Airborne & Camp MacKall

11th Airborne Division armpatch

The original idea for an American airborne came from Gen. Billy Mitchell in 1918.  His  commander, Gen. Pershing agreed, but once the WWI Armistice was signed, the plan was terminated.  In the late 1920’s, Germany began training parachute units and in the 1930’s, they led the world in gliders.  Russia created the Air Landing Corps in 1935.  Japan started in 1940 with German instructors.  The U.S. did not take note until Germany was successful.on Crete in 1941.

Pvt. Everett Smith , Camp MacKall My father Smitty.

Pvt. Everett Smith , Camp MacKall
My father Smitty.

The American tradition was born when 48 men jumped at Ft. Benning on Aug. 16, 1940, where  Private Eberhard, who was afraid of jumping, was the first to yell “Geronimo”.  Gen. William Lee is considered the “Father of the Airborne.”  My father, Everett Smith or “Smitty” (as you’ll get to know him), also did not care for heights or jumping, so I asked him – “Why volunteer?”  He shrugged and said, “They pay you more in the paratroopers.”  Smitty had a dry sense of humor which you will see more of in the letters he wrote to his mother in future posts.  He did however accept his boot camp, sharp shooting, glider & parachute training as a way  of learning new things he would otherwise have never experienced. [One of his statements driven into me – ” Like any job, always try your best.”]  Since he was 27 and much older than other recruits, he was often referred to by the nickname of “Pops.”

courtesy of the U.S. Army Signal Corps

courtesy of the U.S. Army Signal Corps

The 11th Airborne Division was formed on Feb. 25, 1943 and their conditioning was so severe that most of the men felt combat would be a breeze.  They were the first A/B division formed from scratch, so instead of following the manuals – they were writing their own.  The camp was under construction 24/7 and they took classes sitting in folding chairs and easels were used for map reading, first-aid, weapons, foxholes, rules of land warfare, communications, field fortifications, and so on.  Between May and June one battalion at a time went to Fort Benning for jump school.

When the time came for Stage A of jump school, it was scratched since the men were already as fit as possible.  Stage B, was learning to tumble, equipment knowledge, sliding down a 30′ cable and packing a parachute.  In Stage C, they used a 250-foot tower, forerunner to the one at Coney Island, to simulate a jump.  Stage D, they earned their jump wings and boots.  In June, the units began training in every circumstance that might arise in combat.

glider postcard taken on Camp MacKall field

glider postcard taken on Camp MacKall field

The gliders used were WACO CG 4A, boxlike contraptions with wings.  The skeleton was small gauge steel covered with canvas; a wingspan of 84 feet, length of 49 feet and carried 3,700 pounds = two pilots and 13 fully loaded soldiers or a jeep and 6 men. The casualty list developing these appeared endless to the men.  Smitty could not listen to “Taps” without tearing up, even in his later years.

21 June, the division entered the unit training program.  During July, all units went on 10-day bivouacs and to Fort Bragg.  Glider formal training occurred at Maxton Air Base.

1943_pchute_page07

Parachute ‘school’

In July, in Sicily, Operation Husky went terribly awry, due to the weather conditions –  3,800 paratroopers were separated from their gliders and each other.  The casualty rate was exorbitant.  This created serious doubts about the practicality of a division size airborne.  Proof would rest on the shoulders of the 11th and their commander, Gen. Joseph May Swing.  A demonstration called the “Pea Patch Show” was displayed for Sec. of War, Stimson.  He gave Swing a positive review, but it did not convince Gen. Marshall or McNair.  The fate of the Airborne Command rested on the upcoming Knollwood Maneuvers.

1943 jump training

1943 jump training

General Order No. 1 listed the original organic units of the 11th Airborne Division as follows:

Headquarters, 11 A/B Division

Headquarters Company, 11th A/B Division

Military Police Platoon, 11 A/B Division

408th A/B Quartermaster Company

511th A/B Signal Company

711th A/B Ordnance Maintenance Company

221st A/B Medical Company

127th A/B Engineer Battalion

152nd A/B Antiaircraft Battalion

HQ & HQ Battery, 11th A/B Artillery

457th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion

674th Glider Field Artillery Battalion

675th Glider Field Artillery Battalion

187th Glider Infantry Regiment

188th Glider Infantry Regiment

511th Parachute Infantry Regiment

__________________________

Total = 8,321 men

**********

Smitty’s hometown of Broad Channel sent out a free issue of “The Banner” to every soldier and this became another source of back-home info, along with his mother and friends:

News that Smitty got from home:  Broad Channel was getting their own air raid siren.  His neighbors, the Hausmans, heard from their POW son in the Philippines.  And – his divorce papers were final, Smitty was single again.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

Donald, learning as you go...

Donald, learning as you go…

vintage_humorous_military_army_card-rc7d3cd25f0494b5d8a804ef24c018ccc_xvuak_8byvr_324

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Farewell Salutes – 

James Christon – Milwaukee, WI; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Bunker Hill

Richard David – Schaumburg, IL; US Air Force, WWII, Korea, Major, Bronze Starbigstock-military_tribute-86306951-560x320

Weldon Hanson – Cleburne, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 187th Reg/11th A/B Division

Henry ‘Peach’ Greene – KY, OH & FL; US Army, WWII

Ralph Iossa – Madison, NJ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Thomas Keal – Scottsdale, AZ; US Army Air Corps/A.F. (Ret. 30 yrs.), Korea, Col.

Eugene Peeks – Mt. Pleasant, MD; US Army (Ret. 20 yrs.), Vietnam, Sgt., Bronze Star

Kenneth Stevens – Stroudsburg, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 221st Medical/11th A/B Division

James Tancreti – Woburm, MA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

William Yauch – Bateville, AR; US Army, Iraq, Cpl., 2nd Infantry Division

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on September 22, 2012, in SMITTY, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 85 Comments.

  1. So interesting. Never knew the role of the gliders until now. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed reading Bruce Henderson’s new book, “Rescue at Los Banos”. In the book I saw the name Lt. Col. Henry Muller (G-2) so I called information and talked to him on the phone. He is now 99 yeas old, land a two star general retired, iving with his wife in Santa Barbara. Man, is he sharp! I was a private in the 511th PIR in the jump on Tagaytay, feb 3, 1945. Sunday Dec. 6 I will be 90.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very happy to hear from you and and your story! I’ve had phone conversations with Gen. E.M. Flanagan and found him to also be sharp! (Maybe it has something to do with the badge. I was so sorry to hear of our editor’s (Matt Underwood) illness. I do hope his wife stays on, she is a very nice and capable person. As a matter of fact, if you received the last 11th A/B newsletter, then you have seen the article about my father, Smitty!

      I hope you’ll come back here again, Robert!

      Like

  3. Great interesting look back at the formation of the American Airborne gp, that training for young guys must have really been an adventure, the diversity of training so unlike any other job. Finally found out the name Eberhard who gave the world the iconic Geronimo tag when parachuting, wonder what he would think if he knew it was a universal call cry for all those attempting death defying feats. Will now have to google the person who gave the name Mackall to the Airbase, unless you want to do it for me mate.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Here ya go, Ian – overwhelmed to see such interest!!
      Originally named Camp Hoffman, on February 8, 1943, General Order Number 6 renamed the facility Camp Mackall in honor of Private John Thomas (Tommy) Mackall.[3] He was born May 17, 1920 in Ohio and grew up in Wellsville, Ohio. He served in Company E, 2nd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment.[4][3] During the Allied invasion of North Africa in the airborne segment called Operation Torch, he was mortally wounded in an attack by French Vichy aircraft on his aircraft as the aircraft landed near Oran. Seven paratroopers died at the scene and several were wounded, including Mackall. He was evacuated by air to a British hospital at Gibraltar where he died on November 12, 1942.[4] He had been wounded on November 8, the day that construction began at the camp.[5] He is buried in Glenview Cemetery in East Palestine, Ohio. Historian Stephen E. Ambrose described the camp as a “marvel of wartime construction”, having been converted from 62,000 acres of wilderness to a camp “with 65 miles of paved roads, a 1,200-bed hospital, five movie theaters, six huge beer gardens, a complete all-weather airfield with three 5,000-foot runways, and 1,750 buildings” in just four months.[5]

      Liked by 2 people

  4. this brings me back to my airborne days. good show, friend!

    Like

  5. Love those cartoons~! (Especially the ‘soft landing’ one. And oops … there are some who’d call that ‘gun’ a rifle … 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

    • That postcard was made long before your or I were born – so I can’t help that one. But the soft-landing has been a favorite of mine since I found it in dad’s scrapbook!! Thanks for dropping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Very interesting story. Liked your example of the parachutes and the Model A and the Rolls Royce.

    Like

  7. Still a fascinating story–thanks for the update.

    Like

  8. Looking forward to getting to know your Dad

    Like

    • I am very proud to have had him as my father (as I’m certain many are of their parents), but his fairness to everybody was amazing to witness. He had a way of seeing and understanding everyone’s point of view.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I can see where the advice of “do your best, even if you fail,” came from. Your Dad must have witnessed many tragic failures as the paratroopers trained for and developed this new form of combat.

    Like

  10. Thanks for reposting this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. It’s quite a history, isn’t it! And, as you say, they were writing the manual…brave men.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Reblogged this on Pacific Paratrooper and commented:

    THIS POST FOR SMITTY AND THE 11TH AIRBORNE DIVISION HAS BEEN EDITED AND UPDATED.

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  13. Thanks for choosing to share all of these. Very helpful information!

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    • Many of the pics of Camp MacKall were used by an Army historian for his thesis in earning his degree in history – I’m very proud of that, it’s as though my dad, Smitty, is still continuing to help people out.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Paratrooping from a glider sounded like a dangerous undertaking. Your dad must have been a brave and daring man. I see you, too, learned a lesson from dad here: Always try your best.

    Like

  15. i lament the fate of men who perished in those savage years.continue giving us more of this.thank you

    Like

  16. Very interesting!
    Elephant

    Like

  17. Thank you for taking the time to tell us all these interesting stories, and thank you for visiting my Authors blog.
    Take Care.
    Jose

    Like

  18. I have a world of respect for paratroopers. They are like ducks in a shooting gallery once they exit the plane. Their only hope is that they jump in a place where there are no enemy troops in shooting distance.

    Like

  19. Thanks for visiting my blog. I enjoyed learning more about the WWII paratroopers. My father-in-law was a hump pilot and had great stories to tell when he was alive.

    Like

  20. Well, I suppose old generals felt threatened by those new-fangled gunpowder weapons at some point; unreliable compared to spears, y’know! And now airborne and other special forces bode well to obsolete old style mass warfare altogether…

    military science is off into new directions and I suspect, so is human society.

    Like

  21. That was fascinating! Billy Mitchell is pretty well known over here [Scotland] as he had Scottish blood in him! My wife was RAF so I have personal reasons for my interest in such matters; my writings include some military history, but I must say that you write very well.

    Like

  22. This was a great read! Looking forward to new posts from you!

    Like

  23. Thanks for checking out my blog. I enjoyed reading yours and it was very interesting and informative look forward to reading more. Have a blessed day and Mary Christmas

    Like

  24. gpcox, in case of your father knows some of his colleagues experienced in the battle on Java please let me hear from you. Thank you and best wishes in the coming year.

    Like

  25. Great post. I spent some time training at Camp MacKall a few years ago–poncho-rafting down Drowning Creek in February comes to mind. Looking forward to your next post.

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  26. It’s great reading… I can’t wait to read the next post.

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  27. Thank you for visiting my blog, you have a great blog here.

    Like

  28. Thank you for stopping by … History Memories and love abound

    Like

  29. Thanks for stopping by my blog…in the meantime, I have enjoyed going through several of yours. I was born in ’45 and grew up through the initial post-war years. I have a great appreciation for what “the greatest generation” accomplished. Keep Smitty’s memory alive!

    Like

  30. Really interesting blog. Thanks for the ‘Like’ for 4GWAR.

    Like

  31. Reblogged this on Soldiers book of life and commented:
    My airborne friends will appreciate this article.

    Like

  32. Camp MacKall also has a special place in my heart, and the memories are usually accompanied by a lot of fondly nostalgic cursing, at the heat/humidity, spiders, doorless latrines, and swamps that I encountered when going through SFAS. Nice to read about the place’s legacy.

    Like

    • Thanks for stopping by. Army Historian, Eugene Piaseki and I have had corresponding e-mails concerning the camp. In fact, he did his thesis on the subject since many of the records have been distroyed; he is attempting to put all the pieces back together.

      Like

  33. Thank you for stopping by … Great blog !!!

    Like

  34. I just discovered your Blog and it looks like we are writing about the same era, but possibly from a different perspective. I haven’t read earlier posts yet but will be soon. We’re also at about the same stage in our learning curve. I started mine on Sept. 15, 2012. I’d be interested in connecting via email. I’m at JudyGuion@att.net.

    Like

  35. May your son’s memory be a blessing to you.

    Like

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