A LUCKY STRIKE 101ST AIRBORNE

After the 101st Airborne completed the well planned and executed mission of parachuting into Holland during Operation Market-Garden during September 1944, this heavily armed bazookaman enjoys a Lucky Strike cigarette during a very brief moment of rest in front of the Van Abbe Museum.

They would later be sent to protect the town of Bastogne in Belgium and the critical artery of roads needed by the Germans. My father, David C. Tharp was a radioman with the 502nd PIR, whose letters written home are now preserved. The following is an excerpt from one of his letters written on December 17, 1944 ending his unit’s 4th and last European battle, the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne, Belgium with snow and freezing cold temperatures.

“I’m smoking an English cigarette, and it stinks. I’ve been smoking everything but dried leaves. I guess I’d smoke that too if they were dry. Boy, I think the cigarette deal stinks, and I don’t mean maybe. When a soldier can’t have what he needs to smoke, ther’s something crooked in the deal. Well, so much for that. It’s not use complaining to you about it.”

Dad would write, “I’m mystified with my life and body intact.” The Five-O-Deuce fought in Normandy, Carentan, later known as Purple Heart Lane, Holland and the Battle of the Bulge. The 101st Airborne received the Presidential Unit Citation, not once, but twice for their outstanding performance in Normandy (D-Day) and the Battle of the Bulge (Bastogne, Belgium). He was the son of Ibren and Jenny Lee Tharp (my namesake) and grandson to Mrs. Amelia Tharp, who was born and raised in Petersburg, Indiana, just a country boy at heart.

But he went on to display tremendous courage, commitment and bravery along with his airborne comrades. Dad distinguished himself by meritorious service in action by performing the duties of a radio operator in a superior manner. He directed devastating artillery fire on the enemy and accompanied reconnaissance and combat patrols affording excellent radio communication at all times. For this, he received the Bronze Star Medal. He served as radio communicator for Colonel Cole, Colonel Michaelis and later, Colonel Chappuis.

May God bless the veterans of the past, present and future who fight for our country, our freedom and the life we have today.

History repeats itself, and so does a soldier’s sentiments.

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