Edward R. Beckwith

Paratroopers Fight in France 33 Days Without Aid, Relief
HEADQUARTERS, 82nd AIRBORNE. DIVISION, Normandy—Soldiers of this Parachute Infantry Regiment dropped over a wide area on D-Day and were unable to assemble as a tactical unit until the fourth day of the invasion.

The regiment, nevertheless, played a brilliant role in carrying out the mission of the airborne troops, which was to prevent the Germans from interfering with the ground assault force until the beach landings had been accomplished. 

To achieve this, the 82nd Airborne Division captured the town of Ste. Mere Eglise and fought for, and held, bridges over two rivers, the Merderet at La Fierre and at Chef du Pont and the Douve at  Pont l'Abbe and at Beuzeville la Bastille.

A large pocket of Allied resistance  with enemy lines was set up. During  the campaign, it stretched from Ste. Mere on the east to St. Sauveur le Vicomte on the west and from Le Ham on the north almost to La Haye de Puits on the south.

This was accomplished in 33 days of action, without relief and without replacements. Every mission was accomplished; no ground gained was ever relinquished. For nearly 34 hours, or until noon of the day after D-Day, the Paratroops were without contact with friendly forces. Though heavy casualties were sustained throughout the campaign, nothing stopped the troops for long. 

The Paratroopers of this regiment  were dropped in several groups and, at first, these groups fell in with other units of the division rather than their own. It was not until four days after D-Day that the regiment assembled as a tactical  unit. Before this, however, they had struck terrific blows.

With other units of the division, they forced the enemy west of the Merderet River at the start. Another element joined in the heavy fighting at Chef du Pont, finally contacting an isolated battalion and establishing a bridgehead on the  west bank of the Merderet, opposite Chef du Pont. Other elements went south to clear out Carquebut; crossed the river at La Fierre and assaulted Guetteville. The latter action was assisted by a Naval barrage from the sea, arranged by a Naval Liaison Officer with the regiment.

After being pulled together as a unit, the regiment jumped off for the attack on Beuzeville la Bastille. After crossing the Douve, it swept on through the Cretteville-Baupte area. During this drive, many enemy tanks were encountered and many were knocked out. Trucks moved the regiment to Pont 1'Abbe for the general attack toward St. Sauveur. The regiment followed another of the division, driving the enemy west, north, and south.

Participating in the drive on Pretot, a squad encountered a Mark IV tank 600 yards north of the town and succeeded in knocking it out with a hand-thrown British grenade. The regiment took up a defensive position at Vindefontaine before joining in the drive toward La Haye de Puits. Heavy fighting was experienced in the Bois de Limors, and one element, which eventually took "Hill 95," sustained heavy casualties.

Colonel Roy E. Lindquist of Pittsfield, ME, the Commanding Officer, made a lucky guess which kept the enemy forces on this hill from being greater than it was. He often directed the artillery fire, according to an artillery officer, on the theory of catching the Germans doing what he would have done under similar circumstances. Accordingly, he swept an orchard with fire. Later, a prisoner told that a German force, preparing for an assault on "Hill 95," had been virtually wiped out by this hit.

The hard training, incomparable self-reliance and bravado of all of the men added another chapter to the history of the 82nd Division.

Among the members of the regiment are the following from this vicinity: Private Edward R. Beckwith, Jr. and Private First Class Roger G. Duffy, Eau Claire; Private First Class Lawrence H. Larson, 423 Niagara Avenue, Cameron; and Sergeant George P. Rasmussen, Menomonie.