(Originally this was
going to be about the August 23, 1943 jump
at the Army Base in Alliance, Nebraska where
the 507th Parachute Regiment was
located. It blossomed into something beyond
its original intent.)
What many people don’t
realize is that a Parachute Regiment had
quite a few soldiers who don’t have to be
Jump qualified to do their job. But most
wanted to be qualified, not just the
prestige but also the extra $50.00 a month
in pay. Some of the soldiers were already
Jump qualified but not all and they needed
to get 5 jumps in to receive the coveted
Jump Wings. Most of these men were Service
It was a beautiful
Monday as 20 soldiers were loading up to
jump at in Alliance, Nebraska.
The wind was 8 miles an hour from the
Northwest and the direction of the flight
was east to west. The intended drop zone
was just on the edge of the obstacle course
(just past Richard Lake).
The co-pilot dropped the Paratroopers early
though over Knoll Lake instead. This was a
harbinger of what was to come for the 507th
Parachute Infantry Regiment 9 ½ months later
The first 4 soldiers
listed in the Jump manifest came down dry on
the east part of the lake.
The next 3 men came down up to their chest.
The next 7 went into the lake over their
head. The next three came down up to their
chest and the last three men came down dry
just like the first 4 men.
Of those 7 men who went
in over their head, 3 drowned stuck on the
bottom of the lake.
This “lake” was actually the Base’s Septic
System. The men were mired in the sludge
from the Septic. Bob Donnelly was right in
the middle of the men who drowned.
I interviewed Bob about this issue after he
gave me the letter
and manifest he’d received from Gordon Smith
the Jumpmaster in 1996.
Bob saw what was about
to happen and he pulled his legs up to his
chest and took a deep breath just before
hitting the water. He still hit the bottom
and was stuck up to the middle of his
boots. Bob said he had realized right away
that he wasn’t going to get free from the
muck unless he got out of his boots. He
unlaced both boots as far as he could. Even
then he had to move his feet back and forth
to get free.
As soon as he was free
he went straight up. It was only about 8
feet deep where he was so he broke the
surface instantly. Bob helped the man
directly behind him to the surface as well
and dragged him to land. 2 men from
Headquarters Company Second Battalion were
in the area when this occurred.
Snow and Zink helped
men to dry land as well. As mentioned above
three men didn’t survive the jump and
The name of those three men were; Robert K.
Carl W. Scarborough
and Gordon A. Bergmann.
Bergmann is buried in Long Island, New York
and Scarborough and Springer are buried in
Millard Snow said that
an announcement came over the camp speakers
saying that anyone who had been in the
septic system should report to the infirmary
to be cleaned off and receive shots. That
just about sums it up. There is no good way
to go but to die in a septic is near the top
of a way no one wants to go.
Here is where the
article takes a turn. In the area where
this occurred it was the Second Battalion of
the 507th Parachute Infantry
Regiment area. Company F was right next to
the lake when this happened.
Bob Taylor from Company
F said Fox Movietone was filming the day of
the water jump. Taylor said after seeing
that one of the men went in head first that
men from Company F started running to help.
Before they could get to the water they
heard the voice of their Company Commander.
Captain Paul F. Smith yelled out and ordered
his men to go back to their barracks.
Some of the other Company F men also
verified that Smith ordered them to not help
the men who were drowning on the jump.
This is where this
article turns into something much worse than
the death of the 3 men from the August 23,
1943 jump, much more.
Captain Paul Smith
allowed three men to drown. Smith had 75
men under his command and instead of helping
in the rescue he turned his men around and
let those 3 men drown.
Paul Smith is a perfect
example of what is wrong with the US Army at
times. In Normandy Paul Smith disobeyed
direct orders not once but twice in June and
led his men into potential massacre in July
1944 as well.
Not only wasn’t Smith punished he was
promoted. The Army does that quite a bit
actually by hiding their mistakes by
promoting an officer (and many times giving
them an award).
Smith made a huge
mistake in Vietnam as well as the commander
of the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
On November 19, 1966 he once again put his
soldiers at risk as he did both in June and
July of 1944 in Normandy.
Three weeks after the
November 19, 1966 battle Smith was relived
from command two months early due to his
mistake. A tour of duty in Vietnam was one
year. The Army in its infinite wisdom gave
Major General Paul F. Smith the
Distinguished Service Cross. Smith who had
been the 173rd Abn Bde Commander
was shunted aside from further combat
Smith was sent back to
the States in June of 1967 and retired the
next year July 1968. He spent a total of 24
years in the Army as an Officer. Because of
his mistake in Vietnam his career was over
to a large degree. Usually once a soldier
reached the rank of General they would
retire at the 30 year mark. By retiring
early it speaks volumes. That was the
Army’s way of saying thanks, but your
services are no longer required.
The Normandy incidents
highlight his poor judgment as a commander
in combat. The first incident was when 400
men from the 507th Prcht Inf were
moving through the hedgerows of Normandy.
They were led by Colonel George V. Millett,,
Jr the commander of the 507th
Prcht Inf. They were moving single file
during the night at the start of the
Colonel Millett was at
the head of the column with Captain Smith at
the other end at the end of June 6, 1944.
When morning arrived the back half of the
column was missing. The 200 men that were
part of Colonel Millett’s men were captured
the next day.
Captain Smith’s job was
to keep the column in contact with the lead
elements. Smith failed once again just like
the fiasco at the jump in August 1943. What
Smith said was that one of the men in the
middle of the column fell asleep on his feet
and lost contact with the first half of the
column. In reality Smith disliked Millett
from the start. Captain Smith wanted to
break off from the Millett and did. A
better commander would have located the
front of the column but not Smith.
If this hadn’t happened the 507th
would have been able to hold off until the
main body of the 82nd Abn Div got
to them. They had more men than the Second
Battalion 507th men holed up on
the west bank of the Merderet River. They
were commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Charles
J. Timmes. The hill where the 507th
men were is now known as Timmes Orchard.
Captain Smith met up
with a Lieutenant Colonel Harry J. Harrison
from the 508th Prcht Inf.
Harrison was the Executive Officer for the
508th Prcht Inf and took command
of Smith’s men. They made it to the west
bank of the Merderet River. Lieutenant
Colonel Harrison ordered the men across the
River to join up the main body of the 82nd
With the Millett
incident Captain Smith just broke away from
the main body of the 507th men
commanded by Millett. This time he outright
refused to have his men follow the orders to
cross the River. Lieutenant Colonel
Harrison told Captain Smith to move out and
Smith said no, I don’t take orders from a
different Regiment. Smith disobeyed a
direct order in Combat. The 507th
men sat out what became the attack on La
Fiere Causeway later that morning June 9,
Forward ahead during
the night of July 4, 1944 when the 2nd
Battalion including Company F attacked
towards the la Poterie Ridge from the
north. Companies D and E stopped in the
woods just north of la Poterie Ridge.
During the night they succeeded in getting F
Company on the south slope of the ridge and
the rest of the Battalion slightly behind
them on the North Slope of the woods.
The next morning at
daylight Company F realized that Captain
Smith had his men bed down in the middle of
German encampment. Because Company F was
too far in front of Companies D & E Company
F men were on their own. They took a heavy
toll that morning. Companies D & E joined
the fight and Company F fell back in
reserve. Once again Captain Smith made
another huge mistake that cost Company F
In the Army’s infinite
wisdom not only was Smith not relived of
command but instead he was promoted at the
end of the Normandy Campaign to command
Headquarters Company First Battalion.
The moral of the story
is that being incompetent gets you promoted
in the Army sometimes.
Even years after
retiring he thought that he was a General in
the real world. He was put in his place by
a 507th man who told him “you are
no different than a private” in civilian
life. He didn’t like that at all but there
was nothing he could do about it.
He contacted me via
email one time and tried to blackmail me. I
sent a return email back to him and never
heard back from him again. Go figure that a
bully will back down when called out for
what they are. Smith is the perfect example
that sometimes just because you get to that
rank it doesn’t mean you’re good at it.
There was going to be a
larger article but I realized what the point
is, nothing. Hell, look at retired General
Flynn who worked in concert with the enemy
(Russia) and will be going to jail. Retired
General Smith is just another in a line of
Army Generals who rose to the rank of
General by playing the game. It’s just a
shame how many 507th men he
killed by his incompetence.
Brian N. Siddall
February 13, 2020