February 28 - April 3, 1945
A lot of gratitude towards WW2 D Battery Mr. Ken HESLER for research and writing.
The 101st Airborne Division Association was organized in Germany in June 1945 following the end of World War II in Europe by veterans of the 101st Airborne Division. Among its earliest activities was the publication of “Rendezvous With Destiny: A History of the 101st Airborne Division” by Leonard Rapport and Arthur Northwood, Jr. in 1948. It is a major information resource for this article, along with 463rd Parachute Artillery Battalion archival records, and the recollections of veterans.
Today, the Association has its headquarters at P.O. Box 929, Fort Campbell, KY, 42223, home of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). Its website is www.screamingeagle.org. Among its members are Screaming Eagle active duty troops and combat veterans of World War II, Vietnam, Gulf War, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
The duration of the Alsace campaign for the 463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion was two days short of a month, from January 27 to February 25, 1945. It was relieved by artillery of the 36th Division at 8 p.m. on that final day, firing the last of 11 missions at 5:20 p.m.
On February 27, most of the battalion boarded 40-and-8 boxcars at a station near Sarrebourg, France, for Mourmelon-le-Petit. A second group of 463rd personnel returned to Mourmelon by truck with the battalion’s equipment. Compared with earlier truck travel to and from Bastogne, the 18-hour train trip to Mourmelon was “first class.”
As spelled out in “Rendezvous With Destiny” (pp. 695-696), "The 101st had heard while still in Alsace that the buildings at Mourmelon in which they had lived before going up to Bastogne had been taken over by some army hospitals, and word had got out that this time it was to be pyramidal tents."
"When the 40-and-8s pulled into the station at Mourmelon-le-Petit the passengers were driven to their new homes which each unit's advance detail had got into shape a few days before. Their first days were given over to making these tents comfortable..."
"Usually six or eight men occupied a tent (though there were some 12-men tents); officers had their own tent rows with two officers to a small wall tent. Latrines were pit-style, surrounded by canvas walls. Water was hauled in and was available in Lyster bags. Washing was done in helmets."
"Two shower units served the entire Division and companies went up on schedule. Messes were set up in tents and most units built tables and benches; the chow was generally considered good and the PX ration with which it could be supplemented was somewhat larger than it had been in the combat zones."
Life immediately following the arrival in Tent City was not too demanding, with a high priority given to sleep and getting acquainted with the local neighborhoods. However, from the very beginning, a Division requirement was that the sides of the tents had to be rolled up early each day to complicate “sleeping in.” In a similar vein, the 463rd soldiers were out shirtless daily before breakfast for calisthenics amidst the remaining patches of snow.
Two major events occurred for the battalion during the first two weeks. The 463rd had gone to Bastogne and Alsace as “attached” to the 101st after having come up from Southern France slated for the 17th Airborne Division. In February, orders came down for it to leave the Screaming Eagles and join the 17th, presumably as the latter was preparing for Operation Varsity, an airborne action across the Rhine into Germany.
However, Gen. Maxwell Taylor, commander of the 101st, reacted to those orders, insisting that the 463rd remain with the 101st. On March 1, 1945, the battalion was reactivated as a full-fledged unit of the Division.
Then, as set forth in “Rendezvous With Destiny,” the Division soon began to settle down “to preparing for two things--further combat and the ceremony at which General Eisenhower was to present the Division with the Presidential Unit Citation.
“Notifications that the 101st was to be awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation, the first time in the history of the United States Army that an entire division was to be so cited, had been received in Alsace and a little marching-to-music had begun there. But it was upon return to Mourmelon and after the initial rest period that the practice for the parade and decoration ceremony went into high gear.
“There was a great to-do and a washing of cartridge belts, pressing of uniforms, issuing of ribbons and insignia, linseed-oiling of stocks, and mirror-shining of boots. It was the 101st's most sweated-out ceremony (except for those members [including 463rd] who remained long enough to come back with the 82d Airborne Division; they spent ten days in Camp Shanks, New York, preparing for the biggest parade of the war, that of January 12, 1946, when the 82d marched down Fifth Avenue, New York City).”
The presentation took place Thursday, March 15, preceded by a full-fledged Division rehearsal several days earlier on a field near the main camp.” (Note Gen. Eisenhower’s presentation speech elsewhere on the page.)
According to "Rendezvous With Destiny", P. 702), "There were more furloughs, leaves and passes than the Division had ever known; to England, the Riviera, Paris and Brussels. At the camp were several movie theaters for those who cared to sweat out the long lines. A number of Camp Shows performed for the Division and - some big-name performers such as Marlene Dietrich. There were evening passes to Reims..."
There was even a number of Screaming Eagles who, because of their length of overseas service, were awarded in mid-March a 30-day temporary duty assignment via Le Havre, France, for return to the United States.
But behind all of the activities lay the thought and preparation for of what was to follow the Tent City episode.
Training preceded and followed the month's highlight of the review and presentation. An increasingly large percentage of the men had seen no combat or only that of Alsace. Hikes, range firing, basic subjects, and problems were on the training schedule as well as the specialized work on dummy troop-carrier-plane mockups and gliders.
"The Division set up its own parachute training course to qualify non-jumping members of the Division as jumpers (the class made its qualifying jump the day the Division received notice of its Ruhr mission), and during the month glider flights were flown to qualify as gliderists the infantry replacements received after Bastogne. Units such as the engineers, medics, and ordnance followed out their own specialized schedules of training." ("Rendezvous With Destiny", P. 699)
Along with the training, there were reminders of possible future combat all around-talk of General Taylor having volunteered the Division for a parachute jump into Berlin, and, on March 24, a massive formation of transport planes overhead preparing to cross the Rhine River to drop the 17th Airborne Division into Germany.
“March ended. The first promise of spring was in the air. April began. And again the 101st was alerted for a combat mission. This time it was to be Germany, the Ruhr Pocket." ("Rendezvous With Destiny", P. 702)
For the 463rd, that trek began at 2 p.m. April 3, 1945, as it departed Camp Mourmelon by convoy for Neuss, Germany, in support of the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment.
Based in large part on a collection of archival documents and other materials,
acquired and provided by Ken Hesler, Battery D, 463rd PFA.
DATE OF ARRIVAL | DESTINATION | MODE OF TRAVEL
March / April 1945
March 1 | Truck | Mourmelon, France
101st Division presented the Distinguished Unit Citation on March 15.
April 2 | Truck | Souais, France
Truck Masagren (Mazagran), France
Truck Vouziers, France
Truck Sedan, France
Truck Bouillon, Belgium
Truck Marche, Belgium
Truck Liege, Belgium
Truck Aachen, Germany
Truck Linniel (Linnich), Germany*
Truck Erkelenz, Germany
Back row, left to right: Don Zafke, James Bowersox, Bedford Wilson
Front Row, left to right: Doug Bailey, Don Gallipeau, Richard Cornaire
A remark by William J. (Bill) Whittaker :
"When Marlene Dietrich was in one of those parades, she was sitting on top of a jeep with 'Airborne Boots on'. " Bill said some of the soldiers were yelling : "Hey, Marlene! Where did you get the NEW BOOTS, we need some!"
(Courtesy: Mrs. Sue Whittaker)
The officers club (a medical tentdraped with parachute canopies)
at Mourmelon, France, after the Battle of the Bulge.
A party was given in celebration of a visit by movie actress MarleneDietrich, seen here signing her autograph.
Second from the right is Major John T.Cooper, CO of the 463rd.
(Courtesy: Trading Post - article on our site here)
During a USO Tour in March 1945, Marlene Dietrich spent some time at Mourmelon, France
with the 101st and the 17th Airborne Divisions.
She was accompanied by actress Lynn Mayberry and these images show them using a M3A4 Hand Cart to move their personal clothing.
Ms Mayberry is wearing a Arctic Field Jacket, while Marlene Dietrich sports an A2 Flying Jacket!
A Sgt from the 17th AB Div seems to be having the time of his life.....
(Courtesy: Mr. Johan Willaert - The Liberator Website)
General Dwight D. Eisenhower awarded the Presidential Unit Citation to the members of the 101st Airborne Division at Mourmelon, France, March 15, 1945, for its defense of Bastogne, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge.
His speech to the 101st:
It is a great personal honor for me to be here today to take part in a ceremony that is unique in American history. Never before has a full Division been cited by the War Department in the name of the President, for gallantry in action. This day marks the beginning of a new tradition in the American Army. With that tradition, therefore, will always be associated the name of the 101st Airborne Division and of Bastogne.
Yet you men, because you are soldiers of proved valor and or experience, would be the last to claim that you are the bravest and the best. All the way from where the Marines are fighting on Iwo Jima, through the Philippines and southeast Asia, on through the Mediterranean and along this great front, and on the Russian frontiers, are going forward day by day those battles sustained by the valor of you and the other Allied units that are beating this enemy to his knees. They are proving once and for all that dictatorship cannot produce better soldiers than can aroused democracy. In many of those actions are units that have performed with unexcelled brilliance.
So far as I know, there may be many among you that would not rate Bastogne as your bitterest battle. Yet it is entirely fitting and appropriate that you should be cited for that particular battle. It happened to be one of those occasions when the position itself was of the utmost importance to the Allied forces. You, in reserve, were hurried forward and told to hold that position. All the elements of drama, of battle drama, were there. You were cutoff, you were surrounded. Only valor, complete self-confidence in yourselves and in your leaders, a knowledge that you were well trained, only the determination to win could sustain soldiers under those conditions. You were given a marvelous opportunity, and you met every test.
Therefore, you become a fitting symbol on which the United Nations, all the citizens of the United Nations, can say to their soldiers today, "We are proud of you," as it is my great privilege to say to you here today, to the 101st Division and all its attached units, "I am awfully proud of you."
With this great honor goes also a certain responsibility. Just as you are the beginning of a new tradition, you must realize, each of you, that from now on, the spotlight will be on you with particular brilliance. Whenever you say you are a soldier of the 101st Division, everybody, whether it's on the street in the city or in the front line, will expect unusual conduct of you. I know that you will meet every test of the future like you met at Bastogne.
“Good luck and God be with each of you.”
'Ike' reviewing the 101st troops at Mourmelon on March 15, 1945
General Eisenhower's speech.
(Courtesy: Denis van den Brink)
Bastogne Heroes Honored.
Original Press Clipping
(Courtesy Mrs. Sue Whittaker)
General Eisenhower viewing the troops.
'Ike' had demanded to review all the troopers
originating in his state (Kansas)
(Courtesy: Denis van den Brink)
Not sure about the location.
The American trooper shown in the foreground is Melford Joseph Shopteese of Abilene, KS. Mr. Melford Shopteese was a member of B Battery, 463rd PFA.
The picture shows also helmet stencilsfrom RHQ/501 PIR and 1st Bn 502 PIR. Note the rough edges around theinsignia, typical of late-war paint-jobs. By then, many of thehelmets had been repainted once or twice, covering-over the previouspaint and stencils. The name tags Ike is viewing are not thesoldiers' names, but rather their home towns, a detail which always interested General Eisenhower. (Dixit Mr. MarkBando)
This picture is displayed in the display case at the Legion office located on the Prairie Band Potawatomireservation near Mayetta, KS.
(Dixit Mr. Francis Shopteese)
(Courtesy: Mr. Mark Bando Trigger Time Website)
Original Press Clipping
(Courtesy: Mr. Francis T. Shopteese and Mr. Mark Bando - Trigger Time Website)
Original Press Clipping
(Courtesy Mrs. Sue Whittaker)