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

First American Combat Jump: 70 years ago today
8 November 2012, 07:00
Filed under: 509th, Doyle Yardley, Edson Raff, Paratroopers | Tags: , , , ,

On the morning of the 8th of November, 1942, the first American combat jump occurred in North Africa. LTC Edson Raff and 555 paratroopers had departed England late on the 7th, traveling over 1500 miles in 39 C-47s. Their task was to sieze two French airfields at Tafaraoui and LaSenia to deny their use by enemy fighters during Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa.

Trying again?
30 June 2009, 17:10
Filed under: Doyle Yardley, Edson Raff | Tags: , ,

Well, I think this is probably attempt number 3 at blogging. I’ve been posting a lot of my thoughts on Facebook or on BattleBus’s forums, contemplating the little bits of military history on which I’ve focussed the last few years.

One of the most recent events that I really wanted people to know about has almost nothing to do with me. It’s about Charlie Turnbow. Who, you is ask, is Charlie Turnbow? Well, Charlie published his uncle’s WWII memoirs. His uncle was COL Doyle Yardley, who commanded the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion during the invasion of Italy and was captured by the Germans. COL Yardley had kept a diary during the war and it sat in an old military footlocker in Texas until Charlie found it. The 509th is one of the more unusual stories of the American airborne in WWII and I’ve been researching COL Edson Raff, who preceded COL Yardley in command.

Well, I was in Normandy for the 65th anniversary and while getting a signed copy of “Tonight We Die As Men”, I got to talking to Roger Day about Edson Raff. He suggested that I pick up a copy of “Home Was Never Like This” (Yardley’s memoir) and “Stand in the Door” (a history of the 509th). Roger had a link on his website (http://www.ramsburyatwar.com) for Charlie’s web page. Sadly, the web page was gone. Fortunately, I’m a resourceful soul and I found Charlie’s phone number, email and address on another website. Since I wanted to see if I could buy a copy from Charlie directly instead of paying Amazon, I called and left a message. I also sent an email. I didn’t hear back, but I shrugged it off.

Then, I got a long-distance phone call while I was working on Friday from Charlie’s wife. Honestly, it floored me. Now, I’ve  never met Charlie, but when his wife told me that Charlie had passed away in January from cancer, I was shocked. They’d been to Avellino, Italy in the fall, to allow Charlie to do some more research – to walk the ground his uncle had walked – and when they returned, they found out that he had Stage 4 cancer. My wife is up in Boston with her mother, who just had heart surgery (and is recovering well), so perhaps it’s because I feel the absence of my own spouse, but I was simply struck by the news. I was also overwhelmed that she called me, someone she and Charlie had never met and gave me the news. I can’t fathom the challenge that and the dozens of times she’s had to tell others that he’s gone.

We talked for a while. She used to live in the Washington, DC area, so asked where we lived. I told her about my research on Raff and she told me they’d met him during Charlie’s research. I missed meeting Raff as well, since he passed away in 2003. They happened to be in Kansas for 5 months and went to see COL Raff. He must have been quite a charmer, as she told me that the nurses would let Raff ‘sneak’ his dog into bed with him. Our little Henry snuggles up on Melissa’s pillow when she’s away, so I completely understand.

She promised to drop a copy of the book in the mail to me, and I’m looking forward to that. I know that I will treasure it, in part because of the memories that are already attached to it….

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