After 70 years, Blanchard’s WW II helmet showed up in the December 1944 Museum in La Gleize, Belgium. Curator and author Michel de Trez invited me to come and see the helmet. This is what the helmet looks like (photo, courtesy Michel de Trez):
This page is an ongoing work. I’ve been researching my father’s story for some time now and will add more to this blog as time allows. Writing a book of this nature can be an all-consuming effort, so I cannot guarantee I will be faithful to posting as often as I should.
Ernest R. Blanchard was a radio operator with the 82nd Airborne Division, 505th Regiment, Headquarters Company. As such, whenever they had a mission, he was assigned out to various companies for the actual parachute drop. For example, on D-Day, he jumped with the F company, from a C47 transport plane, marked with a “chalk” number #9. The chalk numbers were scribbled on the side of the plane so the troops knew which plane they were assigned to.
On D-Day, Blanchard jumped with what might be considered the most famous stick of men ever, for they jumped directly over the French village of Sainte-Mère-Église. Unfortunately for them, the German defenders were alerted to their arrival and it ended badly for most of the troops. As many as 12 were killed, many before they even hit the ground. Some had their parachutes catch on telephone poles and were shot right in place, before they could take any action. Pvt. John Steele, the most notable trooper, ended up with his parachute catching on the church steeple and he played dead and was later captured, only to escape, even though wounded.
Blanchard ended up in a tree directly across the square from Steele and managed to escape by cutting his parachute lines with his jump knife. He fell 25 feet (8 meters) to the ground, wearing 85 pounds (39 kg) of gear. He managed to land safely and get away, even though he cut off a good portion of his left thumb in the process of getting out of the tree.
I have a list of 15 troops that jumped from the plane that night, I believe there were 16, but that could be an error. Blanchard reported (and related to me over the years) that the man just ahead of him “blew up,” on the way down. He strongly suspected that the man’s Gammon grenades took a hit from the ground fire. Nothing remained of the man to be found. Another man fell into a burning building in the village and he also exploded. Through process of elimination and research I’ve conclude that three men are unaccounted for:
Sgt. Edward White, PFC Penrose Shearer and PFC Alfred Van Holsbeck.
The has been a search going on since the war to find the “Parachute Manifest,” that would help conclude the order the men parachuted in, which might help solve the mystery of which man was where that night. We may never know. In any case, these brave men gave their lives for their country and a free world.
This blog, and the subsequent book are about Ernest R. Blanchard’s adventures. If you know someone that may have information about this unit in WW II, I would love to hear from you.
Dennis R. Blanchard
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.
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 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
13. Pvt. John Steele asn 16054501 survived WWII landed of roof wounded
14. Pvt. Ladishaw Tlapa asn 36636766 KIA 6 June 1944 (shot on pole)
15. Pvt Steven Epps asn 14201815 survived WWII