Caleb “Smitty” Smither
Private 2nd Class
82nd Airborne Division
April 13, 2000 – January 21, 2020
AIRBORNE! ALL THE WAY!
Purple Foxes United is a Super Hero Military Project inspired by our Creator to honor all those who have served our great country, spanning from WWII, Korea, Vietnam to present day. The “Greatest Generation” has always been the heart and adoration of my work and are highlighted in this literary work at every opportune.
Vince was born March 23, 1925 to Frank and Frances Speranza in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan, New York. He grew up on Statten Island in a large and extended Italian family during the Great Depression.
After graduating high school, he was drafted into the United States Army on October 25, 1943 and officially entered the service on November 15, 1943. He was sent to Camp Upton in New York where he stayed until he was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia where he trained with the 87th Infantry Division. He volunteered for the Parachute Infantry and was sent back to Fort Benning for further training. Then was sent overseas with
Company H, 3rd Battalion,
501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division from Camp Shanks on board the Queen Mary.
His unit arrived in France and would later fight in the "Battle of the Bulge," December 1944. He engaged in his first firefight against German forces in freezing temperatures.
Vincent was a machine gunner during the historic battle, earning him the nickname "Curse and traverse" Speranza.
That "Battle of the Bulge" resulted in the highest casualties of any operation during WWII.
His awards include:
Combat Infantryman Badge
Bronze Star Medal
Army Good Conduct Medal
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 2 Campaign Stars
World War II Victory Medal
French Croix de Guerrre
Legion of Honour
Presidential Unit Citation with Oak leaf cluster
Vince returned home and married Iva Leftwich in 1948. They would go on to have a daughter and a son. Iva passed away on March 6, 2017.
Today Vincent travels all around the world sharing his war stories in hopes of reminding citizens the value of freedom and the importance of leadership under adversity.
To learn more about his memories of the war, you can read them in his book called NUTS available on Amazon:
(You can also request a signed copy via Vincent J. Speranza Facebook)
In 1942, Thomas Rice attended Camp Toccoa, Georgia, before being sent to the Air Force Troop School at Fort Benning, where he joined the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) of the 101st Airborne Division. While serving with the airborne infantry, Rice commanded a 60mm mortar crew and served as platoon sergeant.
Deployed in 1944 to England with the entire company C, 501st PIR, he prepared for "Operation Overlord," the assault of Normandy. He belonged to a support group mainly armed with mortars. On June 5, 1944, at Merryfield airfield, he embarked aboard a Douglas C-47 belonging to the fourteenth drop serial. The mission of his division was called “Albany," aimed to secure several roads crossing the Cotentin marshes.
Rice returned to Normandy for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day in June 2019, where he jumped in the same drop zone as he did on D-Day. He was 97 years-old. His inspirational jump and incredible stories are documented in LIBERTAS (Normandy Jump 2019).
To Read Tom's personal account on Normandy 1944
Dan McBride served with Fox Company of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR). During his WWII 101st Airborne Division combat campaigns with the "Screaming Eagles," he earned three Purple Heart Medals; one being shot through the arm in Normandy, the other being blown up by a mortar round in Holland and lastly being hit in the knee with shrapnel outside Bastogne.
The book “Three of the Last WWII Screaming Eagles” reveals not only Dan McBride’s personal experiences from childhood in the Great Depression, his initial WWII battles and post-war living, but also two other WWII 101st Airborne Division veterans, Jim “Pee Wee” Martin and Dick Klein. If you are interested in the historic European battles of WWII (Normandy, Market Garden and Battle of the Bulge), you will enjoy reading these stories. The revenues of the book goes toward scholarships for U.S. veteran’s children.
Bob "Smokey" Noody originally wanted to be a priest before he was drafted into the Army in 1943, at the age of just 18.
He became a paratrooper because it offered him extra pay, and joined Fox Company just in time for 'Operation Overlord', the mission to recapture France for the Allies.
After training in Aldbourne, Noody and his comrades took off from Upottery Airfield on June 5, 1944 - when he was photographed in an image which would become iconic representing the strength and bravery of American troops serving in Europe.
"I had all of the equipment that everybody else had — I must have weighed 300 pounds! — And the parachute and the reserves in the front seat.
“You know, I don’t know why we even wore that, you know we jumped at about 400 feet, so if the other one didn’t open you weren’t going to have a standing chance at opening that one."
Noody also fought at the Battle of the Bulge, he was eventually awarded two Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star, two Presidential Unit Citations and the Croix de Guerre.
Private First Class Forrest “Huff” Huffstetler, U.S. Army 82nd Airborne.
At the age of 19, Huff jumped into Normandy on D-Day and later served at the "Battle of the Bulge."
On D-Day, he landed outside the town of Saint Mere Eglise, then occupied the perimeter for 3 days until the first American tank made it onto Utah Beach.
Like many young soldiers, Huff took the Airborne route, since paratroopers were paid an extra $50 a month to jump.
For the 75th Anniversary of D-day, the town of Saint Mere Eglise honored Huffstetler in a special ceremony.
Huff was appointed a Knight in the National Order of the Legion for his contributions to the Allies in the Liberation of France.
Like most from the Greatest Generation, Mr. Joseph Reilly one was of 16 million Americans to serve his nation during World War II. Born May 7, 1921, in Janesville, Wisconsin, Reilly enlisted into the United States Army Paratroopers in March 1943 because as a paratrooper he would earn extra pay.
Assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, Reilly and his comrades departed Merryfield Airport, Southwest of London at 2245 on June 5, 1944 five hours before the D-day Normandy Invasion was launched.
Reilly’s 501st drop zones were north and east of Carentan near Utah Beach. Their objective was to capture the causeway bridges that ran behind a beach between St. Martin-de-Varreville and Pouppeville.
Reilly and the 101st Division suffered considerable personnel and equipment losses during those Normandy battles with over 1500 soldiers killed or captured during the battle of Normandy.
In September 1944, Reilly made his second combat jump during Operation MARKET-GARDEN. The operation was a dismal failure. Over 18,000 Allied personnel died or were captured, while the Germans suffered 13,000 casualties.
In December 1944, Reilly and the 101st were convoyed into Bastogne, Belgium, for Hitler’s Ardennes Offensive – generally known at the Battle of the Bulge. Three German armies, with over a quarter-million soldiers, launched the deadliest and most desperate battle of the war in the mountains and dense Ardennes Forest that was plagued with extremely rugged roads. Between 67,200 and 125,000 of their men were killed, missing, or wounded in action.
-By The Greatest Generations Foundation
LTC Friend was an original member of the Tuskegee Airmen.
The Tuskegee Airmen became an elite group of fighter pilots, providing air support to the heavy bombers flown by the U.S. during the war.
Friend joined the Tuskegee “Red Tails” as they were called, because their P-51 aircraft tails were painted red. He served as wingman for the commander of the Tuskegees, Benjamin O. Davis, who later became the first African American general in the U.S. Air Force.
Friend flew 142 combat missions in World War II in P-47 and P-51 fighter aircraft. His 28-year career with the Air Force included service in the Korean and Vietnam wars. He also worked on space launch vehicles and served as a foreign technology program director before retiring as a lieutenant colonel and forming his own aerospace company.
Col Anderson is the last living Triple Ace fighter pilot.
During WWII, he flew the P-51 Mustang over Normandy on D-Day. He flew 116 combat mission (480 hrs) and destroyed 16 and 1/4 enemy aircraft in aerial combat and another one on the ground.
He has an extensive flight testing background spanning over a 25 year period. He has flown over 130 different types of aircraft and has logged over 7,500 flying hours.
He also served as Commander of an F-86 Squadron in post war Korea, Commander of an F-105 Wing on Okinawa during Vietnam, and two assignments to the Pentagon as an advanced R & D staff planner and as Director of Operational Requirements. Further, he served in Southeast Asia where he was Commander of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing. Col Anderson flew bombing strikes against enemy supply lines and later was in charge of closing the first large air base when his combat wing was deactivated
Col Anderson was decorated 25 times. His awards include 2 Legion of Merits, 5 Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Bronze Star, 16 Air Medals, the French Legion of Honor and the French Croix de Guerre, as well as many campaign and service ribbons.
To read more about Bud's legacy of flight, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Fly-Fight-Memoirs-Triple-Ace/dp/B0087IJCM4
Last Living D-Day Pathfinder Pilot.