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Glider Infantryman

Behind Enemy Lines in World War II

Donald J. Rich and Kevin Brooks

Publication Year: 2011

A member of the famed Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne Division, Donald J. Rich went ashore on D-Day at Utah Beach, was wounded in the bloody conflict at Carentan, landed in a flimsy plywood-and-canvas glider on the battlefields of Holland, and survived the grim siege with the “Battling Bastards of Bastogne” during the Battle of the Bulge. Ordinary Eagle is his eyewitness account of how he, along with thousands of other young men from farms, small towns, and cities across the United States, came together to answer the call of their nation. It is also a heartfelt tribute to the many thousands who gave their lives in the struggle. Coauthored by Kevin Brooks, the son of Rich’s best friend and World War II comrade, Ordinary Eagle covers a span of nearly three years: from February 1943, when Rich left his family in Wayland, Iowa, until his return home, five months after the war's end, as a toughened bazooka gunner and veteran of five campaigns. Rich’s first-person narrative includes vivid coverage of the action, featuring an especially rare account of arriving on a combat landing zone by glider. Detailed, day-to-day depiction of some of the heaviest fighting in Holland follows, including the action at Opheusden, the center of the infamous “Island.” Later highlights include the Battle of the Bulge, where Rich recounts his experiences in some of the hottest defensive fighting of the European Theater, including the epic tank battles at Marvie, Champs, and Foy.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Contents

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pp. v-

Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgements

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pp. ix-x

To Betsy Brooks, my wife, and David Brooks, my son: thanks for the countless hours spent working on Glider Infantryman and for your support and help while tirelessly poring over mistakes and unclear words. Also, thanks...

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Prologue

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pp. 1-2

“Went pretty well today,” Don says to himself, referring to the Memorial Day ceremonies put on by the local American Legion. For sixty-one years he has joined in honoring those who served in the US armed forces and are no longer living. Getting into his car, he backs out of the driveway and heads...

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37664459

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pp. 3-14

My name is Donald J. Rich, private first class (PFC) of the US Army. I left my family and home two years and eight months ago. Maybe you’ve heard of the 101st Airborne Division, which I’ve been a part of. Most of the guys I left with on a ship bound...

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Soldiering Basics

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pp. 15-33

In the midafternoon after four days of travel, the troop train pulls into the destination station, somewhere in California. After sitting so long, my legs don’t really work right, and the weight of my bag makes me walk off balance. I struggle to negotiate...

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England

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pp. 34-60

The last few days in Camp Shanks before we ship out to war are quiet. Any soldier lucky enough to have received a pass out of camp is promptly forbidden to leave base. No contact is to be made with family or friends. Soon the 101st Airborne will be leaving...

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Welcome to France

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pp. 61-76

The army feeds the troops lots of food; I mean LOTS of food. I feel like a hog being fattened for the slaughter. I also feel like I am eating my last meal. Maybe the army doesn’t know when we will get another chance to eat well and wants us charged up...

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Carentan

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pp. 77-88

Starting at dawn on June 9 (D 3), 2nd Battalion prepares to advance toward the mission objective of Carentan. We will cross the river and sweep to the east and then south to attack Carentan on the east side. This is our first real battle assignment, and the guys...

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Market Garden

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pp. 89-121

The 101st Airborne is designed to get into and out of action fast. But because the resourceful enemy uses the hedgerows to stymie Allied attacks, the Normandy campaign doesn’t go as quickly as had been hoped by the top army brass. The 327th Regiment...

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Stuck on the Island

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pp. 122-148

As the calendar moves into October, enemy action in and around Veghel becomes quiet.1 However, trouble for the Allies in the Netherlands continues as the enemy fights tenaciously to keep the war out of their homeland. The biggest problems...

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Back Into Battle

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pp. 149-169

The Screaming Eagles leave the Netherlands after seventy-two days of being cold, wet, and hungry and of fighting to survive. Getting back to base at Mourmelon, France, for some badly needed rest is a welcome relief for the entire division. Seeing the...

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Fighting the Enemy and the Elements

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pp. 170-188

Everyone in the squad is really tired, so nobody says much. I have my doubts about most of the replacements’ ability to recognize danger or fight off an enemy attack. I don’t know these guys and really don’t want to know them. They are nameless to...

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On the Offensive

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pp. 189-207

With Patton’s forces now heavily entrenched on the southern sector of the Bastogne perimeter, the 327th is being relieved late on December 29.1 The five of us who have spent so much time out in the cold in front of the lines head down...

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Alsace

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pp. 208-219

Worn out, exhausted, and depleted in supplies, the Screaming Eagles make the long, frigid trip by truck from Bastogne to Alsace by way of Veau Lebere, Belgium, and Schalbach, France. The trucks slip and slide their way in the falling...

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Germany

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pp. 220-233

Back in December I was excited when it appeared that I was going to get the opportunity to attend a Christmas service at a very large cathedral. Then the Germans’ counteroffensive in the Ardennes occurred, so I didn’t get to go. Easter is now...

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Long Journey

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pp. 234-244

On July 28, 1945, G Company is packed into forty- and- eight railroad boxcars and taken to Auxerre, France.1 Sherman is still in the hospital, so he doesn’t come with us. The trip is long and slow, especially after we get out of Austria. Because we don’t have any...

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Afterword

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pp. 245-250

I have been compelled to have my story finished and published before I die, as it is a part of history that I want to leave for my family and the next generation. I sincerely hope that after reading it you have a better understanding of World War II and the soldiers...

Notes

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pp. 251-262

Sources

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pp. 263-266

Index

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pp. 267-272


E-ISBN-13: 9781603445290
E-ISBN-10: 1603445293
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603444248
Print-ISBN-10: 1603444246

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 28 b&w photos. 8 cartoons. 17 maps. Bib. Index
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Williams-Ford Texas A&M University Military History Series

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Regimental histories -- United States.
  • Rich, Don (Donald J.).
  • Soldiers, American -- Biography.
  • United States. Army. Glider Infantry Regiment, 327th -- Biography.
  • United States. Army. Glider Infantry Regiment, 327th -- History.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Campaigns -- Western Front -- Personal narratives, American.
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