Ernest R. Blanchard, 82nd Airborne, WW II

Ernest R. Blanchard was a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II. He survived four combat parachute jumps, as well as combat duty in North Africa and the Battle of the Bulge.

He carried an SCR300, or BC1000 backpack radio as part of his duties. The radio was very heavy and he had to carry it, plus spare batteries (also heavy), in addition to the usual equipment a combat troop carries. He was a very strong individual. On one occasion the radio saved his life. There was an explosion and shrapnel from the explosion tore into the radio, but come up just short of hitting him.

This is a blog dedicated to him, and the ongoing work of writing a book about him: Where Dad Dropped In.

He participated in what is perhaps the most famous parachute jump, ever, the planeload of troops that dropped directly into the village of Ste. Mere Eglise, Normandy, France on June 6th, 1944; D-Day.

Here is a list of the men that jumped from the plane that night:

Company F 2nd Platoon Mortar Squad 6 June 1944
1. Lt. Cadish asn 0-1321274  KIA  6 June 1944 (shot on pole)
2. Sgt. John Ray  asn 34005401  DOW 7 June 1944 (shot in square)
3. Sgt. Edward White  asn  38086247  KIA 6 June 1944
4. Corp. Vernon Francisco  asn 12172603  KIA 3 Jan. 1945  The Battle of the Bulge
5. Pfc. Charles Blankenship  asn 14021124 KIA  6 June 1944 (shot in tree, near Blanchard)
6. Pfc. Clifford Maughan  asn 31979546  survived WWII (landed in garden, taken prisoner)
7. Pfc. Penrose Shearer  asn  13067200  KIA  6 June 1944
8. Pfc. Alfred Van Holsbeck asn 15098699 KIA 8 June 1944 (Fell into burning house?)
9. Pfc. Ernest Blanchard  asn 31196873  survived WWII
10. Pvt. H.T. Bryant  asn 38476694  KIA 6 June 1944 (shot on pole)
11. Pvt. Phillip Lynch  asn 393121178  KIA 13 Jan. 1945  The Battle of the Bulge
12. Pvt. Kenneth Russell  asn 34375469  survived WWII  landed on the
church roof-escaped
13. Pvt. John Steele  asn 16054501 survived WWII landed of roof wounded
but escaped
14. Pvt. Ladishaw Tlapa  asn 36636766  KIA 6 June 1944 (shot on pole)
15. Pvt Steven Epps  asn 14201815 survived WWII

In the summer of 2013, I had the great pleasure of finding my father’s WW II helmet in the December, 1944 Museum in Belgium. Here is a video of that moment:

 

40 thoughts on “Ernest R. Blanchard, 82nd Airborne, WW II

  1. Happy Birthday Dennis! Wish this video was in English! You and Jane look so good and I am very proud to know who you are! I wish to the best in your new book and can’t wait to read it! I love you both! Enjoy traveling~~~~~~

    • Sandy, not only can you wait to read it, I can’t wait to finish writing it. Those men that went into D-Day, North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Holland, the Battle of the Bulge and Germany, were just super human. The more I research this, the more overwhelmed I become with their accomplishments. Mike Steele, the fellow that has a comment following yours, was the fellow that landed with his parachute caught on the church steeple. That scene was made famous by Cornelius Ryan in his book/movie, “The Longest Day.”

      I can’t be certain yet, but it appears that 16 men jumped from that C47 plane, and only 4 survived the night. My dad, John Steele, Ken Russell and Epps made it out alive. Such bravery!

        • Good Day Michael: Sadly, I don’t have any other information than what I have on the web site. I’m on the road at the moment and can check the documents at home when I return. Even the information on the site could be in error, there isn’t much to go on. Searching using Google or other tools may help you find more current information, what I have may be out of date. New evidence turns up all the time.

          Dennis R. Blanchard

          • Thank you from what i have learned i heard the same as you had in your thread but i also heard he was hit by gunfire on the way down

  2. Hi Dennis. Hope this finds you well. Please expand on PVT Russell. Was he captured by the Germans prior to his escape? I know my uncle was captured then eventually escaped.

    • Hi Mike, nice to hear from you. Your uncle was one very brave man. He was captured, and even though injured, he managed to escape. Somewhere, in the piles of research information I have been gathering, I have that story in some detail. It is buried at the moment and as I write the book, I’m sure I’ll see it again. At that point, I will post what I have for you.

      As for Russell, I have several interviews of his, and I don’t recall his being captured at all. He had a few hair raising encounters on D-Day night, but I think he got away at that time. I’ll double check that as well, once I can get to it. I’m drowning in documents at the moment. The thing I do lack is photos of my father at that time. I do have a few select ones, but could use more.

      Thanks for the comment, I love to hear from folks.

  3. My dad was also with the 82nd during WWII. I used to have his discharge papers but they ended up lost. I know he was in Africa, Italy, Normandy, Bastonge, etc. Unfortunately his records were destroyed in a fire. I would love to know how you found your dads jump roster from.dday. i would like to find mine and any other information about his service

    • Hi Shawn: Unfortunately, I have not been able to find my father’s jump manifest either. Every WW II historian in the world has been searching for those since the war, and nobody has found them yet. I have been able to piece together my father’s stick through combing through records, books and fragments of documents that have allowed me to figure out who was on the plane.

      I was fortunate, that particular plane dumped, what may have been the most famous group of paratroopers in history. They all ended up landing right in the square at Ste. Mere Eglise and most of them were immortalized in the movie, The Longest Day. That, and there are various memorials at Ste. Mere Eglise that have their names on them. Even with all the research, I still can’t be positive that I have the entire list. I could be missing someone and never know it. Sad, but true.

      There is a good chance your father and mine met along the way. Dad served with the Headquarters Co. as a radioman and was farmed out to various groups. That night on D-Day he was jumping with men that he only knew in passing. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

  4. Any suggestions for finding more details about my uncle, private “Charles S. Teller”, service number 14084043 ? He was 82nd AB, I believe 1/508th, chalk 22, DZ “N”, 0220 AM on D Day; (KIA 07JUN1944). Not certain if he was considered a Pathfinder.
    I have not been able to find his chalk photo, which would be wonderful. I don’t know what books may reference his stick. If anyone knows where I could search, other than what I have been able to find reasonably easy on the Internet, I would appreciate your help.
    Best regards,
    Scott “Teller” Cadwell
    stc1954@cox.net

    • Hi Scott: Judging by the time he landed on D-Day, I would think he wasn’t a pathfinder. Most of their landing times were a bit earlier, however, as you no doubt know, things did go wrong. I don’t have much on the 508th, but here is the official record that I found online: Charles S. Teller.
      I’m rather busy at the moment, I’m getting ready to leave Monday for the D-Day Memorial events in Ste. Mere Eglise. I’ll try to dig deeper as time permits.

  5. Dennis,

    Thank you for the help.
    Enjoy the trip to France.
    France has such a beautiful countryside.

    -Scott

  6. I’m doing some research into C-47 43-15334 that was assigned to the 45th TCS of 316 TCG, and was used for Chalk 34 of Series 17 of Mission Boston during D-Day, dropping troopers of the 2/505th PIR next to St. Mere-Eglise. It is not impossible that your dad jumped from this aircraft, although I have no direct connection between them. If however, you run across any information about this C-47, or others in the 45th TCS (especially photos) I’d appreciate having it forwarded to me.

    Much appreciated.

    Andrew

    • Andrew: It appears my father was on Chalk #9: 42-23505. He was with the HQ group, but was assigned to the mortar team on that plane. He was a radio operator with HQ and they always farmed them out to various teams to keep contact with HQ. The plane actually survived the war and there is a photo of it when it crashed, serving duty as a Czech airliner after the war. See photo and data sheet: http://www.planes.cz/lite/fc47.php C47, Chalk #9 on D-Day Please do keep in touch.

  7. C-47 43-15334 also survived the war, served with several airlines, was badly damaged in Hurricane Charley, but is now in private ownership and undergoing repairs (slowly). Google N130D, and you can find photos. I’m trying to fill in some of the history of this aircraft, and hope to find wartime photos or histories of the aircrew and paratroopers who may have jumped out of this aircraft.

    Thanks

    Andrew

  8. hi. found your site looking at several airborne stories. I feel so good for you that you located your dad’s helmet, what a moment. My dad, William M Bonnamy, was in the 82nd, 319th FAG, A Batter; his glider crashed about 2 miles north in Foucarville than where your dad came down in the square. The 319th’s mission was fire support for the 508th. His rally point just after first light was in the town square which was under control by that time. In the square, defensive positions were being taken up, my dad saw General Gavin pull up in a jeep with his crew. Gavin immediately noticed that dead troopers who were still hanging in the trees. He started screaming at his officers to have the troopers cut out of the trees and take care of. My dad only said a few things about D-day and that story was one of them. My dad survived all the way to Berlin some how. I’ve been to St. Mere Elgise several times and was there just this last June. It always amazes me and I always find out something new or make new friends.

    Please feel free to call or write.

    William Bonnamy

    • Wow, quite a story William! I wonder if you dad had any photos? Cameras were kinda scarce at the time, so I can’t imagine he did. I’ve been actively hunting for photos of the SME square from D-Day. I have found one grainy photo that shows my father’s parachute still in the tree, but I’ve been dying to find a better one. The other thing I have been trying to determine is which troopers were hanging in the square? I have a good approximation, but can’t be certain, and may never be. I can’t even be certain as to how many troops were actually in the 82nd Airborne plane that dropped them in SME that night. The good news is, it appears that only one 82nd drop ended up in the square, all of the other troops that landed there were 101st. It wasn’t such good news for them, many of them died, but from a research vantage point, it helps. It looks like it was 16 troops, but I could be wrong. What I would give to find the parachute manifest from that plane that night.

      It appears that my father jumped just behind John Steele. There was a man in between and he exploded right in front of my father. It is even possible that the shrapnel that ended up in Steele’s foot could have been from that explosion and not from the ground fire. This is all postulating, one can never know for certain.

      Those troops in the gliders really had it rough and I don’t think anyone ahead of time realized how bad it was going to be. I think there was a notion that riding in on the glider would be “easier” than parachuting, but that certainly didn’t turn out to be the case. Keep me posted, I love hearing about the troops that were there, as well as all the other operations.

  9. I have a pic of my dad posing with some officers somewhere in North Africa, after that nothing until Paris
    In August 1944. I have a nice pic from the Bulge and Holland but that’s about it aside from a group photo of the brass from the 319th. See link (http://www.ww2-airborne.us/units/319/319.html)

    Dad said he would of preferred to jump as opposed to crashing in a glider to get on the ground. Several of his crew including the pilot were killed getting on the ground 6/6. He was part of Force B, they landed the evening of June 6, just in time for the German counter offensive. Here’s an excerpt of their mission:

    “Parachute elements jumped at 0210 hours, joined a group from the 508th
    Parachute Infantry and assisted in the attack on the LA FIERE Bridge. At 1330
    hours this element joined the glider element at the Division CP at 332965.
    Glider elements landed at 0500 hours and moved directly to the Division CP. At
    2305 hours Headquarters and Headquarters Battery of Division Artillery, the
    319th Glider Field Artillery Battalion and the 320th Glider Field Artillery
    Battalion glided into NORMANDY and encountered severe enemy small arms and mor-
    tar fire. Reorganization commenced immediately but was handicapped by intense
    enemy fire. The section of the 456th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion at-
    tached to 505th Parachute Infantry jumped with the 3d Battalion, but was able
    to assemble only one of the two 75mm pack howitzers which had been dropped.”

    My dad could not see without his glasses and had 3 pair that evening. When their glider came to a stop, he couldn’t find any of his glasses. As a young kid hearing this story I’m thinking OMG he just crashed, some of his crew were dead next to him, it’s dark, he can’t see and Germans are shooting at him. Not good. He did not tell me but confided in my mom that earlier the following morning as they moved towards SME he killed a german officer and took his .380 PPK pistol which he carried the rest of the war. He simply said “it was him or me.” That pistol was stolen from our house in Chicago by movers when my parents bought a new home.

    His glider crashed not far from where a stick of 101st paratroopers crashed in a C47 and all were killed. There’s a monument to this north of SME near Foucarville. This is where Lt. Thomas Meehan and his stick of troopers died in a firery crash as they took fire on their approach. If you watched the Band of Brothers series it begins on Dday and Charlie company can’t find Lt. Meehan and so one of the sgt.’s takes over the squad. They had no idea Meehan’s transport had crashed and all were lost.

    When I visited SME in 2009 I had a British guide who claimed to have interviewed Trooper Steele and he had some pic’s of him and other info. Steele told him he came down on the church on the opposite side of where the dummy trooper hangs today. He was hanging about 20 feet from the ground. He said I believe one of the officers landed in a tree right across from him, but was shot by a German who was running by. Then another German approached saw Steele and took aim. Steele heard a shot but the German was down, apparently the trooper in the tree shot the German than died. Steele got out of his harness and took cover across the street. I thought he mentioned that Steele was captured then got away but not sure about that part.

    I am lucky to have my dad’s medals, his dress cap and the AA arm patch he wore on Dday. I also have his discharge papers which are really cool, if you want to see them I’ll send in another email. Most of his injuries were concussions but he also had a trailer hitch go through his leg in Belgium. I guess he was pretty lucky. He was deaf in his left ear from the 75mm Howitzer, ear protection then was done by sticking a finger in your ear before the gun went off. He had PTSD really bad and struggled with a lot of issues after the war. He could be very quiet, stayed to himself. But immensely proud of the 82nd airborne and fearless, he feared no person after the war. “The devils in baggy pants”…that’s how he referred to the 82nd.

    Do you have that hard bound leather book kind of dark maroon color, the 82nd produced at the end of the war?

    Take care.

  10. Dennis Great Story! I head about this website off the QSO Today podcast. I already follow you on Twitter, I read your book about the AT Three Hundred Zeros and plan to attempt the hike in in 2019 when I retire. I’m like you and already went through a Heart procedure, so I can kind of relate. Nothing to the severity of a sextuple bypass….my was a simple valve……but, I know the issue of being cut open. The sad thing is I never had any symptoms. It was found after a follow up by my doctor following surgery to remove Kidney Stones. So, I actually had back to back surgeries within 3 weeks. I’ll tell you what…..I rather have Heart Surgery than Kidney Stones again…..

    Can’t wait to read the book! I served 31 years in the military, started off active duty in the USMC but spent a majority of my career in the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard as both a Radio Operator and Maintenance Tech, but ultimately retired as a Health Service Administrator O3-E. My last deployment I was assigned the 332d Aeromedical Staging Squadron. The same squadron number and wing was reactivated to continue the legacy of the Tuskegee Airman.

    73,

    David, aa6rv

    • Wow David, sounds like you’ve had your share of adventures! I love you comment, “…my was a simple valve…,” there’s nothing simple about anything that involves cutting into your body. I often tell people there is little difference between 1 bypass, or 6, they all entail certain dangers. The statistical disadvantage with the higher number is a factor, of course, but even 1 bypass is dangerous.

      Keep me posted when you set out to hike the AT, I love to follow along. I can’t say when the book about my dad will finish, the research has proven daunting, but I keep plugging away. Thanks for the comments.

      Dennis “K1” Blanchard

  11. Dear Mr Blanchard

    Please can you contact me by email. I would like your permission to use one or two of your photos in a presentation. Therefore, I thought it only right to have your go ahead before I do so.

    Thank you.

    Andy

  12. Dennis, I’m a WWII re-enactor in Las Vegas, NV and a veteran of the U.S. Army Reserve (86-94). I was in the Signal Corps, not the Airborne, and I don’t have any direct ancestors that served during the war. My paternal grandfather was too old to be accepted, and my maternal grandfather joined the Army, but they found out he had a steel kneecap from a childhood injury, so he was discharged before his unit went overseas.

    However, I’ve been interested in the war since I was 12, and when my mom passed away in 2011 I spent my inheritance on taking my wife and two daughters to Normandy for a couple of days the following year. I knew then that 2014 would be the year to go because the festivities would be huge. Turns out that was true, but I also knew that if I didn’t take the opportunity to go when I did, that I would just end up eventually spending the money and I’d never have another chance to go.

    As a result of that trip, I kind of “adopted” the 82nd as my major interest in the war, and bought a replica 82nd uniform at the Dead Man’s corner museum, even though I was not yet a re-enactor (and had never even thought of becoming one).

    When I returned home, one of my friends talked me into contacting the Southern Nevada Living History Association. Now, I am the sole representative of the 82nd amongst our WWII group. I wish the guys that were there for real had a better person to keep the memory of their sacrifices alive in the minds of the people of Las Vegas, but for now, I’m all they’ve got in that capacity.

    Therefore, having read a few histories of 82nd sub-units, and the memoirs of several of its veterans, I am champing at the bit to read about your dad! Best wishes.

    Terry Sackett
    Las Vegas, USA

    • Terry: Thanks for keeping the memory alive in Las Vegas. I’ll be certain to keep my eyes open for anything that comes up regarding your town. Re-enacting can be a family event, as shown here with a Belgian family we talked to in Sainte-Mère-Église. I was so thrilled to meet SO many people that haven’t forgotten the sacrifice that those troops made. I think I saw more American flags in Sainte-Mère-Église than I have ever seen anywhere else, including my home country. Thanks for following.
      Ste. Mere Eglise 2014-06-06-2014 re-enactors

  13. Dennis,

    My father is Clifford Maughan. I have also visited Ste Marie Elise in 2013 where I learned there is a plaque honoring his drop into a garden of a family called Munoz family. This home , 4 Rue Eisenhower, 50480 Ste Mere Elise. This is now the property of Ellwood van Seibel, a British WWII tour guide.

    This is a short version of what Elwood retold as the events of June 6, 1944, as he had heard them from the daughter of the Munoz’s, Georgette.

    Cliff was evidently the first to jump from the airplane and he landed a few blocks away from the square. There is a greenhouse located on the property. It is dramatized in the movie, The Longest Day. It was crashed into in the movie but Cliff actually landed in the rear of the property, away from the greenhouse.

    Georgette, a young girl, was a witness to his landing as she and her family were huddled nearby in a ditch for protection as the planes arrived. A German officer was housed at their home and he had also became aware of his arrival. Cliff was recovering from the jump and the officer was able to raise his rifle, trained on Cliff. Georgette intervened between the two men, asking that no lives be lost. The officer first spoke in German and then in English asking Cliff if the Allies were invading. The German officer eventually surrendered to Cliff as he said that if this is true the War was soon to be over.

    Georgette and Cliff were unexpectedly reunited and 1984 in the garden during a DDay anniversary. I will be glad to share more of the story.

    I am also searching for information regarding my Dad and his service history. Any information concerning Company F 505 Parachute Infantry, would be appreciated. He died in 1990 and is buried in Riverside National Cemetery. I am his only child. I look forward to your contact.

    Donald. A. Maughan

    • Good to hear from you Donald. We may have been in Ste Mere Eglise at the same time, too bad we didn’t know. I was also there last June for the 70th anniversary event, that was really something. I tried to see if I could find any living members of the old unit. As far as I can tell there is only one left from the HQ Co., Bill Sullivan. He was there, but I didn’t get a chance to meet with him. I’ve been corresponding with his wife, Elizabeth, and she told me that talking to him may not have done much good, he is advanced stages of Alzheimer’s and has very little memory left. How sad.

      As far as I can tell, this is the list of the troops that were on your father’s plane that night:
      Company F 2nd Platoon Mortar Squad 6 June 1944
      1. Lt. Cadish asn 0-1321274  KIA  6 June 1944 (shot on pole)
      2. Sgt. John Ray  asn 34005401  DOW 7 June 1944 (shot in square)
      3. Sgt. Edward White  asn  38086247  KIA 6 June 1944
      4. Corp. Vernon Francisco  asn 12172603  KIA 3 Jan. 1945  The Bulge
      5. Pfc. Charles Blankenship  asn 14021124 KIA  6 June 1944 (shot in same tree as Dad)
      6. Pfc. Clifford Maughan  asn 31979546  survived WWII (landed in garden, taken prisoner)
      7. Pfc. Penrose Shearer  asn  13067200  KIA  6 June 1944
      8. Pfc. Alfred Van Holsbeck asn 15098699 KIA 8 June 1944 (Fell into burning house?)
      9. Pfc. Ernest Blanchard  asn 31196873  survived WWII
      10. Pvt. H.T. Bryant  asn 38476694  KIA 6 June 1944 (shot on pole)
      11. Pvt. Phillip Lynch  asn 393121178  KIA 13 Jan. 1945  The Bulge
      12. Pvt. Kenneth Russell  asn 34375469  survived WWII  landed on the 
      church roof-escaped
      13. Pvt. John Steele  asn 16054501 survived WWII landed of roof wounded 
      but escaped
      14. Pvt. Ladishaw Tlapa  asn 36636766  KIA 6 June 1944 (shot on pole)
      15. Pvt Steven Epps  asn 14201815 survived WWII

      My father was a radio operator with the HQ Co. and was attached to your father’s stick for the drop, so they probably didn’t know each other that well, or at all.
      It has been extremely difficult gathering accurate information. I’ve heard and read so many different versions of what went on in the town square that night that I’m convinced I may never get to the bottom of it. One thing that I did dig up is it appears that Lt. Cadish was serving as jump master that night. He, Bryant and Tlapa all ended up at the northwest corner of the square, on the light poles and were killed either on the way down, or shot on the poles. From the direction the plane came from, and the speed, it would appear that they were the first ones to jump, since the plane went diagonally across the square from there. This would have put your dad somewhere in the middle of the pack.

      The list above may give some sense of the order that they jumped in, but a few things would not make sense. First, if Cadish was jump master, he could have gone either first, or last, depending on if he wanted to ensure everyone got out or not. It would have been his choice. I interviewed the co-pilot that night and he indicated that there was some delay of getting out. This may have been to the mortar equipment getting stuck in the door during the jump, I found a few other instances where this was the case with mortar teams as well. It didn’t fit through the door very well. Second, Tlapa would have been further up the list to land on those poles. We may never know the order. There would have been seven copies of the jump manifest for that plane, on that night, and none have ever turned up.

      I do know my father told me he could see John Steele heading for the church steeple and that the man immediately in front of him blew up directly below him. He must have taken a hit in his Gammon grenades. I think that man was between my father and Steele. My father ended up in a tree just up the street from where your father landed, which would indicated that your father was just ahead of my father and Steele. They didn’t have much control of those chutes and some dropped faster than others, depending on how much equipment they were carrying. My father was carrying an SCR300 radio, spare batteries and some mortar ammo and dropped very quickly. I have a aerial photo that calls out and points to exactly which tree my father landed in. The tree had several trunks, and some of them still stand, but the one he landed in is gone now.

      If you’d like to pursue this further, we can email or Skype, do let me know. I haven’t been too actively working on this in recent months, I have another book that I am trying to finish first. I’m still searching for my father’s journal, it was loaned to a museum and I have yet to track it down, along with some other items.

      Take care.

      Dennis Blanchard

    • Donald,

      your father landed in my grandfather’s garden (we’re named Monnier, not Munoz). Georgette is my aunt (still alive).

      I was there when your father visited in 1984. My father and my aunt had dinner with your dad. And we showed him his parachute, which my family had kept for 40 years. This was all very moving and memorable.

      I’m sorry I’m seeing this so late.

  14. my dad saw some of those troopers still hanging in the trees around the square the next day. Gavin happen to arrive and gave the mp’s hell and orders to immediately cut everyone down.

  15. Hi Dennis,

    Thank you for your reply and a copious thank you for your efforts to keep the memories of these brave men alive through your writing. I am currently reading Unbroken and it reiterates what the men were made of during that period.

    You have obviously done a lot of research and gathered a lot of information on your Dad’s experiences as a part of 82nd Airborne. I appreciate you sharing the approximate timing and direction of the jumpers and that makes a lot sense to me. I find it interesting that our fathers landed in such close proximity. He was part of the mortar team so he would have been heavy also.

    I have heard several versions of what happened after my father landed in the garden. One thing seems to be constant; he ended up capturing the German, Lt. AltmanVerna, (unsure if spelling is correct) who was billeted in the home. I also know my dad was wounded and hospitalized but later returned to his unit. I believe he missed the Battle of the Bulge. Can you tell me any other details of what happened with the 82nd after they jumped that night? How long did they stay in Normandy? I recorded the words of Elwood Van Seible and transposed them into print. Are you interested in reading this document? Also, are you familiar with Descending from the Clouds, A Memoir of Combat in the 505 Parachute infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division by Spencer F. Wurst and Gayle Wurst. It is excellent and it includes photos of each, John Steele and Clifford Maughan.

    I would love to get your email and continue our dialogue. Which area of the country do you live ? I am in San Diego just in case we are nearby.

    Warm Regards,

    Donald A. Maughan
    Don.maughan@gmail.com

  16. Following is Ernest R. Blanchard’s initial interview (written questionnaire) for The Longest Day:

    Bristol, Conn.
    CONN 9

    For Cornelius Ryan Book about D-Day
    Black

    THOUSANDS OF MEN, ON LAND AND SEA AND IN THE AIR, PARTICIPATED IN THE INVASION OF NORMANDY BETWEEN MIDNIGHT JUNE 5, 1944 AND MIDNIGHT JUNE 6, 1944. IF YOU WERE ONE OF THEM, PLEASE ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS.

    Pathfinder 82nd

    What is your full name? ERNEST RILEY BLANCHARD

    What was your unit and division? 505th Regimental Combat Team 82nd Airborne Div.

    When did you arrive in Normandy, and at what time? We dropped in Normandy (St Mere Eglise) at .0015 hour June 6. St Mere Eglise was the first town on the Continent to be liberated by the invasion.

    What was your rank on June 6, 1944? P.F.C.

    What was your age on June 6, 1944? 30

    Were you married at the time? No
    What is your wife’s name?
    Did you have any children at that time?

    (Handwritten notes, probably from telephone follow-up interview:)

    Saw a man explode
    Heard bell
    HQ 505 Capt Boyd
    John Grogan
    Samples
    Landed in tree in square
    Radio operator, supposed to set up light assembly

    What do you do now? I am a machinist by trade in the E. Ingraham Clock Co Bristol Conn

    When did you know you were going to be part of the invasion? Actually we assumed that we were going into something real big in May of 44 but as to actually be exact on the time we did not kknow until we were in the C-47s on our way.

    What was the trip like during the crossing of the Channel? Do you remember, for example, any conversations you had or how you passed the time? Well we heard rumors and more rumors. Some of them were that this was a sham that the big invasion was going off in Norway at the same time we dropped in Normany. We also heard that the Jerries had all kind of fantastic weapons to use especially on Airborne troops.. Some of these rumors we heard were not far from wrong. They had quite a defense set up against us. Anti-Airborne obstacles such as trip wire mines. Pointed poles driven in the ground plenty of Bobby traps etc.

    – for Cornelius Ryan 2 –

    Your name Ernest R Blanchard

    Did you by chance keep a diary of what happened to you that day? Yes I did. I have a few incidents that took place in it.

    Were any of your friends killed or wounded either during the landing or during the day? Yes.

    Do you remember any conversations you had with them before they became casualties? We lost a lot of men in the air when we dropped. Also men were shot while hanging in their chutes.

    Were you wounded? Yes.

    Do you remember what it was like—that is, do you remember whether you felt any pain or were you so surprised that you felt nothing? It all happened so quick that it was over before I knew what had happened.

    Do you remember seeing or hearing anything that seems funny now, even though it did not, of course, seem amusing at the time? Yes another trooper and myself were in a large Jerry foxhole in a position that we had taken and we were really catching some hot fire from mortars and 88’s when all of the sudden this trooper jumped into the hole with us. He said they are all into my fox-hole.

    Do you recall any incident, sad or heroic, or simply memorable, which struck you more than anything else? An instance of a trooper climbing into a tree in our forward positions to give fire orders back for the artillery to fire on enemy positions that were on our necks with there dreaded 88’s. He certainly did a fine job and their positions were completely destroyed.

    – for Cornelius Ryan 3 –

    Your name Ernest R Blanchard

    In times of great crisis, people generally show either great ingenuity or self-reliance; others do incredibly stupid things. Do you remember any examples of either?

    We were being strafed on a road out of St-Mere Eglise. So three of us ran for the same fox-hole. As it happened I got to the hole last. And I was top man so you can see that the fox-hole did me no good. You can call it what you want but I still call it self-preservation.

    Where were you at midnight on June 5, 1944? In the air going to Normandy.

    Where were you at midnight on June 6, 1944? St-Mere-Eglise Normandy

    Do you know anybody else who landed within those 24 hours (midnight June 5 to midnight June 6) as infantry, glider or airborne troops, or who took part in the air and sea operations, whom we should write to?

    Sgt. Major Elmer P. Ward. I don’t know his address but I know he works for Penn R.R.
    Master Sgt. Carl W. Hern. 36 Covert St Columbus Indiana
    John Grogan 206 Lake Shore Terrace Los Angeles 26 California
    Elmer P Ward 1621 Antrim St N.S. Pittsburgh Penna.

    There were so many things that happened on D-Day in Normandy that it would take a long time to get them in writing so I hope this will be of some help to you.

    Sincerely yours, Ernest R Blanchard

    PLEASE LET US HAVE THIS QUESTIONNAIRE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, SO THAT WE CAN INCLUDE YOUR EXPERIENCES IN THE BOOK. WE HOPE THAT YOU WILL CONTINUE YOUR STORY ON SEPARATE SHEETS IF WE HAVE NOT LEFT SUFFICIENT ROOM. FULL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT WILL BE GIVE IN A CHAPTER CALLED “WHERE ARE THEY NOW,’ YOUR NAME AND VOCATION WILL BE LISTED.

    THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP.

    Cornelius Ryan

    Frances Ward
    Research, The Reader’s Digest

    • Thanks Bill. I do have a copy of this from when we visited the Cornelius Ryan records library in Ohio. My father had a few errors in it regarding addresses and such, but it is fairly complete. For example, Msgt Carl W. Hern, was actually, Carl M. Hern. I’ve never had any luck tracking down some of those listed. I’d love to find existing members of the Hern family. I met them when I was very young, they stopped by to visit us in Connecticut. The “Covert St.” address no longer exists.

      Thanks again.

      Dennis R. Blanchard

  17. I am Michael J Baker i amlooking to find out anything about my dad Harold J. Baker 506e 82 airborn we know he served from 1944 to1945 and he said he was at Baston can any one help us find more about hem he was from kansas ,Independence he inlisted in 1943 ThankYou Michael Baker

    • Good Day Michael: Sorry for the long delay. Somehow I didn’t get the notification until just now. In answer to your question about Harold Baker, are you certain he was in the 82nd Airborne Div.? I’m fairly certain that the 506th E was part of the 101st Airborne Div. That would explain his being in Bastogne, Belgium, since that was primarily a 101st operation. The 82nd was deployed around the Bastogne area in and worked to free Bastogne from being surrounded.

      Let me know if this is of any help. I can investigate further.

      Dennis R. Blanchard

  18. dad hade both sholder 82 and 101 on his jacket . he said that was in both after bastogne if yoy have any papper work and any inpho on him.

  19. Looking to find information on my grandfather; John C. Grady. I believe he was 82nd, and perhaps the 505th? I know he made several “drops”; I used to have some of his insignia patches “death from above” was my favorite as a kid. He was estranged from my mother for a number of years, so I do not have much to remember him by. Any assistance appreciated! – Victoria Hudson

    • Hi Victoria:

      I’m currently traveling and won’t be home until early October. Once there, I will try to see what I can find on your grandfather. Sorry.

      Dennis

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *