World War II – 326th Engineer Battalion (AEB) Company C – 101st Airborne Division

 by Chip Jones.

A Tribute

Company “C” of the 326th Airborne Engineer Battalion (AEB) was an engineer battalion that parachuted into France behind enemy lines in the early hours of June 6, 1944 during the D-Day Invasion of Normandy, France. They were part of the 101st Division “Screaming Eagles”.

The photograph above shows Company “C” at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in 1942/1943 where they were based at this time. In August 1943, Company “C” relocated to Camp Shanks, New York in preparation for their deployment to England in September 1943 and the D-Day Invasion nine months later.

There were three platoons that made up Company “C” of the 326th. They were the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Platoons. My Uncle, Theodore Thomas Jones, Jr., was 1st Lieutenant of the 2nd Platoon, Howard L. Huggett was 2nd Lieutenant. (“Ted” can be seen 6th from the left, in the bottom row of this photograph).

Their D-Day Mission

According to a 1994 letter by Howard L. Huggett, the mission of the 2nd Platoon during the D-Day Invasion was as follows:

“Our mission was to prevent the German forces from coming up from the south on Highway N-13, and protect the 4th Infantry Division landing on Utah Beach [to the North]. Destroying the bridge N-13 over the Douve River, on orders from the Regimental Commander.”

According to an online resource, a more detailed accounting of their mission was to “protect the Southern flank. Capture the La Barquette lock [near Carentan], destroy bridges over the Douve River, and capture the wooden bridges at Le Port near Brevands”.

The Huggett letter mentioned that the 2nd Platoon of the 326th C Company (the “Engineers”) were attached to the 1st Battalion of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment for this mission.

D-Day Invasion

The 2nd Platoon of Company “C” jumped into Normandy on June 6th at about 1:30 AM local time. They were loaded onto three C-47s with about 18 troops per plane. There were many challenges they faced that day.

One of their challenges was that they lost one their three planes to German artillery. Troops from that plane were later captured by the Germans. 2nd Lt Howard L. Huggett was on that plane, but survived to tell his story years later.

Another challenge was that at least one other plane scattered their drop of soldiers over a wide area and was off target. The third plane (the one my Uncle was on) likely dropped near their target, but were unable to regroup with the other troops from the 2nd Platoon for the reasons mentioned.

One final challenge they faced was the loss of the explosives needed to complete their mission. These explosives were attached to the underbelly of one of their planes for the drop into France. During the flight over France these munitions were lost, likely on the plane that crashed. This left the 2nd Platoon without the ability to arm the bridges near Carentan as planned.

Most from the 2nd Platoon group met German resistance after landing in France and fought as infantry men with other non-326th troops on the morning of D-Day.

Mission Results

Due to challenges outlined above, the 2nd Platoon was unable to fully complete their mission as originally planned. After their drop into France on D-Day, most regrouped at Company Headquarters near Hiesville the following morning.

It appears that Colonel Howard Johnson’s 501st Regiment WAS able to accomplish much of their mission (to secure the bridges near Carentan). This likely included a smaller group of soldiers from the 2nd Platoon of the 326th “C” Company.

My Uncle Ted jumped safely into France on D-Day, and came to realize that he was unable to find most others from the 2nd Platoon. As a result, he fought initially as an infantry man and then later met up with others from the 2nd Platoon at Company Headquarters.

His new orders that day (June 7th) came from Lt Col John C. Pappas. He was to take two 2nd Platoon troops to Normandy Beach to pickup explosives to replace those lost during the airdrop, and likely get those down to the original mission location at Carentan.

On about June 10th it was determined that my Uncle, and others with him, were now missing. On about June 10th it was discovered that he was likely killed a few days earlier in a massive ammunition truck explosion near Vierville, France. The other two soldiers with him were found near their jeep. My Uncle Ted’s body was never found, and in 1945 he was officially classified as MIA by the U.S. Army.

In Memoriam

It’s really challenging to find information about “C” Company of the 326th in historical books and accountings. But, the 326th Company “C” played a critical role during D-Day and then later on at Bastogne. They are often referred to as “the Engineers” when it comes to discussions about the movement of the 501st or 506th.

18 members of “C” Company died on D-Day. In the days following D-Day, many of those remaining were either killed, captured or classified as MIA. This included the 326th Battalion Commander, Lt Col John C. Pappas who was killed on June 13th near Carentan.

All WWII troops remain very close to my heart and are forever my heroes. They are truly “The Greatest Generation”. I especially honor my Uncle, 1st Lt Theodore Thomas Jones; my Dad, Captain Frank T. Jones (who was stationed in England during D-Day); and another Uncle, Pvt Richard E. Osgood who died near Florence, Italy in July 1944 with the 362nd Infantry Regiment, 91st Infantry Division.