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My Most Unforgettable Christmas

My Most Unforgettable Christmas
 
It was December 1944 and my 17th Airborne Division had arrived at Chiselton Barracks near Swindon, England shortly after “D” Day awaiting the mission for which we had been trained – establishing a beach head across the German Rhine by Parachute and Glider.
 
Several days before Christmas 1944, we were alerted for de ployment to what was later called “The Battle of the Bulge” where the Germans had surprised us with an offensive with several hundred thousand troop at Bastogne, Belgium in weather that was the coldest winter ever recorded in Belgium with several feet of snow which lasted for about six weeks.
 
It was Christmas Eve 1944 and we were at an airport loading up several hundred C46 and C46’s with our personnel and equipment. At that time I was a Buck Sergeant in charge of the 7th Section, “A” Battery, 680th, which was an ammunition detail.  I had my section loading up the ammunition which we had been assigned but my section, thinking that their job was done, loaded up in the plane assigned to us leaving me with several planes to load.  Fortunately, the English Personnel of the airport helped me load the remaining planes.  The planes began taking off and the plane with my section had gone without me. I was pulled into one of the last planes with some of the infantry.
 
In 1944 these transport planes did not have the capability to fly at night and with darkness approaching, the planes landed at many separate air strips in France. These air strips had hurriedly built and the personnel worked out of and lived in large tents.  My plane and several others landed at one of these strips. It was a cold, clear night and the stars seemed as large as the Star of Bethlehem. It was Christmas Eve and we were divided into small groups and were to share a tent with some of the air strip personnel.  They had evidently been there for several weeks and had received many “goodies” from home. In fact, I remember their Christmas “goodies” as being bountiful and for a while the tent seemed to be filled with thoughts of Christmas only.
 
On Christmas morning it was determined that my plane needed some mechanical work before it could take off. All of the other planes left and we did not leave until after noon.  I always thought that perhaps our pilot celebrated too much on Christmas Eve and his crew chief covered up for him until he was ready to go. Maybe not, but it could have been.
 
Un-be-knowing to me at that time, my section in the plane I was supposed to be in had taken off from another air strip.  I never learned the circumstances but their plane blew up in the air killing all on board including my 8 man section.  I later received replacements for these eight.
 
I don’t recall how I got from the group I was with back to my outfit but when I did later at dusk on Christmas Day, they thought I had been in the plane which blew up with my section.
 
After this and another similar occasion on March 24th when we jumped the Rhine, I leave you with this..... I believe in MIRACLES otherwise I would not be here today and, yes, I was praying on both occasions.
 
Source: Document received by letter from Joe Quade, 17th Airborne Division, and dated January 2, 2012
1/Sgt James E. TAYLOR
Passed away August 27, 2013

"A" Battery

680st Glider Filed Artillery Bn

17th Airborne Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium