PRIVATE FIRST CLASS WILLIAM POWELL “BILL” HOLMES; U.S. ARMY

August 24, 1924 (Connecticut) – October 23, 1944; 20 years old; unmarried
Last local address: 200 East Avenue, Norwalk
Enlisted November 16, 1942
Service number: 13157372
82ND AIRBORNE DIVISION, 505TH PARACHUTE INFANTRY REGIMENT, 2ND BATTALION, E COMPANY
MIA

Awarded the Bronze Star Medal twice.

PFC Holmes volunteered for a patrol deep into enemy lines near Leuth, Germany, to hide for twenty-four hours and observe enemy installations. He was to return to U.S. lines the following night but failed to do so. The initials, last name and serial number appearing in a broadcast matched PFC Holmes. It was a propaganda broadcast and not initially accepted as official at the time of its receipt. After receiving no additional information about him in the four years following the war, no logical conclusion could be drawn other that he was killed in action on the date he was reported missing in action.

Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency formally lists him as “non recoverable” in Germany.  

The 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment was activated under the Airborne Command, Fort Bragg, N.C., July 6, 1942, at Fort Benning, Ga.  The regiment was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division Feb. 4 the following year.

During World War II, the 505th PIR participated in seven major campaigns and four regimental airborne assaults. On April 28, 1943, the 505th left the New York Port of Embarkation for Casablanca, North Africa, where the regiment underwent six weeks of grueling training. The Regiment then flew to Kairouan, Tunisia, where final preparations were conducted for the 505th’s entry into battle.

The regiment made its first regimental-size combat jump July 9, 1943, as it landed behind enemy lines at Gela, Sicily. In its first trial-by-fire, the 505th, though outmanned and outgunned, used raw courage and fighting spirit to block the German Herman Goering Panzer Division and to save the beachhead and the Allied landings. With Sicily secure, the Allies continued attack on the Axis powers with landings on the Italian mainland.

The 505th conducted its second combat parachute attack on September 14, 1943, into Salerno, Italy, becoming the first unit to enter Naples. During the early months of 1944, the Division was moved to England as the allies were preparing for the assault on Western Europe. The largest combined military operation in history, “D-Day”, was to be spearheaded by the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions.

On June 6, 1944, at 3 a.m., 505th Paratroopers were landing on the Normandy Peninsula for the regiment’s third combat jump. It was one of the first airborne units to hit the ground, and it liberated the first town in France, St. Mere-Eglise. The paratroopers jumped prior to the actual start of the invasion – “H-Hour”. Because of that tradition, of being the first into the fight, the 505th motto is “H-Minus”.

For their performance during the invasions, the 505th was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, which is the unit equivalent of the Medal of Honor awarded to individual soldiers. In the words of author Clay Blair, the Paratroopers emerged from Normandy with the reputation of being a pack of jackals – the toughest, most resourceful and bloodthirsty in Europe.

On September 17, 1944, as part of “Operation Market Garden”, the 505th made its fourth jump at Groesbeck, Holland – the largest airborne assault in history. During that fierce combat, two lightly armed platoons – at most 80 men – were surrounded by an entire German infantry battalion supported by tanks. The Paratroopers fought back three savage German assaults and held their ground until relieved. The 505th received a second Presidential unit citation.

Published by jeffd1121

USAF retiree. Veteran advocate. Committed to telling the stories of those who died while in the service of the country during wartime.

One thought on “PRIVATE FIRST CLASS WILLIAM POWELL “BILL” HOLMES; U.S. ARMY

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: