Private 1st Class Osborne C. Cole, Jr.
Private 1st Class Osborne C. Cole, Jr. was a native born Johnson County Resident who served in C Company, 329th Infantry Regiment, 83rd “Thunderbolt” Infantry Division, during WW II. 12 days after the Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, PFC Cole along with the rest of the 83rd Infantry Division, commanded by Major General Robert C. Macon, landed at Omaha Beach and entered the hedgerow struggle south of Carentan. By July 25 at the end of the Normandy campaign the 83rd had reached the St. Lo-Periers Road and advanced 8 miles against tough opposition. In August at the start of Operation Overlord the 83rd Infantry Division, under the command of Patton’s 3rd Army, was given the mission to clear enemy forces from the St. Malo peninsula in Brittany. St. Malo was one of Hitler’s “fortresses” where retreat was not an option and every German soldier must fight until the bitter end. Hitler refused to let the port cities fall which could be used to assist the Allies in transporting men and munitions directly into the European Theater. As part of the 83rd Infantry Division’s mission to secure the peninsula PFC Cole’s Regiment was given orders to seize and hold the town of St. Servan just south of St. Malo. On August 5th after meeting resistance near Chateauneuf a day before, the 329th Infantry Regiment formed an attack to liberate the town from German forces. PFC Cole and his fellow GIs fought hard and by mid-afternoon the town was in the hands of the Allies. Unfortunately, the fighting wasn’t over. Fierce resistance was met just north of the town as the Regiment continued to push towards their objective of St. Servan. PFC Cole fought admirably through wire, mine fields, mortar and artillery fire, and machine gun crossfire from pillboxes, but on August 7, 1944 while advancing toward St. Servan PFC Cole, Jr. was mortally wounded. PFC Cole’s extraordinary efforts and his service to his country reflect great credit to himself, the 329th Infantry Regiment, 83rd Infantry Division, 3rd Army, and to the United States Army. PFC Cole’s grave site is at the Brittany American Cemetery in St. James, France.
PVT Thomas E. Smith
PVT Thomas E. Smith was a resident of Spring Hill, Kansas in September of 1943 when Uncle Sam drafted him into the United States Army. PVT Smith served honorably with C Company, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), 101st Airborne Division. Known as the “Five-O-Deuce” the 502nd PIR, commanded by COL George Van Horn Moseley, gained its notoriety during the Normandy Invasion on June 6, 1944. Their mission was to parachute in behind enemy lines and secure two northern causeways leading inland from Utah Beach and destroy a German Coast-artillery battery (122 mm Howitzer) near Ste Martin-de-Varreville. In the predawn hours of D-Day a combination of low clouds, and enemy anti-aircraft fire caused the break-up of the troop carrier formations. The scattering of the air armada was such that some troopers jumped while still over the English Channel and drowned. Consequently, the sporadic jump patterns caused most of COL Moseley’s battalions to land far afield of their designated drop zones (DZ). Some of the sticks landed as far away as five miles from the designated area. Unfortunately, during the drop COL Moseley broke his leg and had to relinquish command to his Executive Officer, LTC John H Michaelis. Meanwhile, the 3rd Battalion led by LTC Robert G Cole was responsible for securing the two causeways. Undaunted by the confusion, LTC Cole gradually collected his men and achieved his objective. It was during the attack at the city of Carentan where LTC Cole received the Medal of Honor for leading his battalion in a fix bayonet charge on the Ingouf farm house, a German stronghold defending one of the bridges over the Carentan Causeway. PVT Smith and the rest of the soldiers of the Five-O-Deuce proved themselves in battle and came out of it with distinction. However, it wasn’t until Operation Market Garden in September of that same year where PVT Smith would give the ultimate sacrifice. Planned by the British Field Marshall Joseph Montgomery Operation Market Garden was to encircle the main part of German industry, the Ruhr, in a pincer movement. In support of Field Marshall Montgomery’s plan the 502nd PIR was given the mission to land in Holland on DZ C, seize the small highway bridge over the Dommel River north of Saint Oedenrode along with the railroad and road bridges in the town of Best. The 502nd was also given the mission of guarding DZs B and C for the subsequent glider landings. After less than three months PVT Smith and the rest of the 502nd were to make their second combat jump. Unlike the jump into France during the Normandy Invasion the jump into Holland was rather uneventful. The Regiment landed and quickly gathered up and headed for their objectives. However, German resistance was tough in the vicinity of Best but the 502nd fought their way to within 100 yards of the bridge before the Germans blew it up. In the ensuing days as the 502nd fought bravely to achieve their objectives while fighting around the Zonsche Forest and Best it was there where PVT Smith died in action. PVT Smith’s extraordinary efforts and his service to his country reflect great credit to himself, the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, XVIII Airborne Corps, and to the United States Army. PVT Smith’s grave site is at the Spring Hill Cemetery, Spring Hill, Kansas.