101st Airborne Division…I’m in Awe!

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Having never seen the acclaimed HBO documentary Band of Brothers, I was in awe of these men and engrossed in their stories while watching a documentary on You Tube. The documentary showed interviews with the real men depicted in the HBO series, and it wasn’t until after I had finished watching the entire film that I realized that some of these men have died since it was filmed. I felt like I had lost my grandfather all over again at the realization! These brave men are dying off every day and our country is losing some of our best.

I think most of us have seen movies about D Day, and some of us have been fortunate enough to visit the beaches of Normandy in person. Certainly any American who has ever attended school has learned about Operation Overlord and the great sacrifices made during the invasion of Normandy. We know that through that effort, Hitler was eventually defeated and the concentration camps were liberated by Allied forces. But hearing the actual men describe their experiences was unlike any other for me. I wanted to shake their hands, buy them a drink and give them a hug…but most of all to offer my gratitude and express my amazement at how well they rose to the greatest challenge most of us could ever imagine facing and come out the other side to tell the story.

Writing historical fiction is fairly new to me, and researching the past in order to realistically depict it in a novel can sometimes be tiring and dull. But for my current work in progress, I needed one of my characters to serve in one of the airborne divisions during the war. I chose the 101st because of where they trained in the early years of the war. Uncle Joe, in my novel, is the uncle of my protagonist and I wanted him to be around in the beginning of the war. The 101st Airborne didn’t ship to England until September of 1943. They spent most of the war training to do their job once the time came. I was amazed to learn that the first action of the war these men saw was on D Day. Most of us think of that event as being towards the end of the war, but for them it marked the beginning of their own personal war. Nothing about the research for this aspect of my novel was dull! Even though most of my novel is set stateside, I am so excited to be able to include some of the action from France, Holland and Belgium in the novel.

If you are lucky enough to meet a World War 2 veteran that is still living, please shake his (or possibly her) hand. I’m off to research my next story line aspect which is a love interest for Uncle Joe. So, I expect to become enthralled with the tales of Army Nurse Corps members who served in Europe and might have crossed paths with Uncle Joe. If you know me personally, it will come as no surprise that he will fall for a nurse! 🙂

I truly hope that I can make my characters as real and three-dimensional as the men that I watched in the documentary. They were generous enough to share their thoughts and feelings with the public and I’m eternally grateful. To them, they were just doing their jobs and looking out for each other. They don’t see themselves as heroes. I guess that is left up to the rest of us. May the ones who have departed us rest in peace knowing that your country is proud of you.

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6 thoughts on “101st Airborne Division…I’m in Awe!

  1. What a wonderful write up. Indeed, the 101st – as well as the 82nd and 11th Airborne – was a crack outfit. It was extremely perilous. Even their harnesses became a death trap if they landed in water. I’m sure you will succeed in your novel!

    1. I’m also researching the 442nd as one of my characters enlisted and went to train in MS. They sustained great losses and made a huge contribution as well. In my novel, one character serves in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and another in the 101st. I’m still trying to weave all of these lives together, and the research has me captivated by what they all went through. The videos of these men discussing the fact that they were serving their country while their families were in the camps are very powerful. I’m in awe of the strength of character these men possessed.

      1. The 101st? A Nisei? Five Nisei did get assigned to the 11th Airborne… BTW, military protocol prohibited the pinning of medals on “enemy aliens” so when a medal was awarded posthumously to a Nisei, they could not present it to his mother. Instead, a sibling would receive it. Just a tidbit…

  2. The character who enlists with the 101st is not of Japanese descent. He comes from the hometown in Arkansas where the Rowher Internment Camp was built. There are several main characters whose lives overlap in the novel. Thanks for the information about the medals!

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