Courtesy of Lt. "Bud" Schroeder, former President of the 551st PIB Association in '85, and family. In the beginning years The Static Line was the way the Association organized and shared news. Many of these copies shared here were sent to Lt. Schroeder from another GOYA, Jim Welsh. The first page is a note from Jim to Erwin "Bud" Schroeder Jim sent along with the copies he had made of the 551st articles from his STATIC LINE collection.
From a letter Jim wrote to the STATIC LINE:
-----"My wife, DIMPLE, was greatly relieved when she was convinced that my irritability the whole month of November was caused only by the fact that my copy of STATIC LINE didn't come that month! With the arrival of the December issue she saw me return to the gentle, lovable person she married...my words, not hers! -----Really, DON, a month without STATIC LINE and news and pictures of our great Airborne fraternity is medication! I hope you can send me a replacement copy of the November issue. Would have written sooner, but wait to see if December's came and to be sure my name hand' slipped from your mailing list>. ( A fate worse than Death)...want to help in any way to keep STATIC LINE going to fellow troopers that may be experiencing difficulty. I know STATIC LINE is a boost to them no matter what else they're facing."
In "The Airborne Invasion of Southern France - Operation Dragoon", an analysis of that operation by Colonel Thomas R. Cross (Ret), Colonel Cross had this to say about the Airborne spirit demonstrated during WWII and Operation Dragoon:
“Everything we did was new and for the most part had never been done before in the annals of modern warfare. They got done because we did not know that these tasks could not be done, we just did them in our own airborne style.”
That spirit, described by Colonel Cross, certainly applied to the mortarmen of the 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion…
**Colonel Dillard (Ret) had this to say about the mortar platoon of the 551st in ‘The Left Corner Of My Heart:
Sgt Doug Dillard, A company:
“Lt Buscher developed his heavy Mortar Platoon to the point where it served as artillery. He would place it far forward and with spotters, use it as artillery to support the Battalion. This was a real innovation – another ‘first’ to the Battalion’s credit. Thus, he made up for the lack of 75mm and 105mm artillery support which the Battalion continually suffered.”
**LTC Dan Morgan (Ret) added this, also in ‘The Left Corner Of My Heart’ regarding them:
“Lt Robert E. Buscher had developed the 81mm Mortar Platoon into a highly-effective quisi-artillery unit. He was loading his weapons and crews into individual jeeps and deploying them rapidly back and forth in support of Battalion needs – much after the style of Jeb Stuart’s artilleryman John Pelham.”
“By the time our Battalion reached the Bulge, “Bush” Buscher had acquired four more 81mm mortars and a heavy supply of ammunition, giving us the heavy-mortar firepower of two parachute battalions. German prisoners we took would ask, ‘What is that new kind of artillery your regiment is using? It destroyed our whole unit.’ Bush’s men tell of putting nine rounds in the air per tube before the first round hit the target – a considerable amount of firepower indeed, when a target was concentrated in a small area. They also tell of firing over eight hundred high-explosive rounds in a ten-minute period. In this way, our Mortar Platoon took the place of the artillery support that we often called for but usually did not receive. Bush’s initiative and resourcefulness would serve us well and save a good many lives, right up until the very end.”
**Lastly, in a paper submitted by Bill Smith drawing from his personal experience as HQ Company Commander for the 551st during an Advanced Infantry Officers Course in 1949-1950 he added this analysis of the mortarmen of the 551st:
“The mortar platoon leader, by utilizing the platoon sgt., instrument corporal, and a runner, had set up a small fire control center. He used this to control and record the fires delivered in support of the rifle companies * The forward observers were furnished by utilizing the two section sergeants and one squad leader. The radio operators came from company headquarters and were holding T/0 and E positions as fillers, cooks, etc…
"The Platoon Leader, Lt. Buscher, and the Company Executive Officer, Lt. Milt Hill, displayed a commendable amount of aggressiveness in planning and executing the employment of the mortar platoon. They specified certain reference points throughout the battalion zone of action which the forward observers used in their initial data for fire missions. As these reference points came within range the mortar platoon would register on them and they proved to be of great value in the quick deliverance of mortar fire to the companies, !These officers further planned for the displacement of the mortars in such a way that the battalion was never without mortar support. It was also found that, on vital targets, the simultaneous adjustment of the four guns proved to be the most effective method. Ammunition supply is also a problem that must be solved. The success of the attack by Company C on 7 January was due, in part, to the mortar preparation fired in support of it. Approximately 750 rounds were fired on this one mission. This was possible only because of the two two and one-half ton trucks furnished the platoon leader "by the S-4. and the insistence of the company executive officer that these two trucks be kept loaded and full.”
*All but one attached pictures are from ‘The Left Corner Of My Heart’ and ‘Scratchmere Scar’, both by Dan Morgan
Some photos from a couple of cemeteries in France and Belgium. The first three pics are from Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Plombières, Belgium taken on 8 January, 2018 following the 551st PIB's First Remembrance Walk and the remainder of the pics are from Rhone American Cemetery in Draguignan taken while the Association was in Southern France for the 75th anniversary of the 551st's combat entrance into WWII. Many GOYAs have been resting in these cemeteries on this, and every Memorial Day since '44/'45. I hope everyone enjoys a safe Memorial Day, but don't forget... ... See More from 551See Less from 551
Researching men of the 551st PIB can sometimes be like researching a ghost. You hear about stories and then go to research the records and come away puzzled. Further, the men themselves rarely spoke of their experiences and would then donate, or give away all of the hard evidence, and the stories that went along with them. The supply sergeant for the 551st was no exception. For instance, there are rumors about a collar device with a parachute in place of authorized rifles, thankfully a story was shared in ‘The Left Corner Of My Heart’ by Charles Fairlamb, about Freitag creating such devices and sharing them with Fairlamb and a few others during WWII. You can even find reproductions of them…yet few have ever seen the real deal, to include his grandchildren, until a few years ago.
The uniform of MSG Freitag had been donated to the Camp Butner museum in NC about 30 years ago. They did not have an account of their history and started a thread on USMILITARIA.com to learn more information about it as it collected dust in their museum, which immediately drew some interest from historians and collectors. Someone was eventually able to search part of an Army Serial Number (ASN) from a laundry tag in the collection and traced it back to MSG Freitag...of the 551st PIB. The full provenance of his uniform, to include the collar device, was determined and the curator went forward with tracing and contacting the family. After making contact with the family the museum decided to return the uniform.
What is left of MSG Freitag's collection is an original 551st uniform adorned with original medals and patches. Along with the uniform from the museum his family has several rare and unique artifacts, like ski pins from two separate ski schools in which the 551st sent several of their jungle trained men to in preparation for their mission in the Maritime Alps (according to MSG Freitag’s daughter), a bayonet and an original battle map. The family also had an original guidon from HQ, with an Airborne Command patch attached, along with other items that had disappeared over the years.
MSG Victor Freitag was born on Sep 29, 1919 in Atlanta, GA. One of his first assignments after joining the war effort was as a civilian at the Atlanta Army Service Force (ASF) supply depot in Conley, GA, which opened their doors on 1 November, 1941. He soon decided to make his challenging job even more challenging when he offered his talents to the Airborne on Aug 17, 1942. His Airborne beginnings were with the 517th before ending up in the 551st , according to ‘Messengers of The Lost Battalion’. I’m sure It’s a challenge to be a supply sergeant in any unit; however, imagine being the supply sergeant for an independent parachute battalion during WWII constantly competing against senior supply personnel from Divisions and Regiments for a unit that was trained in the jungles of Panama, then assigned missions in the Alps, followed by the Battle of the Bulge during the coldest winter in recorded history…all in the span of two years. President Woodrow Wilson once stated, “The only life worth living is a life of challenge”, MSG Freitag’s life turned out to be monumentally valuable for a lot of heroes. His family informed us that he himself was wounded during the attack on Rochelinval in Jan, 1945. After the 551st disbanded in Juslenveille he was one of the few that didn’t end up in the 82nd. MSG Freitag landed in the 17th Airborne and ran an enlisted men’s/NCO club in a casino in Vittel, France until returning home. Following his service to our nation, he fully attacked a career in textiles and resumed his life as a devoted husband to Mary Frances, and eventual father of three. Like most GOYAs, he did all things ‘All the Way”. And that attitude served him and his family well. His successful textile company specialized in active wear, allowing him to enjoy his life-long love affair with the game of golf, travelling whenever the opportunity allowed – to include New Orleans for a 551st PIB reunion, and all things fast according to his grandson. Some of his grandson’s fondest memories of his hero are of him helping him build science projects, driving the golf cart and nearly flipping it (with him laughing the entire time), and working on whatever craft his grandmother had assigned them for the day. He passed away on Feb 21, 1986 a few weeks following the love of his life, Mary Frances. GOYA..and thank you for your incredible service, your wife was a GOYA too!! ... See More from 551See Less from 551