Company "W" (Cow Company) was the miserable block of tents which greeted the green recruits, those rough, tough, would-be paratroopers fresh from civilian life, as they detrucked at Camp Toccoa, Georgia. Rainwater gurgled happily through the floorless tents, but the coming physical acceptance test was the main concern. After about a hundred had qualified, they were grouped together and called Headquarters Company, Third Battalion. And so the Company was born September 25, 1942.
Next there had to be platoons, so LT Machen arranged an alluring display of light .30's in front of the Orderly Room, and LT Reid, unable to borrow an 81 Mortar from the 2nd Battalion, had a not-so-alluring 60 Mortar out front to entice us. Everybody volunteered for the machine gun Platoon, and poor LT Reid had to shanghai the men into his platoon. LT Southwick and SGT Taormina had a little more luck with the Communications men. CPT Stoffregen was our first Company Commander. He was seldom seen except to emerge each weekend to inform the Company in a gruff voice that they were restricted for the weekend. He was always there on our Friday night marches too, to get lost with us. SGT Shirley was our first 1st Sergeant. He was fast-talking, hard, and square shooting, and every man respected him. He was with us until he was killed in Normandy. SGT Waltz had the 81 MM Mortar Platoon. He is now a lieutenant in the 515th. SGT Hickman had the Light Machine Gun Platoon, but couldn't hold them. He was greeted each morning with "Good morning, dear Chester." So SGT Ligouri took it over.
Remember Handy singing "Home on the Range" in the barracks and when Weirbach, our drinking champ, took one bottle of beer at the PX and passed out. He later accused Cowden of hitting him. And Section 8 Rollo Beath, peeling onions and diving for money with his gas mask in the obstacle course creek. Remember how Clark, Webb, Humphries, Adams, etc. used to volunteer to drill the platoons, bucking for those acting stripes. And how can you forget SGT Ryan. LT Pahl took the company half way up Currahee one day before he was forced to quit. Then he harangued us for ten minutes for drinking too much and being out of shape. He was assistant Mortar Platoon leader. He turned out to be a good fellow, and last we heard he was a captain.
Before starting the Clemson march, our first big physical and mental attitude test, Shorty Cantera threw Big Boy Cowden, and from then on Cowden never won a battle, although he picked quite a few. Williamson was about the last guy that beat him before he got out of the outfit. For Headquarters Company, that "forced hike" turned into something of a record; 40-odd miles in seventeen hours, and not a man fell out!
How about the night Pappy Wright got drunk and fell out of the top bunk onto the concrete floor four times? And how Jim Bradley started having his action-loaded nightmares the night the 1st Battalion threatened to run us out of camp and didn't succeed. Remember Anton and Morton doing flips - even Caldwell could do pretty good ones. LT Pahl had the whole company doing them one day. And the day Wolfe made his final freeze on the 30-foot mock tower and washed out! Remember SGT White's pig catching and killing carnival and how the farm boys saved the day - hillbilly McCann for one. Well, we finally did finish our "basic" at Toccoa and went to Fort Benning that "hard" way.
All the Officers, except LT Meehan and LT Pahl, were already "Qualified Paratroopers," and we were all anxious to see the day when we would receive those much coveted "Wings." The day we left for Atlanta, "Ju" Beck, and "Doc" Dwyer had to drag "Tex" Collier from bed, dress him, and stand him in ranks. He was sure that way. CPT Stoffregen had our company as we left Fort McPherson that Sunday morning on our history-shaking 140-mile endurance march to Fort Benning. Little Shorty Cantera had to take two steps for everybody else's one, but he was one of the 23 out of the company who made it all the way. The first day was great, and the pace was too slow for fresh, healthy bodies. Doc Dwyer kept hollering "Let's go up there - step it up," so much that LT Reid made him double time to the head of the column and back, arousing everyone's curiosity and sense of discipline from MAJ Wolverton down to LT Machen. The M.G.'s had LT Reid steamed up for a good part of the way by calling his men "stove-pipers." About the third day, endurance was ebbing, and tempers flared. Junkerman was singing the "99 Bottles" song and substituting miles for bottles. Lewallen blew his top and rapped him across the noggin with his shovel. Lew was one of those who made it all the way. Some of the others were Dwyer, Morton, Allison, Bullock, Mielcarek, Cartwright, Mihalko, Kendall, Stegmeier, Scherer, Embody, Vickers, and Sokolowski.
The Benning "Frying Pan" area was sort of a shock to us at first. The mess hall and chow weren't what we had become accustomed to. Pahlka built a fire in the shower boiler one day - took him two hours to get it going good. Then he went up to get his soap and towel to enjoy the fruits of his labor. When he returned, half of the Headquarters Company was using up his hot water, and he didn't even get a shower out of it. He broke his ankle on the towers and with a joyous heart, left the outfit. SGT Ligouri got push-ups for wearing his stripes at jump school and from then on, there wasn't a stripe in the crowd. How bout the night Danny Hayes and Red Kelley had their big fight. And the night Red Boehm came in at 3 a.m. in a taxi and woke up the barracks to borrow enough money to pay off the taxi. And the morning the Mortar Platoon overslept and CPT Stoffregen came down in person and blew them out of bed. And the crowd he had at the Orderly Room the day he told everyone who wanted to transfer to see him. Remember tough D.I. Payne and the day Krebs hung a shiner on him. He was the only Headquarters man drummed out of the outfit. Jobe astounded the citizens of Columbus the night he lifted a heavy table with his teeth by biting the edge. During the time, we were all going through the rough procedure of becoming "Troopers," and our company qualified the 1st week in January, 1943. Remember Pat Mulcahy broke his leg on the first jump and left the outfit. Short "Lighter than Air" Uharriet took an hour to reach the ground and then picked "Cactus Hill" for the initial landing. The end of that long remembered week saw Headquarters Company leaving on well deserved ten-day furloughs to "snow" the home folks.
CPT Stoffregen transferred to the 513th, and CPT McKnight took over before we moved to Alabama. Remember LT Meehan trying to convince us the Paratroopers weren't suicide outfits, and it was the easiest way to make fifty dollars that he knew of. And on our 6th jump, Stanley Allison made his first parachute jump by using Pappy Wright's name, who didn't jump. He's a lieutenant in the 13th now. LT Madden came to us at Alabama, and shortly afterwards, we moved to Camp Mackall, North Carolina.
That was a good set up. It was there we lost a lot of men to Mission "X" - men like Uharriet, Cantera, Hiegle, Searin, Lancaster and Craig. We were the first parachute regiment there. SGT Ligouri had an eye blown out by hang fire machine gun at the infiltration course, and SGT Lewis took the Machine Gun Platoon. SGT Waltz was shanghaied, and SGT Bates took the Mortar Platoon. Burger made corporal at Camp Mackall and moved up fast. Hunter got married in the Chapel there. Camp got drunk, stole a command car, and pulled a gun on some G.I.'s. He wound up in the 29th Division. LT Southwick transferred out of the outfit for unmentionable reasons. LT Pennell came to the company there. He devised an S.O.P. for jumping the machine gun. LT Machen returned to the Company from school. We suffered further restrictions at Mackall under CPT McKnight, usually because of only one man's mistake in the company. Some companies worked out 3-day weekends but Headquarters had to make Charlotte or Raleigh on Saturday night and Sunday passes. Moon Mullins was late once and had to dig that stump out with a spoon. Ended up using a shovel, but still was thrown in the guardhouse. One night CPL Simms was waked up at 2 a.m. and got up, washed, dressed and was ready for reveille at 2:30 a.m.
Everyone recalls the 30-mile-per-hour ground wind on the Hoffman jump, and how Earl McGrath knocked an entire chimney off the big white house, and the Battalion had to pay for it. Earl got a fifteen day leave out of that deal.
The outfit left Mackall for maneuvers and suffered through those grueling tests with many changes. We finished up in pup tents outside Camp Breckinridge. Remember those G.I.'s! And Hayes disarming the colored guard one night. And those last furloughs!
We returned from furloughs to the outfit at Fort Bragg. SGT Bates and SGT Barkhorst went AWOL, so SGT Burger took over the Mortar Platoon. SGT Lewis and SGT Collier were AWOL for a couple of days and were busted, so SGT Simms took over the MG Platoon. We got a lot of new men at Bragg.
From Bragg we went to Shanks and then to England. In England, CPT McKnight transferred to "I" Company, and CPT Carmen came to Headquarters. LT Madden transferred to "H" Company, and LT Sutfin came to the Mortars, and LT Wedeking came to the M.G.'s. LT Meehan transferred to "E" Company as Company Commander, and LT Barr took Communications. Mr. Dilborn went to the Pathfinders along with Big Archie Tingle, Benson, Carlton, and Ripple. We had a lot of good athletes there at Ramsbury -- Germer, Winner, Easter, Hunter, Facer, Tingle, Morton, Bucher, Rosie, Ronzani, Collier, and more.
CPT Carmen was liked by his men. He used psychology and detailed explanations to put things across. While on a simulated jump problem, our company was astounded to see their CO climbing a lone tree in the middle of the enormous DZ. Seconds later, in his deep voice, CPT Carmen started calling for help and a rigger. Yes men - he was simulating a tree landing. He will also be remembered for his "clothing formations" where the man being punished had to change a complete uniform, each different, every five minutes for two hours and be checked by the CQ each time. Checking time wasn't counted. After a transfer by CPT Carmen to another position, LT Reid took over the Company, and LT Littell came to the Mortars. LT Broyhill took the Rocket Launders into Normandy with SGTs Robinson, Adams, and Graham.
Normandy upset us quite a bit, and we said silent farewells to many good men. LT [James Geary] Morton of "G" Company took the Company after Bloody Gultch. We all came to like "Jungle Jim." Back in Ramsbury, SGT Simms and SGT Shames got their battlefield commissions, so SGT Easter took the M.G.'s with LT Wedeking and our new LT Weisenberger; and SGT Bahlau became 1st SGT. SGT Vickers took the Communications. LT Sutherland came to the Mortars as LT Sutfin's assistant. LT Pennell, respected for his wide knowledge and oratory ability, stayed as Exec. LT Duke took over the Rocket Launchers with SGT Pershing.
CPT Morton promised his men big things, and he made good on a lot of them. Even had a Company Party planned - but you know what happened - those company parties always bring on another combat mission, and consequently never came off. Lost a lot more good men in Holland. The number of Toccoa men was dwindling as more men joined the ranks of respected memories. CPT Morton was still with us as we settled down at our new base camp at Camp Moumelon, France after Holland. SGT Bahlau's Club Mocambo flourished with 60 members - all Headquarters Company N.C.O.'s. LT Sutherland had the mortars with SGT Morton. SGT Burger had received a battlefield commission and was with the 2nd Battalion Mortars. LT Fenton had the L.M.G.'s with SGT Bullock. LT Williams and SGT Pershing had the Rocket Launders.
Most of the company was in Paris when Von Runstedt started his Ardennes offensive. The old men that were left took the new men and went in and did the job anyway. During that "Battle of the Bulge," CPT Morton was lost to us through wounds, and LT Williams took the Company. SGT Morton was in charge of the Mortars, as LT Sutherland was wounded, and SGT Bullock was in charge of what remained of the L.M.G.'s. Back in tent city at Mourmelon, things were reorganized again, and LT Harrell became Company Commander. LT Sutfin returned to the Mortars; LT Wills, formerly on Battalion Staff, took the L.M.G.'s; and our new LT Lang took the Rocket Launchers with SGT Meissner. LT Barr was still Battalion Communications Officer. SGT Bahlau's battlefield commission came through; and SGT Bullock became 1st Sergeant; and SGT Dwyer took the L.M.G.'s.
LT Harrell's Captaincy came through, and a big company party was planned to be held at Reims in a sharp Cabaret - Yes, you can guess it! In we went again - and no party. This time it is Germany, and things are going quite smooth for Blue Company.
Thanks to Robert R. Webb, Jr. [son of the late Robert R. Webb, Sr. (SSG, HQ, 3-506th PIR, 1942-1945 and author of Freedom Found)] for sending in John Allison's article.