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The General and His Daughter

The War Time Letters of General James M. Gavin to his Daughter Barbara

Barbara Fauntleroy

Publication Year: 2007

James Maurice Gavin left for war in April 1943 as a colonel commanding the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division-America's first airborne division and the first to fight in World War II. In 1944, Slim JimGavin, as he was known to his troops, at the age of thirty-seven became the 82nd's commanding general-the youngest Army officer to become a major general since the Civil War. At war's end, this soldier's soldier had become one of our greatest generals-and the 82nd's most decorated officer.Now James Gavin's letters home to his nine-year-old daughter Barbara provide a revealing portrait of the American experience in World War II through the eyes of one of its most dynamic officers. Written from ship decks, foxholes, and field tents-often just before or after a dangerous jump-they capture the day-to-day realities of combat and Gavin's personal reactions to the war he helped to win. And provide an invaluable self-portrait of a great general, and a great American, in war and peace.The book's more than 200 letters begin at Fort Bragg in 1943 and continue to December 1945, as Gavin came home to lead the 82nd at the head of the Victory parade in New York. This correspondence constitutes the majority of Gavin's private wartime letters, but except for rare appearances in regimental newsletters, it has never before been published. In her Introduction, Epilogue, and Notes, Barbara Gavin Fauntleroy gives a privileged glimpse of the private man. Edited by Gayle Wurst, the book features historical overviews by Starlyn Jorgensen, a preface by noted Gavin biographer Gerard M. Devlin, and a foreword by Rufus Broadaway, Gavin's aide-de-camp.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. viii

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pp. x

This book would never have been written without the war stories, kind words, and encouragement of the World War II veterans of the 82nd Airborne, my dad’s ‘‘boys.’’ It began as ‘‘You ought to put those letters in a book’’ and progressed...

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Editor's Note

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pp. xi-xii

The General and His Daughter presents for the first time the complete and unabridged wartime correspondence between General James M. Gavin and his daughter Barbara. The 209 letters, which begin when General Gavin...

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pp. xiii-xv

Major General James Gavin told me that he wrote letters to his daughter Barbara. Indeed, he wrote to her more than two hundred times while he commanded the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment and later the 82nd Airborne Division...

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pp. xvii-xxii

History has shown us that there are very few men who become a legend in their own time, and even fewer who have come to be known as a Renaissance man. But during his truly extraordinary and productive life, James M. Gavin easily...

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pp. 1-6

I was nine when my father left for war. He sailed from the harbor of New York City aboard the troop ship Monterey, a former Matson ocean liner. Just nineteen years earlier he had run away from home to New York to find a new life...

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1. The Call to War

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pp. 7-13

On November 8, 1942, the Allies invaded French North Africa, resulting in the capitulation of the Vichy French colonial forces.1 Expecting complete victory over all Axis forces in North Africa by early spring 1943, plans were formulated for the Allied invasion...

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2. Operation Husky - North Africa

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pp. 14-38

Reaching the coast of North Africa on May 10, the convoy carrying the 82nd sailed into the harbor at Casablanca, French Morocco. While in North Africa, the Division fell under the administrative command of Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark’s Fifth...

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3. Operation Husky - Sicily

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pp. 39-53

Winds strong enough to put the airborne missions at risk began blowing over Sicily during the early hours of July 9; in spite of this, HUSKY had to go on as planned. By late afternoon, the paratroopers of Gavin’s combat team were ready. As they waited beside...

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4. Operation Avalanche - Italy

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pp. 54-74

While still battling on Sicily, Allied command finalized plans, once the island was in hand, for the invasion of the Italian mainland—Operation AVALANCHE. In a two-pronged attack, General Bernard Montgomery and his British Eighth Army would...

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5. Operation Overlord / Neptune - United Kingdom

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pp. 75-108

With orders for the European Theater of Operations, General Ridgway arranged to move the 82nd Airborne Division to the United Kingdom, where the 101st Airborne Division, fresh from the United States and ready to begin training, was already...

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6. Operation Neptune - Normandy

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pp. 109-115

Encountering dense cloud banks and heavy enemy antiaircraft fire as they flew over the coast of Normandy in the predawn darkness of June 5–6, 1944, the transports carrying the paratroopers of Task Force A were unable to maintain their required...

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7. Command of the 82nd Airborne Division

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pp. 116-126

Returning to their bivouac areas in England, the weary troopers were given short furloughs while fresh replacements were integrated into the Division’s units. Though the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment was released, the 508 would remain with...

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8. Operation Market-Garden - Holland

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pp. 127-141

Montgomery’s proposition became a plan—code-named Operation MARKET-GARDEN. Advancing northward from the Belgian–Dutch border, the British Second Army would drive for the Lower Rhine at Arnhem where elements of the British...

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9. The Battle of the Bulge - Belgium

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pp. 142-156

Unable to outflank the Siegfried Line in northern Holland, the Allies elsewhere continued their drive toward Germany, all the while incurring heavy losses in fighting a Wehrmacht ordered by its Führer not to give an inch. Without refitting the depleted...

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10. Cracking the Siegfried Line - Germany

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pp. 157-160

Having once again proven themselves as aggressive and highly successful ground troops during the Battle of the Bulge, the 82nd Airborne Division was thrown into the Allied assault against Germany’s western border defenses. The attack jumped off...

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11. A Brief Respite - France

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pp. 161-167

Anticipating that an airborne operation, most significantly a drop on Berlin, might have to be mounted, the Division was pulled off the line in Germany and returned to its camps in France. Gavin would be able to re-equip and refit the Division after...

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12. Back on the Line - The Final Fight

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pp. 168-176

Returned to Germany, the 82nd Airborne Division was deployed along the western bank of the Rhine River near Cologne. Gavin’s orders were to aggressively patrol the city and its perimeter, while sending patrols across the river to engage and identify...

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13. Victory, Russian Camaraderie, and a Visit Home

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pp. 177-188

On May 7, 1945, the Germans signed an unconditional surrender with all hostilities ordered to cease by midnight, May 8. Twenty-five months earlier, Gavin had written his first wartime letter to Barbara, happy to hear that she was going...

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14. Occupation Duty - Berlin

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pp. 189-195

Germany’s entire infrastructure was damaged or nonexistent, with no civil authority in place and millions homeless and hungry. Though no longer a military threat, the ‘‘soldats’’ of Germany’s Wehrmacht also had to be processed and interrogated...

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15. The Call Home

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pp. 196-214

Gavin received good news—the 82nd Airborne Division was to be returned to the United States, but with that came bad news—the Division would be demobilized upon its return, ceasing to exist in the U.S. Army. With the war over, Army...

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pp. 215-218

It was December 21. We had received a telegram saying that my dad would arrive in Washington that afternoon. After so many delays and changes, I was afraid to believe it. My mother and I had put up our Christmas tree and were keeping...


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pp. 219-230

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 231-235


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pp. 237-244

Series Page

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pp. 245

E-ISBN-13: 9780823246915
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823226870
Print-ISBN-10: 0823226875

Page Count: 284
Publication Year: 2007

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Gavin, James M. (James Maurice), 1907-1990 -- Correspondence.
  • Generals -- United States -- Biography.
  • United States. Army -- Biography.
  • United States. Army -- Airborne troops -- History.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Aerial operations, American.
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