I have been researching the local men and women who served in WW2 from my home county (Madison County, Ohio) for about the last thirteen years and while doing research through the war time local papers on micro-film I found this soldier listed in a July 16, 1944 issue as being in a Airborne Glider unit that was wounded June 9, 1944 in Normandy and also a June 1945 issue listing him as a released POW. I am a big WW2 Airborne buff so this soldier really caught my interest and I sent him a questionier about seven years ago.
He was born December 12, 1918 the son of Lewis and Margaret Blumenschein. The National Archives enlistment files list him as he Enlisted in Army March 24, 1942 at Fort Hayes in Columbus, ohio as being from Madison County (Herman said he always lived in Union County). He was sent for training at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana and while there his unit was turned into a glider unit and was later moved to Fort Bragg, North Carolina where they were designated Company E, 401st Glider Infantry Regiment and were assigned to the recently formed 101st Airborne Division. Herman was a B.A.R (Browning Automatic Rifle) gunner and was in 1st Squad, 1st Platoon, Company E, 401st Glider Infantry Regiment.
The 101st Airborne Division left Fort Bragg for Camp Shanks, New York at the end of August 1943 for overseas deployment. On September 5, 1943 the 401st Glider and three other sub units of the 101st Airborne boarded the SS Strathnaver a British liner which had a 2000 peson capacity and crammed in 5400 soldiers which made living conditions pretty bad aboard ship. They sailed out of New York City and joined a convoy for England but three days into the trip one of the boilers broke down and the Strathnaver had to leave the convoy and head to Newfoundland for repairs. On September 25 after boiler was repaired the Strathnaver took off again but soon hit a rock and had to return to Newfoundland. On October 5 the SS john Ericsson picked up the weary troops and they arrived in Liverpool, England on October 18 where they were unloaded and took a train to Reading for more training for the invasion.
After 5 months of training in England the high command decided the 101st Airborne Division didnt need two gliders regiments as they also had the 327th Glider Infantry. The 401st Glider Infantry regiment was split in half with the 1st Battalion staying with the 101st and the 2nd Battalion which Herman was a member of was sent to the 82nd Airborne Division and attached to the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment. The 82nd was already a veteran unit as they had served in Africa, Sicily and Italy.
On June 7, 1944 the day after D-Day the 401st Glider Regiment set off for Normandy at 7am for the two hour flight across the channel. Herman was a Pfc at the time and he said "they landed near there first objective at Chef du Pont but there glider broke to pieces after landing but everyone walked away". In the book "All American All The Way" by Phil Nordyke there is mentioned a Lewis Stradburg of 1st Platoon, Company E, 401st Glider Regiment wrote" they rode a Horsa Glider (British) and when the tow rope was released and the glider started to level out there was a terrific crash and the whole sea and earth seemed to have crashed in on us. Water, mud and pieces of glider came rushing back through the fuselage and then everything was still. I was dazed for a second or two and found myself sitting up to my neck in water. The glider was completly demolished upon impact with the flooded field. The Pilot and the Co-Pilot still had there hands on the controls twenty feet in front of the wreckage and alive and fortunatley everyone was alive but shaken" I dont know if Herman was on that glider or not but Strandburg was in Hermans platoon and this glider crashed in flooded fields near Chef du Pont so there is a good possibility Herman was on this glider. Hermans unit assembled on there objective a bridge outside Chef du Pont and here they formed a reserve.
On the morning of June 9th the 401st Glider Regiment was moved toward Le Fiere bridge and were ordered with some other elements of the 82nd Airborne to attack across a long exposed causeway to help expand the bridgehead and to push the Germans back farther from the Le Fiere Bridge which was one of the few remaining bridges left the Germans could get armour across in a counterattack. The 401st was to lead the attack as the other units involved had been in heavy combat the last three days and the 401st was pretty much unbloodied. The 401st Commanding Officer refused to order his men in the attack as he said it was suicide and he was immediatly relieved of duty. Herman wrote the Germans plastered them with shells as they were moving up and getting into position during the early morning. The 401st attaked with there supporting units and after bloody and heavy fighting they held there ground and repulsed some heavy German counterattacks. Sometimes during this fighting Herman was wounded in the arm by gunfire and was sent to a aid station and was shipped back to England for a two weeks stay in the hospital and then was sent back to his base camp in England to wait the return of his division which occured in early in July.
Back in England the Airborne division replenished there losses with replacements and trained for there next mission which was Operation Market Garden in Holland. The paratroopers were dropped on September 17, 1944 and the 401st Glider came into Holland on September 23 and Herman wrote" my glider didnt land near the drop zone and my group spent the night all alone but found there unit the next day.
The 401st Glider Regiment was ordered to attack the Kiekberg Woods which was southeast of Nijmegan and after seasaw fighting the 401st was ordered to take the woods on September 30 in a daylight attack which was forced back when a German SS unit countersttacked and the 401st was forced to fall back and it was here that Herman was captured when he from my understanding stayed behind with a dying comrade. Here is what Herman wrote about this incident "the daylight attack was very rough and my dying comrades name was Fitzwater and the other guys told me to not be a hero and to fall back but Fitzwater had been my friend for over two years and Fitzwater wanted me to stay behind with him. After I was captured the Germans treated me very rough and there mere making fun of my last name (Brilliant Flower) and I knew everything they were saying but I didnt let on that I did"
Herman was eventually sent to Stalag 7A and told me he was almost starved to death as they ate grass soup and sawdust bread and he had alot sores on his body from malnutrition. He was liberated April 30, 1945 and he said General Decker who is still alive rescued him. He returned to the United States on May 28, 1945 and he was Discharged October 5, 1945 at Camp Perry, Ohio. He was awarded two battle stars, Good Conduct Medal, American Theater Medal, Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster, Marksman and Glider Badge. He had 5 glider landings with two of those being combat.
I did some research on his buddy Fitzwater. I only found one Fitzwater that had died during the war and that soldier had served in another unit, so that told me his buddy never died. I then searched the WW2 POW file and found Arthur E Fitzwater of the 401st Glider Infantry who was captured September 30, 1944 and was sent to Stalag 4. Since he was wounded he was sent to a hospital before he was sent to prison camp thats why they ended in different camps. I did some more research on this soldier and found out he had died in 1982 in West Virginia. I was very happy to send this bit of info to Herman so atleast he knew his buddy didnt die in a forest in Holland but came back home and lived almost 40 more years.
Photo provided by Union County Veterans Committe
Im will be happy to share more stories. I will put together a story on a B-17 ball turret gunner who was shot down and captured on his 25th and last mission.
My uncle, then Lt. James A. White, was on that same ship and was a Platoon Leader in Mr. Sandburg's company. He was also aboard the same glider as Mr.Sandburg when it landed in Normandy. I have the original signed copy of the manifest for that flight. As soon as I can locate it among my papers I will check to see if Mr. Blumenschein was aboard that glider as well.
John R. McNealy
It truly is a small world. Thanks for sharing, and please let us know if Herman is on there.
Nancy, just located manifest..no, Mr Blumenstein is NOT listed on it. It would have been a long-shot anyway with the number of gliders that actually landed. Jack McNealy
Thanks for posting that Mr Blumenschein wasnt on your uncles glider. As I wrote in the story I knew they were in the same company and I wrote I didnt know if Herman was on the glider or not but what Herman wrote to me about the glider crash and your uncles glider crash sounded similier other than Herman never mentioned any water. I thought Stradburgs account of the glider crash would be a good account for the readers to understand how terrible these glider landings can be.
Thanks again for passing along the info.