| T4 Robert
France, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Austria
E Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne
My name is Robert Burr Smith, I was a T4 when
we first jumped in Normandy. When thinking back on that day, I can
recall that in the marshalling area loud speakers were blaring out
some music. I recall steaks, ice cream and milk, the fatted calf
Just a few seconds before take-off (in England)
Joe "Red" Hogan and I were taken from the Company HQ's
aircraft much to our violent protest and we were put in the next
plane on line. It later turned out we were the only survivors from
the company HQ's section, all others being killed when their aircraft
exploded from a direct hit while crossing the French coast
I, better then anyone alive, know the story of
the lost aircraft. I served with Company HQ's for many months prior
to D-Day and knew each and every member of that section, personally
and closely. We lived together in a Quonset in Aldbourne. My special
buddy was Elmer "Moe" Murray, the operations sergeant.
We served together as the divisional jump school at Chilton, Foliat
in the months before Normandy and we were great friends. The photographs
dropped in France prior to D-Day, to show the French population
what an American paratrooper looked like, were taken of Murray and
of James T. Flanagan, also from the 506th.
After the re-organization of the company on D-Day
night, I became acting Operations Sergeant and Sgt. Diel became
acting First Sgt. I performed those duties until wounded on 13th
of June 1944 during the attack on Carentan. The trip over the channel
and our approach to the Cherbourg Peninsula was very choppy, some
light rain. The plane got hit a few times in the wings by a large
number of small caliber bullets. I will never forget the sound...."PING
- PING - PING"
As we approached our drop zone the pilot went
down low to avoid tracers and dumped our stick at an abnormally
high speed. As a result my parachute opened with a tremendous shock.
I landed in some apple orchards. I got out of my chute quite easily
but was still very airsick. I threw up shortly after landing when
I heard a motorcycle pass close by and a voice yelling: "Hauptmann
I stuck my trench knife in my canopy shirt while
I assembled my weapon and my gear. I was completely alone no other
chutist landed near me. I was a demolition specialist and my mission
as assigned was to blow up communication cable in a certain manhole,
but I never even reached that vicinity.
I gathered a small group of stragglers and moved
towards the designated drop zone. Bob Rader was one of these men
who were with me. We found Frank Perconte injured from the jump.
We got into a minor firefight with "White Russians" near
St. Come du Mont. Disengaged and continued to press on towards Vierville.
At dawn I joined my company again just before
the raid Easy Company made on Brecourt Manor in which I did not
participate. Lipton took part in the attack on the 88's at Brecourt
Manor. Bill Guarnere began his reputation for sheer guttiness. A
real cool customer in a firefight.
Burr also started to write his memories of Easy
Company just before he passed away in 1983 He titled this piece
“One Last Look Back”:
'W' Company, in September of 1942, was a tent
city on the grassy slope of a hill just below the regimental medical
processing facility. The squad tents, as brand new as the citizen
soldiers who occupied them, were aligned to form a company street,
but W Company was a company in name only. It served as the regiment's
in-and-out processing machine, and it was a fast train in both directions.
The incoming volunteers (mostly draftees, some enlistees, but all
volunteers for parachute training) were frantically busy from morning
to night…drawing clothing and equipment, filling out forms,
falling in for meals, marching to examinations, etc.
The train was moving much too fast to jump from
it and there was never, to my knowledge, a single disciplinary action
among the thousand of "in-processes". Few lasting friendships
were made during this period, but I made one which was destined
to be one of the strongest of my life, one which ended only with
the death of my first "Army buddy" in a foxhole near Bastogne
in January, 1945. His name was Warren "Skippy" Muck, an
upstate New Yorker of great charm and wit, who drew people to him
like a magnet.
Quiet, unassuming, totally "real", his
strength was revealed in combat, where his 2nd platoon mortar section
earned a fearsome reputation as Easy Company's most effective heavy
weapons element. Skippy was a happy guy, and those who knew him
basked in the warmth of that happiness and were happy too. His closest
friend, and, inevitably one of mine, was Don Malarkey, another warm,
friendly and happy-go-lucky individual who likewise rose to the
top of my list.”
After the war, Burr remained in the Army Reserves,
reaching the rank of Lieutentant Colonel. The last two decades of
his life were spent working for the CIA, with his two most significant
assignments as a case officer in S.E. Asia during the secret war
in Laos, and later back in the U.S. as the liaison officer to the
elite Delta Force.
Burr married, had three children and remained
close to his comrades in Easy Company until he passed away, always
maintaining they were the best group of soldiers he ever fought
with as a career soldier.
This story came to live with the help of his daughter
Shoulderpatch of the 101st Airborne.
The training for the Airborne was tough.
The famous long distance marches of Easy Company
Robert is the paratrooper on the right.
Robert Burr Smith....
Robert Burr Smith (on the right) together with
his friend Don G. Malarkey....
Robert Burr Smith posing for a picture....