Forty years ago this month Capt Billy Nation, 508th Parachute Infantry, wrote his family in Arlington
[TX] from "somewhere in France" The letter was dated June 22, 1944. He had jumped into Normandy earlier — on June 6
"WHILE THE Heinies are shelling us I always want absolute silence to tell if it's headed for our position. Then we can hit the holes. You folks must have had an exciting time with two announcements of the D-day invasion, one of them a false rumor. On D-minus 1 we cleaned our weapons, sharpened our knives, tightened equipment and had our last church service with a tall lean battle chaplain from Bonham
[TX]. It was an impressive service and we felt it might be our last.
"The sky was full of stars when we took off. We saw our first flak before long. It covered the sky. We ran into fog and missed the drop zone and probably owe our lives to the Germans, God or the Air Corps, I landed in
a river in knee-deep water and cut myself out of the harness. I could hear machine pistols all around. We were soaked but found a house with a Frenchman in it who was glad to see Americans.
"BEFORE DAYLIGHT we were pinned down by machine gun fire. We fought through the next day and night. Just as the enemy attacked our position our gliders came in loaded with artillery.: In 15 minutes we were answering the German 88s and mortars, chasing them everywhere. All we could see were the dead and the backsides of the living ones. Some just couldn't run fast enough.
"We captured enough equipment to almost mobilize our outfit. Some of the boys have bitter and exciting stories to tell. Some walked 15 miles through enemy lines. Others hid out five to 15 days with food for only three meals. Capt Bell was pinned down five days and couldn't even turn over."
NATION WAS an all-round athlete and student at Arlington High and North Texas Agricultural College, a sturdy blond with a quick. His next letter shared here by his sister, Fay Van Dam of Arlington,
[TX] was dated Oct 20 1944 "somewhere in Holland"
"After four weeks of sleepless nights of horror and work, I'll give you a small picture of our journey into Holland. After the Normandy experience the ones who came back are more cautious, more serious, and more eager to study the terrain and attend to details.
"Instead of a carbine for the daylight jump I carried a tommy gun and 300 rounds, two parachutes, gas mask, life belt musette bag, dispatch case, full field equipment (razor etc). three days' rations and so much other stuff that I looked like a Christmas tree.
"I WAS IN the lead plane jumping behind a Dutch commando returning home after four years. Nearing the Dutch coast we could see where the Germans had blown up the dikes to prevent beach landings. All the thumbs in Holland couldn't plug the hole in that dike. People waved as we flew over then the flak started. It's a helpless feeling in the hull of a C-47 and flak bursting all around.
"It was a beautiful day for jumping. One of our boys fell on top of a house and an old lady kissed him before he hit the ground. Our chaplain lit in a pig pen and a lady shook her apron at him to shoo him away.
"WE ASSEMBLED in a house the Gestapo had been in a few hours earlier. The Krauts were thoughtful again leaving us food, vehicles and offices. Since our arrival this beautiful city (Nijmegen) has been left in ruins. High piles of rubble carry the odor of the dead. All Dutch people can't speak English but one thing is universal.: We smile and cry the same.
"Sleeping in foxholes in the rain with frogs playing leap frog over us for weeks has become monotonous. Our boys have done a great job and
it was everyone's hope to spend Christmas at home this year,"
On Jan 31 1945 Capt Billy Nation was killed when a long-range German shell struck the Dutch farmhouse he was in lie was 25 and is buried in Belgium.
[Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, TX, 07 Jun 1984, Thu, Page 11]