THE SKY MEN: A Parachute Rifle Company's Story of the Battle of the Bulge and the Jump Across the Rhine (Operation VARSITY). 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 17th Airborne Division. They were all volunteers to a new, dangerous and elite corps -- the AIRBORNE!
The 513th P.I.R. was a school regiment of the Parachute School. The personnel were individually selected from the Airborne troops and were considered to be the best of the best, and F Company's officers were among the finest in the regiment. The 513th P.I.R. was the best trained parachute infantry regiment to see action in WWII, and for much of its war, F Company would lead the way. The green troops of the 513th were first bloodied in the toughest fighting of the Bulge on the west side of Bastogne, Belgium, and demonstrated exceptional courage in closing with the enemy.
SKY MEN has 462 pages with 4 maps and 122 superior photographs, including 25 previously unpublished photographs by Robert Capa, the most celebrated combat photographer of the 20th century.
In the midst of the hardest European winter in forty years, the 17th Airborne Division was committed to action against the German Army west of Bastogne, Belgium. From their first day in action, F Company men--caught up in the toughest fighting of the Bulge when the American Army stood up and began slugging its way back to the start line--demonstrated exceptional courage in closing with the enemy. However, their regiment's "peculiar" attack plans and resulting high casualties ultimately brings into question the competence of leaders from battalion to division.
In March 1945, Operation VARSITY sends F Company parachuting across the Rhine and into the final battle for the conquest of Nazi Germany. The men fought well, yet so limited were the operation's goals that even the division conceded Operation VARSITY's profit was abrogated before the first planes took to the air. In the end, Operation VARSITY is shown to have proffered very little advantage to the amphibious crossing it was intended to support. During the days following the drop, however, in an advance that was nothing short of brilliant, the sky men spearheaded the drive to capture the city of Mnnster. F Company again was out in front. Throughout the narrative, the author carefully threads the saga of F Company's war within the fabric of overall military operations and demonstrates how sometimes deadly mistakes in judgment by higher commanders were transcribed on the battlefield.
The Sky Men is a stark, honest even if ignoble, often humorous, and sometimes contradictory ground level account of garrison life and front-line infantry combat welding together primary research with the personal accounts of nearly one hundred men of F Company and other associated organizations. The story of F Company, however, is more than just one of men in battle. Their story is one of triumph and tragedy, and of grand strategy and life and death. The Sky Men is a unique portrayal of young men and soldiers, and of war and of a brotherhood of warriors.
From the Preface:
"An essential immediacy accompanies war. No place is it felt more intensely than among the young men whose job it is to do the actual killing.
"At the time this story takes place most of the men in it were only nineteen years old. The United States had been at war for almost two years when enlistment or the draft inducted them into the brotherhood of war and began to instill in them a new morality, one which made killing a virtue and proclaimed Duty its god. The army didn't want any choir boys. What they needed was "a bunch of damn killers in uniforms," and that's what they got. The Sky Men is their story."
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