After leaving Naples there was a week's pause at the port of Oran in Algeria. Purpose; to gather enough ships for a convoy. While anchored in Oran harbor paratroopers celebrated their first Thanksgiving overseas.
Prior to leaving the harbor, Pfc. Dennis G. O'Loughlin of E company, 505 Parachute Infantry, recalls being transferred from the USS Frederick Funston to it's sister ship the USS James O'Hara via one hell of a mess. Five months earlier both ships were involved in the invasion of Sicily.
In the early morning hours of November 30th 1943 the convoy shoved off, passing through the Straits of Gibralter December 1st in rough water. Aboard the USS Thomas Jefferson, 45 men of the 80th Airborne Anti-Aircraft, Anti-tank Battalion manned the ships anti-aircraft guns each day while at sea. The convoy continued sailing a westerly course out in the Atlantic, fueling rumors of returning to the States. Hopes were dashed when the convoy turned north on December 4th.
On December 9th ships carrying 505 Combat Team docked in Belfast, North Ireland. The 505 Parachute Infantry moved by truck to the village of Cookstown. The 80th AA boarded trains for Kilrea. The 307th Airborne Engineers, B company, traveled by train to the village of Garvagh and the 307th Airborne Medical Company made their way to Castledawson. The two remaining battery's of the 456th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion were split between the villages of Cookstown (D battery) and Castledawson (C battery).
After North Africa, Ireland seemed like the “Garden of Eden”. No matter the persistent mist, fog, and the lack of sunshine, the lush greens of Northern Ireland were a welcome change from the desert heat of North Africa, dysentery, malaria, Atabrine pills, sand and flies in every meal and the lack of water.
Most of the 505 Parachute Infantry and their officers billeted in Quonset huts. There was a firing range at the nearby village of Ballyronan where the paratroopers could zero in their rifles, machine guns and mortars.
Not long after arriving in Ireland, units of the combat team began to take on replacements.
Passes were easy to come by, there were dances the men could attend and no shortage of pretty Irish colleens. Ulster Hall in Belfast was a popular destination for dancing. After North Africa,Sicily and Italy it was a pleasure to be able to walk into a pub and order a whiskey or a pint (beer) in a language all understood.
AWOL's were again becoming a problem in the 505 Parachute Infantry. "Belfast Fever" had a grip on the paratroopers of the regiment.
Here is some information from John McCann, our Irish connection and writer of " Passing Through."
Recently (November 2008), in Ireland and Britain, we commemorated our war dead on Remembrance Sunday. This day is similar in many respects to your Veteran's Day. Leading up to it, the local newspaper in Cookstown asked me if I would like to contribute some stories and photographs from my book recalling the American presence in the area during WWII. Well, immediately I thought of the 505 and preceded to send them enough material for a three page spread. The PDF's are attached to this and a following email. They are quite large, so I hope you can download, read and enjoy them.
Also attached is a PDF file of a poster (warning: this is a big 5mb file) they produced to advertise the Remembrance Day issue of the paper. It was visible in almost every shop window throughout most of Northern Ireland. Just in case some of you do not recognize the men visible, they are:
Lieutenant Stanley Weinberg (front middle) and members of ‘B’ Company taking a break from weapons practice at Ballymultrea firing range, February 1944.
Here are the two remaining newspaper articles:
On March 21st 1943 Lieutenant Colonel Batcheller was relieved as commander of the 505 Parachute Infantry. He was assigned as commander of the 1st Battalion of the 508 Parachute Infantry. On March 22, Lieutenant Colonel William E. Ekman who was the executive officer of the 508 Parachute Infantry assumed command of the 505 Parachute Infantry.
Unfortunately, their stay in paradise would be short lived and on February 13, 1944 the 505 Regimental Combat Team moved from Northern Ireland to
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