We're not lost, Sergeant, We're in … France


You want tough? Try 2/517’s interview process

I attended the local gun show recently and ran across a great book-dealer, Jack Long (jacklong1945@verizon.net), who had a great batch of books on display. I really lucked out, scoring a 50th Anniversary copy of Edson Raff’s We Jumped to Fight, Ralph Ingersoll’s The Battle is the Payoff, Gerald Devlin’s Paratrooper, and Bob Bowen’s Fighting with the Screaming Eagles (on 1/401 GIR). However, I started by reading Gerald Astor’s Battling Buzzards, since I’ve met several men who served in the 517th PIR. It’s quite a book.

Last year, one of the veterans at the Operation Dragoon commemoration was none other than the CO of 2/517, Richard Seitz. Never having read anything about the 517th before that event, I had no idea who he was. His posting as battalion commander of 2/517 a few days before his 25th birthday made him one of the youngest battalion commanders during the war. The trust that COL Lou Walsh had in his abilities was proven wise during the Battle of the Bulge, as Task Force Seitz helped clear the way into St.Vith. Years later, Seitz rose to command the 82nd Airborne Division, retiring as a Lieutenant General in 1975. If you look at the Airborne battalion and regimental commanders in World War II, you can find a cadre that built and maintained our Airborne and Special Forces troops for the next thirty years. I’ve been considering writing a volume akin to D.S. Freeman’s Lee’s Lieutenants covering all of these men – perhaps Ridgway’s Lieutenants….

Well, the 517th had started at Camp Toccoa, like the more famous 506th, with new recruits getting their basic training within the regiment. Like every other regiment at Toccoa, training was tremendously difficult and wash-outs were common. Despite this, Colonel Walsh was a picky man. Every potential member of the regiment was interviewed before joining the regiment to determine whether they belonged. One of Seitz’s interview questions (though not given to every candidate) was “Can you put your first through that wall?”

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