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82nd

Herbert H. Adams

D Company

504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division


Ceremony for Herbert Adams, 27 March 2013 Worcester Massachusetts

Info

Herbert H. Adams
Serialnumber: ...
D Company, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
82nd Airborne Division

Home: Maine
Born: ..
Entered service on: ..

Story:

Life and Time of a Paratrooper

Submitted by Christian W. de Marcken

Herbert's father was a Canadian, who came with his five (5) brothers to work in the State of Maine as lumber jacks. Herbert lost his father due to a work accident, Herbert was only five years old at the time. Herb Adams' parents had six children, three girls one of died as a baby, and three boys, the oldest was a Canadian citizen. Herb's mother died soon after the birth of the youngest brother's birth. Herbert was adopted by an uncle, whose trade was to build barns in Maine. Herbert's grand parents were English and the grand father was a cabinet maker. After High School Herbert went to work for a wood working shop; then he worked at the South Portland, Maine, Ship Yard.

At first Herbert Adams did not realize that working at a Ship Yard would automatically get him a deferment from any branch of the Military Services. He went to the recruiting office in Portland, Maine and was turned down by the recruiter. One of the last wood modeling projects he made in High School was a large B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber he carved out of a solid piece of wood. Herbert was quite good at wood working; to the point that the Music teacher told him that he would give him any grade Herbert would obtain at the wood work shop. During the music sessions Herbert made student lockers for the school, he of course earned very good grades.

As Herbert graduated from High School in June 1942 he tried again to join the service, again no success. He married Beverly, who had been brought up on a farm, in September 1942. Shortly after Herbert volunteered for the Air Force, again he was turned away. By now Herbert figured out why he was never accepted.

At Christmas 1942 he walked in to the Skowhegan, Maine, draft board. The recruiter asked: "Where are you working?" Herbert felt he was not lying when he answered: "Nowhere!" After all he was standing in front of the recruiter's desk and therefore not working. He was drafted and sent to the Coastal Artillery Barrage Balloon Battalion, at Camp Tyson near Paris, Tennessee, he hated the assignment it was boring. While at Camp Tyson one day he was given the assignment to guard eight African-American prisoners, one of then was a tall powerful man, who having been in the Army knew that the guards were only given three (3) shells for their rifle. Herbert Adams was to guard eight prisoners who were to perform work on the outskirts of the Camp. While at the rifle rage Herb had picked up extra ammunition, which he always carried with him.

This time the ring leader of the eight black fellows said to Herbert: "Lets be reasonable, you have only three shells and we are eight men, just let us disappear." Herb fired two warning shots over his head, a third shot at a sign post and showed the fellow that he had more ammunition. This quickly calmed down the eight prisoners, who asked that Herbert do not report the incident. Herbert felt that he did not need to have a Post Investigation, so he kept quiet.

Note that all through his time at Camp Tyson, Herbert requested a transfer to the Airborne, every time his request was not accepted.

Two weeks later in late July or early August, Herbert Adams was on guard duty at one of the entrances of Cap Tyson, it was around 11:00PM, he saw the head lights of two jeeps coming side by side, Herbert signal the jeep to stop and requested to see their "Trip Ticket", both drivers were Lieutenant and they were drunks as teddy bears. One of the Jeeps tried to leave, Herbert fired a shot that broke the Jeep's windshield, the Lieutenant came to a screeching halt. However the shot was heard and an Officer of the guard came with a replacement for Herbert. He was told to report to the Orderly Room the next day at 8:00 AM, Herbert Adams was expecting to be asked to write a report concerning last evening's incident.

To his amazement he was told to gather all his gear and be ready to ship out in twenty minutes. Obviously the Commanding Officer did not want to Court Marshal the two Lieutenants, so he simply granted Herbert's request to transfer to an Airborne Division. With in twenty minutes he was on his way to Fort Benning, Georgia.

Because Herbert H. Adams was not twenty one (21) years old, he had to have his parents signature to be allowed to volunteer as an Airborne soldier; however since he was married he had to have his wife's approval. This of course he knew that Beverly would not agree with. So he forged Beverly's signature. From there on he went through some of the most intense Infantry training one could ever imagine. It was hand to hand combat, where very often the soldiers were injured and knocked out cold; the soldiers were pulled aside to come back to their sense, then immediately sent back to fight and defend themselves. Then he went through the obstacle course and jump school, in December he had completed his five (5) jumps. On the last jump he injured his foot, he did not reported the injury because he knew that he was scheduled for a week long furlough at Norrigdewock, Maine, which five miles South West of Skowhegan, Maine, where his wife was waiting for him.

After returning to Fort Benning, Georgia, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division was sent to Newport News, Virginia, where it boarded a ship heading for Casablanca, Africa. The paratroopers arrived in 100 degrees Fahrenheit heat, they had to march five miles before reaching a tent encampment. The first order the troops received was: "Go to the supply room and check out two blankets and an overcoat." Most of the men thought that this order was just another foolish one issued by the Army brass. Nevertheless Herbert decided to obey the order; he came back with four blankets and two overcoats so as to be able to share with his buddy, some of his team mates played fun of him. However that first night, those soldiers on guard duty quickly realized that that in that part of the world the temperature drops way below freezing at night. By two (2) AM the fire buckets were covered with ice. The next morning there was a long line at the supply room door waiting to check out the blankets and overcoats.

From Africa Herbert was sent as a "Replacement". He landed on an airfield near Naples Italy before being sent to the Anzio beach head. Unluckily he was separated from his buddy as they were moved from Naples, Italy by LST (Landing Ship Tank) to the Anzio beach head. His buddy was assigned to 509th PIR, while Herbert went to the 504th PIR. As far as he remembers he arrived on Anzio beach in the last days of February or early March 1944. Herbert had lived all his life in Maine, where as young as ten years old, he would shoot crows and woodchucks; he had an appreciation for good weapons. Somewhere during his training he managed to grab a hold of an excellent rifle, which had very low serial number, Herbert explained that this rifle was the best and most accurate weapon he ever fired. Even so he was a machine gunner and was not supposed to carry a rifle, he had this extraordinary weapon as he jumped over Holland. While in combat he saw one of his team mates struggling with an old beaten up rifle, Herbert gave him his excellent weapon.

After the battle of Anzio, the 82nd Airborne Division was loaded on a British transport ship and brought to England. Herbert was located in Leicester, England. There he trained as a Pathfinder, this meant that regularly and always at night, two (2) paratroopers would board a C- 47 twin engine transport plane, which would fly from twenty minutes to more than an hour. The men never knew where they were going to jump. The first man would jump when instructed to and the second would follow exactly nineteen (19) seconds later. By the way it took exactly nineteen seconds to unload a C-47 of a full load of paratroopers. Herbert explained that the worse jump was the night he found himself falling between high power tension wires. He said: "I pulled my legs together, place my arms around my face, and tried to make myself as small as possible, so as not to touch the power lines. The two paratroopers were always greeted by British civilians, usually armed with old shot guns or pitch forks. The local farmers always kept an eye on the sky, they were afraid the Germans would drop in the country side. The purpose of these exercises was to measure the distance between the two paratroopers as they reached the ground. The atmospheric conditions and the wind changes would affect the outcome.

Herbert Adams cleaning his Machine gun at Anzio, Italy. (Photo H. Adams) On September 17, 1944 Herbert Adams unit wall dropped near the Grave Bridge over the Maas River, also called the Meuse River in Belgium. This bridge is located between the Towns of Eindhoven and Nijmegen in the Netherlands. It was 1:00 PM a very sunny afternoon, the German anti aircraft guns and the German soldiers were shooting at us, yet said Herbert: "I cannot understand why my mind was concentrated on only one fact, I never thought of being hit or killed, I was only worried about a shell setting fire to my parachute." The Germans were firing their 20 millimeters guns at us. Company "D" fell on one side of the bridge, while Company "E" fell on the other side. On the second day Company "D" was assigned to patrol the banks of the Maas River, while another Company was loading on small boats to cross the River. At one time a Colonel came by and ordered us to get in the boats, we tried to explain that we were not part of his unit, nothing doing, we were ordered on a boat. So we went to fight the Germans on the other side of the river. It took three (3) days before we were allowed to go back to our Company "D". By that time of course we had been listed in the daily "After Action Report" as missing in action (MIA), as a result the Department of the Army sent a telegram to Beverly to notify her that her husband was Missing In Action. You imagine how awful that sad news can be." Later the Red Cross notified Beverly that her husband was back with his Company.

At this point Herbert digressed and said: "It is funny that we dropped fifty seven (57) miles behind the enemy lines in the Netherlands; and we were exactly fifty seven (57) days in Sissone, which was near Reims, France. This camp consisted of fifty (50) acres of three story barracks from an old French Army Post, which was a German prison and torture camp during World War Two, where French underground and resistance (FFI) members were held by the Germans. We arrive at Sissone on November 14, 1944 and left in the very early hours of December 18, 1944 for Belgium and the Battle of the Bulge."

When the alert was sounded and every paratrooper was asked to pick up their gear and head for the supply room to pick up their weapons, many of the soldiers found out that their weapons had been sent for repair, no spare weapon was available. Since the 82nd Airborne Division was scheduled to be shipped to the Pacific Theater to attack the Japanese main land, most of the winter clothing had already been turned in. These men had no winter uniform. Herbert Adams left Sissone with his dress uniform under his jump suit. The men were packed in semi-trailers, which had no cover, the truck were driven into Belgium, originally to take position in Bastogne; however since the 82nd Airborne had arrived first, it was forwarded to Werbomont, Belgium. While the 101st Airborne Division, who was following the same route, was given the task of defending Bastogne, Belgium.

The battle of Cheneux was exceptionally difficult, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment was faced with the task of stopping the Armored columns of the infamous German Colonel Joachim Pieper. Herbert remembers that his unit was in the woods along a steep slope, which was looking down on a road; the paratroopers waited for the German armored column to engage itself on the road, then suddenly the order was given to lob hand grenades and "Composition C-2, which came in the shape of a block 1 inch square and 8 inches long, it had a pin and a led lead sticking out of what would look like a sock, one had to be quite close to the tank or armored vehicle to swing the sock at the German armored vehicle.

Herbert mentioned that the soldiers were lacking warm clothes, food, and ammunition; it was not pleasant to do, however for survival the American soldiers had not other recourse but to remove blankets, socks, and hats, as well as weapons and ammunition from fellow soldiers killed in combat. After the battle of Cheneux his unit literally ran all night to reach the top of a ridge, the ice covered the whole area, Herbert fell many time and he knew he was going to break a leg if he continued to carry his machine gun, he attached a strap to the machine gun and was dragging it behind him, he met a Lieutenant who gave him the order to carry the machine gun, Herbert explained the situation to the Officer, who threatened to Court Marshal him, Herb told him: "I would suggest you start right now Sir!"

Note: From Christian W. de Marcken, who is the historian for the Central Massachusetts Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge, Major Lamar Soutter Chapter XXII, I own 148 books concerning the Battle of the Bulge, I was in Belgium all through WWII and lived in the Belgian Ardennes for six years; from my research I would not be surprised if the "Ridge" our friend Herbert talks about would be at Baraque Fraiture, nowadays referred to as "Parker's Crossroad" in the Manhay and Lierneux areas.

ONE IN A MILLION

While Company "D", 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division was fighting along the Siegfried line, one night Company "D" was in the woods on one side of a field, while the Germans were in the woods on the other side of the open field.

The Germans seldom attacked at night; however this time the Wehrmacht soldiers did attack, they were beaten back and left casualties on the field. Due to the snow and the moon light one could see enough to stroll through the area. Herbert H. Adams a machine gunner in Company "D" and one of his buddies decided to go and search for medals and souvenirs. At one point Herbert, for no reason what so ever, kicked one of the German bodies and said: "Get up you son of bitch." To his amazement three Germans got up with their hands up. Herbert was so excited that he continued to ask questions from the Germans, he wanted to know why they were laying down in the field; one of the German soldier responded in perfect English: "You are sitting on our cache of food, all we were trying to do was to push you back so as to reach our food, we are hungry." At that time Herbert woke up to the fact that the German spoke English as well as he did, except that he had a Chicago accent. Herbert asked him where he had learned English. The German answered: "My mother and father emigrated out of Germany way before the War, my twin brother and I were born in Chicago, Illinois, where we went to school. Just before World War Two my Dad suggested that we all go back for a short visit to see the family in Germany. Mother and my brother said no thank you, I was stupid I went along with Dad. As we were in Germany WWII was declared between the United States and Germany. Immediately the Nazi picked us up, we were declared Germans; Dad was sent to the Russian front, while I was assigned to the Western front. And by the way you sir are a member of Company "D", 504 PIR."

By this time Herbert Adams is flabbergasted, he was carrying no visible patch showing his Company, Regiment, or Division. So he asked the German soldier how it was possible that he would know so much about his unit. The American-German answered: "My brother is in Company D." Herbert thought this was a complete joke, he asked the German for his name, sure enough his twin brother was a member of Company "D".

At that time Herbert told the three German soldiers to return to their side of the filed, he told them to convince all the members of his company to surrender. All they would have to do was to make a predetermined flash light signal at exactly 6:00 AM and that the Americans would not shoot and could take them prisoners and feed them all.

Unluckily as Herbert and his fellow paratrooper came back to their encampment, their Lieutenant asked them where they were coming from. Herbert told him the above story, which infuriated the Lieutenant, who told the two paratroopers that the next morning at 8:00 AM he would Court Marshal them for a major military offense, which is to let prisoners escape. Herbert stated that both of them were crushed and did not sleep that night. At five o'clock the next morning they were at the border of the field, they were anxiously waiting for signals coming from the other side of the field. To their relief at exactly six (6) AM the German flash lights gave the agreed upon signals, to which Herb and his buddy responded. To their amazement one hundred and ten (110) Germans arrived with their hand up.

As Herbert end his friend escorted the prisoners to the Command Post (CP), Herbert Adams said to the Lieutenant: "Yesterday you were going to Court Marshal us, hope that this morning you are going to give us a medal." The Lieutenant answered: "O.K fellows, now we are even." However the Lieutenant assigned the other twin brother to accompany a team of Company "D" paratroopers to escort the prisoners to the rear of the line. This allowed the two brothers to be together for the first time in many years.

What an extraordinary story! What are the chances that two brothers, who are twins, were fighting on opposite side? Apparently the twin brothers had found way to communicate and knew where their brother was all through the battle. The father and the twins all survived the war and were able to return to the "Windy City" after the war.

GENERAL EISENHOWER'S PERSONAL GUARDS.

When the Germans capitulated and the European conflict was ended, the Supreme Commander General Dwight Eisenhower had his headquarters in Berlin, Germany. The General was quite partial to Airborne Troops; he insisted that his personal guards would be six foot tall paratrooper, who had been injured in combat.

Herbert H. Adams of Company "D", 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division was one of the men assigned to the Supreme Commander's personal guard team. These men worked in teams, which would have a soldier at the curb to open the door of the General's command car, another soldier at the door of the building, who was responsible for opening the door, another soldier at the top of the steps, and another guarding the entrance door of the General's office.

This particular evening Herbert H. Adams was assigned to the office door, it was late in the evening, the guard duty was monotonous and Herb's mind was wandering...he was curious and thought: "What does that office look like??"

He thought that no one was around, so he decided to open the door, he saw a very nice office and his eyes focused on the General's armchair. Again his mind went wandering this time he thought: "How does it feel to sit in the Supreme Commander's armchair?". He walked over to the desk and sat in General Eisenhower's chair; he was only there for seconds when the door at the opposite end of the office opened, who walks is? General Eisenhower and Colonel Adams, who by the way was not a member of Herb's family. The Colonel was furious, he was going to have Herbert Court Marshaled...when General Eisenhower placed his hand on the Colonel's shoulder and said: "Let me handle this." The General asked Herbert Adams why he was there? When Herb told him that he wanted to know how it felt to be in the General's chair, General Eisenhower asked him: "And how did it feel?" The answer was: "very nice." Then the General added: "Does it mean that should guard the door while you can enjoy this seat?" The answer was: "No Sir!"

Herbert went back to his post and it was the last he heard about this incident, until many years later when Mr. Dwight Eisenhower came to Worcester, Massachusetts to campaign for the Presidency of the United of America.

After the future President had given his speech, Herbert Adams, who lives at Worcester, Massachusetts, went to talk to the General and Herb asked him if he remembered the nightly incident in 1945 Berlin, Germany. The two men struck a nice conversation and talked about their war experiences for at least twenty minutes.