Birthday: July 28, 1924
Birthplace: Oakpark, Illinois
Family: Ernest and Dorothy Stolp
Occupation: Morgan Park Junior College in Illinois
Branch: US Army
Unit: 82nd Airborne Division, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Post: 1st Battalion Company B
Rank: Private, 1/3 member of bazooka team, paratrooper
Airborne Cemetary, south of Nijmegen, Holland.
Airborne Cemetery, Netherlands
With the outbreak of World War II, the 82nd was reactivated on March 25, 1942 at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana under the command of Major General Omar N. Bradley. In April 1943, paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division set sail for North Africa under the command of Major General Matthew B. Ridgeway to participate in the campaign to puncture the soft underbelly of the Third Reich. With two combat jumps under its belt, the 82nd Airborne Division was now ready for the most ambitious airborne operation of the war, Operation Neptune-the airborne invasion of Normandy. The operation was part of Operation Overlord, the amphibious assault on the northern coast of Nazi-occupied France. On June 5-6, 1944, the paratroopers of the 82nd's three parachute infantry regiments and reinforced glider infantry regiment boarded hundreds of transport planes and gliders and, began the largest airborne assault in history. They were among the first soldiers to fight in Normandy, France. In September 1944, the 82nd began planning for Operation Market-Garden in Holland. "Market garden stood for two code words. One meant airborne troops, while the other meant ground attack from some 65 miles beyond the existing `front' line, just above the Albert Canal on the border of Belgium." The operation called for three-plus airborne divisions to seize and hold key bridges and roads deep behind German lines. The 504th now back at full strength rejoined the 82nd, while the 507th went to the 17th Airborne Division. On September 17, the 82nd Airborne Division conducted its fourth combat jump of World War II into Holland. Fighting off ferocious German counterattacks, the 82nd captured its objectives between Grave and Nijmegen. Its success, however, was short-lived because the defeat of other Allied units at Arnhem. An attempt by the Western Allies on September 17th, to land three airborne divisions, British and American, at Nijmegen, Eindhoven and Arnhem, behind Germen lines in Holland, with the aim of seizing a bridge over the Rhine at Arnhem. After an eight-day battle, in which, on the fifth day, a brigade of Polish parachute troops managed to link up with the original force, the bridge over the Rhine at Arnhem was retaken by the Germans. In all, more than 6,000 of the original airborne force of 35,000 men were taken prisoner; just over 2,000 succeeded in recrossing the Rhine to safety. I was there on the bridge (defending it - the last escape link for the British from Arnheim - when they brought over the last survivors.) A total of 1,400 airborne troops had been killed. The 82nd returned to the United States January 3, 1946.
"I was 18 years old in 1941. My family came to America in 1610. There was a member of my family in every war the United States has had since before the French and Indian War. I felt like it was my turn to join. I thought I couldn't do anything less than what my ancestors did."
"I was looking to join the Airborne. The only way you could transfer out of any unit in the service at that time was to volunteer for either the Airborne (paratroopers) or Aerial Gunners. I wanted to get into the Airborne." "Before the war I was working on submarines in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. I wanted to join the service where those submarines were going to be because we did a good job building them. I read an article in high school about paratroopers and thought it looked interesting. You had to choose to join the paratroopers you weren't drafted into them. Myself at 98 pounds and about 5'5", I didn't measure up real well. The weight limit to get in was 132 lbs, minimum."
"The U.S. Air Force in England needed aerial gunners, (which were tail gunners)." "The Airborne (Paratroopers) was strictly a voluntary basis."
Stolp's Airborne Physical: "They lined up about 300 to 400 guys all naked in a long corridor. The line led to a captain and an assistant who took the person's weight. If you were big enough you were allowed in but if you weren't big enough you weren't allowed in. I waited a few hours, and when I was five people away from the scale, I was getting very nervous because I didn't think I would make it. At this time, the captain and his assistant left to go for a short break. When they were gone, I went up to the scale and changed it so it would make me weigh more. The captain came back and I got on the scale. The captain looked at me then at his assistant, back to me and then to his assistant and said, `just put him through. "Next, I had to go through an eye test. I didn't have good vision so I memorized as much of the eye chart as I could and then passed the eye test. I then went through a test for color blindness and then for color, passing both tests. After that I was done and now in the airborne. I was sent to Fort Benning for jump training. I then went to Camp Makcall, NC. Then from NY to England on the ship Queen Elizabeth (25,000 people on ship.) I missed the initial Normandy invasion by one day and was sent later and used as reserves for that time."
"Stuff from war is engraved in your mind. You better remember everything you see, everything you hear, and everything that's out there if you want to live!"
"I was part of a bazooka team. Along with "Martin," (a first-class moron) He nearly got me killed every day!
I was lying in a foxhole looking up at night. Everything was dark but when someone approached by you you could see their shadows. We also had tin cans set up so if an enemy came they would hit them and that would alert the soldiers. All of a sudden there was a shot fired by Martin in the direction of the tin cans rattling and it turned out to be a goat!"
"I had to patrol sometimes where I would bring in prisoners. I would go out and look in places (homes, buildings) for prisoners (Krauts)."
"I learned an important lesson. Do not wear white underwear or wave white towels! I was in an orchard leaning against a tree; my foxhole was a few yards away. German jets were flying overhead (They were the first jet fighters). I used the white towel to scrub and wash my feet. I also used a bar of human soap to wash myself. The airplane must have seen the towel so it darted straight towards the orchard and me, firing bullets the whole way. Martin and I ran and dove head first into our foxhole. The bullets were hitting the ground next to us as we ran. We were lucky to stay alive and dumb to use a white towel. You learn very fast or die."
"One time I was sitting in an area under a tree. In the long lines of civilian refuges, a guy in a trench coat came by on a bicycle for the second time. I yelled at him and asked, `What are you a spy?' The guy took off. I chased and followed him into a field that had cows in it. Hidden behind a cow was the guy, who turned out to be a German spy. I wrestled, caught, and turned him in. All this happened during a continuous mortar and artillery barrage."
"Another time I was given an assignment to explore a brick house that supposedly had forty Krauts in it. Around the house was a hedge that Martin and I hid behind with the bazooka. The plan was to shell the house and then go in and capture the Krauts. We did the blasting, rushed the house and found only one thing, an American paratrooper lying dead on the front porch. I was injured here because I couldn't get my leg out of the way of the path of bazooka fire. (Not the path in front but behind it.) My leg got burned."
Another assignment that Stolp and Martin had to do was to explore a house to check if there was anything in it. "We went in quietly and checked the first floor and found it empty. We moved into the kitchen and saw a pantry with canned goods and a small door that led upstairs. We planned to go upstairs before eating the food. I climbed to the top stairs quietly and looked over the top and didn't see anyone. All of a sudden I heard gunshots and fell down the stairs. I looked in the kitchen and saw that Martin had shot off the lids of the jars of canned goods with a .45 caliber pistol. I was really scared, mad, and relieved at the same time. Martin and I both went upstairs and found that it was empty."
During the war, Stolp served in the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment and the 82nd A/B Division. He was parachuted into many areas, including the Nijmegen, Eindhoven, and Arnhem areas. On Sept. 17th, 1944, the biggest airborne invasion ever had begun.
"My group landed at 1:20 in the afternoon." It was Sunday.
under Learn and Serve American Grant #00LSFWI104