Willing & Able

 

SOL MARCADO’S STORY

WWII 

AIRBORNE TROOPER

320th Glider Field Artillery Bn. 82nd AIRBORNE DIVISION

 

BRADENTON, FL - Sol Marcado, 80, passed away on Thursday, December 5, 2002, in Bradenton, FL. as a result of heart failure. He was born in Chicago, IL. on April 23, 1922, and lived in Racine, WI most of his life.

 

Only a favored few men have had the experience of being in the AIRBORNE and living to tell about it, at least having been in the typical conflicts experienced by the intrepid troopers who served with AMERICA’S VERY FINEST AND MOST ACCOMPLISHED TROOPS! When in 1942-43-44-45 the pioneers of America’s Airborne Army with only about 1-1/2 years of ‘test’ platoon experience, significantly developed and refined the techniques of incorporating a lot of ‘raw’ but enthusiastic ‘rookies’ into the very exclusive world which at first was all Jumpers and very soon, Glider Riders; the world’s most exclusive, elite and significant troops became the most important functioning units in the American armed forces. These men were leaders all the way! They led every significant attack upon Hitler’s fortress and were the men who denied every attempt that Adolph made to get himself out of the snare that his sick philosophies had led his countrymen into.

 

The final proof of this phenomenon is that the AIRBORNE TROOPS ARE STILL AMERICA’S “GUARD OF HONOR”. It is no small feat and not an undue pride that we can, from a ‘cold call’ have our best, most effective troops, ‘wheels up’ and in the air (the entire DIVISION) in planes with ‘wheels up’ status and well on their way to anywhere in the world, wherever our nation’s leaders (God help them) feel it is wise or just plain necessary to send them in our country’s interest. The pioneers of this fantastic feat, were the boys of the beginning from the ‘test platoon’ onward as the new divisions were trained and grew in ability and strength. The boys, who quickly became men, of WWII accomplished things and set the highest traditions for their sons and grandsons to TRYTO LIVE UP TO! With pride and elan, they have done so and will do again.

 

                                                                        -----Sgt. Sol Marcado-----

Your comrades in armed combat salute you! You are we--- we are you! May you live forever in pride and satisfaction that you may say with those others, who were blessed to have served our nation, I WAS AN AIRBORNE SOLDIER! Nothing in my life can top that, nor can many other people.

 

You’re modest and understated recitation of your vast military experiences while so engaged, are only exemplary of the complete obverse of what you designed to write. The information you left us, while helpful and true, can onIy be judged by the experiences you left unsaid! As people read the stories contributed to this collection of veteran Airborne men, one need only remind them to recall them in their truest extent and see what Sol left out! His experiences were no less than those you have been reading. He is just too damn modest. We are the poorer for not having heard them all, BUT WE ARE ALL RICHER FOR HAVING SOL IN OUR GROUP OF COMRADES AND HAVING BEEN SO FORTUNATE AS TO KNOW HIM AS SUCH. It is significant to add that in the pride Sol feels in his many and unsung and treasured memories of his never forgotten wartime experiences and service, that he was the nucleus and force that developed the BADGER STATE CHAPTER OF THE FAMOUS 82nd AIRBORNE DIVISION ASSOCIATION. WE ARE ALL IN HIS DEBT AND WE WILL CONTINUE TO KEEP THIS GREAT OUTFIT GOING, IN EVERY WAY AS LONG AS WE ARE ABLE TO WORK AT IT. GOD willing it will be a long time. Our progeny ahead of us down the years, must and will know of us. And when we finally all make the final ‘JUMP’ or ‘GLIDER RIDE’ into that great DZ or LZ, and join all of our old comrades, they will -as a man greet us with:

 

WELL DONE GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT.

“AIRBORNE, ALL THE WAY”

 

The very brief, and understated by some miles, story of the military history of Liaison Sgt. Sol Marcado, follows here:

It all started in DEC. of 1942 when I too received a letter from our Uncle Sam with the grim salutation: “Greetings”. Millions of others had or soon would also receive such a ‘greeting’! It said the recipient was about to become another of Uncle’s nephews, now called a G. I., (stands for the dreaded ‘Government Issue’, which appellation soon became the description of all of life and its accouterments. Everything from your very sustenance, to your thoughts.) You became ‘G. I.‘! Your life would never be the same. We trustingly went forward, blindly, to do whatever our country needed! Provided the officials could figure out what it was and agree on a way to do it. Thus the ‘Airborne’ was born. They didn’t know how to or what to do about that title. They just knew it was a tool the Army needed. They wanted Sol Marcado!

 

I reported to Fort Sheridan, Illinois as directed, where I received new ‘clothes’ and various other items I would soon need. Believe it or not, some of the issue were even my size! Not all! Just some! After taking all the tests and interviews, both written and oral, I was asked if I would like to become a paratrooper. Who me?! Are you nuts? Not me! I had a tendency to become airsick and did not want to fly! I had the feeling I should be assigned to a Quartermaster unit. After all, during my civilian life I had always been, in the outside real world, working in retailing and with the administration of stores! What could have been more apropos? I was sure to become a nice, safe Quartermaster! (Ed note: Sol, you have to realize if they wanted you in the paratroops / airborne, they must have read your test scores, etc, and figured out you were just their kind of man!)

 

While awaiting my assignment to wherever, I was ‘living’ in a Quonset hut. Those of us waiting for assignments had no specific duties. However, it was up to an ‘acting’ Corporal to make sure we had something to do. (Ed note: See Sol. They had read your scores. They knew that idle hands are the stuff of “Airborne is Chief”! You yourself know. One cannot let Airborne men be idle for a minute, else they will come up with some idea of their own, to keep themselves interested, and officialdom will REALLY NOT LIKE THAT! It’s that distinct tendency of Airborne people, which drove the Nazi leaders simply mad with indecision! It is probably our one greatest talent!)

Sol continues: “Some of my rookie inductees got kitchen duty. Others did ‘policing’, remember that? (Ed note: Sol, don’t be so dang decent. Remember the call by the Corporal? “I want to see nothin’ but asses and elbows! Now pick up those cigarette butts and gum wrappers!“

 

Sol continues: Other odd jobs were visited upon the helpless inductees. The cat-calls from the “one day in” ahead of us now “veterans” which were, “YOU’LL BE SORRY!” RANG IN OUR EARS AND WE WONDERED WHY THEY YELLED THAT. We were soon to know. Some how I was put to work at last. I was the last one called! The Corporal, had me moving a 5 ton load of coal with a hand sized scoop! I guess he knew who to watch! I was ready to call it quits right there and then until a “G.I.” with an armload of stripes which put the corporal’s to shame (esp. since he was only an ACTING - temporary Cpl.) stopped and watched the wasted effort I was at, and had the corporal put me onto another “detail”. What a relief!

 

The day came when I was shipped out. To where? I did not know and they didn’t see fit to let me in on it! I got on a train with many other inductees and traveled for two days. When we arrived somewhere, we found that we were at Ft. Bragg N.C. There was a large banner “WELCOME TO THE 82ND AIRBORNE DIVISION”. Not knowing even what “Airborne” was, I asked one of the other recently arrived, “ What is a AIRBORNE?” His answer was, (and I quote him exactly) “WE’RE Paratroopers”. I assured him there was a mistake. Hadn’t I told that officer at the induction center at Ft. Sheridan that I didn’t want to be a Paratrooper? I decided then and there I would see someone as soon as possible and get this straightened out. After being called by name and assigned to various units, I had a hunch I had not been assigned to a Paratroop unit! So it could not be that bad! It was a GLIDER UNIT! Out of the frying-pan and into the fire! I was rapidly going down hill toward some kind of aircraft, I figured. I asked the guy “What is a Glider?’ I was told I would “soon enough-find out!” I got into the routine of basic training and when it finished I was sore and tired but I actually felt toughened. My grocery store administrator belly and spare tire seemed to have vanished! I found out what a “GLIDER” IS! It (to my horror) was an airplane of plywood and glue and canvas and had no motor! An airplane without a motor is towed by a REAL airplane with 2 or more motors. Well, that could be fun I thought. How much trouble could I get into with that? After all, with no motor, how far from the airport could the damn thing actually fly? I was soon to find out just how much trouble I could get into!

 

At first it was a lot of fun (is that the word?). Then it suddenly got tougher; What did he say? “Put a jeep in that glider!” Is this guy nuts? Guess What! We did just that! We loaded it up with a jeep and flew around with it, sometimes with other equipment. For practice purposes! Only, after 3 or 4 months later the practice ceased! We all found ourselves going over-seas! We went to Casablanca (and I don’t mean the movie! Bogart would never have had that story to tell at all if we hadn’t made the name of the damn place famous!) A place that up till then no one had ever heard of! Somewhere in North Africa yet! This is where they educated us about dumb stuff like Arabs and Sand and diarrhea! And dust and flies and heat beyond heat. The army had never seen any “SAFARI” movies. They forgot to supply us with desert type/heat type, clothing! And showers. We made a couple of moves whilst in Africa. It was not too very long before we were alerted for the invasion of Sicily. My unit was not to be in the initial assault. From all I could gather, since we were Artillery (Oh yeah! We loaded Cannons and High explosive shells in the gliders too!). We were therefore a general support unit. We would go in at a later time to bring the foregoing parachute troops Artillery support, at a time when it was beginning to be badly needed. We never did go in the initial assault due to a giant (G.I.)Boo Boo and the very unfortunate shooting down by the U.S. Navy of some of the 504 Regt. Jumpers. Talk about “friendly fire !” Rumor immediately had it that “this is the end of Airborne”. Rumor not withstanding, obviously, AIRBORNE prevailed! (Fortunately for the invasion type, planning generals!) My unit, the 320’ Glider F.A. Bn. did however go to Sicily by plane just previous to the ending of the hostilities in Sicily. It was later that the battalion would soon be on detached service from the 82”d and attached to the Regular Army, 3d Division which was then in Italy. More rumors started. I would like to think it was a fact, not rumors, that we did such a good job while with the 3rd that the C.O. tried to keep us within his division. Horrors! --We might have become part of a regular “LEG” outfit (Airborne elan was beginning to grow in us already!) In any event we soon caught up with the 82”d in Naples, Italy. From there we did some “fighting” but eventually the Division went to England for what everyone thought might be the preparation for the big invasion of “Somewhere” in France, or perhaps the BIG PUSH to Berlin, and then home! Well, as we were soon to find out, it was to Ste. Mere Eglise, France. To be more exact, NORMANDY! Hitler’s biggest other mistake, and his soon to be worst nightmare. His end was truly in sight! However, for me a funny thing happened on the way to the war!

 

France was our immediate goal. We were to LZ near Ste. Mere Eglise but we never made it at the same time as the rest of the battalion. After taking off from the airfield in England, we circled the airfield while the rest of the battalion got off the ground and well into the air and assembling. Lucky for us, the tow-line broke before we got too far. We were far enough not to return to the airfield but near enough that almost instantly trucks arrived to take us back. Of course, we were instructed not to talk to those interested civilians that had gathered around! We soon were returned to base and told to “sack-in”, in one of the hangers until the opportunity arose for us to “catch up” with the rest of the unit. That opportunity arose early the next morning (June 6’). It must have been 6 or 7 hours that we waited to go and go we finally did. Elements of the 325 Glider Infantry Regiment were to fly over the airbase on their way to Normandy and we were to fly up and join them in the air and tag along!

 

We arrived finally very early in the AM, in France and I found that the “shooting” had already started, in fact we had encountered a generous sample on our way across the peninsula to our Landing Zones, (“LZ”). Once upon the ground (and it was only God’s will that we didn’t crash-land totally, because crash-landings were the commonality of the day!) confusion reigned supreme! I had high hopes of catching up with the battalion ASAP, but soon found that that was not to be. Slowly but surely we all each finally found ourselves with the people we were supposed to join, the ones with whom we most wished to find ourselves! Later I was to find that there were scattered groups such as the one I was first with, all over the area. It must have driven the German commanders wild and made them think we were many numbers more than we actually were, and in fact that was the case and it complicated their planning! After doing our share in solidifying the invasion, our Division was relieved and returned to England. Once again there, we were “rearmed”, refitted, added new reinforcement personnel to all replace the men we had lost in combat, and “training” started some more-especially to build on the bitter lessons we had learned in the battles.

It was only a month and a half of the above that we “rested” and then we found ourselves involved in the LARGEST AIRBORNE INVASION IN HISTORY to that date! Our next assignment was “OPERATION MARKET-GARDEN” in Holland. Once again we proved ourselves as warriors and later returned to France for what is now called “R and R”. However, that did not last very long either. Herr Hitler and his frustrated Generals soon had other plans! Really BIG, Desperate ones! His master plan was for a “last ditch” attempt to defeat the Allied Forces. Again we stopped him in what is now known as the “BATTLE OF THE BULGE”. After that encounter it was all “downhill” as compared with our previous experiences. After crossing the “ELB” river, it was all over! AT LAST! I wound up in Epinal, France and was literally waiting for a BOAT to return to “Stateside” AND HOME! Meanwhile the bulk of the Division was assigned to go to Berlin as a “policing” unit in the “occupation forces”. The remaining men who had earned enough of those famous “points” to go home were given the choice to either remain in Berlin or GO HOME!! I CHOSE HOME! !

In and during all of this I had learned how to be a “Liaison Sergeant” with the infantry, operate a military switchboard, a British civilian switchboard, run, lay and install military phone lines, and some duties as a “Forward Observer” accompanying the infantry front-line troops who always needed Artillery help! (Ed. Note: Hey! Sol! You cannot leave that statement so lightly treated. Any old combat vet. knows the supreme value of “Arty” Fwd. Obs.! Also we all know that the life expectancy of these “way out front guys” was, about (with luck) a day or two! I am not going to sit here and let you take refuge in your modesty. Folks, this guy and his unit blew more holes in the German lines and strong points than you could ever imagine.  With-out them we“dog faces” (old ones) would be many, many fewer!! We ranked these people with the fighter/bombers, P-47’s and the like on a clear day with the Krauts bunched up on a dead end road! And the Medics, and the Evac. front-line hospitals!! We all owe you people our everlasting thanks. . . ! Ed.)

Sol continues:

 

I was awarded The Purple Heart as a result of our crash-landing in Holland. I was hurt enough that if it were possible I would have been sent to the rear area (if there had been one). As it is well known, being AIRBORNE does not allow for having a “rear area”. Other than that I came home to resume my life!

Let it be known to all, that it was and is still, my firm belief that I “fought” alongside the greatest soldiers, anywhere, any place, any time, and that I feel I was blessed and that my survival chances were greatly increased by being next to the “ALL AMERICAN SOLDIER”! (Of which Sol was one of the finest.. . he just won’t say it.. .so I will say it for him! Ed. Note.)

 Thanks again,  Sol..(ed.)