Francis X. Schweikert was born on April 23rd 1925 in Brooklyn, New York, the youngest of four brothers who served during WW II. He enlisted in the Army on July 3rd 1943 from Newark, New Jersey, at the time his family lived in North Arlington, New Jersey. He reported to Fort Dix, New Jersey on July 24th, it was here during induction week that a 2nd Lt. 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 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 C.O., 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. The following month, on May 30th, Francis sailed on the Queen Elizabeth for England. Assigned to the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Company G, he arrived at Camp Quorn, England on July 7, 1944 while the regiment was still in Normandy. On September 17th he made the jump into Holland with the second squad, second platoon of G company. He became friends with Pfc. John Diffin, who was a Normandy veteran, and Pfc. William "Chico" Sanchez. While in Holland, John and Francis lost their 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 by truck to Werbomont, Belgium on December 18th, 1944. Company G took up defensive positions along the Salm River near Grand Halleux, Belgium. They were to hold the bridge across the Salm. His good friend, Pfc. William “Chico” Sanchez, was one of five troopers manning a listening post on the other side of the river. Elements of the 1st and 9th SS Panzer Division overran the 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 stopped and took up defensive positions a bit north of Grand Halleux . 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 shift. While gathering straw to insulate himself from the cold ground Francis was grabbed by a large German force**, he began yelling loudly at his captors to let him go. 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 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, they returned to their company 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 would not have left the coat behind.)
**Sgt. John D. McKenzie of the 456th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, writes in his book "On Time, On Target", of how his artillery observation post at Trois Pont, Belgium, manned by five paratroopers of the 456th, was overcome by twelve SS men from Colonel Peiper's Kampfgruppe. (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.) Sgt. McKenzie's observation post was only two miles west of Field Marshall Montgomery's new Christmas eve defensive line at Basse Bodeux.
**G company Sergeant Bill Blank's memoir also mentions the night of the pullback December 24th 1944. "We moved several miles to a crossroads where we set up defensive positions in and around a group of farm buildings. That night the Germans moved up and had in mind setting up positions where we were dug in. They were driven back and we retained our positions."
**According to General Gavin's book "On to Berlin" (page 240) published after the war, Col. Ekman estimated there were 500 enemy soldiers withdrawing through the rear areas of the 505 that Christmas eve night.
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 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.
Francis married Arlene Klose in 1949 they had 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 in Moravian Cemetery, Staten Island, New York. Francis had three sons that enlisted into military service between 1968 and 1972, during the Vietnam era. One son served in the Marine Corps and two sons with the Army.
The following pictures were sent in by trooper Schweikert's family ...
There are five *four combat jump* paratroopers and three Silver Star recipients in the photos below, they are:
* Calvin C. Fisher *
* Kenneth L. Harris - Silver Star medal*
* Alfred L. Lambdin *
* Roy L. Pynson *
* Chester A. Urban - Silver Star, Bronze Star medals*
Walter J. Blasik - Silver Star
This first group of pictures was taken at Camp Quorn, England before the Normandy campaign. They 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."
" Fisher "
"Lambdin - England 44"
"My Patrol partner Baker. Remember the day he got killed in Holland and
I came back and crawled in the hole with you."
"Blasik" - (Walter was awarded the Siver Star medal)
"Fashion on parade - Lambdin"
(no inscription on back)Elmer J. Baker
"Pinson(Pynson) Horst Blasik Baker Lambdin"
The following pictures were taken at Camp Suippes, France.
The regiment was there from the end of November to mid December 1944.
Francis and John Diffin - Suippes, France 1944
505 - Company G - Suippes, France 1944- unknown trooper
505th PIR Co G 1944 - Unknown trooper, John Diffin, William Sanchez, Carl Cantrell
(March 2016) This picture of Pfc. William "Billy" Sanchez
(shown in the photo above) was recently found in a letter
to the Schweikert family from the Sanchez family.(Dated Feb.1945)
Chester Urban, a Silver Star recipient and John Diffin
in Suippes, France 1944
If you recognize either of the two unknown troopers in the Camp Suippes photo below please contact me at this e-mail address.
505th PIR Co.G troopers - Suippes, France December 1944
Corporal Francis X. Schweikert 1945
Francis X.Schweikert 1943
K.Harris - F.X.Schweikert - Unknown - J.T.Diffin - Suippes, France 1944
John T. Diffin center standing Suippes,France 1944
Francis Schweikert missing in action
FXS-WW II prison camp number December 25-1944 to March 28-1945
Francis Schweikert 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 qualifies with M1903 Springfield rifle