Smitty and the 11th Airborne Division

The origin of the nickname, “Angels” for the 11th Airborne has always been up for debate.  At Dobodura, New Guinea, while unloading the supplies off the ships that were constantly pulling into port, it became well-known that the troopers of the 11th A/B were a bit more light-fingered than the other units.  The distribution of the food and war materiel was severely unbalanced, with the bulk of it going to the troopers.  It was definitely at this time that they acquired the title of “Swing and his 8,000 Thieves.”  My father and many other troopers believe that the title remained with them up until the release of the internees at Los Baños prison on Luzon, when a nun looked up and said that the parachutists looked like “angels sent to save us.”

One other theory I found, while still on New Guinea, a senior officers questioned General Swing about the uneven delivery of supplies.  Swing , with a rather tongue-in-cheek attitude, replied that it could not possibly be due to his “angels.”

And yet, there is another idea on the subject.  The troopers, with their antics, were often in trouble.  After a rather rough weekend, a senior officer asked just how many of the 11th airborne’s “little angels” were in the stockade.  The reply, of course,  was, “none of my angels are.”

No matter what the reason or nickname, this undermanned and under-equipped division trudged on.

Dobodura, New Guinea, 11th A/B

Dobodura, New Guinea, 11th A/B

You may notice in Smitty’s letters that he will not mention his rigorous training or even combat in his later ones.  I am unaware as to whether it was concern for his mother’s feelings or censorship restrictions.  As a child I asked if I would ever catch him in one of the old news reels and he said that he surely doubted it.  He made a point to avoid any photographers in the event his mother caught sight of the pictures of him in combat.  No matter how hard things had become, he found something else to talk about, but he did have a tongue-in-cheek humor that could both amuse someone even while he was complaining.

At this point in time, the jungle war training had live firing and everything was becoming a bit clearer, a bit more realistic.

Major Burgess left the units temporarily to set up a jump school.  This would give the glidermen and Burgess himself an opportunity to qualify as paratroopers.  The parachutists began their glider training at Soputa airstrip that was no longer in regular use.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

glider_infantry_poster

Okay - so now we go to Plan-B.....

Okay – so now we go to Plan-B…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Max Bolton – Taranaki, NZ; RNZ Navy # N455266, WWII031%20fallen%20soldiers%20memorial%20old%20north%20church

Carl E. Clark – Columbus, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th A/B Div. & Korea, Sgt., 187th RCT

Elizabeth Dow Crawford (101) – Tomahawk, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII

James Elwood – Wichita, KS; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Richard Gamlen – San Francisco, CA; US Army, WWII, ETO, MSgt.

Peter Kizer – Princeton, IL; US Air Force

Albert Movitz – Brooklyn, NY; US Navy, WWII

Peter Raymond – Norristown, PA; USMC, WWII, PTO

Herbert Stone – Pine Bluff, AR; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI

Lee Travelstead – Holland, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 101st & 82nd A/B, Silver Star

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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 October 17, 2016, in SMITTY, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 75 Comments.

  1. Swing and his 8000 thieves…I love it…and probably most accurate!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post! Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very good;
    I am curious about Elizabeth Crawford in the Farewell Salutes. Generally females have been nurses etc. This indicates Air Force, and not the Auxiliary one?

    Like

  4. Great text GP, love the video! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great video and what an amazing site. So many excellent historic videos. Thanks for sharing. It’s on my list to share with students now.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Interesting reading gp, my unit in Vietnam seemed to have the knack of locating equipment in certain situations,I had to laugh a little when you mentioned Los Baños prison, it reminded me of my time in Chile, in English, Los Baños actually refers to the bathroom and more pointedly, the toilet. Wonder how that prison ended up with that name.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sounds like your Dad was a sensible man, apart from getting involved with gliders. I’ve always thought it must be the worst way of being delivered into combat – sitting in a big, slow target with no control over it. He was definitely a better man than I am. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  8. silviadeangelis40d

    Sempre speciali i tuoi articoli retrospettivi, d’eventi del passato
    Un saluto,silvia

    Like

  9. Good clip and thanks for all the good information in your blog

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Love the clip and the angel stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Poignant stories and anecdotes, GP, and much appreciated. I liked the “Plan B” photo.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Dear GP Cox
    we like the writing in the poster “never have a dull moment” like Beetley Pete.That’s GREAT. And we like the nickname “angels” for those brave men as well. But of course it’s ambiguous as angels are the dead ones as well. But anyway the Bookfayries Siri and Selma love the angels they are their friends they play with.
    Thanks for your post like always full of knowledge and interesting facts
    The Fab Four of Cley

    Liked by 2 people

    • Klausbernd,
      Thank you for your comment. I am always anxious to hear what my Four Fab Friends of Cley think about the posts. But – no pressure, eh?
      All the best,
      GP Cox

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dear GP Cox
        Dina and I we have a kind of division of labour meaning that Dina is visiting our followers like you and I answer the commentaries. But I visit rarely very very special friends like you as well.
        I like your blog very much because it’s so full of interesting information one doesn’t get that easily. And I am always astonished about the quality of information, better than in any history book I know. Besides this I like your style of presentation, never without a pinch of humour.
        For me you run one of the best blogs I know providing highly qualified information.
        Thank you very much
        Klausbernd

        Liked by 1 person

        • Klaubernd,
          After reading your comment – I am speechless. Overwhelmed by having such wonderful friends such as you, Dina and the lovely Bookfaryies. I hope you know how much I enjoy yours as well! The fact that you enjoy this site to that degree leaves me without the proper vocabulary to express my feelings.
          All I can say is, Thank you very much!!
          I am a wealthy person to know people like you and your family.
          GP Cox

          Liked by 1 person

  13. When I had to abseil out of a Huey the instructor put us at ease by explaining how safe it was. When we assembled for a de-brief he mentioned that in the course before us two guys ended up with broken legs. He didn’t mention it ’til later.
    PS. How in blue blazes do you turn a tank on its head like that?

    Liked by 2 people

  14. For one horrible moment there I thought the guy in white chucking ’em out had got a wee bit too enthusiastic and chucked himself out as well. As in the old song, “…the last to jump but first to reach the ground…” brrrrr.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Anyone who survived the life they lived had to have an angel watching over them. Maybe they weren’t the angels being mentioned.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Laughing about the tipped over tank and plan b, GP. “Maybe if we all jump up and down on one side…” 🙂 –Curt

    Liked by 2 people

  17. I like the recruiting poster for the glider unit. ‘Never a dull moment’ indeed!
    No doubt your Dad wanted to ease the worries of his parents, with his chatty letters.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Being the only male in the household, he often kept the stiff-upper-lip and diverted attention away from the ‘elephant in the room’.
      All the best to you as well!

      Like

  18. Talking of photographers, my Dad’s friend Colin, back in 1944, was sitting in the cinema watching the newsreels of Anzio, when he suddenly saw his elder brother on the screen, come running down the ramp of a landing craft, jump into the surf and then tear off across the beach. Once in a lifetime!!

    Liked by 2 people

  19. I have sent your blog to friends.

    Read: http://www.sheilaclapkin.com

    >

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Very interesting article about the paratroopers. I bet that you are right that he wanted to spare your moms feelings. Smiling at the humor and plan B 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  21. A lot of your posts remind me of listening to my father’s WWII (The Big One) stories. Thanx GP it is nostalgic. ~~dru~~

    Liked by 2 people

    • If you recall any of your dad’s stories, please feel free to include them in the comments. The readers here all share, talk to each other and contribute – I’m honored to have such a great bunch of readers!!

      Like

  22. A fine post, GP. I like your dad–his concern not to worry his mother says volumes about him.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Great post. These guys weren’t angels. Some of the hints my father gave about his time overseas would indicate that he didn’t want to worry his mom about the danger he was in, or the antics they pulled while not in action.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I do wonder where the angels name came from – I like each scenario – but the nun looking up one made me smile – reminding of the hope that was felt by so many.
    The video was a nice touch too – I watched it first (and kept turning up the volume – lol) but seeing them jump and glide was a nice way to start the post!

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Wonderful video.

    Like

  26. Once again, I thank you very much.

    Like

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