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Anzuoni, Robert P. I'm the 82nd Airborne Division: A History of the All American Division in World War II After Action Reports. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd, 2005
Preface; Introduction; photos; maps; Epilogue
Appendices: Twenty assorted appendices including unit commanders, decorations, casualties, etc
The reading public must have a voracious appetite for books about US airborne divisionsor at least there are authors, editors, and publishers who perceive such an appetiteto account for the constant flow of new titles on the 82nd and 101st. Certainly 2005 was a banner year for the All Americans with Phil Nordyke's well-received All American, All the Way and Robert Anzuoni's I'm the 82nd Airborne Division, both of which are thick enough and heavy enough to require a multiple-chute drop.
While Nordyke wrote more of a traditional combat narrative, Anzuoni has penned few of his own words, choosing instead to assemble an impressive collection of "...after action reports, combat narratives, documents, charts, maps, and photographs...." dating from the war years. For any division less literate and meticulous about documenting (and publicizing?) its successes, such a collection might have been thin and unremarkable. The 82nd, it turns out, must have devoted considerable energy to this kind of archival paperwork. Few of the documents indicate exactly who put them together, when the work was done, or under what conditions, but the end result proves recording the division's history was more than an after-thought.
Anzuoni contributes a two-page Introduction with a summary of the 82nd's history prior to the invasion of Sicily. Beyond that, the content appears to be almost exclusively the work of mostly anonymous clerks and/or officers toiling at undisclosed HQs somewhere in the MTO and/or ETO.
Chapter One comprises twenty-eight pages of text covering the All Americans in Sicily. This includes an overview of the divisional planning and operations, a detailed section on the 505th Parachute Combat Team, another on the 504th, and a tabular compilation of casualty statistics. The chapter ends with about twenty-five pages of photos from North Africa and Sicily.
Subsequent chapters take more or less the same approach. Chapter Two contains about thirty-five pages of text covering the 82nd in Italy, divided into the following sections:
- Contact Imminent
- Description of Operation Planning Phase to Execution
- Mission to Rome
- Division After-Action Report
- Unit Reports
- The 325th Glider Combat Team
- The 504th Parachute Combat Team
- The 505th Parachute Combat Team
- 2nd Battalion
- 1st Battalion
- 3rd Battalion
The chapter ends with about ten pages of photos of the division in Italy.
Chapter Three, Normandy, begins "Every mission accomplished. No ground gained ever relinquished." Roughly twenty of its thirty-eight pages (plus another twenty-five pages of photos) comprise a chronological narrative of the airborne from 6 June through the return to England in mid-July. Each chronological entry (usually of one day in duration) looks at all the 82nd's components in turn. Here's what a typical day looks like:
D PLUS 2, 8 JUNE 1944
The Division continued to attack along its north flank, maintained its positions along the MERDERET River, and
cleared the southern flank area to establish contact with the 101st Airborne Division.
During the night of 7-8 June a messenger from the isolated group east of AMFREVILLE crossed the MERDERET
River on a sunken bridge northwest of EA FIERE and reported to the Division Command Post. It was now evident that there were three isolated groups west of the MERDERET River, as follows:
a. A strong force of 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry, on high ground in the vicinity of 310949 south of
b. The 2nd Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry, located north of FLAUX in the vicinity of 305968.
c. A force of approximately 425 men, most of them from the 507th Parachute Infantry, located west of
As the above situation became clear, the Division Commander developed a plan to relieve the isolated groups
west of the MERDERET and also establish a clear-cut bridgehead over the river. The 1st Battalion, 325th Glider
Infantry, was to cross the MERDERET River on the sunken bridge northwest of LA FIERE, establish contact with the 2nd Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry, and swing south to capture the western approaches to the LA FIERE Bridge.
The 507th Force west of AMFREVILLE was to attack to the east to contact the 1st Battalion 325th, and 2nd Battalion, 507th. The 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry, was to remain in place.
325th Glider Infantry Regiment
At 2330 the 1st Battalion crossed the MERDERET River northwest of LA FIERE by means of a sunken road and a
railroad embankment against little enemy opposition to establish a bridgehead and contact the isolated forces of the
507th Parachute Infantry. At the close of the period the 1st Battalion had crossed the river successfully and was
marching towards the western approaches to the LA FIERE Bridge.
505th Parachute Infantry Regiment
The 1st Battalion initially remained in position north of LA FIERE assisting the 507th Parachute Infantry in guarding the MERDERET River crossing at that point. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions attacked abreast to the north and seized NEUVILLE AU PLAIN by 0430 hours against slight opposition. Supported by the 2nd Platoon, Company C, 746th
Tank Battalion, these two battalions continued their attack to the north and seized GRAINVILLE by 2300 hours. The
1st Battalion relieved the 3rd Battalion, the 3rd then taking up a reverse position southwest of GRAINVILLE in the vicinity of 308993. Attached to the 505th, the 2nd Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry, assumed defensive positions west of the town and prepared to attack to the north toward FRESVILLE on the Division's north flank at the close of the period.
507th Parachute Infantry Regiment
One Force of 175 men isolated since D-Day on the west bank of the MERDERET River north of FLAUX in the
vicinity of 305968 was still intact but suffered from heavy enemy artillery, mortar, and small arms fire. It attempted unsuccessfully to cross the River to the east to rejoin the regiment. Part of the 507th Force west of AMFREVILLE succeeded in joining the group east of the town, but another portion of the group, including the regimental commander, was ambushed and taken prisoner. The portion of the 507th east of the MERDERET continued to hold a line between 322945 and 313978, maintaining contact with adjacent regiments.
508th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Attacking with two reinforced companies, the regiment cleared the area on the Division's south flank to include the
towns of LE PORT, CARQUEBUT, and ETURVILLE by 1920 hours and established contact with the 101st Airborne
Division at Road Junction 363930 north of BLOSVILLE. Resistance was severe, but 160 prisoners were taken. The
2nd Battalion on the west bank of the MERDERET River repulsed several sharp enemy tank counterattacks directed
at the western causeway to the CHEF DU PONT Bridge. Contact with the regiment on the east bank could not be
maintained because of excessive enemy activity and observation.
82nd Airborne Division Artillery
The 319th Glider Field Artillery Battalion moved seven 75mm howitzers into position east of CHEF DU PONT in
support of the 507th and 508th Parachute Infantry Regiments. The 320th Glider Field Artillery Battalion moved eight
105mm M3 howitzers into position west of STE. MERE EGLISE in direct support of the 505th Parachute and 325th
Glider Infantry Regiments. The 87th Field Artillery Battalion was relieved of attachment to the Division before it was in position to fire a shot in support of our operations.
The seaborne echelon, Force "C", began landing at 1500 hours and moved into a bivouac area preparatory to joining
the rest of the Division. Troops included the 456th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, Batteries D, E and F of the 80th Airborne Antiaircraft Battalion, Headquarters Company of the 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion, some attached
troops and seaborne elements of units that had arrived by parachute and glider.
Chapter Four provides six pages of text and twenty pages of photographs about the All Americans in Operation Market-Garden. Chapter Five contains twenty pages of text (including more chronological entries) and fifteen pages of photos for the Battle of the Bulge. Chapter Six takes the 82nd through the end of the war in Germany with twenty pages of text and ten pages of photos.
After a brief Epilogue, Anzuoni assembles "Special Photographic Sections" running about sixty pages and divided into:
Helmet markings and insignia
- The American Red Cross with the 82nd
- Color section
The color section includes some photos but mostly consists of maps, of which approximately half are reproductions of relevant fold-out maps from various US Army official history volumes.
The book concludes with about thirty pages of appendices. These cover a wide variety of topics, including "A Paratrooper's Prayer," "Report on Loss of Aircraft to Friendly Fire over Sicily," unit call signs, Medal of Honor recipients, presidential unit citations, other awards and decorations, casualty reports, list of officers holding command and staff positions in the 82nd, command post locations, etc.
In our judgement this is a valuable collection of historical documents which should prove of interest to anyone who studies US forces in action in World War II. A couple of minor issues, however, deserve mention.
First, although Anzuoni introduces his book as "...based upon a series of after action reports....", that seems not always to be precisely the case. For example, Chapter One includes material that apparently comes directly from Those Devils in Baggy Pants, published in 1951. Although a heading at the top of the page notes "The Devils in Baggy Pants" as its source, the layout and format of the text provide no visual clue that this material seems to have a different origin than the pages surrounding it, making it easy to miss. Its inclusion seems a little puzzling. Was this actually part of a wartime document? Furthermore, Anzuoni provides no bibliographic references for any of the documents, almost nothing in the way of identification, and no information about the provenance of the archival records. These kinds of issue, by the way, also showed up in Tank Combat in North Africa, an earlier and somewhat similar volume of "after action reports" also published by Schiffer.
Second, the author reports that the archival records have been "...edited for consistency and accuracy." Unfortunately, he seems not to have noted which parts of the original text have been altered, making it impossible to know for certain how many changes were made, where they were made, or exactly what's authentic and what Anzuoni wrote. That's the opposite of the issue we've raised with the German post-war debriefings collected by David Isby (including Fighting in Normandy). In those books, Isby simply reproduced the original text without providing context, clarifications, or corrections. A much better approach than either Anzuoni's or Isby's would be to print the unaltered original text, but to add footnotes with editorial commentary.
Those caveats aside (and we've wandered somewhat beyond the bounds of Anzuoni's book), I'm the 82nd Airborne Division seems eminently shelf-worthy.
Available from online booksellers, local bookshops, or directly from Schiffer Military History.
Thanks to Schiffer for providing this review copy.
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Reviewed 29 January 2006
Copyright © 2006 by Bill Stone
May not be reproduced in any form without written permission of Stone & Stone