This is the third and final part of a history of the Third Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, a unit that fought in Normandy, during Operation Market Garden, in the siege of Bastogne and finally the advance into southern Germany and Austria. This volume covers the period from the start of the battle of the Bulge to the post-war period, and includes fighting in Alsace-Lorraine, the battle of the Colmar pocket, the occupation of the Ruhr and the victorious advance into Germany. The battalion played a part in the occupation of Berchtesgaden and parts of Austria.
We start with the unit resting after Operation Market Garden, but this brief pause was quickly interrupted by the outbreak of the battle of the Bulge. The battalion was rushed to Bastogne, where it helped defend the city (despite being parachute infantry the unit was actually driven into Bastogne). Here the cold emerges as one of the major opponents.
The contrast between the fighting at Bastogne and the final advance into Germany is quite stark. The most poignant section comes in this part of the book, when the unit discovered some of the German atrocities - in particular the camp at Dachau. They also ended up taking Kesselring's surrender just after D-Day.
Although the battle of the Bulge takes up a large part of the book, for me it was the end of the war that really sticks in the mind, from the fairly serious looting of Nazi memorabilia at Berchtesgaden (including some in Goering's house) to the demobilisation process and the journeys home,.
There is an interesting section on the fate of the battalion's POWs, as liberation approached from east or west. There is also interesting material on battlefield evacuation, often following the wounded soldier all the way back to the United States.
This is a good example of its genre, with enough context to put the eyewitness accounts into their place (not always the case in unit histories).
1 - 'Johnny, we hardly knew you' Camp Châlons, Mourmelon-le-Grand: November 28-December 18, 1944
2 - 'Ghost Front' - December 17-19, 1944
3 - 'Today is the only reality' - December 20, 1944
4 - 'Epitaph for a generation' - December 21-24, 1944
5 - 'The deep six' - The worst winter in 50 years
6 - 'Steel whirlwind' - Post-Christmas breakthrough
7 - 'Hell night' - Clearing the Fazone Woods - January 9, 1945
8 - 'Salute the new dawn' - The final attacks on Foy and Noville - January 13-17, 1945
9 - 'After the storm' - Alsace Lorraine and the Colmar Pocket - January 21-February 25, 1945
10 - 'Home alive in '45' - Return to Mourmelon - February 26-April 2 1945
11 - 'Setting sons' - The Ruhr, western Germany - April 3-24, 1945
12 - 'Striking Back' - The plight of the 3rd Battalion POWs - June 1944-May 1945
13 - 'Candle for the dead' - Southern Bavaria - April 28-May 3, 1945
14 - 'The roaring silence' - Berchtesgaden, Austria and France, May 4-November 30, 1945
Author: Ian Gardner