Private Wesley A. Forsythe
Paratrooper of the 82nd Airborne Division,
505 Parachute Infantry, Company E
Written by his Daughter Linda Forsythe Gobble.
My Dad was born in the small town of Climax, Kentucky in 1920. He was drafted into the Army and began his service in August 1942. He took his parachute training at Ft Benning Georgia. He served as a Communication Messenger (also known as a Runner) for the 505th Company E. My Dad made three jumps with the 505th. He participated in the Italian, Normandy and Rhineland(Holland) Campaigns. He received three Battle Stars, a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, a Distinguished Unit Badge and the Combat Infantry Badge. He also received the World War II Victory Ribbon, the EAME Ribbon, and the American Theater Ribbon. (Wesley sailed with the Division to North Africa on April 29th 1943. He was most likely in either EGB 447 or EGB 448. The EGB units served as replacement troops for the Division.)
The saddest story my Dad told was about seeing a young German soldier who was injured crying out for his mama. It broke his heart. He couldnít stand hearing the poor boy cry. So even though he knew he wasn't supposed to do it, he gave the boy some morphine out of his personal med kit to help ease his pain. It had to be really hard for all the men who fought in this war to see so much pain, suffering, and death. So I can understand why my Dad did it.
My favorite story about my Dad is one from his diary. It was written right before D-Day while he was in England. For some strange reason, he decided to see what would happen if he saluted an officer (Lt Peterson) with his left hand instead of his right. Unfortunately, he found out. Lt Peterson made him salute a fence post with his right hand about 75 times. He said the other men really teased him about it because they knew he did it on purpose. I shake my head and laugh when I think about this story because it seems so out of character for my Dad to do something like that.
My Dad was wounded on September 20,1944. He was installing communication wires when he was hit in his left arm by shrapnel from mortar fire. Even though he was injured, he wrapped up his arm the best he could with some cloth and then finished the job of connecting the wires before he came down from the poll to receive help. Because of his injury, he was sent home to the States by ship on December 24,1944. I think waking up on Christmas Day on a ship heading for home was probably one of the best Christmas presents he ever received. The shrapnel fractured his arm and also did some nerve damage. This caused some paralysis in his arm and hand. He had a couple of surgeries on his arm while he was still in the service and continued to receive treatment for it for several years. Fortunately, most of the feeling in his arm and hand did return, but I remember him telling me when he was in his fifties that he still had some numbness in some of his fingers. He received a Medical Discharge in January 1946.
I think all paratroopers were so brave. They had the courage to jump out of an airplane surrounded by enemy fire knowing there was a good possibility that they would never reach the ground alive. How many people would be crazy enough or have the guts to volunteer to do that? Itís hard to grasp that my Dad was one of those crazy guys. My Dadís job as a runner was also a little crazy. A lot of people donít know this but the fatality rate for Runners was actually very high due to the fact that they had to be out in the open while carrying a message. Still, I donít think my Dad performed any extraordinary heroic action like some of the men of the 505th and the 82nd did, but he did do his part. I think what all of the men of the 82nd did during this war was truly amazing. They accomplished things that had never been done before and helped to end the tyranny of Hitler. They put their lives at risk and suffered hardships that only other men who fought in this war could ever imagine. Some men paid the ultimate price by giving their lives so we could enjoy the freedoms that we do today. We owe them a tremendous debt. The 82nd and all the men who fought in this war have my highest respect and admiration. I consider them all as heroes.
Private Wesley Forsythe with his new
jump wings and expert rifle bar 1943.
Wesley and **Jack Hill, Easter Sunday, April 9, 1944. Taken at the Albert
Memorial Garden in Kensington Gardens, London, England. ** (Webmaster note; Jack Hill, also of E company 505-PIR, had just
returned from fighting with the 504-PIR on Anzio beach and the mountain passes of Italy.
Page 181 "Time Out for Combat" author, Otis Sampson, E Company.
Private Wesley A. Forsythe 1943.
Taken in England. A note on the back, that was written by his brother Aster, says, "he is holding candy that was sent to him by his family". My Dad had a real sweet tooth, so I know he loved this treat. His brother writes that "the picture is of his dear brother Wesley who is a paratrooper fighting somewhere overseas". I donít think my Dad was fighting this day though, since he is in his dress uniform.
The following is all that survives of Wesley's WW-II diary. It was written in the days prior to the largest beach landing ever, D-Day June 6, 1944.
Vandervoort is kicking him out. I hated to see him go for he is a good buddy of mine. Heíd just began helping me learn Spanish from the book Mom and Papa sent.
Friday March 31, 1944: Last day of March. Today it snowed a few minutes but now the sunís shining brightly and Iím warm and even a little lazy. Canít let myself be too lazy for Iíve got my sweet future wife Delphia and maybe a baby in the future to think of and things I learn may help out later. SAND TABLE OF D.Z. (Drop Zone). E Company assembles 100 yards odd drop zone. FLASH Iím not a Radar man now I donít want it. Too much weight to jump with.
Saturday April 1, 1944: Mail - Mom and Papaís letter. Prepare for jump. Draw 2 rations (K) 8:30 Leave for airport. (A new airport this time). View beautiful planes in contrast with forest background. EXPLORE FLYING FORTRESS. Long belts of ordinance still loaded with armor piercing 50 cal. Ammunition. For this bomber was over France this morning. I try tail gunnerís position. I unbelievingly find myself in half terror under belly of bomber. These 250 cal. guns can fire in almost any direction. One in the tail is a real stinger too. NEWS not jumping tonight, rough weather.
Sunday April 2, 1944: CHURCH - Still at airport. Rev. Wright (air corps chaplain) gives service. Text is when Jesus entered into Jerusalem. Again that night Jack Hill** and I attended and after service I talked with him a long time. ** (Webmaster note; Sergeant First Class Jack Hill died in an automobile accident in Florida, January 26, 1949. He had re-enlisted 8 days earlier on January 18,1949. He was 25 years old.)
Monday April 3, 1944: RAIN AGAIN and weíre still waiting to jump. Hundreds of us paratroopers making our home in this big hanger. Did sleep on the floor but have cots now. Bad weather not jumping tonight.
Tuesday April 4, 1944: 3:20 p.m. Because I like to fly Iím taking a plane ride on my own. Flagged pilot on runway just before take- off. Right now Iím in the air in a C47 transport flying over beautiful forest and green fields of England. Scenery below is very beautiful. In miniature green pastures below I can see sheep peacefully grazing (or standing around with the rest of the flock). Gee I love to fly. God has given us a beautiful earth but war is destroying the things that are worthwhile.
Wednesday April 5, 1944: 10:00 p.m. Last night. We (whole regiment) loaded in planes, fitted our parachutes and equipment ready to jump. 11:30 over 100 planes take to the air. DARK. Sit silently as our big transports soars onward over miles of land below. Almost 3 hours have passed and weíre still in the air. Sitting for so long with this equipment strapped around me cuts off circulation of blood. Feel numb and unreal. I wondered if Iíll still be able to move while I hit the ground this time.
PLANE NO. 2100550, Plane 3. After 2 a.m. almost time to stand up and hook up. But somethingís happening. Weíre going down. And now on the ground safe and sound. Truly this is the easiest landing I ever made for we didnít jump. My first time to ever go up to jump and land by plane. I didnít know what was going to happen. 2:30 Lost in the air, planes to come down here. Location unknown. Marooned but at the break of dawn we find a beautiful airfield. Sheildler and I wander off and find a good breakfast. Place is like a restaurant except we donít have to pay for it. Boy this is one time I really appreciated a good hot meal.
LONDON: Planes take off in daylight. Flight to airport near Loughboro. With packs and equipment we march back to camp. (About 4 miles or more).
Thursday April 6, 1944: FURLO. Only get from now until Sunday night but I guess this will be the last chance for awhile so off we go (Jack Hill and I) my Musette bag filled with candy, rain coat, flash light, telescope and camera. First to Leicester 11:25 to 2:15 the train rolls toward London. Get nice little room here in Columbia Club A.R.C Bldg. First thing we do is enter the dining room and get something to eat. About 3ct per sandwich or $1.86 for a meal. Then in about 2 hours we eat again.
Friday April 7, 1944: LONDON: Do a little exploring thru the streets of London. Itís a special privilege that we entered and was shown thru the castle with all its history of kings and queens. THEATER. Go to show with Jack. A real interesting picture where these nature people regain their kingdom by the courageous leader Abdulla (Once among the 40 thieves).
HYDE PARK: Preaching in open air meeting in Hyde Park.
Saturday April 8, 1944: 7 pm: Yesterday I attended church with these people I met, real nice church. Met a nice soldier named John Douglas. Tour through London and see points of interest. West Minister Abbey etc.. Travel underground in TUBE (train). Go for miles underground riding swiftly and safely from bombs (in case of air raid) Stop at Wood Green Park, Alexander Road to see the friend I met yesterday. (That took me to church) Walking thru park I meet two sisters. One sisterís name is Joan Barnes. I enjoyed sitting and talking to her. I told Joan about Delphia so she knows I can only be a friend because in my heart I am married to Delphia.
Easter April 9, 1944: London Last day of my Furlo. OVERSLEEP. Didnít have bell boy to wake me up as usual. Sleep till 10 a.m. Enter underground. Missed train. Now Iím later than ever for church. I could kick myself because Iím so slow today. Not thinking ahead and being prepared. I finally reach the church in London. I hate to leave the few friends Iíve found here. But time has passed swiftly and I must go. *My friend Wardock shows us these beautiful statues representing the 4 nations of Asia, Africa, America and Europe. (Took Pictures) 5:30 p.m. Jack and I board the train again on our round trip ticket. 8 p.m. weíre in Leicester. Boy weíre hungry. Eat small dinner at Y.M.C.A. This is the first eggless Easter I can remember. Didnít even see any much less eat them. Oh I wonder what the folks back home are doing now. Iíd sure give a lot to be with them.
Monday April 10, 1944: 4 typed V mail from Aster. SHORTAGE INSPECTION. I hate these inspections. Too many AWOLS yesterday (40 were missing when alert sounded). Col. Ekman is using whoís boss method. Very strict and the boys donít like him. He talks again to Regiment over microphone. As the crowd takes the boo attitude. He asks for notes of suggestion. RESTLESS,run to forest. (A new one) tie rock to end of rope throw over high limb and climb. It worked but I need more practice. Oh boy wish Aster and Lawrence were with me. Weíd probably find some real adventure then.
Tuesday April 11, 1944: Range today. I get all beat up by target that isnít very plain. Donít know if my rifle is even zeroed or not. At 200 yards I count 14 notches (clicks for evaluation). 1st shot is a bullís eye. Out of 8 shots I get 6 bulls. Looks good to see that white disc pop up and cover the black.
Wednesday April 12, 1944: FLASH just before we get order for rapid fire at 300 yards, weíre called back to camp. Itís a two day problem. 8 p.m. pack equipment (minus armor.) Load on civilian (Special buses) Ride past Nottingham then into the country and in the blackness of night we pitch pup tents. (Francis and I together). Lucky I still have my G.I. flash light. Turn in at midnight.
Thursday April 13, 1944: Still in the field on two day problem. TANKS. U.S. light tanks (14 tons) but they look like powerful monsters. German Mark 6 weighs 62 tons. 6 inch solid armor plate in front. Now you can imagine why weíre scared when we see a horde of German Mark 6ís coming toward us. My first ride in a tank. Boy that was a wild journey. Now jumping and diving into big ditches and climbing out almost straight up.
Afternoon. Dig in (foxholes) and crawl in them and for the first time in my life a light 64 ton tank runs square over me. (no damage) LT Peterson says ďForsythe you have the best fox hole Iíve seen here. I enjoy digging in when I have time so I can camouflage position. MAIL Letter from Delphia a foot long. (I mean the envelope is) She said Iím too lazy to write anybody here lately. Honey youíre not alone, for Iíve been about the same way for almost a month. Nathan has T. B. He doesnít know it yet. Delphia ask for a little money to help along.
Friday April 14 1944: Range detail. I coach some and fire Whalenís 03 with Telescopic sight. 3 bulls out of five shots.
Saturday April 15, 1944: GUARD. I think weíre really putting in full time for Uncle Sam, not hardly time to wash our face much less write and answer letters that Iíve received in past 3 weeks. Walked back to Company area and was handed letter from Mom saying children came home. Aunt Alma is dead. My heart is in sorrow and my love for the ones left behind is so deep. Makes me want to be there and do something for them. But I can pray for them where I am.
Sunday April 16, 1944: Guard all day Sunday.
Monday April 17, 1944: FIELD PROBLEM Practice patrol with** Axmanís squad.** Faith is humorous. 1st platoon defends small wooded hill surrounded by rock wall. Faith and I get out past position in rocks. Talk with him about being connected. (** Sgt. Julius Axman, Pfc. Raymond Faith, both Sicily veterans)
Tuesday April 18, 1944: German uniform and weapon demonstration (in theater at Loughboro). Theyíre sure smart people in building a great war machine. Their M.G. 42 (machine gun) is disassembled like magic (just press a button and it comes apart). Fires 1100 to 1400 rounds per minute. Germans may be smart in building weapons, but they are not very smart about the important things of life. Field Demonstration of German attack, our heavy mortar fire made them retreat. As we heard them yelling comrade to the yanks.
Wednesday April 19, 1944: Regimental Field Day. Early part of morning we march to Quorn for parade. Wasnít so good in company E but Major Vandervoort and Captain Russell said we did alright. Eat dinner at 10 a.m. Then dressed in Class A. The whole regiment marches to Loughboro for athletic contests. Iím not taking part in contest (not in shape yet) I liked the mile run best. In a whole bunch that run, a little Indian like boy took off like a deer and led all the way and reached the goal ahead of big boys behind him.
Thursday April 20, 1944: Salute Lt. Peterson with left hand to see what heíd do. I found out all right. Had to salute a fence post about 75 times. Boys still kid me about it for they know I did it on purpose. TRAINING Film. Didnít get to see it. Was patrolling and was getting haircut. But I saw, Mark 4 tanks and close fighting pictures. Country Run: I am alone am at edge of forest.
Friday April 21, 1944: MINES Ours are not very good. German mines and booby traps are nightmares. Theyíre really master minds in instruments of war. FIELD MINES DEMONSTRATION. Weíre to find and disarm mines and at last I find and operate a real metal detector. Used for detecting mines in this case. A few years ago I wanted one to hunt buried treasure. Iím not so crazy about hunting buried treasure now but for curiosity and adventure. Iíd like to do a little exploration if I live thru the war. Of course Iíd want also to be out with Aster, Minnie, Delphia, Lawrence and wife. Iíd want Papa to be along too. Papa I love to be out with you in forest field or anywhere. I learn to tune and operate the instrument and located several mines. Itís very simple. A den of ants with too much moisture in one spot gives a little tone. Rocks must have ore in them for they also raise tone. T.N.T. Firsthand experience in setting off charge.
Read Asterís precious letter while deep in the forest. Aster I wish you knew how much your letter meant to me. Still Fri., April 21st Night problem. March for miles past Quorn and into open country. Doesnít get dark here until about 10:00 oíclock. I still love outdoor life, even when things get rough. Surrounding here is very beautiful. To our right is a little pool of blue bordered on one side high cliff, green grass and forest encloses other sides of lake. PATROL Bennie Raccioppi, Russell and Welsh go forth to locate enemy position. To make it more interesting I camouflage myself with leaves and with a black cloth over my face from eyes down. Did some Indian like moving around. Found enemy patrols and also run into another patrol. When we returned Bennie said to LT. Sir, wish I had about 12 patrol men like Forsythe. Boy, I like patrol work, only wish Aster and Lawrence were with me.
Pass RR station near Quorn and hear in the distance a woman crying Help, Help. Wow! The rear end of platoon (including me) broke off and ran to the rescue. A soldier was trying to rape an A.T.S. girl. Hit her in the mouth and crying she said he almost chocked me to death. He was gone by the time we rushed to her.
Saturday April 22, 1944: New boys jumped early this morning (6:00 a.m.) Andrews landed like mad bull, shoulders first. FLASH more news is seen in papers concerning BIG INVASION in near future. Say time is at hand. Jack Hill and I enjoy a 20 minute cross country run. PASS to Leicester. Do lots of shopping in British Home Store and Woolworths. Get 14 birthday greetings, arch supports, glove, adhesive tape etc. Find good studio above Woolworths. Leave film at Midland and Camera Co. 106 Grand St. Get my pen -3í3ct
Yesterday I receive some mighty welcome letters from home and abroad. Asterís V mail, Artieís sweet letter, Papaís long letter and momís 30 page letter. For some reason today Iím so happy. My surroundings are peaceful. Oh if only I could remain in peace and be with my loved ones. It would be like living in a land of paradise. I sure love Godís beautiful green earth and his wonderful creation. Especially the dear ones I left behind.
Sunday April 23, 1944: Get all we want to eat now. Even had milk to drink for breakfast. Suppose to be used for cereal but some is usually left over. Get butter now every day. Beef steaks for dinner, all we could eat. Maybe the armyís fattening us up for the kill ??. Well we all realize there is a job on hand to accomplish and I guess weíre getting the best. Passes about every other day. No more Alerts sounded (to trap the AWOLS). Run thru green and beautiful country. I want to have a good strong set (pair) of legs when time for action comes. May not be long. They say Germans are expecting us by the hour. THE BIG 2ND FRONT INVASION IS COMING. Iím on pass to Loughboro.
May 11, 1944: My Company (E) on combat problem. 2nd Platoon attacking enemy position on hill. Covered with dense forest. I feel good jumping along, quickly taking cover at the least sign of action. Assemble and take break. My first letter from Dave. He is here in England. Oh Iím so glad to hear from him. The only one of home folks near me (that I know of) Heís at Hungerford, 12 min. from S. Windon. Answer and write him 10 pages.
Saturday May 13, 1944: Write Papa 3 V Mails. INSPECTION FOR JUMP. I take K.P. for Honeycutt (until noon) gives me 1 lb. $4. Iím working outside smashing cans but I feel good. Cooks come out and talk with me. Learning a little French. Might need it pretty soon for Air Force is blasting enemy targets. One thousand planes swarm over Germany in one night.
Sunday May 14, 1944: PREPARE TO JUMP. 2p.m Load in GI trucks and leave for airport. (Took an hour to prepare) Big hanger and equipment waiting for us. Everyone has a cot to sleep on. 9 p.m. Load bundles. Chutes have been drawn and fitted. Ready to jump. Iím still in plane # 3 group. Step outside hanger into the forest and do some reading. Still Sunday May 14, 1944: Haanpaa has my 3 blankets and I canít find him. About 11:30 FREEZING. Use protective cover again until Capt Russell says youíd better not use that in the field. Well I am not in the field now. 1:30 a.m. Get ready. 2:45 a.m. Load in plane (Iím in number 3) 3:15 a.m. Take off like a fighter plane. In the air and I am looking thru window (into the darkness) at the huge formation of planes. The field below is lighted ( a circle of lights) 45 minutes to fly and then? Well Iíll tell you in a minute. Parachutes are buckled and ready to bail out at momentís notice. No ammo this time. My musette bag is fastened below reserve chute. Hanging down like a - mail pouch? Sheidler takes my picture with full equipment on. Keller gets one of me with his camera. I help them get some good shots.
(These are the only pages that are left of my Dadís diary. Still, I am so thankful for the pages that I have. Unfortunately, so many things like diaries and letters were thrown away with the thought that they had no value. When in truth, they are an important part of our history and should have been cherished).
Taken after the D-Day campaign, on his way back to England.
( Note written on back) July 1944, Ship Ahoy. I was thankful and happy to be returning from the death traps of France back to the safety zone where I am now. Sure wish this ship was going home. If it had been you would probably see my face light up like a beam from 6000 candles.
(**Seventeen LST's carried the entire 82nd Airborne Division home from the beaches of France on July 13th 1944.( ** "Four Stars of Valor" & "Ready". )
Wesley earned the Purple Heart medal September 20th 1944 in Holland. On this day, company E along with company F, took Hunner park where the Germans were dug in protecting the southern entrance to the Nijmegan big bridge. (for automobiles) The 2nd Battalion, which included companies E and F earned the Presidential Unit Citation for this action.
Wesley and Delphia Forsythe, sittin on the porch 1946 .