Photos

Cropped-After-the-Battle-SME-photo

On the left is the tree that Ernest R. Blanchard landed in, just after midnight, on 6 June, 1944, in Ste. Mere Eglise, Normandy, France.

Not certain where taken. In front of dummy German tank.

Not certain where taken. In front of dummy German tank.

Not certain where taken. In front of dummy German tank.

L-R, Bob Machol, Mrs. "Meme" Machol, Ernie Blanchard, unknown officer.

L-R, Bob Machol, Mrs. “Meme” Machol, Ernie Blanchard, unknown officer. Bob Machol was a close friend of my father, and a fellow radio operator in the 505th Headquarters unit.

Dad in helmet, George Nelson in foreground. On patrol near Ste. Mere Eglise, shortly after D-Day. Often two radio operators worked together and one could operate the radio while the other carried it, plus the second operator could carry additional batteries.

Dad in helmet, George Nelson in foreground. On patrol near Ste. Mere Eglise, shortly after D-Day. Often two radio operators worked together and one could operate the radio while the other carried it, plus the second operator could carry additional batteries.

His uniform doesn't yet show any paratrooper ribbons or insignias.

His uniform doesn’t yet show any paratrooper ribbons or insignias.

The circles indicate the various locations that the troops were dropped, indicated by the "chalk" number that was painted on the planes the day of departure. The large circle shows the intended target, or "drop zone," for the 505th troops. Notice that #9 and 4,5,and 6 are way out of the zone. #9 was Ernie Blanchard's and John Steele's plane.

The circles indicate the various locations that the troops were dropped, indicated by the “chalk” number that was painted on the planes the day of departure. The large circle shows the intended target, or “drop zone,” for the 505th troops. Notice that #9 and 4,5,and 6 are way out of the zone. #9 was Ernie Blanchard’s and John Steele’s plane.

Ernie Blanchard landed in a tree just a few feet to the left of this fence. The fence has machine gun damage all up and down the length of the fence. The fire was coming from the church.

Ernie Blanchard landed in a tree just a few feet to the left of this fence. The fence has machine gun damage all up and down the length of the fence. The fire was coming from the church.

A mannequin "paratrooper" hangs from the church to depict where John Steele landed. Actually, he landed on the other side of the steeple, diagonally from where shown. My father was hanging in a tree facing Steele and a machine gunner in the church was firing at my father.

A mannequin “paratrooper” hangs from the church to depict where John Steele landed. Actually, he landed on the other side of the steeple, the mannequin hangs where the tourists can see it better. My father was hanging in a tree facing Steele and a machine gunner in the church was firing at my father and the others. Of the 16 that jumped from that plane that night, 4 lived.

The plane my father parachuted into Ste. Mere Eglise survived the war. It was sold to Czechoslovakia Airline after the war. In 1952(?), the plane caught fire and crashed just after takeoff. There were no passengers, and the crew did survive, but that was the end of the plane.

The plane my father parachuted into Ste. Mere Eglise survived the war. It was sold to Czechoslovakia Airline after the war. In 1952(?), the plane caught fire and crashed just after takeoff. There were no passengers, and the crew did survive, but that was the end of the plane.

This photo is a mystery for me. The first troop on the left is Thomas Gintjee. Gintjee was famous in his own right. He was captured in Normandy and spent a good portion of the war in a German prison camp. He was featured in several books and stories and wrote his story as well. The mystery, for me, is the second man from the left. If I had to swear, in a court of law, I would claim him to be my father. However, the scarce data that I can find about this picture claims it was taken on 5 June, 1944, when these troops were getting ready to take off for Normandy. It shows them as 508th paratroopers, my father was 505th.  I can only surmise one of two things: 1. This photo was taken at a different time and my father was training with these men. He was with 505th Headquarters, as a radio operator, and they did "share" radio operators, especially when training. 2. This is not my father and the photo is as believed. If this is not my father, then the man is an identical twin.

This photo is a mystery for me. The first troop on the left is Thomas Gintjee. Gintjee was famous in his own right. He was captured in Normandy and spent a good portion of the war in a German prison camp. He was featured in several books and stories and wrote his story as well.
The mystery, for me, is the second man from the left. If I had to swear, in a court of law, I would claim him to be my father. However, the scarce data that I can find about this picture claims it was taken on 5 June, 1944, when these troops were getting ready to take off for Normandy. It shows them as 508th paratroopers, my father was 505th.
I can only surmise one of two things: 1. This photo was taken at a different time and my father was training with these men. He was with 505th Headquarters, as a radio operator, and they did “share” radio operators, especially when training. 2. This is not my father and the photo is as believed. If this is not my father, then the man is an identical twin.

Ernie Blanchard, back to camera, wearing SCR300 radio pack. Taken in Market Garden action Nederlands

Ernie Blanchard, back to camera, wearing SCR300 radio pack. Taken in Market Garden action Nederlands

Taken the day before the Market Garden invasion of Nederlands.

Taken the day before the Market Garden invasion of Nederlands.

On 7 June, 2014, I was presented with this bronze statue at a ceremony in Ravenoville, Normandy. The ceremony was to honor those paratroopers that fought to free Ravenoville. As part of the ceremony, I planted a tree in my father's honor.

On 7 June, 2014, I was presented with this bronze statue at a ceremony in Ravenoville, Normandy. The ceremony was to honor those paratroopers that fought to free Ravenoville. As part of the ceremony, I planted a tree in my father’s honor.

Army Major General Thomas presents me with bronze statue in my father's honor. I told the General I didn't think he looked old enough to be a General, he had a good laugh.

Army Major General Thomas presents me with bronze statue in my father’s honor. I told the General I didn’t think he looked old enough to be a General, he had a good laugh.

This helmet now resides in the December 44 Museum in La Gleize, Belgium. the helmet is significant for several reasons. First off, they only made 20 of them. It had special welds and strap arrangement for the radio operators. The insignia is that of a bird in flight, no doubt, a pigeon. The radio was replacing the pigeon as a communications means. Most don't realize this, but on D-Day, pigeons were still in use. See the video on the home page that shows us finding the helmet.

This helmet now resides in the December 44 Museum in La Gleize, Belgium. the helmet is significant for several reasons. First off, they only made 20 of them. It had special welds and strap arrangement for the radio operators. The insignia is that of a bird in flight, no doubt, a pigeon. The radio was replacing the pigeon as a communications means. Most don’t realize this, but on D-Day, pigeons were still in use. See the video on the video page that shows us finding the helmet.

 

Belgian family re-enactors.

Belgian family re-enactors at 70th Anniversary.

10 thoughts on “Photos

  1. K1, God bless you, your Dad would be as proud of you as you are of him. Can’t wait to read your other 2 books. God bless your brother may he rest in peace, his spirit is with you always. NighthawkOhio

  2. The picture of Thomas Gintjee is my Uncle by marriage. His brother is my husband grandfather. I will show the picture to my uncle and see if he knows who that man next to Gintjee is.

    • Thank you so much Maria. I would love to know about that photo. It is so difficult to track down this information.

      Dennis Blanchard

  3. Dennis, I actually sent this link and picture to Thomas Gintjee son, he may also have some information. Hope to be able to help you out.

  4. Dennis – regarding the photo with Gintjee … Tom was always in the 508th having been sent to it immediately upon enlistment. The entire regiment went through jump school as a unit in Jan-Mar 43 and they were transported to the ETO by way of Belfast Ireland (Jan-Mar 44) and Nottingham, England (Mar-Jun 44). Tom was captured on D-Day and returned to U.S. on 3 Jun 1945. Side note – his parents received an erroneous telegram advising that he was KIA, 6/6/44.
    So – maybe your father has that twin you mentioned.
    I am curious how you identified Tom in his photo and wonder if you will let me use it in an attempt to ID other men.

    Dick O’Donnell, National Chairman, Friends & Family, 508th PIR
    Jumpmaster@508pir.org

    • Good Day Dick:

      I didn’t identify Tom in the photo, several others in some forums did. I think the leading authority on such things would be Michel de Trez. He has lots of the originals of these photos and if he doesn’t, he seems to know who does. He’s devoted his entire life to researching this stuff. His book, American Warriers has copies of these photos on pages 188-189. Yes, I’m beginning to think that must be a fellow that looked very much like my father, how else could I explain it? If the picture was taken for the D-Day jump, I know my dad didn’t jump with the 508th, he jumped from the same plane as Steele, of that I’m certain. I recall him describing that in great detail and have photos of the tree that he landed in at Ste. Mere Eglise. That has been documented by many others as well. They only way I could explain him being in that photo is if it wasn’t taken on 5 June. The paratroopers had a limited number of qualified radio operators, of which he was one. If it was a training jump, I could see how he might have been on loan that day, but I now think that couldn’t be the case. I would love to identify some of the others in that photo as well, it could explain a number of things.
      As for Gintjee, I’m pretty certain that would be he. Anyway, I’d love to know if you find anything, this really has been a needle in a haystack. I’m assuming you have seen the article that Tom Gintjee wrote?

      Thanks

      Dennis

  5. Tom’s writings are somewhat elusive. I have seen page 1 of “an” article, whether it is the only one I don’t know, perhaps you have a full copy to share? I have heard from the daughter of another HQ1st 508th [now deceased] vet that Tom also wrote a children’s book. She says her father’s copy is “somewhere” and Google cannot find it either unless he adopted a pen name. I don’t doubt the veracity of the book story as Tom was almost a family member and undoubtedly gave them a copy as he also did with certain artwork.

  6. This is amazing! I would love to find out what plane my grandfather, Edward T. Crowder, jumped from–he was with the 505th C Company. He made the jump North-West of Sainte-Mere-Eglise. How can I find out this information? Your help would be much appreciated.

    • Dawn Wise – My records left by my dad, who was Capt. Carl Thain, with 456th FA 82nds airborne, shows that the 82nd went into Normandy in 3 groups. The 505th went in as part of Force “A”. Reports show 2095 personnel with the 505th went in before dawn of D-Day, approach the Cherbourg Peninsula from the west with the intent to land east of the Merderet River about 1000 yards northwest of Ste. Mere Eglise. Others dropped nearby were 507th, 508th, Div Hq and 307th Abn Engr for a total of 6396. There were a totalo f 378 aircraft and the 505th came in on 117, so it would be hard to say what particular aircraft your grandfather was aboard. By the close of the day, midst severe fighting, Ste. Mere Eglise was captured and held a line along the Merderet River. During Normandy, the 505th was under the Commandy of Colonel William E. Ekman. There were 3 forces with the 82nd airborne during the Normandy invasion. Your dad was in Force A and my dad was in Force C. He did not arrive until D-Day plus 2. Of the total committed strength, our numbers in the 3 forces were 11,700 with 5,436 KIA or died of wounds, 2,373 wounded, 840 missing or known captured, 377 evacuated sick, 704 evacuated injured.
      Prior to, The Division Headquarters was in Leicester. The Division was known as “Champion”. My dad was a jump trainer while they were stationed in England for new paratroopers joining the 82nd airborne who had not previously had their qualifying jumps.

    • As Debra Winn has so succinctly shown, it can be very difficult to determine which plane carried which “stick” of troops. Other than a few notes, here and there, or something documented in a book or historic reference, it is next to impossible.
      Ironically, there were good records taken at the time. There is something called a “Parachute manifest,” which each plane maintained. It was a notepad that had numerous carbon-copies, something like six, or seven sheets. It listed the troops on board, the order they were to jump in, the jump master, etc. For some odd reason, almost none of them survived D-Day.
      One copy was to be kept by the plane crew, one by the jump master, one for the ground crew, one for the command and so on. I’m convinced that there is some dusty cellar, or attic, somewhere that has a file full of these manifests and that one day a researcher will stumble across them.
      I’ve personally sniffed around in London, various spots throughout the UK, as well as Normandy and haven’t found a trace of them. What I wouldn’t give to find them!
      I got lucky with my dad’s plane, (it wasn’t so lucky for them), his team was dumped right into Ste. Mere Eglise and Cornelius Ryan, when writing the book, THE LONGEST DAY, (TLD) was able to interview the survivors, my father included, and had some actual first-hand information to work from. The only other information I have is what little my dad told me about that epic day.

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