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Up T. J. B. Shanley (2) T. J. B. Shanley (3) T. J. B. Shanley (4) T. J. B. Shanley (5)

Colonel Thomas J. B. Shanley
By Irving T. Shanley

Tom Shanley began his military career as a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1935 graduating with the class of 1939. He was born in Butte, Montana, the son of Doctor and Mrs. Thomas J.B. Shanley. His parents later moved to El Paso, Texas. While at West Point, he joined the boxing team and was the eastern collegiate lightweight champion in 1938. The following year he moved up to the welterweight division and added that championship to his collection. He ended his boxing career with 25 victories in 26 official starts.

Colonel Shanley's first assignment as an officer put him in charge of an antitank platoon of the 30th Infantry followed by some special instruction at The Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia. Upon graduation, he qualified as a parachutist in August 1941 and was assigned to the newly-formed 502nd Parachute Battalion. He was later transferred to the 501st Parachute Battalion and served with that unit in Panama where he was promoted to Captain. Colonel Shanley's achievements in the 501st prompted his return back to the states and gained him an excellent reputation as one of the more promising young parachute officers.

Colonel Shanley was then assigned as Regimental Operations Officer of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment being formed at Camp Blanding, Florida in October 1942. The Regiment consisted of raw recruits from the recruiting stations throughout the country who had volunteered for parachute duty with the 508th. He put together a training schedule of strenuous physical exercise, long hours, and detailed instructions in military subjects and weapons qualification that even the cadre was astonished by its thoroughness. But like the new men he was training, the then Major Shanley soon saw the success of such efforts when the Regiment gained a superior reputation by qualifying as a unit at the Parachute School and establishing an enviable record during maneuvers in South Carolina and Tennessee. By June of 1943 he had been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and given command of the 2nd Battalion which he led during tactical training at Camp Mackall, North Carolina, and maneuvers in South Carolina and Tennessee, and the parachute drop on D-Day, June 6, 1944, on Normandy, France. In his book, "Paratrooper," Gerard Devlin writes, "The only fighting force of any size from the 508th Parachute Infantry that was able to accomplish part of its Regiment's mission on D- Day was a group under Lieutenant Colonel Thomas J.B. Shanley (West Point, 1939), the commander of the 2nd Battalion. Shanley's Battalion mission had been to seize a bridge over the Douve River at the town of Pont L’Abbe, but after roaming around following the bad drop, Shanley was only able to assemble about two companies of Red Devils, most of whom were not members of his own Battalion. With sunrise due in just a couple of hours, Shanley decided to march for the bridge with what troops he had assembled. His group was just a mile short of Pont l'Abbe when it was stopped cold by a German battalion. Seeing he was outnumbered and outgunned, Shanley recovered his wounded and withdrew to Hill 30. There, for the next two days, he and his surrounded troopers beat off several strong German units attempting to overrun the main paratroop landings. Many historians have credited Shanley's defiant stand on Hill 30 as being one of the major reasons for the overall success of the

American airborne effort in Normandy." German troops rushing to repulse the beach landings of the American forces to the east found their progress stopped by Shanley's troopers on Hill 30. To reach the beaches, the Germans knew they had to eliminate the determined troopers on Shanley's Hill. The Germans made several assaults against Hill 30 but each assault was driven back.
Copyright Irv Shanley, Unauthorized copying or use in any manner is strictly prohibited – September 2004 Page 1 of 5 pages Colonel Thomas J.B. Shanley By Irving T. Shanley
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