tv 101st Airborne in World War II CSPAN December 3, 2016 1:10pm-2:01pm EST
government on c-span as donald trump becomes the 45th president of the united states and republicans maintain control of the u.s. house and senate. we will take you to key event as they happen. on c-span.org or listen for free on our c-span radio app. >> next, on american history tv, colonel edward james, one of the members of the american 101st airborne division talks about his experiences. screamingbout the angels. this 45 minute talk is part of a three-day talk hosted by the -- military center.
>> colonel edward shames began in 1942. he was enlisted with the 101st airborne. he received a battlefield commission. he was transferred to easy company as a platoon commander. he has quite the sassy attitude. are you ready for that? it is and gentlemen, i give you colonel edward shame. -- colonel edward shames. [applause] colonel shames: don't let this cane for you. my kitty cat did this to me about four months ago. incidentally, all of you familiar with battlefield
-- are you familiar with battlefield commissions? probably not. people familiar with battlefield commissions wanted photo ops. they can put all the names in the cap. you picked one. and that was me. see, now you know. [laughter] colonel shames: shames that was : supposed to be funny. the american army almost lost a year to reach hitler's eagles nest. after we landed in normandy. if you noticed your programs for today's lecture, you'll knows that they gave me a second 30 minutes to go from normandy to the eagles nest. i asked for 10 minutes, they
said five, i settled for six. maybe they are trying to get rid of me. i've had these types of occasions all over my military career. we want to tell you about them. the very first day iraq that my reception center, arroyo recruit. i knew absolutely nothing about anything pertaining to the army. nothing. some acting corporal, acting corporal flagged me down to tell me i was on kp duty. my first mission as a soldier, the first thing, that was before i received my uniform, they gave me a pair of white pants and an apron, you don't have kp anymore. i fixed the pastors. -- i fixed the best earth -- i fixed the bastards. i left all of the eyes in the potatoes. i don't like to get mad but i do get even.
i do recall that i was on duty for 14 straight hours. 13 straight then i was assigned hours. to i company, instead of being selected to become a rifleman when i would just carry an m1 rifle, no, i carry machine guns that weighed 28 pounds and then i had to carry the rifle on the other shoulder. lucky. incidentally, on the record, march the regimen that went from atlanta to fort benning, georgia with a full combat load as if we were jumping from a plane into enemy territory. i carried that machine gun and my rifle on one shoulder and then on the other shoulder, the m1. everything else that you would have to use in combat for 149 miles for 3.5 days.
that was a record, they don't do that anymore, that would not be put up with. it is still on record worldwide because no other idiots would attempt to do such a thing. my first promotion came in february, 1943 from a pfc's origins and then in 10 days, i was promoted to staff sergeant. the operations sergeant of the battalion. incidentally, we knew people, getting way to go into service, the operation started when the infantry unit was the toughest job in the army. i'm getting to the point of blowing my own horn. my grandma had a word for this. after receiving a battlefield commission, i was assigned to the biggest, worthless truck that was ever made.
the s3 of us the battalion. i was given the command of elevation developed after normandy. a designated, regimental platoon for the regimen. eyes and ears for the regiment. this was a job that would get you guarantee to have your tail shot off in combat. at this lecture, what do i get? i'm behind one of the most famous citizens in the entire united states, you heard him a minute ago. the next one is the medal of honor winner. so they put me in the middle. now who is going to listen to me? our grandma said that he who blows his own point is only making a lot of noise. i try not to blow my own point. ladies and gentlemen, good
morning to all of you. good morning. >> at my age, i am pushing 95. i'm delighted to be anywhere that i know where i am. [laughter] [applause] >> what the hell was that for? incidentally, a case you have not heard, i am one of the original band of brothers. that is why i wear that cap. the gentleman here today we developed these caps have a lot of money. he brought a genuine yet he based all caps and maybe 30 or 40 of them i believe. they have numbers in them and so forth and we have the honor that we --
only three of us are still alive that are in original band of brothers. in case you are not familiar, the parachute infantry won the war, single-handedly. anybody who was an original member of that unit was a hero. these know that i am one of them. [laughter] [applause] for those of you infatuated with the band of brothers, i have a proposition for you. i have developed a beautiful way to shine military shoes and for a few bucks, i will help you out in it. maybe we can get some people to join this corporation.
see me after the thing. have you checked. if you're not familiar with the parachute regiment, the 506 regimen, is anybody, hands? not by chance or by design, there was a total of 15 combat companies within the regiment. not a single one was better. we all had the exact training and the same quality of men. i was there. i know. how i got into the regimen, i don't know. i felt through the cracks. >> i did not fall through the
cracks. it started as a experimental factor assisting the losses after pearl harbor. one last word about the makeup of the 506 and what made it so great. it began with select volunteers 7000 with an iq minimum score of 110. at that time, that was very good. in superb physical condition, willing to jump behind enemy lines. and you had need to be a little nuts as well. the only army and radio men able unit were senior officers and those who had to teach us army. they were selected from various rotc units, west point, and other select facilities. they were very selective. there were no initial refinements.
all volunteers, every single one of us. the training was so intense that at the end of 18 weeks of brutal schemes, the army would allow us to go to perish in school. -- two parachute school. they had to dwindle it down to regiment strength, and they had good men to begin with. they had good men to begin with. the long marches, the first one made was 49 miles from to court, -- from tagore, georgia. you have probably never heard of that place. that was the lungs once as the revolutionary war. the third battalion had those tattered uniforms.
shiny boots, you always had shined boots. we would listen to the jump school tell us that at least 40% of you people will not make it because you were too tough. the physical training of jump school is so tough that 40% of you will be bumped up for you even start. then we began running. he said that is the first phase. the whole battalion started running. and we ran for about an hour and we looked around and we watch ed the guys in jump school pouring off of them. i don't think we at once sweated in the whole group because we had been feeding our brains out on the mountain for months. they stopped us and asked if we had enough.
we looked at him like he was crazy. we thought we were just warming up, no as do some real running. -- now let's do some real running. they put it on us. things that you people have never heard of. people going to jump school and some of you who have never been to jump school. they have what they call a highbeam and they called it a fancy name. they tended to the highbeam and they pulled you up to 250 feet with a d ring to poll. they counted, 1, 2, 3. when they counted three, you're supposed to hold that i ring. and you drop about 150 feet. straight down, you had to
transfer that ring from one hand to another or you have to do it again. all of these funny things because he wanted to do it because the regular army said you cannot take people from civilian ranks and make super soldiers out of them in 18 weeks. it has never been done before. that was the old saw. but we fooled them. we did do it. they didn't believe it until after. in fact they didn't assign us to , a division until six or eight weeks before the normandy invasion. we were assigned to the 101st airborne division. they were all waiting for us to fall on our faces. a historic 97% completed the program. they received their solo jump wings. finally, we had advance parachute training.
can call, if you know about it, is adjacent to north carolina. fort bragg, north carolina said they didn't want them. they did not want them there because they were losers. word had gotten around. fort benning said we don't need another loser. where not going to have them. finally, they picked out this place in georgia and we settled down there. no one had ever heard of it. it was an old ccc camp. it had been there for about 40 years. -- i guess it had not been used for 30, 40 years. that is where we get our -- did our training. we then by that time, we were went to war maneuvers. by that time, we were tough, we were very tough. they didn't know what to do with us because we were not a sustainable unit, they thought. they left us to be either green forces, red forces, and blue forces. they used us all over the place. we cut the hell out of the regular army, anyway we could.
i don't you if you have ever seen the dirty dozen movie picture. where they brought these people in and they chopped up the regular army. that is what we did. finally they said get out of , here and go back to fort bragg and get ready to go overseas. which we did. inlanded in liverpool september 1943 after intensive training in england, including two dress rehearsals. we do not know we were play acting until we closed the door. we were told we were not going that night. the dry runs, we were during the first week of april and the first week of may. we did that. the army did that to throw the germans off.
may 20, my battalion commander told me to pack for overnight. he loved me because i knew my stuff and he was the finest soldier -- one of the finest, except from my my platoon sergeant. we followed a jeep in front of us went and asked to or as for s4 supply officer. they followed a scion. and we were told to ask no questions. that evening, we were briefed. in front of the biggest map display ever seen. it was portsmouth england. i could count no more than 25 enlisted men. the rest were military officers
and a few civilians. i knew i was way out of my pay grade. i did not ask any questions or anything. we were read the riot act about what we are were being told and what we could see. i recognized that there were a lot of european countries. this was one time in my life that i get my big mouth completely shut. one after another, eight ranking officers with 15 foot corners outline missions. one officer pointed out that bridges that we were to defend at the time, i had no clue that those bridges would be our objective.
we were shown various regimental objectives at the briefing. the next morning, we drove back to raspberry. our jeep and our supply officer was behind us. i wondered why. i also know that our driver was told to go no more than 35 miles per hour back to base. we had some important step in the jeep that i didn't know what it was. she was told not to stop anything until we reached our headquarters. last week in april, the battalion was uncoupling for action.
-- on top alert for action. we did the same thing we were presented for. this time there were four people in the battalion that knew this was to be different. one of them was scared to death, me. not that i was frightened about going into combat, but the fact was that i knew all of this stuff. it was very frightening. we knew that that was the real thing. on the 27th day of may, we drove to the airfield, our previous staging area. the same one that we had twice before. my battalion commander had it carried since portsmouth, and he shames, all the info you need is in that case. you can build the best sand table that you had ever done. that was one of our jobs. take any amount of men you need from any company in the battalion. you know all the best for the job at hand. i took 18 men to build a sand table. because he wanted it built at night.
the engineers prepared a table 24 by 24, they got the map out and it was ready for us to go. all of this in a single huge tent. with four sleeping cots for my section. for sleeping cost for my section. we had to stay there with time waiting for the actual time to get on a plane. the colonel told me to have the table ready. it would be by oh 700 and 0700 the next morning. this was about 11:00 at night when he handed me his briefcase. on the night of june the fourth, we had planes ready to go into normandy. we were called off because of horrible weather. you read about that. we waited another day and jumped into normandy on the fifth of june in the morning. and on d-day, the sixth of june. the man in front of me decided
to push the guys out of the plane with the plane went on. -- when the green light went on. he slipped. and because of the weight he was carrying, i was carrying 80 pounds, some of the guys were caring as 140 pounds. the parachute was left behind. before i got him out of the door, i jumped into where i had no clue but landed on top of a bunch of cows. cows. a milk plant. they started to move like heck. i thought that was a good idea, i started to move with them. tried to fool the krauts. apparently i did a pretty good job.
, i would not be with you this morning. why? if i had known we were there, i would have dropped dead right there. i found out that was about 10 minutes later. i said, boys, let's get the hell out of here right now. i put a flag on the people. i voted it at all costs because it was shown on the photo up there was to engineers with armor. -- two core engineers with armor. scare the that would hell out of me. now, when we got organized, we brought a demon to the -- i brought 18 men to the objective in the dark. and we stayed there for three days. that morning, i was received, i was told i would receive the
mission at 4:00 in the morning. i was the first one in normandy, it was a big deal. three days later, we gave the landing forces room. we were trying to get them to the beach themselves. the date was the 12th of june. 1944. it was a hard-fought battle but we were successful. that same evening, and officers an officersers -- call came for a briefing at 2200 hours. i attended that meeting because i was told we would be in officer.
i was the first in normandy to begin a battlefield commission. here comes the black cloud that i am here today on. at this briefing, our next mission was a kickoff at oh 400 that morning. the 13th of june, their important day, 13th of june, 1944. that was my birthday. all i could see was born june 13 and killed june 13. [laughter] shames: i was assigned with my own radio operator. my assignment was to keep my eye across this whole thing and keep at company insight on my right flank. and of course, after about a half hour -- now incidentally, , the germans also had a plan for that morning at 0400, they kicked us out of the beaches because there was nothing between us and them.
we had our jobs cut out for us. we prevail. we stayed in normandy until the fifth of july, cleaning up. i don't know if you people were at the embassy last night, it was here. they had the hennessy people had a tasting. does anybody remember that? you people weren't invited. i reminded those people that hennessy was a pretty good friend of mine. when we got up to go back home
to england, we came across the whole warehouse full of 55 gallon barrels of some stuff called hennessy cognac. of course, we were not used to what cognac was but we found it -- found out pretty quick. we were allowed to take three barrels back to england. one barrels for the officers and to barrels otherwise. they were big. we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. while we were in england, 80 2nd -- while we were eating one, the 82nd airborne, i think they still exist somewhere -- and the 101st airborne division was given leave to go anywhere in england because after we had fought in normandy, we got back to england. -- because after we are fought in normandy pretty hard. when we got back to england, we found out that we lost 35% of
our officers. also 35% of our men. excuse me, 35% of the officers. they were killed or wounded in action. we had a hell of a flight back to england. i could go on -- oh, i was not given a lead -- leave because there was -- because i was to be formally commissioned there. wait around. i could not go on leave. now let me change pages here. huh. operation market garden, has anybody heard of it? a disaster, do you think? very good. i was told i was to receive a battlefield commission for the briefings in normandy.
my formal commission was waiting for general bradley. listen to this. general bradley was going to come over and commission me as a photo op because i was number one to be commissioned in normandy. they had to discharge me because you cannot become an officer the day that you, the same day that you were kicked out of the army. discharged rather, it had to be a day in between. i don't know if you knew that or not. or whether it is still a law. but that was the law then. or so they told me. they said general bradley was coming over and i was to check in every morning at 10:00 at headquarters to see if general bradley was coming. i did for two weeks. and i was a civilian. .nd the guys were needling me why don't you go home?
of course i was waiting. i knew that general bradley wasn't going to leave normandy to commission me. finally after 2.5 weeks, they said look, as do something. i am walking around, doing nothing. that was going to. that one always charged as for sergeant. some idiot came up with that idea about general bradley. after 10 days of waiting for nothing, i went to the regimental adjutant to complain. he agreed. nothing, they went to complain. he agreed, somebody was there. the next day, general taylor. me as a second lieutenant in the regular army. the only thing about that time was i had to leave the five or six. why?
if any enlisted men became an officer for any reason, he would be removed from his division at once. out of the battalion, the regimen, out of the division. because of the film me already of things. outincidentally, i found the army was exactly correct, it did not take me long. half of the officers hated me. about 75% of the enlisted men hated me. because one day i was shooting themwith them, giving whiskey and the next day i was giving orders. i knew the skinny on every officer that we have in the regimen because i was in operation sergeant and i knew who the good ones were and who were the mediocre ones and who were the yellow ones. and we had some yellow ones as well. in fact, i had a couple of them. because i was such a valuable after the ritual, general taylor said because i was such a valuable soldier to command, he
requested the army to allow me to be retained in the 506, which i was very happy about. i don't know more valuable than valuable thanore any other man in the regiment, believe me. any other men in the regimen, the army was quite right about mixing officers and men. i received money and transportation to get my officers gear and return to duty as a second lieutenant. as a second attempt. i look like a clown i came out of that tailor shop. i had the same job that i had as a staff sergeant. i was assistant as three in the second battalion to the drugs. -- drunks. he stayed drunk 24/7. i was assistant to the drunk. [laughter] shames: you would say, why would you retain him? he stayed drunk 24/7.
seriously. it was a very simpler explanation. he was the son of the third richest family in america. he did not have millions. he had billions with a b. i stayed with him for 10 days. i couldn't handle it anymore. i went over the battalion commander's had because he told me to get out of his office. he needed me. onel.ided to see the col of course, he was a tickler, too, but never bothered him. he was one of the finest soldiers ever born. i stood at attention from him, he said who give you parade rest? so, i said, yes, sir. he looked at me. he knew i was there, he said you think you are the meanest son outfit, don'tthis you, shames? i said, no, sir.
sonofk i am the toughest bitch in- son of a this outfit. he wanted a leader. i was the leader of the platoon of the regimen. -- of the regiment. said, sir, dom, i you mean assistant platoon leader? shames, don'tit, you understand? you're going to be a platoon leader. you know i was very important. i was very popular with the rest of the officers in the regiment. and i am not kidding about that. but i prevailed. am i running out of time? not yet? do you want to hold your hand up?
on september 17, we were on the plane for holland at about 10:00 a.m. in the morning. in broad daylight, we were headed to holland. there were thousands -- i said thousands of planes in the air that morning. fighter planes, bombers and cargo planes. to take the paratroopers and the gliders. incidentally, the plane or the line for that bunch of planes was so long that when people were dropping in holland, the paratroopers were dropping in holland, they were still taking off in england. there were so many. they had 101st, 82nd, they had everybody jumping into holland. at first, they would say that that was a total loss.
i asked the people that were enslaved by the germans were almost five years that they were freed by the 101st airborne division. they are still fantastically grateful and even today, they , are grateful. of course we did not accomplish the total mission. the total mission was to cross the line and go to berlin, germany. it did not work that way. it had two sections, the russians and the israelis. they were the only people that were in combat more than we were i in holland. we lost a great deal of men.
most of them because of the way the brits handled the entire operation. my take was that with the intel that the british received from the dutch underground and others, it was enough for the brits to call off the entire operation. but the brits will be brits. they decided to go anyway. it cost them a whole army. another of the expert theories -- my expert theories -- the british are expert planners, but when it comes to executions, not so much because they are not nearly as forceful as we are. they must stop to have their teatime anywhere. i am not kidding about that. i have seen that with my own eyes. we left holland a few days after thanksgiving in 1944. i remember the base giving
-- thanksgiving dinner that we had. we had biscuits that tasted like sand. inedible. we were told we would be in a small village near reims, france. speaking of living it up, we were in the heart of the champagne district. and better yet only 80 miles , from all of our dreams in paris. we thought we had died and gone to heaven. we could trade a pack of cost a nickel at the time for a bottle of champagne. of course i didn't drink much, , just all i could. [laughter] colonel shames: and if you think that ain't heaven, what is? the icing on the cake is that we would get passes to paris.
and how about speckles on that icing? my name was one of the first officers on the list because i had not gone on leave. how about that? hot dog. it took time to house clean the old camp we were in. it had not been used since world war i. we were told it will be set there until spring. almost two months from when we were there. the list was posted in paris. on that list, it was lieutenant shames, convoy commander. two trucks, convoy commander. assisting commander, lieutenant ats, one truck, leaving 0800, december 7, 1944. 48 hours in paris. we had been paid just the day before and i had more money than i had ever had in me life. i was going to blow it all in paris.
[laughter] colonel shames: shames all that : evening, before we go on the trucks, the radio was blaring. who the hell cares? let them take care of it. we were going to paris in the morning. slug ofve another champagne. we loaded about 18 gis in one truck. the same amount and another truck. there were a lot of bottles of champagne that were for the trip, 80 miles come along trip. about 10 miles on the road, our driver said to me, said sir, there was a motorcycle. he is pointing for us to pull over. i said, to hell with him. they like to joke with me because i am the young guy. "sir, that the captain on that motorcycle."
i said ok, let's go see what he , wants. i got out. he said, lieutenant, we have to turn it these trucks around and follow at flank speed. i said what for? he said, your unit is being loaded as we speak on vehicles and trucks. you have been alerted for combat. i said to him, why the hell would they send a captain out to turn us around on a motorcycle? he said, when they requested a captain, we asked the same thing. the curled on the phone and a sergeant orsent lieutenant, lieutenant shames would tell them to go to hell because he was headed to paris. [laughter] colonel shames: they were right. two minutes later, we ran, we got to camp, it was pandemonium. they said to grab your weapons and get on the track. -- get on the truck. the trucks were out there waiting for us.
which we had to do. there was a class a uniform tailor-made, never worn it before. that was on top of my coveralls. billy thing i had as far as warmth was a g.i. jacket. old g.i. jacket made of cotton. that was the way i went into battle. most of my men with the same way. we had turned in all of our heavy stuff for reconditioning and reissuing, and also most of our weapons. we did grab weapons. some of us did not have weapons. i had mine incidentally. i was the only officer to carry the m1 rifle. after i became an officer, they wanted me to turn it in. i said i began to turn this in. they said that his orders.
i said to hell with orders, that is what i'm carrying. that is another story. all of the men had turned in their heavy stuff. we had no overtures whatsoever. we had trucks with no cover. we were heading to where we did not know. a couple of the men had no weapons. we huddled together through the night. light snow, sleet, we thought we could ever get colder than we were. we thought. we found out that when we got to bastogne, that was a joy ride. as far as the weather was concerned. finally, we unloaded. we got the trucks. coming through the woods on the
road that we were on it was like a stampede in front of us. there were not hundreds of men, there were thousands coming through the woods. they were running, screaming. they said that they were going to get killed. they were running away from the wall. we were going that way, we were coming this way. i was ever more ashamed of the american army or anything else as what i saw that morning. never. we waited until the crowd had faded and when things had settled down, a jeep with the colonel and and my battalion commander came to my area. he walked up to my platoon, came up to me and said i want you to pick up a platoon and go through these woods.
make contact with whatever is up there. we don't know. that was nothing unusual. i was my job. i was the platoon commander of the patrol platoon. nothing, no big deal. i wanted to know if you wanted me to use a combat patrol or an observation patrol. we trained both -- i trained them all. we were to observe and report as soon as possible, which means now, and he would be waiting. let's go. as i say, it was no big deal. and we got the call, we went. this was a job for the sergeant. i had several teams, different sergeants. it was a given that any officer -- any serious patrol or dangerous patrol, and officer would be with the team and i would be the only officer in the platoon. that meant me.
again, nothing unusual. they were my orders that an officer had to go on patrol. there was no such thing. it was time to get ready. anyhow, we were wrapping it up. 30 minutes later, we reported back to the colonel. 19 panzer tanks in the field ready to take off, waiting for the fog to go. our true battle of the bulge began at that time. and we were there for 29 days and we held off 11,300 of the 101st airborne division. we held off 180,000 germans to prevent them from crossing into bastogne. they had seven road nets headed
to antwerp, where they could've slid the allies int duck and captured a port that we sorely needed. -- could have split the allies int deb. -- could have split the alleys in two. that was the end of our war. that was the end of our fighting. we finally got to the eagles nest. and i had promised my men that while we were in holland or belgium, leave the stuff alone. all the stuff in people's houses, buildings, leave it alone. they had suffered enough. when you got into germany, it was yours. and brother, when we got into the eagles nest, they took everything except the wallpaper. the first thing they headed for was the liquor. i heard it myself to the liquor cabinet and got some five-star hennessey cognac.
ladies and gentlemen, i am delighted to be here this morning. thank you very much for listening. i hope you have learned something. god bless you and god bless america. incidentally, thank you, mr. roberts for allowing us to do , what we are doing here and for many years. if it wasn't for you, they would not know who any of these other -- ed shames was or any of these other people. thank you, sir, again. [applause] colonel shames: thank you. [applause] colonel shames: hey, hey, sit down. sit down. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] 7 marks the 75th anniversary of the japanese
attack on pearl harbor. on c-span3 we are remembering that day. directed by frank capra, "know your enemy: japan." >> when the factories of los angeles and detroit were producing for japan fell war machine, the rest of the world would fall like a ripe plum. >> and just after 5:00 on "oral survivors from a battle where 170 7000 men were killed, and on "american -- facts" >> the misery was commissioned in 1944. she is often remembered for one event. that is the surrender of japan at tokyo bay. the valor in the pacific national monument.
our complete american history tv schedule, go to c-span.org. >> one hundred years ago from february to december 1916, armies clashedan in one of the longest battles of world war i and human history. the battle of virgin army stop, the french the german offensive and came away is a curious -- victorious. . paul jankowski is is part of a two-day symposium hosted by the world war i my -- easy and memorial in kansas city, missouri. >> i'm delighted to be able to introduce to you our first speaker for the symposium