The 17th Airborne Division was the third Airborne Division created in the US Army after the 82nd and the 101st Airborne Division. It was activated on April 15, 1943 at Camp MacKall, North Carolina and was commanding by General William Maynadier Miley.
The new Division was made up of 506 officers, 29 warrant officers and 7970 enlisted men. By September 1, 1943, the strength had grown to 563 officers, 19 warrant officers and 9060 enlisted men divided up the next units :
· 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
· 193rd Glider Infantry Regiment.
· 194th Glider Infantry Regiment.
· 680th Glider Field Artillery Battalion.
· 681st Glider Field Artillery Battalion.
· 155th Airborne Anti-Aircraft Battalion.
· 139th Airborne Engineer Company.
· 717th Airborne Ordnance Company.
· 517th Airborne Signal Company.
· 411th Airborne Quatermaster Company.
· 224th Airborne Medical Company.
· Division Headquarters.
· Military Police Platoon.
· Division Band.
These guys who strike a pose during Tennessee maneuvers were members of the Division Intelligence Section.
Front row, left to right : Raymond JUST, Richard LACEFIELD, Fred DICKSON and George CHARLESWORTH.
Middle row : Thomas CONNERS, KESSLER, Adolph BEYERS, Glen MILLES and Fenton MILLES.
Back row : Lt. Col. KENT and Major McALESTA.
(original photo - TFH collection). Click on the pic to enlarge.
On the first days of March 1944 (probably March 10, 1944), the 466th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion was attached to the 17th A/B Division and ordered to join its new assignement at Camp Forrest.
This two men are members of a mortar platoon from one of the two Glider Infantry Regiments of the 17th Airborne Division. They are photographed during training, circa 1943 or early 1944. Of interest, note the hand made helmet net of the GI on the right (original photo - TFH collection).
On March 27, 1944, the Division moved back into garrison Camp Forrest, Tennessee. The 517th PIR was removed from the Division and sent to Camp MacKall. It was replaced by the 513th PIR. The 17th Airborne Parachute Maintenance Company was also created during this time.
Spring 1944 at Camp Forrest, Tennessee. This photo was realized in spring 1944 while the 17th Airborne Division was located at Camp Forrest, Tennessee. After the Tennessee manoeuvers in winter 1943 - 1944, the unit moved at Camp Forrest in March 1944 and stayed there until August 1944. The photo shows Headquarters buidings (original photo - TFH collection). Click to enlarge.
On August of 1944, the Division moved back to Camp Myles Standish at Taunton to prepared its shipment overseas to England. The advance party embarked from the port of Boston and disembarked at the port of Glasgow, Scotland on July 31, 1944. The main part of the 17th A/B disembarked on August 26th, 1944 at the port of Liverpool.
This is an original order of movement for Boston port of embarcation. It is dated July 22, 1944 and signed by Lt. Col Lewis W Gabe (unpublished document - TFH collection).
On August 30, 1944, the entire Division was station in its new area at Camp Chiseldon, England.
In September the Divison was placed in reserve during the operation Market Garden. The men were in alert and were ready to help their friends who fought in the Netherlands but after one week the Supreme Headquarter renounced to send up the Division to reinforce and the order alert was suppressed. The training restarted up to December.
Airborne troops board plane.
Men of a U.S. airborne unit board a C-47 troop carrier "somewhere in Britain" preparatory to making a test jump. U.S. Signal Corps photo ETO-HB-44-16726 (original photo - TFH collection).
The 17th Airborne Division realized its first overseas review on November 15, at Chilbolton Field in presence of Lieutenant General Lewis Brereton, Commander of the First Allied Airborne Army, Major General Matthew B Ridgeway, Commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps, and Major General Paul L Williams, Commander General of the Troop Carrier Command. During this ceremony the men of the 507th PIR were decorated for their action during the Normandy campaign.
In that end of year 1944 there was a great « wind of optimism » in the Allied camp. Under the Allied pressure, the Germans drew back on nearly all fronts. The end of the European campaign could not be delayed. Indeed the front was stabilized since the Nazis fought on their borders but there was no doubt that the German Army’s remains could no contain longer the powerful Allied Army. The same spirit prevailed in the 17th Airborne’s English Camp and the men prepared quietly their first Christmas day far from home.
Taking advantage of this situation Adolph Hitler prepared secretly a last chance offensive since September 1944. He called it “Wacht am Rhein” (“Keep the Rhine”). The aim of this ambitious operation was Anvers harbor. In catching Anvers he hoped to isolate the English Army and obtain a total surrender of the surrounding units. Doing so he hoped to obtain an armistice in the west front for making the total war against his communist enemy who was on the East German border. He chose the Ardennes front for sending up his attack. Several reasons explained this choice. One reason was that Adolph Hitler remembered well his success of May 1940 when he created the surprise with this offensive through the Ardennes. Another reason was that the Ardennes was not an easy battlefield for a modern war with mechanical units. There were pin woods in the major part of the area and only narrow roads. On the north flank the relief was very undulating and in winter cold and deep snow was very common. So during the winter 1944 the front was a quiet line and two types of unit kept it. The first one had never fought and was on that place to learn fighting (the 99th and 106th Infantry Division). The second one had fought during a few months on the European Theater of Operation and was in the Ardennes front for taking a rest (the 4th and 28th Infantry Division).
On December 16, 1944 three German Armies throwed themselves into the fray of the Allied units in the western front. In a total surprise the Nazis knocked into the American units along a seventy-five miles front. The first line was penetrated in few points. The Supreme Allied Headquarter realized rapidly the gravity of the situation.
When the Supreme Headquarter understood it was a huge German offensive, Eisenhower understood he could not stop the invasion with the units engaged. His only reserves on the continent were the two Airborne Divisions (82nd and 101st) who were at rest in Mourmelon after the fighting in Holland. He engaged them immediately. Rapidly, all the units available in England were alerted. It was like this the 17th Airborne Division received his march order. The Division was placed in alert and flown to France, in Camp Mourmelon (closed to Reims), from 23 to 25 December. The first mission entrusted to the 17th A/B was the defense of the Meuse river sector from Givet (France) to Verdun (France). This defense line represented approximately 150 kms.
It is during the Bulge campaign that "D" company of the 466th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion was transfered to Division Headquarters to take missions of scouting and patrolling. This new unit became the Recon Platoon.
On Monday January 1, 1945, the Division moved from Charleville (France) to Neufchâteau (Belgium, Province of Luxembourg) for relieving the remaining of the 28th ("Keystone Division") Infantry Division. It arrived with approximately one half of the division headquarters. The daily journal of the division indicates the headquarters staff occupied "the château d'Ostenburg" but I don't know this place.
On tuesday January 2, 1945, the Division was alerted to move to the active front to relieve the 11th Armored Division. The sector has been quiet except for intermittent moderate artillery shelling of Mande-Saint-Etienne throughout the day.
On Wednesday January 3, 1945, it moved before the starting of the day to the front line. The divisional headquarters was opend in the village of Morhet.
These three photos extracted from "TALON with the 17th in Ardennes" show the 17th AB troopers in Morhet (TFH collection).
This photos realized during a movement in the snowy Ardennes shows men of the 17th Airborne Division. It is probably in the vicinity of Bastogne in the first days of January as the men seems healthy and still very clean. (with courtesy of Ozzie Gorbitz). Click on the pic to enlarge.
The 513th PIR and the 194th GIR into their positions as the attacking echelon with orders to attack the enemy on January 4.
The Division entered the combat on January 4, 1945. It entered Flamierge on January 7 during the Battle of Dead Man's Ridge but enemy counterattacks necessitated a withdrawal. The constant US forces pressure caused the German retreat to the Ourthe river.
January 7, 1945 will be probably the worst day of the battle of Dead Man's Ridge. This day 513th PIR, 193rd GIR and 194th GIR are involved in the battle suffering heavy casualties. This day YANK magazine edited its weekly edition with a special article about the German Counterattack in Eastern Belgium and 82nd A/B Division. The front page shows GI's in deep snow. The scene looks like closely the battle conditions around Bastogne (TFH collection).
On January 18, 1945, the Division relieved the 11th Armored Division at Houffalize, pushed remnants German units from the Bulge and seized Wattermal and Espeler on January 26, 1945.
January 21, 1945. Troops of the 17th AB Dision move up toward the front over snow covered roads near Houffalize, Belgium (Signal Corps photo realised by Pvt George H Mallinder - 167 Sig Photo Co. SC 253918).
This photo extracted from "TALON with the 17th in Ardennes" shows men of the 17th AB at rest "somewhere in the Bulge" (TFH collection).
January 25, 1945 ...
January 25, 1945 is usually known as the official date of the end of the Battle of the Bulge. At this time, the 17th Airborne Division was involved in the battle since Christmas day 1944 and in front line for 21 consecutive days under extreme winter conditions. Despite heavy losses, the men of the 17th AB continued the Battle and entered in the Rhineland Campaign to the German border. On January 28, 1945, the 17th Airborne Division fought in the Bulge since 26 consecutive days in awful climatic condition. This photo illustrates very well the poor conditions of the men during this month. No comment on the reverse side ! Click to enlarge (Original photo - TFH collection).
February 1945, the 17th Airborne Division is know in the Great Dutchy of Luxembourg. The Battle of the Bulge and Rhineland campaign arrived to its end for the unit ! This official US Army photo illustrates the violence of the fightings in this area. This anonymous 17th AB trooper standing in the front of the Café Bertemes investigates a German MG42 machinegun. The scene is probably located between the cities of Marnach and Marbourg, not far from Hosingen and Our river at the end of January or early February 1945. Click to enlarge (with courtesy of Ozzie Gorbitz).
Coming under the III Corps, the 17th A/B Division turned toward Luxembourg, taking Eschweiler and Clervaux and clearing the German from the west bank of the Our river. Actually, the Division established a bridgehead near Dasburg before being relieved by the 6th Armored Division on February 10, 1945.
Original copy of the "TALON with the 17th in Ardennes" published by the Division just after the Battle of the Bulge (TFH collection).
The battle of the Bulge was the last major German offensive on west front and probably one of the hardest European battle of the World War two for the Allied Forces. The soldiers of both camps would fight during fourty days in horrendous climatic conditions. The bravery and the pugnacity of the american GIs will rapidly stop the German troops while the strategic options taken by the Allied Headquarters will allow to go on offensive. At the end of this terrible battle, approximately 77.000 American soldiers were killed, wounded or missing in action, approximately 110.000 German soldiers were killed, wounded, missing in action or make prisoner and an unknown number of civil poeple were killed or wounded. This photo was realised in spring 1945 by an anonymous nurse of the 21st and 238th General Hospital. It shows American graves in the temporary cemetery of Recogne (Bastogne). What other photo can better illustrate the American sacrifice than this one ... (original unpublished photo - TFH collection).
February 10, 1945 ...
It is on February 10, 1945 the 17th Airborne was relieved from the frontline and sent in Châlon-sur-Marne, Champagne (France) to rest and reorganization. This day is so the last day of the second campaign for the division. The "green" 17th has known its Baptism of fire in the Bulge, in one of the fierce battle for the liberation of Europe (Ardennes Campaign) and followed immediately with the Rhineland Campaign. It has paid a heavy tribute in this two winter campaigns with several thousands killing or wounding men. In February 1945, the division was so veteran division ready for its next campaign : operation VARSITY. But at this time, the 17th Airborne troopers didn't know that ... (Original photo - TFH collection via Earl K Cavannah and family. Ribbon from TFH collection).
After the Bulge, the 17th Airborne Division was sent on rest at Châlons-Sur-Marne. This photo shows the main entrance of the HQ's buildings in early March 1945 (National Archives).
This is what you can saw when you were in the main entrance of the 17th Airborne Headquarter in Châlon-Sur-Marne (France) ! Of interest note the code name of the Division : Commodore ! (original photo - TFH collection). Click to enlarge.
That was the life at Châlon ...
This photo was also realized at Châlon-sur-Marne, France, exactly on March 06, 1945 when the famous star Marlene Dietrich came in the 17th Aiborne area on exhibition. She strikes a pose with an unknown 17th AB trooper (NARA).
The men of the 17th Airborne Division are at few days from the last and largest Allied Airborne operation of the World War II : operation Varsity ! The american Airborne Division has been selected by the Supreme Headquarters to jump with the 6th English Airborne Division other the Rhine river, in the area of Wesel, Germany to secure the east bank of the river while ground troops crosse (operation Plunder). Such an operation has asked a lot of preparation as illustrated on this nice photo where Paratroopers work with USAAF technicians to prepare this Waco CG4 glider for the invasion (National Archive - TFH collection). Click to enlarge.
In the English sector, it is also the time for to go ! This photo was realised on March 22, 1945. Its legend says : "The Commander of the 21st Army Group, Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery (left), the Commander of the 2nd Tactical Air Force, Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham (centre) and the Commander of the British 2nd Army, Lieutenant General Sir Miles Dempsey, talking after a conference held in a small German village attended by all Senior Officers of the 21st Army Group and 2nd Tactical Air Force. At the conference Field Marshal Montgomery gave the order for the 2nd Army to begin the assault crossing of the Rhine" (IWM collection). Click to enlarge.
Saturday March 23, 1945. One day before the invasion of Germany. The weather is beautiful and the men are waiting the take on order ! This photo was realised one day before Varsity, just 68 years ago in the airport of Coulommiers - Voisins, France (A-58 airport). It shows gliders Waco CG-4 ready to go. They will be towed by Douglas C-47 planes of the 437th Troop Carrier Group - 53rd Troop Carrier Wing - 9th Troop Carrier Command(National Archives). Click to enlarge.
March 24, 1945 morning : on the way to the biggest airborne operation of the World War II ! Soldiers of the 17th Airborne are on the marshalling area just before boarding in the C-46 planes (National Archives).
U.S. AIRBORNE TROOPS LAND EAST OF RHINE.
Major General William M. Miley (left) of Starksville, Mississippi, Commanding General of the 17th U.S. Airborne Division, chats with Brigadier General Floyd L. Parks of Greensburg, South Carolina, Chief of Staff, First Allied Airborne Army, shortly before taking off to invade Germany east of the Rhine River March 24, 1945, in the greatest airborne offensive of the war. More than 1,500 troop-carrying planes and gliders participated in the landings (U.S. Signal Corps photo ETO-HQ-45-22627 - TFH collection).
A 17th Airborne Medic killed in action on March 24, 1945 (original unpublished (?) photo - TFH collection).
This picture was realized on March 29 (?), 1945 by S/Sgt Koha (Signal Corps). The legend reads : "A platoon of the 17th Airborne Division uses salvaged bricks from the ruins in Holsterhausen, Germany, to make an approach to a bridge to Dorsten, Germany". Note these soldiers are indistinguishable from Infantry soldiers with their "old" M41 uniforms without shoulder sleeve insignia (US Army Signal Corps collection).
U.S. AIRBORNE TROOPS ADVANCE.
Troops of the 17th U.S. Airborne Division, First Allied Airborne Army, march past a blazing building in Appelhulsen, Germany, as they advance toward the city of Munster, nine miles to the northeast. First Allied Airborne Army troops landed east of the Rhine river March 24, 1945 (Fox photo 402835 from British Newspaper Pool. War pool photo, not for use in British isles, France or western hemipshere. Serviced by London OWI (inner full). Certified as passed by SHAEF censor - TFH collection).
Nazi abuses ...
When the Allied forces entered in Germany, they progressively discovered the atrocities committed by the Nazis. The men of the 17th Airborne founded also such abuses, especially in Duisburg where they founded a Russian mass grave. Numerous pics where realized at this time. This is one of them realized by the Signal Corps on May 02, 1945. The captation reads :
"Former members of the Nazi party in Duisburg, Germany, lower the bodies of Russian civilians into graves who were murdered by the Germans. They were forced to dig the graves and inter the bodies in a central section in the town as a constant reminder of the atrocity. 5/2/45
17th Airborne Division, XXII Corps, U.S. Fifteenth Army."
(original Signal Corps photo - TFH collection). Click on the pic to enlarge.
Who knows this guy ...
Unknown 17th Airborne trooper. May be this guy was member of the 194th GIR but not absolutely sure of that ! May be somebody will can help me to identify the GI's depicted on the photos ! All help will be appreciate ...
It is realized in Germany, probably in Duisburg, not far from Essen as the road sign reads "Fuldastr 17" and "LS Ort Duisburg", circa April 1945. The young paratroopers wears one M42 jump jacket, one M43 field trousers, one pair of jump boots. He has an .30 M1C carbine on his right shoulder and a paratrooper liner on his left hand (unpublished photo - TFH collection).
The war is over ! This 17th Airborne trooper reads the good news on the Star and Stripes journal : the war in Europe is over. In this May 8, 1945, the 17th Airborne Division closes its European campaign with a heavy price for victory : 564 men killed in action, 1473 men wounded in action and 129 missing. (National Archive).
Sergeant "James" with Belgian friends ...
This photo was recently found by the father of a friend of mine in the family photo album. The man has explain that the scene shows himself (the young boy), his mother (Mrs Denise Witammer) and an american soldier nammed "Sergeant James" without other info. The pic was realized in the city of Virton, Belgium, probably during the summer 1945, after the VE Day. There was a big American Rest Center in Virton during winter 1944 - 45 and many men of the 17th AB were sent there in early february 1945, at the end of the Rhineland Campaign. This 17th Airborne Sergeant probably made family Darge - Witammer's acquaintance at this time and visited again his new friends after the VE day (original unpublished photo with courtesy of the Belgian family). Click to enlarge.
Tags : airborne, division, 101, activated, after
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