Sept. 1, 1993
the Veterans of the WWII 508'th:
S.L.A. Marshall interviewed me after the Normandy invasion and wrote
a pretty inaccurate interpretation of what happened on "Hill 30". The
material I'm referring to is on pages 40 - 50 (Chapter 4- "The Affair
on Hill 30"), and 138 - 150 (Chapter 13- "Hill 30 and the Millsaps Patrol")
of "Night Drop", Little, Brown & Co., 1962. It is painful for me to
discuss what he wrote but I feel that for my own sake and for those
of you who stuck it out with me on that hill I should point out the
errors in his account of the action and the incorrect conclusions he
The third paragraph on page 40 says "So it was planned that the 508'th
..... would rendezvous on Hill 30 . . .". Incorrect. Only the 1st Battalion
was supposed to go there. My battalion was the 2’d, which he incorrectly
identifies as the 3'd on page 41 where he says that the battalion "flew
undeviatingly to the drop zone just northward of the village of Picauville".
Untrue. I was the jumpmaster of the lead airplane that carried the 508'th
into Normandy. The group commander who was the pilot dropped my stick
right on the correct spot. However most of the other planes in that
squadron took evasive action because of the flak and got lost. On page
41 Marshall identifies the 508'th Regimental C.O., Col. Roy E. Lindquist
as Leroy Lindquist, and me, Thomas J.B. Shanley, as John B. Shanley.
At the time this book was published (1961) I had had some dealings with
him and he knew how to write my name correctly. The only motive I can
think of for the misrepresentation is that it would prevent either Roy
Lindquist or me from suing him for libel. Anytime somebody addresses
me as John B. I know that he has read Marshall's book.
Throughout Chapter 4 and Chapter 13 of the book, Marshall frequently
refers to the group of mostly strangers who wound up with me on Hill
30 as a battalion. Not more than a third of them were from my battalion.
They were all good soldiers but most were pretty demoralized by the
bad drop and not having any of their own officers and NCO's commanding
them. As Marshall has pointed out in some of his other writings, you
can't expect much -especially successful offensive action- from a bunch
of soldiers who hardly know each other.
The worst part of Marshall's write-up is his account of what I did about
the Millsaps-Polette patrol. I sent that patrol out after dark on D-Day
+ 2 to clear the Germans off the Chef du Pont causeway so a relief convoy
could bring desperately needed ammo and medical supplies over to us
before daylight. At that time, to the best of my knowledge, either a
small patrol or a truck convoy would be badly shot up trying to cross
the causeway in daylight over that wide, open marsh in full view of
strong German forces on higher ground west of the causeway.
The last paragraph on page 148 and the first two paragraphs on page
149 are misleading- especially the statement "with the light well up,
Shanley feared that if he tried to advance in force toward the farm
again, he would bring on a new engagement. He asked that the column
[of trucks with supplies] be withheld." The patrol had accomplished
its mission of clearing the Germans off the causeway that night so that
a relief convoy could have crossed successfully in the dark, but for
some reason the convoy didn't come across. I waited till it was almost
daylight hoping that the convoy would come, and then I ordered Lt.
to come back up the hill. Those men had suffered enough and I didn't
want them out there on that flat, open area exposed to what to the best
of my knowledge was a strong German force on the higher ground near
the west end of the causeway within small arms range of my patrol. Obviously
there was not going to be any relief convoy across that exposed causeway
after the sun came up that morning.