, the 119th Observation Squadron was given federal recognition as part of the 44th Infantry Division, New Jersey National Guard, 119th Fighter Squadron at Newark. In 1958, the 119th Fighter Squadron moved to the former Navy facility in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, and was re-designated the 119th Tactical Fighter Squadron. In 1962 the unit became the 177th Tactical Fighter Group, the 177th Fighter Interceptor Group in 1972, 177th Fighter Group in 1992, and finally became the 177th Fighter Wing in 1995. The 177th Fighter Wing has been activated twice to federal service since World War II. In 1961, the unit was called up for the Berlin Crisis and in 1968 for the Pueblo Crisis, which sent unit members to all corners of the globe including Vietnam.

Years later, 70 unit members were activated in support of Operation Desert Storm. As the events of September 11th unfolded, the 177th Fighter Wing, through years of preparation, training and commitment launched to our nation's emergency and desperate call for help. These Air Guard warriors brought with them the character and core values of generations of heroic citizen soldiers and airmen. After September 2001, the wing had an active involvement in Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Southern Watch, Operation Northern Watch, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.


Historical Snapshot

The McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet was designed for aircraft carrier duty and was the first tactical aircraft designed to carry out both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. The U.S. Marines ordered it as an F-18 fighter and the Navy as an A-18 attack aircraft. It can switch roles easily and can also be adapted for photoreconnaissance and electronic countermeasure missions.

The F/A-18 Hornet was also the first aircraft to have carbon fiber wings and the first tactical jet fighter to use digital fly-by-wire flight controls. Variants included a two-seater, an improved fighter, a reconnaissance aircraft and a night-attack fighter.

Hornets entered active duty in January 1983. In 1986, Hornets on the USS Coral Sea flew their first combat missions. During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, while performing an air-to-ground mission, Hornets switched to fighter mode and destroyed two Iraqi MiG-21s in air-to-air combat, then switched back to attack mode and successfully completed their air-to-ground mission. During 2001, Hornets provided around-the-clock battlefield coverage in the Afghanistan Theater of operations.

The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet made its first flight in November 1995. The Super Hornet is a low-observable aircraft that performs multiple missions, including air superiority, day-and-night strike with precision-guided weapons, fighter escort, and close air support. It is operational in 10 U.S. Navy Carrier Air Wings (25 squadrons) and the Royal Australian Air Force.

The Super Hornet is produced in the single-seat E model and the two-seat F model. The F/A-18E/F is 25 percent larger than the original Hornet and has increased maneuverability, range, and payload, and more powerful engines. It entered operational service with the U.S. Navy in 1999, after Boeing had merged with McDonnell Douglas, won the Collier Trophy for that year and flew its first combat missions in 2002.

In April 2005, Boeing delivered the first Block II Super Hornet, an upgraded Super Hornet with the world&rsquos first tactical multimode active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.

In 2008, the EA-18G Growler joined the Navy&rsquos aircraft fleet. A Super Hornet derivative, the EA-18G provides tactical jamming and electronic protection for U.S. and allied forces, delivering full-spectrum airborne electronic attack capability along with the targeting and self-defense capabilities of the Super Hornet.

On April 22, 2010 &mdash Earth Day&mdash an unmodified, Boeing-built F/A-18F Super Hornet took off from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., powered by a sustainable biofuel blend of 50 percent camelina and 50 percent JP-5 aviation fuel. Boeing had worked with the Navy on laboratory testing of fuel properties and engineering evaluations of fuel system compatibility. Nicknamed Green Hornet, the F/A Super Hornet has won seven consecutive awards for environmental excellence from the U.S. Navy.

In August 2013, Boeing and Northrop Grumman began flight tests with a prototype of an Advanced Super Hornet aircraft with conformal fuel tanks, an enclosed weapons pod and signature enhancements.


473rd Fighter Group - History

( All weblinks within this document are "Blue" )

The following list was created in the memory of the brave men and women from Kennebec County, Maine that gave their all for their State and Country during World War II. Soldiers, Sailors and Merchant Marines, are all included on this listing.

There are personal "online memorials" for each of these honored men and women that were created for them by using the "Find A Grave" website. You will see a blue " Yes " behind their names and by clicking on the " Yes " you will see their personal memorial that has been created for them. On "many" of the online memorials you will see a small biography for each soldier which includes: parent's names, where they lived and where and how they actually died. If you see one without a bio and you have information on them please email me and I'll update their records.


Kennebec County had a total of:

" 251 "

Soldiers and Sailors who "Gave Their All" during World War II

( I'm 99% sure all from Kennebec County are included )



ALSO PLEASE NOTE: The records show these men and women as either enlisting, being originally from, or having strong ties to Kennebec County. Therefore some of these soldiers may not necessarily be from the particular county noted.

On some of the records you will note that the "Cemetery/Memorial" column shows "unknown" . If you know where any of these men or women are interred please let me know by sending me an "email - (by clicking here) " and I'll insure that the information is noted for their record.



Whether a soldier or sailor was " Killed In Action " , " Missing In Action " ,
" Died of Wounds " , or even died in the " Line Of Duty " .

Whether a soldier or sailor was awarded medals or not .

They are all " HERO'S " in my book and deserve all the recognition they can get !!

Special Thanks To Find A Grave Members:

" Eric Ackerman "
For all his great research work For Soldiers & Sailors Nationwide !
" Janice Hollandsworth "
For her great help locating burials and record updates For Soldiers & Sailors Nationwide !
" Jeff Hall "
For his great help locating burials, taking photos, and record updates For Soldiers & Sailors Nationwide !
" John C. Anderson "
For his valuable help with documenting soldiers & sailors in Arlington National Cemetery !
" John Dowdy "
For his great help with the Army Air Force, locating burials and flight crew reports For Soldiers & Sailors Nationwide !
" ShaneO "
For his great help locating burials, taking photos, and record updates For Soldiers & Sailors Nationwide !
" Steve S "
For his great photos in the Manila American Cemetery, Philippines !
" Tim Cook "
For his great help with the Army Air Force, locating burials, taking photos, and flight crew reports For Soldiers & Sailors Nationwide !

Key to below " Abbreviations and Notes "

AM = Awarded the "Air Medal"

( Meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight and/or single acts of merit or heroism, or for meritorious service. )
AM* = Awarded the "Air Medal" with one Oak Leaf Cluster

( Second occurrance of being awarded the Air Medal )
AM** = Awarded the "Air Medal" with two Oak Leaf Clusters

( Third occurrance of being awarded the Air Medal )
AM*** = Awarded the "Air Medal" with three Oak Leaf Clusters

( Fourth occurrance of being awarded the Air Medal )

BS = Awarded the "Bronze Star"

( 4th highest award for bravery, heroism or meritorious service )

DFC = Awarded the "Distinguished Flying Cross"

( Awarded for heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight )

DSC = Awarded the "Distinguished Service Cross"

( 2nd highest award for extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force to a member of the U.S. Army & Army Air Force )

DSM = Awarded the "Distinguished Service Medal"

( Awarded for Exceptionally meritorious service to the Government of the United States in a duty of great responsibility to any member of the military )

LOM = Awarded the "Legion Of Merit"

( Awarded for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements to all military branches )

MM = Awarded the " Mariner's Medal "

( Awarded to the Merchant Marines for being wounded, Missing or Killed In Action )
MM * = Awarded the " Mariner's Medal - Combat Bar "

( Awarded to those who are under combat conditions )
MM ** = Awarded the " Mariner's Medal - Combat Bar - Combat Star "

( Awarded to those who are forced to abandon ship when attacked or damaged )
MM-DSM = Awarded the Mariner's " Distinguished Service Medal "

( Awarded for " Heroism Beyond the Call of Duty " )

MOH = Awarded the "Medal Of Honor"

( Highest military honor, awarded for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty. )

NC = Awarded the "Navy Cross"

( 2nd highest military decoration for valor that may be awarded to a member of the United States Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, or U.S. Coast Guard )

PH = Awarded the "Purple Heart"

( Awarded for being wounded in action )
PH* = Awarded the "Purple Heart" with one Oak Leaf Cluster ( Wounded Two Times )
PH** = Awarded the "Purple Heart" with two Oak Leaf Clusters ( Wounded Three Times )
PH*** = Awarded the "Purple Heart" with three Oak Leaf Clusters ( Wounded Four Times )

POW = Awarded the "Prisoner Of War Medal"

PUC = Awarded a "Presidential Unit Citation"

SM = Awarded the "Soldier's Medal"

( Awarded for distinguished heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy )
SS = Awarded the "Silver Star"

( 3rd highest award, awarded for gallantry in action )

Other Medals = Such as Good Conduct Medals, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medals, American Defense Service Medals, etc. " Are Not " included in this listing.

= Picture of person shown on online memorial

= Picture of tombstone shown on online memorial

Cenotaph = A memorial stone only, remains not recovered or possibly interred somewhere unknown.

n/a

( in awards field ) = not applicable

n/a

( in photo field ) = not available

Those Included: = Died during the war - December 7, 1941 through September 2, 1945. Some others have been included that died close to the war's end during cleanup operations.

" Kennebec County - Listed alphabetically by Last Name "

Quick Link by first letter of Last Name

( Those letters shown in " Maroon " currently have no soldiers to list )


473rd Fighter Group - History

By Patrick J. Chaisson

Paratrooper Lt. Col. Bill Yarborough was flying into hell. As he prepared to jump from a Douglas C-47 transport plane then approaching the coast of Sicily, hundreds of American antiaircraft gunners below started shooting at him.

Yarborough could not believe what he was seeing. Did an enemy bomber somehow get into the U.S. troop carrier formation? How, he wondered, could those gun crews down there not recognize our C-47s for what they are?

The volume of fire only increased as Yarborough’s unarmored transport aircraft neared its drop zone. “The flak became worse and worse,” he recalled years later. “We were flying through a solid wall of this stuff.”

Bill Yarborough watched helplessly as a C-47 on his left burst into flames and fell out of the sky. Other planes, including his own, began taking hits as their pilots desperately maneuvered to escape the deadly gunfire. Those troopers who managed to jump were scattered all along the length of Sicily’s southern coast. Yarborough and his stick of 14 men came down near the walled city of Biscari, 12 miles from their intended drop zone.

This debacle, which took place on the night of July 10-11, 1943, resulted in the loss of 23 C-47 transports and 229 soldiers killed or wounded. It was one of the worst friendly fire incidents of World War II.

As he made his way toward Allied-held territory, Yarborough seethed with rage. He knew it all could have been prevented—in previous assignments he had learned from bitter experience exactly how to prevent such fratricidal contact. Yet no one in his current unit cared what this highly intelligent combat veteran had to say.

The frustration and bruised pride building inside Lt. Col. Bill Yarborough grew with every step he took on Sicily’s rocky soil. These powerful emotions would soon draw him into another kind of battle, a contest of wills fought against one of the most formidable combat commanders in the U.S. Army, Maj. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway.

William Pelham Yarborough, son of a career Army officer, was born in Seattle, Washington, on May 12, 1912. He entered the United States Military Academy in 1932, displaying both an interest in military history and a talent for mechanical design. Four years later, Yarborough graduated from West Point as a second lieutenant of Infantry, reporting for duty with the 57th Infantry Regiment at Fort McKinley in the Philippines.

Following promotion to first lieutenant and transfer to Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1940, he followed with great interest Nazi Germany’s lightning advance across Poland, the Low Countries, and France during the war’s first year. Yarborough was especially intrigued by Hitler’s airborne forces the aura of adventure and danger surrounding these elite “sky-soldiers” stirred him to volunteer when the U.S. Army announced it was forming its own parachute test battalion.

Now wearing captain’s bars, Yarborough for a brief time commanded Company C, 501st Parachute Infantry Battalion. On March 3, 1941, he went to Washington, D.C., on a special mission: to design and procure a qualification badge for the Army’s newest airborne troopers. He swiftly sketched out a silver insignia measuring 1½ inches in length and consisting of an open parachute extending from a pair of stylized wings. Now his new design required authorization by the War Department’s notoriously byzantine bureaucracy.

“I personally took the correspondence relative to the badge’s approval from one office to another until the transaction was complete,” Yarborough recalled. “This operation took me one entire week, eight hours a day.” He then had Philadelphia jeweler Bailey, Banks, and Biddle manufacture 350 sets of jump wings in time to be presented at a battalion ceremony on March 14.

Impressed by Yarborough’s resourcefulness, the commanding officer of Airborne Command’s Provisional Parachute Group, Lt. Col. William C. Lee, brought him on board as a test officer. There this bright young captain developed such iconic items of airborne regalia as the paratrooper boot—a sturdy cap-toe model normally worn with bloused (tucked-in) trousers. He also fashioned a unique combat uniform for parachutists as well as several aerial delivery containers intended for heavy weapons and supplies. Yarborough later received U.S. patents for many of his inventions.

In July 1942, following temporary promotion to major, he accompanied Maj. Gen. Mark W. Clark to London as II U.S. Corps airborne adviser. In that role Yarborough helped plan Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa. He later accompanied the 2nd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment (2/509 PIR) on a 1,500-mile flight from England to seize vital airfields in French-held Algeria.

This mission, which took place on November 9-11, 1942, went poorly. Yarborough’s C-47 transport was shot up by Vichy French fighter planes over Algeria and had to crash-land onto a dry lake bed. He then led surviving U.S. paratroopers on a punishing walk across the desert, only to discover their objective had already been taken by American tanks. On November 15, Major Yarborough jumped with 2/509 PIR onto Youks les Bains airfield near Tebessa, where a now friendly French garrison welcomed its new allies to the fight against Germany.

While the Americans’ first airborne actions in North Africa resulted in mixed success at best, Bill Yarborough emerged from Operation Torch as an officer on the rise. A skillful planner, he also demonstrated tenacity and physical courage in battle. Freshly promoted Lt. Gen. Mark Clark wanted Yarborough on his Fifth Army operations staff, but the youthful paratrooper had other ideas.

All West Point graduates knew the path to higher rank and responsibility in wartime required assignment to a combat command. Only one parachute battalion existed in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, and its commander was not going anywhere soon. For career officer Bill Yarborough, his best chance for promotion remained in one of the five airborne divisions then organizing Stateside.

He requested transfer to the 101st Airborne Division, led at the time by his old boss and mentor Bill Lee. Instead, Yarborough received orders assigning him to the 82nd Airborne Division and command of 2nd Battalion, 504th PIR. That unit, stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was preparing for overseas deployment when he arrived in February 1943.

Yarborough did not want to be there. At Fort Bragg he encountered many officers who had already advanced well past him in rank. For instance, he knew Reuben H. Tucker III as a poor student who barely managed to graduate from West Point in 1935. Now Lt. Col. Tucker (his immediate superior) was due to pin on the insignia of a full colonel as regimental commander, 504th PIR. All the while, battle-tested Bill Yarborough remained a major.

It also galled him that no one in the 82nd seemed interested in his combat experiences. Yarborough was “hoping for some kind of recognition” of those exploits, expecting people to say, “Hey, you’ve been in parachute operations tell us how it was.” But the “All-American Division” was a big, impersonal organization. Everyone in it was busily preparing for Operation Husky—the invasion of Sicily—set to take place that July.

Bill Yarborough’s promotion to lieutenant colonel, which came in May, did little to soothe his mounting resentment. He eventually learned who was responsible for his plight when division commander Maj. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway said he personally requisitioned Yarborough to lead the 2/504 PIR.

It was a morale-crushing piece of news. Yarborough knew his status as a pioneer of airborne warfare meant little to the 48-year-old Ridgway, who had been running the 82nd Airborne since August 1942. He also realized there was no escape from this uncompromising, ramrod-straight professional soldier who tolerated no nonsense from his subordinate officers.

Some troopers, however, adored their hard-charging commanding general. Ridgway’s protégé, then colonel James M. Gavin, vividly described his boss’s leadership style: “He was a great combat commander. Lots of courage. He was right up front every minute. Hard as flint and full of intensity, almost grinding his teeth with intensity.”

Matthew Ridgway demanded a similar level of commitment from his officers. Even before the All-Americans entered combat he fired several leaders who he deemed were insufficiently aggressive. “When the responsibility of command is on your shoulders,” he wrote, “you cannot afford to play along with officers who won’t give you all they’ve got.”

Likewise, there was no room in Ridgway’s organization for malcontents. “I learned very early that one of the attributes of military leadership is knowing when to get rid of a sorehead,” the general once observed. And he already had his eye on a potential troublemaker who was unhappily serving at the head of 2/504 PIR.

The 82nd Airborne’s plan for Operation Husky, its first ever parachute assault, reflected the division’s aggressive spirit. On the night of July 9-10, 1943, a total of 222 C-47s of the U.S. 52nd Troop Carrier Wing would deliver Colonel Jim Gavin’s 505th PIR—reinforced by 3/504 PIR, the 456th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion (PFAB), and a company of airborne engineers—behind beaches slated for invasion by American amphibious forces. The remaining two battalions of Colonel Reuben Tucker’s 504th PIR (plus the 376th PFAB and Company C, 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion) were to stand ready at airfields around Kairouan, Tunisia, on call to execute a second drop should one prove necessary.

This overly complicated scheme failed to account for weather, enemy activity, or the navigational skills of inexperienced troop carrier flight crews. When Gavin’s force went in shortly after midnight on July 10, a 35 mile-per-hour wind and German flak deranged the mission so badly that a mere 425 of the 3,405 troopers jumping that night landed on their designated drop zones.

Nevertheless, those few men fought like demons to take and hold a road junction at Piano Lupo that overlooked the main landing beaches. Other members of Gavin’s regiment, individually or in small groups, caused untold mayhem all across Sicily while making their journey toward American lines. At Biazza Ridge on July 11, about 200 paratroopers pitted raw courage against attacking German PzKpfw. VI Tiger tanks. Miraculously, they held out long enough for General Ridgway (who had come ashore the previous morning) to summon forward American armor and artillery.

Even as the last Germans were being swept off Biazza Ridge, Ridgway gave the order for Tucker’s 504th PIR to jump in that night. The winds had subsided, but enemy bombers still plagued the beachhead area. Multiple warnings went out to Army and Navy antiaircraft commands warning them of friendly air activity to occur after dark later that afternoon Ridgway discovered to his horror that some gun crews still had not received the word.

Around 2230 hours, a heavy German bombing raid struck Allied ships off Sicily just as the C-47s transporting Bill Yarborough and his battalion approached their drop zone. It started a chain reaction among the jumpy Army and Navy gunners. “One .50-caliber machine gun, situated in the sand dunes several hundred yards from the shore, opened fire,” remembered Captain Willard E. Harrison of the 504th PIR. “As soon as this firing began, guns along the coast as far as we could see … opened fire and the naval craft lying off shore … began firing anti-aircraft guns.”

The slaughter lasted a full hour. When it was done, 60 of the 144 U.S. troop carrier aircraft aloft that night had been damaged—the C-47 carrying Colonel Tucker came home with more than 1,000 holes in its skin. At least 85 aircrewmen perished or were declared missing in action.

The 82nd Airborne’s losses included Assistant Division Commander Brig. Gen. Charles L. Keerans, whose remains were never found. Paratroopers who survived the drop found themselves strewn across 65 miles of Sicilian coastline. It would take days for those not killed outright, captured, or injured on landing to assemble for any sort of organized action.

By July 18, the 2/504 PIR had 250 men present for duty, making it the All-American Division’s most combat-ready infantry battalion. At 0400 hours the following morning, Yarborough’s soldiers stepped off for the city of Trapani on Sicily’s west coast. They passed rapidly through small mountain villages such as Ribera and Sciacca here, the troopers’ chief difficulty lay in their lack of motorized transportation. Supplies, rations, and especially water could not keep up with the fast-moving infantrymen, who suffered under a blazing summer sun while marching 20-25 miles per day along steep, dustcovered roads.

Their advance was mostly unopposed but nevertheless contained many dangers. Outside Sciacca on July 20, the men of 2/504 PIR ran across a roadblock seeded with land mines. Clearing that obstacle took three hours beyond it lay an abandoned enemy tank park, artillery position, and airstrip. All evidence indicated the previous occupants had recently departed in great haste.

Yarborough’s paratroopers began their day’s march on July 21 at 0300 hours, with Company F in the lead. Scouts and flankers deployed as the battalion approached Tuminello Pass, a natural defensive position in the hills southwest of Santa Margherita. Dawn had just broken when Italian gunners holding the pass tripped their ambush.

A barrage of well-aimed 77mm artillery shells landed among the surprised GIs, killing six men and wounding another eight before Yarborough’s troopers could find cover. For 30 minutes those cannons, along with accurate small-arms fire, kept Company F pinned down. The Americans had trouble responding a morning fog helped conceal their dug-in foe.

Finally, Lt. Col. Yarborough got the battalion’s 60mm and 81mm mortars on target while U.S. machine-gun teams began providing suppressive fire. A rifle platoon led by Lieutenant Charles Drew then rushed forward, flushing clusters of surprised soldiers out of their holes at bayonet point. Italian officers, their honor now satisfied, began raising the white flag of surrender.

By 0830 hours it was all over. Yarborough’s troopers had just overwhelmed a stoutly defended enemy strongpoint, capturing hundreds of prisoners in the process. Also seized in this sharp action were five 77mm howitzers as well as vast amounts of matériel and ammunition.

Yarborough pushed out an outpost line before allowing his soldiers to break for lunch. The ration truck had just arrived it seemed like a good time to let his men enjoy the first proper meal many of them had eaten in days.

Just then Maj. Gen. Ridgway rode up in a jeep. Observing the scene, he barked, “What’s going on here?” Unsatisfied with Yarborough’s answer, the general replied: “If you stay in this area here, you are going to be shelled. Why aren’t you on the road?” Ridgway knew that if 2/504 PIR remained in Tuminello Pass it would make itself vulnerable to an enemy counterattack. “That’s no way to do it,” he scolded. “Keep moving, get going.”

Grumbling, the paratroopers got up and resumed their march. Walking alongside them was a boiling mad Bill Yarborough, furious over his general’s reaction to a battle he felt was well fought. It mattered little that Ridgway was right this encounter only further enflamed Yarborough’s already wounded pride.

Following the All-American Division’s five-day, 150-mile trek to Sicily’s western tip, Lt. Col. Yarborough found himself serving as military governor to several small villages outside Trapani. Bored with his new responsibilities, still horrified by the 504th PIR’s disastrous night jump, and livid over his treatment by General Ridgway, Yarborough began mouthing off. Typically, regimental- and division-level staff officers caught the brunt of his angry, insubordinate comments.

Yarborough’s “high-spirited stupidity” (as he later characterized this behavior) soon enough reached the attention of his division commander. Summoned on August 2 to Ridgway’s headquarters, the troublesome young colonel received a set of orders relieving him from command of 2/504 PIR and transferring him back to Fifth Army. “I wanted to die,” he remembered afterward.

A few days later, Lt. Gen. Clark sat down with the despondent officer. “I never should have assigned you to that outfit in the first place,” Clark said. “You come back here with me and in due course I’ll see that you get another command.” Meanwhile, Yarborough would serve out his penance as Fifth Army’s airborne adviser for the invasion of Italy at Salerno.

In September 1943, Yarborough put together an audacious but near-suicidal plan to drop the 82nd Airborne on Rome and wrest control of that city from its German garrison. Fortunately, this scheme was called off at the last moment. He also helped organize the 504th PIR’s nighttime jump into the Salerno beachhead on September 11, followed by the 505th about 72 hours later. Both of these missions went relatively smoothly, due in no small part to Yarborough’s insistence on adopting proper antiaircraft fire control measures as well as utilizing specially trained pathfinder teams to help mark the drop zones.

The 2/509 PIR, his old friends from North Africa, parachuted onto an enemy-held village called Avellino as part of the Salerno operation. A now chastened Bill Yarborough got his shot at redemption when Lt. Gen. Clark sent him forward to replace that unit’s commander, known to have been taken prisoner at Avellino. He led the redesignated 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion throughout heavy fighting in the Italian mountains, at Anzio, and on one final combat jump into southern France as part of Operation Anvil-Dragoon in August 1944.

Yarborough went home later that summer to attend an abbreviated Command and General Staff Officers’ course, returning to Italy in October as head of the 473rd Infantry Regiment (which was mostly comprised of former antiaircraft gunners). He earned both promotion to colonel and a Silver Star with the 473rd.

Following war’s end Yarborough remained in the Army, which sent him to strife-torn Cambodia in 1956. His study of counterinsurgency operations there brought him back to Fort Bragg in 1961 as commanding officer, United States Army Special Warfare Center. In that assignment he won both promotion to brigadier general and the title “Father of Modern U.S. Special Forces” for his groundbreaking work to expand the American military’s unconventional operations capability.

Controversy continued to follow this colorful officer. Deliberately disregarding Army regulations, Yarborough and his command all wore green berets during President John F. Kennedy’s visit to the Special Warfare Center on September 25, 1961. Kennedy liked their look. Calling the green beret “a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom,” he directed Pentagon officials to authorize its exclusive use by Special Forces soldiers—men known ever since as the Green Berets.

William P. Yarborough reached the rank of lieutenant general before retiring in 1971. He died in 2005, a legendary figure within the elite fraternity of U.S. Army Special Forces and Airborne troopers. In his later years, Bill Yarborough examined the circumstances that led to his dismissal on Sicily.

“I deserved to be removed from command,” he once told an interviewer, reflecting on the emotional immaturity and pridefulness that led him to so inappropriately challenge authority. “You can’t have that kind of thing,” Yarborough concluded, “and I recognized where the deficiency lay. It was with me and not with Ridgway or Tucker.”

Fortunately, Bill Yarborough was given a second chance after his potentially career-ending confrontation with Maj. Gen. Ridgway. He thrived under other commanders, continuing on to eventually earn both three-star rank and a lasting reputation as one of the U.S. Army’s finest airborne and special operations officers. His influence is still felt in today’s armed forces.

Modern combat uniforms all have their origins in his multi-pocketed parachutist’s suit. And U.S. paratroopers still wear Yarborough-designed jump wings, often pinning them to a colored cloth oval he introduced in 1941. Airborne and Special Forces qualified personnel also take great pride in blousing their trousers over a pair of highly shined jump boots—footwear he developed.

Upon earning the coveted Special Forces tab, each new Green Beret is also presented with a combat knife to symbolize his membership in the brotherhood of unconventional warriors. This individually numbered blade is known throughout the special operations community as the Yarborough Knife. It honors a man who redeemed himself in the crucible of combat, growing wise from his mistakes while rising to overcome every challenge placed before him.


Watch the video: DCS PvP 473rd Campaign. My First Mission (February 2023).

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