10:33 | (From Interview #1 Jan. 10, 2010 Video #2) Jake McNiece led a demolition squadron of paratroopers who jumped into France at midnight before the Normandy invasion. The men were scattered and many were killed, but he pulled together a small group and managed to destroy his targeted bridges and secure another to wait for the advancing Allied force. It wasn't going to be that simple.
Keywords : Jake McNiece Dirty Dozen Filthy Thirteen paratrooper demolition Douve River Carentan France German D-Day Normandy suicide mission Sainte-Mere-Eglise radar North American P-51 Mustang white flag Nazi Adolf Hitler
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #8) Jake McNiece wanted to contribute to the war effort, but it wasn't until 1942 that he enlisted. He insisted on paratrooper duty, a new type of warfare that was considered highly dangerous.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #9) He was in trouble from the very beginning. Jake McNiece liked to fight. If you didn't give him his butter, or if you were an MP trying to take him back to base, you were apt to take a licking. His masterpiece of contrariness, though, was his claim of being a member of an unusual religion.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #10) The paratrooper regiment in training was going to attempt a 142 mile forced march, so they let Jake McNiece out of the stockade because he was always a leader in endurance tests. After the march, he didn't even sleep before he went out on the town looking for trouble again.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #11) The Dirty Dozen was inspired by a real life demolition and saboteur squad led by Jake McNiece. While in training, his group acquired the nickname The Filthy Thirteen, because of their disdain for Army rules and discipline.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #12) After intensive physical training, the new 506th Parachute Regiment went to Fort Benning for jump school. According to Jake McNiece, the first jump was the easiest. After that, you couldn't help but think about what you'd seen on previous jumps.
(From Interview #1 Jan. 10, 2010 Video #1) Jake McNiece thought it was finally time to enlist. It was 1942 and he had a mind to take on one of the most dangerous jobs in the military, the parachute infantry. From the beginning, he was a troublemaker, but he was too good to wash out.
(From Interview #1 Jan. 10, 2010 Video #3) The mortar round landed just a few feet from Jake McNiece and his eyes filled with blood and debris, but that didn't make him nearly as mad as discovering that his Copenhagen didn't make it through the battle.
(From Interview #1 Jan. 10, 2010 Video #4) It was the night before D-Day and paratrooper Jake McNiece was hunkered down in a hedgerow trading fire with Germans. Looking across at the next hedgerow, he was sure he saw a shadow moving. The enemy was closing in and he knew he had to do something. With his bayonet ready, he charged.
(From Interview #1 Jan. 10, 2010 Video #5) The acceptable estimated loss for Normandy paratroopers was 50 percent. Jake McNiece's unit lost 70 percent. The next mission was the foray into Holland called Operation Market Garden. His outfit outperformed their mission during the initial fight, but had to linger on forever as the operation ultimately failed.
(From Interview #1 Jan. 10, 2010 Video #6) It was a desperate attempt to resupply the men surrounded in Bastogne. Jake McNiece would make the jump with some special radio equipment to guide the aerial resupply. Despite making it possible for the Americans to survive the battle, he got some static from an Army Major when he sought quarters for his unit.
(From Interview #1 Jan. 10, 2010 Video #7) Some strange things happen in combat. Paratrooper Jake McNiece recalls several stories that have a twist; something unexpected that makes them memorable.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #13) Having finished basic training and jump school, the men of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment went to Tennessee for war maneuvers. The men were allowed to go into town, but Jake McNiece missed the last truck back to camp. Fortunately, there was alternate transportation just sitting there.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #14) The ship was large, but there was an entire regiment crammed aboard, recalls Jake McNiece. Once they were in England, there was intense training specific to the task ahead, the invasion of Europe.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #15) The paratroopers were quartered on a large English estate which functioned as a game reserve. Jake McNiece felt like the food they were being fed was just slop, so he looked around at the deer and the trout and the rabbits and started scheming.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #16) Jake McNiece headed the demolition and saboteur section of an airborne unit preparing to jump into Normandy. Scared of picking up body lice, he cut his hair into the scalplock favored by his Choctaw ancestors. His men demanded the same treatment and when the signal corps photographer showed up, a legend was born.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #17) The men of Jake McNiece's demolition and saboteur unit were told to blow two bridges and wire a third, then wait for the advancing forces from the Normandy beachhead. The paratroopers were widely scattered, though, and he was on the ground fighting alone for two hours before he hooked up with anyone else.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #18) The paratroopers were scattered around everywhere. It was the night before the D-Day invasion and Jake McNiece was trying to round up enough men to carry out his mission to blow bridges on The Douve River. He managed the task but between him and the Americans advancing from the beach were hundreds of Germans. No problem.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #19) The paratroopers inserted before D-Day faced some fierce fighting. Jake McNiece recalls the stories of three of his men who were wounded or captured.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #20) Six days after D-Day, in the town of Carentan, France, an awards ceremony was held for valorous American soldiers. There were French collaborators at work because, suddenly, a barrage of shells from a German 88 tore through the assembly. Jake McNiece describes that heartbreaking scene and the surprise of snipers in a church steeple.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #21) War is hell. So says Jake McNiece and he should know. He had the grim job of clearing the battlefield, which was littered with dead American paratroopers, dead German soldiers and dead livestock.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #22) After weeks of battle beginning when he parachuted into Normandy, Jake McNiece was rewarded with a seven day pass back in England. True to form, he overstayed his leave for seven more days.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #23) The paratrooper outfit was severely depleted, so the call went out to other units; come volunteer for airborne duty. They were back to full strength just in time for Operation Market Garden, the push into Holland, where Jake McNiece faced 78 lousy days of hard fighting.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #24) Jake McNiece relates his parachute jump into Holland right in the middle of a Panzer unit. He administered morphine to a friend with a grievous wound who was left for dead. Imagine his surprise when he saw him again, later. The Holland fight was totally different from the guerilla type fighting he had in Normandy and it went on way too long.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #25) The new lieutenant was arguing with acting Sgt. Jake McNiece. He wanted to stay on the bridges they'd secured, even though German planes were making menacing passes. After that situation was resolved, with deadly consequences, McNiece rode a commandeered German truck into Veghel, thinking the British were in control. Think again.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #26) As a reward for 78 days of hard fighting in Operation Market Garden, Jake McNiece got a 72 hour pass which he characteristically abused and stretched into an AWOL situation. He was offered a way out of his arrest. He could volunteer for the Pathfinders.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #27) When he volunteered for the Pathfinders, an airborne group with a high mortality rate, Jake McNiece thought the war was almost over and their special skills would no longer be needed. How wrong can you be? The Battle of the Bulge hit and he was dropped into Bastogne with special radio gear to guide the aerial resupply effort.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #28) After Bastogne, paratrooper Jake Niece, who was temporarily assigned to the Pathfinders, thought it was all over. But there was some trouble near the Siegfried Line and he had to do another jump with radio gear to guide the aerial resupply effort. Then it was back to his regular unit and southward, to Austria and the hideouts of the Nazi chiefs.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #29) Jake McNiece relates the story of the town of Saint Vith, where a German commander negotiated in bad faith with General Patton.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #30) While in occupation at Hitler's retreat in Austria, Jake McNiece was amazed at the luxury of the installation. After a huge victory celebration there, complete with baseball games, he went to Paris to do the town one more time. Since it was Jake McNiece, you know what was bound to happen.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #31) After the war, Jake McNiece got a call from a Dutch boy who told him the story of his aunt. She had watched the 101st Airborne Division's jump into Holland, and was thrilled because she knew she was destined for one of the Nazi's "baby factories," where blue eyed, blond girls where kept for the pleasure of the SS.
Shortly after the main landing on Leyte, radar officer Howard Dean came ashore. He had no assignment, yet, so they sent him to a nearby anti-aircraft battery. He began to observe gunners on the ships in the bay, who were undisciplined and shooting up the shore when they fired.
The first operation for the 4th Division was the landing on Roi-Namur. Lawrence Snowden remembers that, though it was an easy victory, valuable combat experience and important lessons were imparted on the Marines.
While on occupation duty in Japan, Howard Dean took a train to Kyoto. The station master tried to clear out an entire car for him, but he refused and insisted the civilians be allowed to stay. Soon after this, he became part of a massive operation to account for all the equipment scattered across the Pacific.
Two engines were out, a third smoking, and they were were losing airspeed and altitude, but they were flying level and pointed home. Then time ran out for the B-17 and Don Scott had to slip down the hatch into the slipstream. Part 2 of 3.
Bill Garrison was standing in a chow line when a man up the line suddenly dropped, shot dead by a sniper. That was only one hazard at the air fields in China; the others being Japanese air raids and infiltrators. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
Radar officer Howard Dean became a specialist in gun laying radar, a system which linked radar with the fire control on an anti-aircraft battery. The Army wanted his engineering talent at MIT, designing radar units, but he wanted into the shooting war. Eventually he got his orders to ship out for Leyte.
It was their third mission over Berlin and they were heading home. Four German fighters pounced on the B-24 and it was engulfed in flame and going down. Clyde Burnette fought for consciousness as the other crew in the back of the plane bailed out. He woke in free fall with no idea how he had made it out, and soon he was in German custody. Everyone made it out of the plane except George "Danny" Daneau, the nose turret gunner, who went down with the aircraft.
After a nerve-wracking mission to bomb Tokyo and a typhoon, B.E. Vaughan and the destroyer O'Brien suffered a second kamikaze attack which killed all three of his hometown pals who served with him on board. Then, began the grim task of collecting the personal belongings of the dead and preparing them for burial at sea.
When he tried to enlist, he was told one of his legs was too short, but when Don Lacy was drafted, he convinced the same doctor to let him into the Navy. Showing an aptitude for electronics, he was sent to Chicago to be an instructor in a new radio school.
The preparation for the Japan invasion was underway when the atomic bomb made it unnecessary. The crew on Bill Pontow's LSM was unsure about the news, but they were glad not to be invading the enemy's home. They knew that every Japanese would be fighting them with everything they had.
When Milton Kassel and his shipmates heard about the atomic bomb, they didn't believe it was real. It was real enough that they were soon on their way back to the States. After a short leave he got another assignment, from the cold of Alaska to tropical Panama.
The Navy V-12 Program had Milton Kassel studying in college. On graduation, he would get a Navy commission, but the Navy had other ideas. They put him on active duty, made a 90 day wonder out of him, and sent him to serve on a patrol craft in the Aleutian Islands.
When Bill Pontow's ship arrived at Pearl Harbor, there was still wreckage everywhere. Crews were working to clear passage through the capsized ships. After that sobering experience, he headed for the Philippines for the Battle of the Philippine Sea and the landing on Leyte.
Bill Pontow was a boatswain's mate on an LSM, responsible for all topside duties. At general quarters, he became a gunner on a 20 mm gun. A frequent target of that gun was the Japanese kamikazes that swarmed the American ships, beginning in the Philippines and increasing at Okinawa.
During some down time, Howard Dean made a boat excursion to Corregidor, where he saw the entrance to the Manila Tunnels, a vast underground complex. What he later learned about it caused some surprise. The radar officer had another surprise when he drove his jeep near a combat zone.
After occupation duty in Japan, Howard Dean stayed in the Army Reserve. The Lieutenant was destined for a higher rank in Korea, but lingering health problems from his days in the Philippines kept him at home. He went to work as an engineer, always remembering his great friends from the military.
Bill Pontow knew how men could get spooked fighting in the Pacific, especially from kamikazes. He made it through the war without losing his cool, but he had a tough time adjusting when he returned home. Eventually, reunions with his Navy brothers proved to be a big help.
The invasion operation became an occupation operation after the war suddenly ended. Howard Dean was in charge of a radar unit, which he had to get off the ship and into a safe place ashore in Japan. He found a Signal Corps station where he could put it, but the officers there took off for leave as soon as he got there. This led to a potentially embarrassing situation.
In the waters around Okinawa, ships were getting battered by kamikazes. His LSM had landed it's cargo, so Bill Pontow was assigned fire and rescue duty. He recalls an eerie incident aboard a stricken hospital ship as he searched below, unsuccessfully, for survivors.
Howard Dean was an engineering student at Georgia Tech when he was turned down by the Navy. He settled for the Army and they sent him back to Georgia Tech, where he finished his degree, then they sent him to Boston for a Harvard and MIT program studying radar.
B-17 radio operator and waist gunner Marvin O'Neal recalls his first mission, which involved a lot of flak and a lot of praying. He entered the war in Europe near the end and, on his last mission, he saw a German jet fighter streaking through the sky. Could they win the war with that thing?
Radar officer Howard Dean was in the 12th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion, but he didn't know it yet. He'd arrived in the Pacific with no real assignment, and was attached to an anti-aircraft battery for a while. Then he was told to load a radar unit on a ship and prepare for a landing. Where was that going to be?