| Pvt. Robert
Headquarters Company, 502nd PIR, 101st Airborne
Patricia Eckardt is the cousin of Pvt. Robert
E. Jesper (RHQ/502), wounded and captured on D-Day and liberated
the same evening. In Piet Pulles' book "Screaming Eagles of
WW2" (502nd), Jesper is listed as KIA on 6/7/1944 FOD (Field
Officer Decision). In the summer of 1945 my family received two
letters from two of his buddies relating to the fact that they had
jumped from the same plane and also been captured during the misdrop
near St. Marie-du-Mont and then released when their captors fled.
The letters were from J.D. Hutchins of Buford GA, and Cpl. Leonard
R. Pitzen. Others in the stick or jumpers were PFC John C. Jones
Jr., Pvt James Novak (KIA) and Pvt Jerome T. Nowak (KIA). I have
been able to find the son of Cpl. Pitzen and have mailed him a copy
of his father's letter to my family, I am trying to do the same
for the Hutchins family.
July 2nd 1945
This afternoon I was in the mailroom when I noticed a letter addresse
to Robert E. Jesper. I took the liberty of copying the return address
so I could write you. I am not sure just what relation you are to
Robert, but I believe you must be either his father or his uncle.
I would have written Robert's matter before now but I did not have
the address until a few weeks ago I was not allowed to write to
the parents of anyone listed Missing in Action (M.I.A) or Killed
in Action (K.I.A) due to censurship regulations. I considered myself
as a very good friend of Robert's. I was in the same section and
we worked together in a crew of 4 men on all problems. I jumped
with him in Normandy, France.
I never worked with a finer guy. He was always
willing to do better than his part. It is needless for me to tell
you of his character, for you know as I do, that it was above question.
We spent the week before D-Day in a marshalling area in England.
Robert, a guy named Novak (Who was killed that night), Jones (who
was hit but not seriously) and myself. We marveled at how calm Jesper
was that week as we sat in our tents discussing the coming event.
I'm certain no soldier ever faced combat any braver. The night of
the jump we left the planes in this order: Myself, the 11th man,
Jesper 12th man, Jones 13th man and Novak 14th man. We landed near
heavy fortified artillery emplacements. I tried all night to find
the other three guys but there was so much confusion and resistance
that it was impossible. We were jumped at least four miles from
where we were supposed to or rather our assigned field. Three days
later I met Jones, but he had not seen either Jesper or Novak.
On the the 5th day we contacted the medical aid
station and they told us they picked up both Jesper and Novak. Of
course I am inclined to believe they were wrong on Novak because
his body was found later burried as St. Mere Eglise. A boy named
Pitian says he saw Jesper at the beach waiting to be evacuated to
England. I hate to look at the gloomy side of things but I believe
the SST or boat he was returning to England on might have been one
to be bombed. I know of a few guys that were killed that way. I
hope that I have been some help in telling you all I know. My deepest
sympathies to Mrs Jesper and I may be of any aid in the future do
not hesitate to call on me. Jesper and many more of our mutual friends
gave their all for a great cause. Yours trully,
J. D. Hutchins
Bar le Duc August 10th 1945
Dear Mrs Shaum, Your letter was received several days ago but have
postponed answering it. During these days I have been wracking my
memory regarding your nephew, Robert Jesper and that most fateful
day of June 6th 1944. The only thing I can do is to write you all
data that has come back to me through memory. Robert was on of the
paratroopers that jumped from the same plane as myself. We landed
in the vicinity of Ste Marie du Mont in Normandy, this town being
one of the the Germans many well fortified positions.
I was taken prisoner at approximately seven o'clock
on the morning of the 6th of June, and about an hour later Robert
was brought in by the Germans. Robert told us he had been wounded
while descending to the ground, and was unable to unfasten his harness
on his parachute. He was given medical attention by two of our owm
medical men, who were also captured. We were then locked in a stone
walled shed. During the twelve hours that we were locked up in this
shed, Robert talked to us and then we all slept for some time.
It was about seven o'clock in the evening of the
6th of June, at which time we discovered that the Germans had evacuated
the area. A couple of paratroopers captured with us broke the door
down and took a look around the place when they saw an American
Jeep which was loaded with medical equipment they stopped the keep
and the soldiers in the jeep then took Robert and myself (being
wounded too) to a First Aid Station just outside of Ste Marie du
Mont about two miles away. (The name of the First Aid Unit at this
station I do not know and at the time didn't think it neccesary
to enquire)It was here at the First Aid Station that Robert and
I were seperated. He was placed aboard an ambulance that was going
down to the hosiptal which had been st up at the beach. It was about
08:30 or perhaps near 09:00 PM when Robert was put in this ambulance,
this being the last I saw of Robert.
I hope this information I have written you in
this letter will be of value to you as I have done my best to make
it as clear as possible! Sincerely,
Robert is on the "Wall of the Missing"
which my husband and I have visited in Normandy. We placed his sealed
picture that was attached to some red, white & blue flowers
near his name and taps were played for us. We were also given flags
to bring home that had been grave side the previous Memorial day.
These flags are saved so that they can be given to any family member
that goes to Normandy. When Robert died so did the family name of
Jesper, he was the only boy in the family, his middle intial of
"E" is for Ernst, the name of his Grandfather, Ernst Jesper.
I see his handsome young face, and I think of a life cut short,
like so many others. May God Bless them all and may we never forget
their sacrifice for us.
There are many from the 502 that were listed on this day, June 7,
1944. That is the same date 2Lt. Lloyd M. Evers is believed to have
died when an LST being used as a hospital ship was either hit or
sunk by and enemy bomber or ran into a mine. Anyone out there that
might have more facts on this LST or who knew my cousin, I would
appreciate being contacted. Thank you very kindly.