© WW2 Market Garden -
Robert G. Cole was born on 19 March 1915 at Fort Sam Houston in Houston, Texas. As a son of an army Colonel, Robert decided to join the army to become a career soldier. So that’s what he did on 1 July 1934. A year later he was honorably discharged to join the military academy of Westpoint where he graduated in 1939. After graduation he got home to marry the love of his life Allie Mae Wilson.
He then moved to Fort Lewis, where he was appointed to the 15th Infantry Division as a Second-
In the early ‘40’s, the American army changed its command structure. The parachute battalions changed into regiments, and Robert Cole transferred to 3rd battalion of the 502 Parachute Infantry Regiment (3-
In 1943 the 101st Airborne Division was sent to England to prepare for the invasion of fortress Europe. A year later, 6 June 1944, the invasion started and the paratroopers went to war.
Lieutenant Colonel Robert G. Cole
Commander 3rd Battalion 502 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division
Place and date: Carentan, France, 11 June 1944
For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty on 11 June 1944, in France. Lt-
After Normandy, the 101 Airborne Division returned to England to prepare for the next operation. Robert Cole is known within the 502 PIR to rule his battalion with an iron fist and after receiving replacements for his battalion, his troops were soon ready for a new challenge. It wouldn’t take a long time before the next challenge was presented. The 101st Airborne Division was soon to be deployed in the Netherlands, in an operation called ‘Market Garden’. The goal for the airborne troops during Market Garden was to seize every bridge over rivers and canals from Eindhoven all the way up to Arnhem. The 502 PIR jumped over drop zone B in Son on 17 September 1944 at around 13.30 hours. Cole’s battalion was supposed to have an easy mission. Their task was to secure the drop zones for the entire division so the rest of the division could safely land by glider or parachute in the days after the 17th.
After landing on the drop zone Robert Cole was able to quickly organize and assemble his battalion. One company of Cole’s third battalion, H-
Soon radio messages reached battalion HQ and Cole received news that H company was in trouble at Best and that they had serious German opposition. Cole immediately swung the rest of third battalion into action and made his way towards Best. Upon arrival third battalion walked into enemy opposition and Robert Cole had great difficulty putting his battalion in place. Enemy artillery now hit their lines which made movement even more difficult. Cole hadn’t linked up with H-
Losing Robert Cole was the biggest blow for the third battalion of the 502 PIR during the war. Robert Cole was seemed to be invincible, a great battalion commander and a great military leader. Two weeks after his death on a field in Best, the medal of honor was awarded to Cole for his actions at causeway number 4 near Carentan. The medal was awarded posthumously to his wife and two-
The 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions were the first to jump into occupied France and cease certain important areas. An important part of the invasion, was to capture Carentan. Carentan the link between Utah and Omaha beach.
On 10 June Cole and his 3-
At the end of the causeway, the Germans placed some obstacles, which acted as a bottleneck for Cole’s paratroopers. Slowly advancing, the paratroopers finally got into positions at the last bridge over the Madeleine river leading up to Carentan. Only 265 men of the initial 400 from third battalion were left and prepared for an assault on the farm. With the Germans in well defended positions and their fire still suppressing the paratroopers, Robert Cole had to make a difficult decision. He ordered his men to fix bayonets and prepare for a bayonet charge.
Robert Cole, like many other Airborne commanders, led from the front and ran with his men towards the hedgerows. The attack didn’t start out to well, but some of the men from H-
Photo: The officers of 3rd battalion 502nd Parachute infantry regiment during their training in the United States of America. In the middle of the bottom row Robert G. Cole, CO of the battalion. At his left Major John P. Stopka. He is Cole’s successor after his death during the Battle at Best. Stopka was hit by friendly fire when an American fighter plane strafed the 502nd PIR lines close to Bastogne. Captain Cecil Simmons (bottom row, 2nd from the right) then became the last battalion commander of third battalion until the deactivation of the 101 Airborne Division in late 1945.