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Up to Your Neck 

 

Ran across a post the other day about a WWII C-47 that spoke of the crew members and I realized I had the manifest for the plane.  Posted to the group front and back and went on to other things.

 

Looked at the manifest the next day I realized that the last three men were Hq Co 1st Bn (Headquarters First Battalion) 507th Prcht Inf (507th Parachute Infantry) soldiers including the Battalion Commander Lt Col (Lieutenant Colonel) Edwin J. Ostberg, Radio Operator T/5 (Technician 5th Grade) Robert L. Vannatter and the Personal Security Pvt (Private) Walter W. Lisenby.

 

Iíd spoken with Mr. Vannatter back in 2009.  He sent me his account heíd written from years before and also sent a photo of himself and the other men from the Communications Section for the Hq Co 1st Bn.  Vannatter had a lot of information for his time in the 507th Prcht Inf.

 

Based on Vannatterís account both by letter, phone and Army Documents (Morning Reports, Payroll Records, Medical Records and 507th Yearbook) I knew there was more than just what happened the first day in Normandy.

 

This stick had soldiers from both Co A (Company A) and Hq Co 1st Bn 507th Prcht Inf.  These 18 soldiers landed south of the La Fiere area just west of the railroad tracks at 0230 (2:30 a.m.).

 

By 0430 both Lt Col Ostberg and Lt Col Arthur J. Maloney with 150 men located General James M. Gavin. As the morning progressed General Gavin along with Lt Col Ostberg moved down the railroad tracks towards Chef-du-Pont with 75 men.

 

Gavin returned to his CP (Command Post) leaving Ostberg to seize the Causeway west of Chef-du-Pont.  After cleaning out the town the Germans fell back to the foxholes on the east end of the Causeway.  Late in the morning of June 6 Lt Col Ostberg leading the way charged trying to dislodge the Germans there.  Ostberg was hit by machinegun fire and pitched over into the Merderet River.       

 

T/5 Vannatter had lost track of Lt Col Ostberg and assumed he had gone back into town.  In the middle of the day Vannatter and Pvt Lisenby decided to find a way to approach the east end of the Causeway out of sight of the Germans.  Vannatter took the left side and Lisenby the right.  Not seeing a way forward Vannatter came back to the spot where he and Lisenby had started.    

 

Lisenby had moved about three feet before he was killed by a machinegun.  Pvt Lisenby had been the S/Sgt (Staff Sergeant) for the Demolition Platoon for Hq & Hq Co (Headquarters and Headquarters Company) until January 24, 1944 when he was demoted to Pvt along with one other Demolition man.  What happened we donít know but Lisenby was still highly regarded as he was the Personal Security for Ostberg going into Normandy.

 

In mid-afternoon Vannatter and 1st Sgt (First Sergeant) Asa Ricks Co A 507th decided to see if Ostberg was still alive.  Ostbergís entire body was underwater except for his head.  Vannatter and Ricks worked their way down to the swamp and pulled Lt Col Ostberg out.  It turns out he was still alive and would comeback to the Battalion in July.

 

(Ostberg left 507th in early August 1944 being promoted to 82nd Abn Div (82nd Airborne Division) Headquarters right before the 507th left the 82nd Abn Div and went to the 17th Abn Div (17th Airborne Division) later that month.

In January of 1945 Lt Col Ostberg took over the 2nd Bn (Second Battalion) of the 325th Gli Inf (325th Glider Infantry) during the Bulge.  On February 2, 1945 Ostberg jumped onto a Tank to get a better view of the battle he was leading.  He was hit in the head and died later that day at a Field Hospital. 

(Men from the 325th said that Ostberg was killed instantly by an 88 that took his head off.  It just goes to show that unless itís a first hand account you have to take it with a grain of salt).

After Ostberg left the 507th Maj (Major) (soon to be Lt Col) Benjamin F. Pearson became the Commander of Hq Co 1st Bn.  The 507th wasnít used again until the end of December 1944 in the Bulge. 

Vannatter was promoted to Communication Chief as his superior S/Sgt Peter F. Wolfe was wounded hitting a landmine January 5th.  Later the same month January 27, 1945 Lt Col Pearson was wounded running over a landmine as well.  Being both Ostberg and Pearsonís Radio Operator gave him a unique look into the workings of a Parachute Battalion in combat both in Normandy and the Ardennes.


Brian N. Siddall
April 3, 2023


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