Four Stars of Valor: The Combat History of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War II

505th PIR

Phil Nordyke’s “Four Stars of Valor: The Combat History of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) in World War II” is excellent. It is a must-read for any student of World War II.

Mr. Nordyke does a great job as he takes us with the 505th PIR from its beginnings and training in the United States, through its deployment to North Africa, and through its campaigns in Sicily, Italy, Normandy, Holland, the Bulge, and Germany before returning home.

Record Four Combat Jumps

The book takes its title from the 505 PIR’s record four combat jumps in Sicily, Salerno/Naples, Ste Mere Eglise/Normandy, and Nijmegen/Holland. Stars representing participation in combat jumps had been worn unofficially on parachute wings during and after World War II. FYI – this practice did not gain official sanction until after the 1983 invasion of Grenada, Operation Urgent Fury.

Sicily and The Secrets of Ultra

I found it a book that that demanded I read every word on every page. Be prepared for some very graphic descriptions of the training and combat. You’ll feel the heat of North Africa. I was disappointed as I read the Hermann Goring Fallschrim Panzer and 15th Panzer Grenadier Divisions were on Sicily, that General Bradley knew it, and because of secrecy of Ultra they did not pass this information on to the attacking forces! “This was a cruel deception of our own forces, but necessary in order to protect the secrets of Ultra.”

Excellent Job of Using Primary Sources

Mr. Nordyke does an excellent job of using primary sources. At first, I was a little confused when I encountered an incident that was described from multiple people’s points of view, but quickly saw the value in seeing the way more than one person viewed/remembered an incident. It helped paint a more complete picture. Pages 300 – 301 and the actions of Private Camille E. Gagne’s response to the killing of First Lieutenant John Dodd is one example. The coverage giving to the 505th’s role in Nijmegen Holland is very detailed and had me feeling I was there.

The Battle of the Bulge

The 505th PIR’s involvement didn’t stop after its fourth jump into Nijmegen/Holland. They played a key role being deployed by truck into Belgium’s Ardennes Forest as the 82 Airborne Divisions helped stop Hitler’s in The Battle of the Bulge in freezing December 1944 and January 1945.

The book has exception maps and an amazing index. This book should be required reading for active duty members wearing jump wings. It is a must addition to any military historian’s library and would be an excellent addition to all university and community libraries.

101st Airborne: The Screaming Eagles at Normandy

“101st Airborne: The Screaming Eagles at Normandy” by Mark A. Bando is a well presented book. It has a nice blend of photography and prose. It is organized into ten chapters. They detail the training, preparation as well as the jump into Normandy of the 101st Airborne Division.

The 10.5 x 10.5 inches format allows for an excellent presentation of the photographs. The pictures cover the entire spectrum. Some are very familiar. Some are rare. Some are disturbing. The photograph on page 73 of a double row of dead German paratroopers is an example. There were so many dead in the photo than I could count them all!  I was surprised at the large amount of color pictures in the book. Amazing best describes the collection of photographs.

As good as the pictures were I especially enjoyed the story. The book chronicles the 101st in a way that blends a well-written narrative with first person testimonials of the veterans. Their recollections illustrate and explain the events of the chapter with a human touch.

Interestingly Bando includes one chapter on the 82nd Airborne Division and a chapter about the true story of the movie “Saving Private Ryan” titled “Saving Sergeant Niland”.  The book also contains a glossary of terms and an abbreviated index.

The book would be a great addition to the library of a military historian and is ideal for inclusion in a community or school library.