326th AEB of the 101st Airborne WWII
Company “C” of the 326th Airborne Engineer Battalion (AEB) was an engineer battalion that parachuted into France (behind enemy lines) for the June 6, 1944 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 before WW2. In August 1943, Company “C” relocated to Camp Shanks, New York in preparation for their deployment to England in September 1943, and eventually on to 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 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 would face that night.
One of the challenges they faced was that they lost one their 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 they were unable find many other troops from the 2nd Platoon. They met German resistance and fought as infantry men on the morning of D-Day, but were unable to reach their destination near Carentan. They met at Company Headquarters later that day.
Finally, a key element of their mission were explosive. For the invasion these explosives were attached to the underbelly of one of their planes. During the flight over France though, this munition was lost, likely on the plane that crashed. This left the 2nd Platoon without the ability to quickly arm the bridges near Carentan.
Due to challenges outlined above, the 2nd Platoon was unable to complete their mission as originally planned. But, according to Howard L. Huggett, the 2nd Platoon of the 326th C Company was attached to the 1st Battalion of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment.
From my research, it appears that Colonel Howard Johnson’s 501st Regiment WAS able to accomplish much of this mission, likely with a smaller group of soldiers from the 2nd Platoon of the 326th “C” Company than originally planned.
It’s really challenging to find information about “C” Company of the 326th in historical books and accountings. But, they did play a critical role during D-Day and later on at Bastogne though. They are often referred to merely 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. Pappas gave my Uncle Ted his last orders.
My Uncle Ted jumped safely into France on D-Day and was seen later that day at Company Headquarters. On about June 10th though it was determined that he was missing and likely killed in a massive ammunition truck explosion near Vierville, France on about June 7th or 8th. He was in an ammunition truck that was moving explosives toward Carentan from Utah Beach. His body was never found and in 1945 was classified as MIA by the U.S. Army.
All WWII troops remain close to my heart and are my Heroes. They are truly “The Greatest Generation”. I especially look up to my Uncle 1st Lt Theodore Thomas Jones (and my Dad, Captain Frank T. Jones who was stationed in England during WWII with the Signal Corps).