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Paratroopers of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment

 
 

This page is dedicated to Francis X. Schweikert

 
 



 Francis X. Schweikert was born on April 23rd 1925 in Brooklyn, New York, he was the youngest of four brothers that served during WW II. Harry, his oldest brother, earned a battlefield commission with the 410th infantry Regiment in France, brother Vincent served 29 months in the Pacific, with the Marine Corps., and John, in the Army Air Corps. completing 30 missions in a B-17 bomber.


    Francis began his Army service on July 3rd 1943 from Newark, New Jersey, at the time his family lived nearby in North Arlington. He reported to Fort Dix, New Jersey on July 24th, it was here during induction week that a 2nd Lieutenant asked him if he was interested in becoming a paratrooper. Francis' basic training was at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland, followed by four weeks of jump school at Fort Benning, Georgia. He received his wings on November 13th 1943. After graduation, he was placed in a communication squad and entered radio school November 15, 1943. Three days later on the 18th he was hospitalized with severe abdominal pain. Following surgery for herniated stomach muscles, he received a six week no duty, no furlough restriction.  The first 3 weeks were spent in the hospital. The doctor also restricted him from parachute jumping for 6 months. He received no jump pay during this period. He was transferred to Camp MacKall and sent to carpenter school by his company Commanding Officer, becoming part of the permanent cadre there while on restrictions.


    On April 23, 1944 with his restrictions lifted, he was part of a group of paratroopers, and their equipment, that traveled in forty C-47s from North Carolina to Easthampton, Long Island, where they took part with 8000 soldiers in maneuvers. These maneuvers were no doubt  in preparation for the D-Day landing in Europe that was to come in June 1944.

 The following month, on May 30th,1944,  Francis sailed on the Queen Elizabeth for England, arriving at Camp Quorn, England on July 7, 1944. Here Francis was assigned to the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, second platoon, second squad of G company, 82nd Airborne Division. At this time his regiment was still in Normandy, but it was preparing to return to Camp Quorn by mid month of July.


 On a sunny, Sunday afternoon, September 17th 1944, Francis boarded a C-47 troop carrier and parachuted onto "Drop Zone N"  just south of  Groesbeek, Holland, 63 miles behind German lines. From "Drop Zone N" Companies G and H moved out to take the town of Groesbeek. Pfc. John Diffin, a Normandy veteran and good friend to Francis, led the 2nd platoon into the town. They were greeted by cheering Dutch people with orange arm bands. After a brief exchange of fire with the enemy and mopping up Groesbeek, the 3rd Battalion set up road blocks outside of town. Through September and October the 504 and 505 Regimental Combat Teams took the town of Nijmegan and its railroad and vehicle bridges.  John, Francis and Pfc. William "Chico" Sanchez lost their good friend Pvt. Elmer Baker who was killed at a listening post when the Germans counter attacked the position in early October 1944.


The regiment was relieved in Holland on November 12th 1944 and arrived in Suippes, France, on the 17th of November. As new replacements arrived the regiment trained and re-equipped. Word of a German breakthrough in Belgium sent the 505 Parachute Infantry by truck to Werbomont, Belgium on December 18th, 1944. Company G took up defensive positions along the east side of the Salm River near the town of Grand Halleux, Belgium. They were to hold the bridge across the Salm river. Francis' good friend, Pfc. William “Chico” Sanchez, was one of five company G paratroopers manning a listening post on the other side of the river. Elements of the 1st and 9th SS Panzer Division overran the listening post killing  Pfc. Sanchez and Sgt William Beaty. According to Pfc. John Diffin, Francis was manning a machine gun on the high ground overlooking the Salm when the Germans reached the river. The bridge was blown with enemy soldiers on it and as the rest started to cross at the rivers' edge they were greeted with such a wall of concentrated fire not one made it to the other side, said G company platoon Sgt. "Chris" Christensen, adding he’d "never seen anything like it before or after." The 505th’s defensive line along the Salm was over extended, on the morning of December 24th, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery ordered the 505 to withdraw from their positions along the river to the town of Basse Bodeux.


In a December 2011 telephone call to Francis' family, John Diffin recalled the night of the pullback on Christmas eve 1944. Company G took up a defensive position a bit north of Grand Halleux near the town of Basse Bodeux. Francis was put on watch down a nearby path to prevent any surprises coming from that direction. Diffin lent him his watch, he was to wake Corporal Carl Cantrell in 2 hours for the next watch. While gathering straw to insulate his foxhole from the cold ground, Francis was grabbed by a large German force**, he began yelling loudly at his captors. Corporal Cantrell and Private First Class Diffin grabbed their weapons and took off down the path in an attempt to get him back. Honing in on Francis' voice they located him and his German captives. According to John Diffin they opened fire on the Germans. In the darkness flashes from the enemies returning fire became targets for Diffin and Cantrell. As the fire fight wound down they took six German prisoners. Francis could no longer be heard as his captors pulled his scarf over his mouth to quiet him. With the prisoners in their possession, Diffin and Cantrell returned to company G's command post. Later, during questioning, the prisoners claimed to be Poles and not of German decent. In the morning, Cantrell and Diffin retraced their steps to where Francis was captured, finding eleven dead enemy nearby. Diffin found Francis' overcoat lying on the ground and inside the coat pocket was the watch he had given to Francis the night before. (Under ordinary circumstances the Germans, more than likely, would not have left the coat behind.)

** A few days prior to the capture of Corporal Francis X. Schweikert, on December 20th, and 21st 1944, (unknown to the 2nd platoon of company G, 505 Parachute Infantry,) companies B and C of the 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry, engaged in combat, the main body of Colonel Joachim Peipers' 1st SS Panzer Division in a bitter fight to the end in the town of Cheneux, Belgium. Three days later, on Christmas eve 1944, hundreds of beaten Germans soldiers' of Peipers' 1st SS Panzer Division were camped in the woods west of Brume, Belgium, determined to make their way back to Germany on foot. This location, outside of Brume, was about 3/4 of a mile from the rear and flank areas of the 505 Parachute Infantrys' new pullback location east of Basse Bodeux, Belgium. A situation developed with hundreds of American paratroopers withdrawing through hundreds of German Panzer Grenadiers going in the opposite direction towards Germany. More than likely Francis was taken prisoner by a contingent of those German soldiers making their way back to their homeland. (The Germans took prisoners to use as leverage in trade if they were discovered.)
(After Companies B and C of the 504th PIR fought their way into Cheneux, they were supported by G and HQ companies on the 21st of December 1944, to carry on the fight.)

(The 504th Parachute Infantry was the sister Regiment to Francis's 505th Parachute Infantry.
Both Regiments served in the 82nd Airborne Division)

On the night of December 24,25, 1944, G company pulled back from the Salm river to a location between Trois Ponts and Basse Bodeux, Belgium. (Below, a page from the WW-II history of the 505-PIR)
(From the Clayton V. Bauer collection)
Christmas Eve 1944

Christmas Eve 1944

** Sgt. John D. McKenzie of the 456th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, writes in his book "On Time, On Target", of how his artillery observation team(supporting the 505 Parachute Infantry) at Trois Pont, Belgium became POW's. The observation post was manned by five paratroopers of the 456th, and were overcome by twelve SS men from Colonel Peiper's Kampfgruppe and taken prisoner. (They were part of Peiper's Kampfgruppe of approximately 800 SS men  making their way back to German lines on Christmas eve 1944 after running out of fuel for their panzers. On top of having no fuel, the 504th Parachute Infantry (sister regiment of the 505-PIR) gave an awful beating to the Germans at Cheneux, Belgium, on December 20,21, 1944.) Sgt. McKenzie's observation post was only two miles west of Field Marshall Montgomery's new Christmas eve defensive line at Basse Bodeux. (500 to 800 men of Colonel Peiper's Kampfgruppe, were hidden in the red circle area all day Christmas Eve 1944.)

Below is the morning report listing Francis as, missing in action.
 MIA FXS Christmas Eve 1944


Francis was now a POW at stammlager XIIA in Limburg, Germany. Months later, as Allied front lines approached the prison camp, guards and prisoners began their move deeper into Germany. On the 23rd of March 1945, the POWs left stalag XIIA arriving at Atzbach, Germany in boxcars on March 27th. The next day, on the 28th they were liberated by the 7th Armored Division. There is a written account on the 7th's home webpage under; POW camps liberated; Wetzlar / Giessen.


After liberation, March 28th 1945, Francis made his way to LeHavre, France, sailing for the States on the U.S.S. General W. P. Richardson, leaving April 14th 1945 arriving at Staten Island, New York, April 29th. He received a months' furlough upon his return from Europe. In early June of 1945 he was assigned to the Second Headquarters Company, The Parachute School, Fort Benning, Georgia. In a letter home dated July 15th 1945 he wrote in jest "Yes, I'm in the Navy, they call us "The Bell Bottom Trousers", because we patrol the rivers here. We have two boats, one is a small yacht and the other a landing barge with a 10 horse outboard motor." After several months of this duty he was honorably discharged from the Army on November 30th 1945.


In 1947 John T. Diffin visited Francis at the family home, now on Staten Island, New York. They talked face to face for the first time since Christmas eve 1944, the night he was taken prisoner in Belgium. After a brief time as a civilian John re-enlisted into the Army and rose to the rank of Sergeant Major retiring in 1973. At the time he was the last World War II veteran on the rolls of the 82nd Airborne Division. (In 2013 Francis's oldest son Bob, traveled to Fayetteville, North Carolina to visit John and attend the 2013 reunion of the 505 Regimental Combat Team. Bob returned to Fayetteville in January 2016 to attend John's military funeral.)


Francis married Arlene L. Klose in 1949 they raised 5 children. He was a carpenter for the New York City Board of Education at the time of his death, January 29th 1978. He is buried with his wife Arlene in Moravian Cemetery, Staten Island, New York.



On May 3, 2021, Francis' son Bob, webmaster for the 505rct.org website, received an e-mail from Sue Templeman, who runs the Quorn Village On-line Museum in England. Sue was contacted by a fellow that found Francis's dog tags in Europe. She passed along his e-mail address to me.


I heard back from "Loek van den berg" who lives in Holland. Loek said he and some friends were metal detecting in a forest that adjoins the September 17, 1944 drop zone for the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. As the group moved to the tree line adjacent to the drop zone they located Francis's dog tag 77 years after it was lost.

Cpl. Francis X. Schweikert's lost dog tag was located in
Holland 2021.
Cpl. Francis X. Schweikert's dog tag

Below - Francis and Arlene's three oldest sons enlisted into military service between November 1968 and 1972, the Vietnam era. Son David, was the first to enlist in November of 1968, he served in the Marine Corps' 3rd Division 1969 - 1971, two weeks later Bob visited the U.S. Army recruiter, serving in the 102nd Signal Battalion 1969 - 1971 and Tom served with the 1st Infantry Division 1972 - 1975, also with the U.S. Army.

Cpl. Francis X. Schweikert's 3 sons
Corporal Francis X. Schweikert (top left) and his 3 sons who served.

 

The following G company photos are from Corporal Francis X. Schweikert's WW-II memorabilia collection.

In the next seven photos posted below, six are *four combat jump* paratroopers and three are Silver Star medal recipients. All seven paratroopers were veterans of Sicily, they are:

* Calvin C. Fisher *

* Kenneth L. Harris * - Silver Star medal Sicily - KIA April 1945, the last combat of the 505-PIR.

* Alfred L. Lambdin *

* Roy L. Pynson *

* Chester A. Urban * - Silver Star, Bronze Star medals

* Carl W. Horst *

   Walter J. Blasik - Silver Star medal

This first group of 9 pictures was taken at Camp Quorn, England before the Normandy campaign. All are G company paratroopers. The pictures were given to Francis by John Diffin when he visited the Schweikert home in 1947. The text at the top of each photo, in "quotes", is the text John wrote on the backside.

"To F.X. - your buddy John T."
To F.X. -  your buddy John T Diffin

" Fisher "

"Lambdin - England 44"
505th PIR Co. G - Quorn England 1944 - Lambdin

"My Patrol partner Baker. Remember the day he got killed in Holland and
I came back and crawled in the hole with you."
505th PIR Co.G - Quorn England 1944- Baker

"Blasik" - (Walter was awarded the Siver Star medal)
505th PIR Co.G - Quorn England 1944 W.J.Blasik

"Fashion on parade - Lambdin"
505th PIR Co. G - Quorn, England - 1944 1 (Lambdin)

(no inscription on back)Elmer J. Baker
505th PIR Co.G - Quorn England 1944 (no inscription on back)Elmer J. Baker

"Horst"
505th PIR Company G - Quorn, England 1944-Carl Horst

"Pinson(Pynson) Horst Blasik Baker Lambdin"
England 1944

 


The following 7 pictures were taken at Camp Suippes, France.
The 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment was there from the end of
November to mid December 1944. All are from G Company.

Francis and John Diffin - Suippes, France 1944
505th Co. G - Suippes, France  1944

 

505 - Company G - Suippes, France 1944- unknown trooper
505th Company G Suippes, France 1944

 

Chester Urban, a Silver Star recipient and John Diffin
in Suippes, France 1944
505th PIR Co. G - Suippes, France 1944

 

If you recognize any of the unknown paratroopers in the photos on this web page please contact me at this e-mail address.

Carl Cantrell - Unknown - Unknown - Kenneth Harris at Suippes, France, December 1944.
(Private Harris earned the Silver Star medal in Sicily. He fought in all six campaigns. He was killed in action at the Elbe river crossing,
8 days before the war ended in Europe.)

505th PIR Co.G troopers - Suippes, France December 1944

 

Below - Kenneth Harris - Francis X.Schweikert - Unknown - John T.Diffin - Suippes, France 1944.
FX Sch-Suippes 1944

 

Ken Harris - John Diffin center standing - Unknown - Chester Urban, kneeling. Suippes, France 1944.
John T. Diffin center standing Suippes,France 1944

 

505th PIR Co G 1944 - Unknown trooper, John Diffin, William Sanchez seated, Unknown.
505th PIR Co G 1944

 

(March 2016) Below; picture of Pfc. William "Billy" Sanchez
(also shown in the photo above) was recently found in a letter
to the Schweikert family from the Sanchez family.(Dated Feb.1945)
Pfc. Sanchez was killed in action on December 21,1944 at an
outpost along the Salm river, in Grand Halleux, Belgium.
Pfc. William "Billy" Sanchez

 

Corporal Francis X. Schweikert 1945

 

Cpl. Francis X. Schweikert's 3 sons
Corporal Francis X. Schweikert's WW-II shadow box. Ten members (Francis plus 9 in bottom row) of the Schweikert family have served our country from 1939 through 1987. Four of the ten are from the webmasters immediate family.

 

 

Francis X.Schweikert 1943
Francis X.Schweikert 1943

 

Francis Schweikert missing in action
Francis X missing in action

 

FXS-WW II prison camp number December 25-1944 to March 28-1945
FXS-WW II prison camp number December 24-1944 to March 28-1945

 

Francis Schweikert writes home
FXS writes home

As Allied front lines aproached POW camp stammlager XIIA in Limburg, where Francis was a prisoner, the POWs began their move deeper into Germany. On the 23rd of March 1945, the POWs left camp XIIA arriving at Atzbach, Germany in boxcars on March 27th.On the 28th they were liberated by the  7th Armored Division.  There is a written account on the 7th's home webpage under; POW camps liberated; Wetzlar / Giessen.

 

Harry still overseas Vincent,Francis and John Return from the War - 1945 -

 

Three of four brothers home from war-1945-

 

Francis' brother Harry A. Schweikert earns Battlefield Commission.
Staff Sgt. Harry A. Schweikert earns Bronze Star medal

 

Francis' brother Harry A. Schweikert earns Bronze Star medal 1945.
Staff Sgt. Harry A. Schweikert earns Bronze Star medal

 

Vincent Schweikert (left) and Harry A. Schweikert (right) -1941.
Pfc. Charles O'Neill 1945.

 

Francis qualifies with M1903 Springfield rifle. Page 1.
(He learned to sight a gun as a young boy with a daisy BB gun)

 

Page 2


Links to other memorabilia in Francis X. Schweikert's collection.......

Long Island manuvers in preparation for D-Day.

Wooden shoes from Holland, 1944.

82nd Airborne Division Pamphlet sent to Francis from Pfc. John T. Diffin while he was in Berlin.

Photos Francis brought home from Holland.

Francis's brother, Tech/Sgt. John Schweikert flew 30 missions in a B-17 bomber, first as a Gunner, and later in the war, as an Engineer. At times they dropped Safe Conduct Pass leaflets from the planes. My uncle John sent the leaflets home to my grandfather. He earned the Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters.

.

 

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