Friday, February 17, 2012


I have not yet written a blog for Friday. Today’s editorial in the Courier about the PMUA is right but what it advocates will never happen.

While I ponder, I am posting a copy of a letter from Thunderbolt, the 17th Airborne Veterans newsletter written in 2004. This is one of the lighter sides vignettes about WWII. It reminds me of the day our battalion liberated a “Dopplekorn” distillery inside Germany.

“Sgt Coleman and His Champagne Procurement

I joined Company A, 1st Battalion, 194th Glider Infantry Regiment, 17th Airborne Division at Camp Mackall, North Carolina in May 1943. I was a brand new 2nd Lieutenant fresh out of Officer Candidate School.

Sgt Edgar B Coleman, our Mess Sergeant, was with the original Cadre for the 17th Airborne. The basic troops were “draftees” just 18 years of age. They arrived at Hoffman, NC on troop trains and all in civilian clothes. We issued them uniforms and started our basic training

It seems liked I bounced around between A and B Company but never very far from Sgt Coleman. Except for training in the field we had a Battalion Mess facility instead of the Company Mess. We survived basic training and the Tennessee Maneuvers and shipped over to England in August 1944.

The initial combat for the 194th Glider Infantry was during the “Battle of the Bulge”. From 26 December 1944 to 26 January 1945 Company B suffered severe casualties. Three of the six Officers were killed and three of us were wounded. The War Department “War Department Records Branch” indicates that Company B had 25 Killed in Action and 78 Wounded in Action.

Following my stay in a Hospital in England I returned to Company B , 194th GIR , there in France in mid March 1945. Due to the reorganization that included the break up of the 193rd GIR I was sent back to Company A, 194th GIR.

The “Buzz” at that time was the unit was going to be committed to an operation over the Rhine River. On possibly my 2nd day back from the Hospital our unit was getting ready to go into the “Marshaling Area” for the Rhine River crossing.

Sgt Coleman had planned a “Big Feast” for the troops and needed some help to get some champagne. By March 1945 the basic materials for a successful Winery virtually disappeared as a result of the War. Several of the very small units were still in operation. The vast underground facilities generally escaped war damage. The major problem apparently was a supply of wine bottles.

There was plenty of wine and champagne for sale but the buyer had to bring in the bottles for the exchange. Sgt Coleman, a driver, a self proclaimed French language expert and myself with a jeep and an empty 1/4 ton trailer departed our camp area for the nearest French Champagne Distillery to procure some distilled spirits for a big steak dinner.

We arrived at the place that looked like a stone fortress. We were escorted into a large court yard that contained a huge pile of empty wine and champagne bottles. This pile must have been 100 foot long, 60 foot wide and at least 20 foot high. All were loose empty bottles —none in cases.

We parked the jeep with empty trailer next to the bottle pile. I departed for the Sales Office with the “French Language” expert to negotiate a deal for some champagne. Sgt Coleman and the driver stayed with the jeep. After possibly 15 minutes with the head man and not understanding a word that was said we returned to the courtyard.

What I saw was unbelievable. Sgt Coleman and his driver had loaded up that 1/4 ton trailer with bottles from the pile. In short order a deal was made for some 25 cases of champagne. We loaded up and departed for our Company area.

That night Company A, 194th Glider Infantry had a “CHAMPAGNE DINNER PARTY THAT WAS FIT FOR A KING”. Thanks to Sgt Coleman and his “Mess Crew” the entire Company had a great send off for crossing the Rhine River in Operation Varsity.

I am sure that the “Statutes of Limitations has expired” so that I can tell this story and not worry about the Owners of the Champagne distillery coming after us. Gosh was thatChampagne Good!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! by Del Townsend.”

Can't believe that was 67 years ago!

1 comment:

  1. Why do you think it will never happen (PMUA)?