Archive for the ‘Living-History’ Category

Happy Birthday: William Tippins

We’d like to wish a very happy 91st birthday to William Tippins. His daughter helped arrange for us to send a gift of a unit shirt and challenge coin. We’re honored to be a part of his celebration. “He has worn the shirt since Sunday and says the coin will always be in his pocket.
Thank you again!” she writes.

Bill Tippins has an amazing story from his time with the 509th during WWII, including being injured at Anzio, escaping from German captivity several times, and returning to Germany after the war to find his wife, a nurse who helped him recover in a German hospital.

US Department of Veterans Affairs: Former POW, Chief William Tippins

Honor Flight

Recently, members of the 509 PIB WWII Living History Group had the honor of spending the day that the DupPage Airport in support of DuPage Veterans Foundation as they held their annual fundraiser for Honor Flight Chicago.

The turnout was great, and it was nice to see so many WWII vets in attendance.

Rockford 2015 Pics

It’s fun to come across photos of the 509 in action across Facebook and other reenacting websites. This collection is from Canteen Cowboy, photographers of vintage lifestyle, food, and fashion located in Austin, Texas.

Check out the amazing photography on Facebook.

All images posted in this gallery are used with permission.

Making a Paratrooper’s Day

We recently heard from a WWII 509er’s daughter. “My father Rex L Dye fought in WWII in the 509th. He is 92 and doing very well! My dad served in Italy, North Africa, France – I know for sure. He was a demoleation (sp) specialist. Married in 1946 and had four children – 3 boys and one girl. Our mom passed in 1995. He is so full of life.”

Then she asked if she purchase one of our unit t-shirts for he father. Our response was, “No. We’re going to send you one.” The only cost would be to send a photo of Rex wearing his new shirt!

As a Father’s Day gift Judy was able to give an old paratrooper a gift we hope he never forgets: letters of appreciation, a challenge coin, and of course one GERONIMO t-shirt.

Because there are those of us who will never forget.

2013 Recap

Another full season of reenacting for the 509th PIB WWII Living History Group. It was another great time of building comradery and interaction with the public. The 509th was able to attend numerous events including the Anzio Express at the Illinois Railway Museum and WWII Days in Rockford, IL. We also said good-bye to our First Sergeant Riley Knight, who was tragically killed in December. His humor and heart were core parts of this unit and he will be greatly missed.

Some favorite photos from 2013:

“A Brother Forever” – William Riley Knight

This past December (2013) William Riley Knight was tragically killed when moving vehicles struck he and the stranded motorist he was attempting to help. Only hours before the incident he was married to the love of his life and the two were returning home from the reception.

Riley was the First Sergeant for the 509th living History group, but he was more than a re-enactor. He was a father, a husband, a U.S. Army Ranger, a member of the 509th (active duty), as well as a member of the 4th Battalion / 325th Airborne Infantry in the 82nd Airborne. Earning a combat jump during the Invasion of Panama, as well as serving several tours in Operation Desert Storm. He was an avid sportsman and an accomplished entertainer; singing and acting in over 100 community theater productions. But the essence of Riley was his generosity. He was a man who was willing to offer a hand to anyone in need – family, friends, and even a stranded motorist on his wedding night.

Love, laughter and service marked Riley’s life as he marked all who knew him. We are not the same without him. Our deepest condolences and prayers continue to go out to his family

William Riley Knight
1964 – 2013

“A brother forever”

Earning His Wings

Another 509 Living Historian has earned his wings. Stephane recently endured the training and 5 jumps in January of 2013 with the WWII Airborne Demonstration Team (ADT) to earn his jump wings. The training involves rigorous exercises and culminates with jumping from a WWII era C-47.

Congratulations Stephane, ALL THE WAY!

2012 Recap

We had a jammed packed year of events. The season started off in Lowell, Indiana which afterward we found out would be the last time a World War II tribute would be hosted in this fashion at the Buckely Homestead. Several fist time events included involvement at the Rails to Victory event at the Fox River Trolley Museum and “Lest We Forget,” an event which included a beach landing. We were also invited out to West Virginia by the family a Victor Osburn, a 509er who gave his life during the invasion of Southern France, to help dedicate a bridge in his honor. Other weekends included the Anzio Express at the Illinois Railway Museum, EAA Airventure in Oshkoh, WI, and WWII Days in Rockford, IL

Some photos from 2012:

The Spirit of the Maroon Beret

UPDATE: Sept 2012
Will and his family joined us again for World War II Days at Midway Village, in Rockford, IL. It was great to see him and his family again. He presented the unit with a photo of himself in his football jersey. To know he has struggled with health issues during his life and now enjoys playing contacts sports is a testament of strength and determination to this young man.

UPDATE: Sept. 2011
We had the opportunity to meet up with Will and his family again during this years Rockford event. The unit was able to present Will with an outfit closely resembling a WWII paratrooper uniform along with a 509 patch. We were happy to hear he had been pneumonia free from some time and it was great to see him growing stronger and full of spirit.

“What’s with the beret? Are you British?” These are two very common questions regarding the 509th. The fact is the 509th was the first American unit to wear a beret. After arriving in England the battalion trained heavily with the British 1st Airborne Division, at one point smashing the Red Devil’s obstacle course records. In 1943, so impressed by accomplishments of the 509th, division commander General Frederick Browing granted honorary Red Devil membership and authorized the right to wear the British-style maroon beret.

The maroon beret has become a universal symbol of high distinction and is still worn by paratroopers today. It stands for the gut, grit, and the amazing fortitude that goes with being the best of the best.

Pictured with the 509 reenactors is Will. We got to know him during World War II Days in Rockford, IL in 2010. This shy 7-year old has quite the story! He has been in and out of hospitals his whole life, facing 45 bouts with Pneumonia, two stokes, and seizures. Three days after this picture was taken he will undergo his 20th surgery. At the age of three he overheard his physical therapist say he would never walk while other doctors thought he might not live past four. Proving both counts wrong he is getting stronger everyday, both physically and mentally, but tough roads still lie ahead.

That night, his mom tell us, he slept wearing his beret while holding a copy of the photo. He also wants to wear the beret during surgery. Will embodies the spirit of the 509th and the maroon beret. Always move forward and never give up. We are proud to honor the past generation and inspire the next. All the way Will!

Victor Osburn Bridge Dedication

Over Memorial Day Weekend members of the 509th WWII Parachute Infantry Battalion Living History Group were invited by the family of Victor Osburn to participate in a dedication ceremony for the “US Army T-5 Victor A. Osburn Memorial Bridge” in Ellamore, West Virginia over Memorial Day. Osburn was a medic with the 509th PIB from 1943-1944. He was killed in combat during Operation Dragoon and awarded his second Purple Heart and a Silver Star for his final actions. Part of his Silver Star citation reads:

“During the afternoon he located three wounded men who lay amoung the rocks exposed to sniper and shell fire. He treated these wounded men and removed them to a place of safety. Then, despite repeated please from his comrades to be more careful, he attempted to aid another wounded soldier and in so doing was himself mortally wounded.”

Dressed in ’42 jumpsuits and combat gear reenactors spent the morning and early afternoon with members of Victor’s family. Pictures were also taken at Victor’s gravesite. For the ceremony we joined a 1-509 honor guard from Fort Polk, LA, a local VFW honor guard, area dignitaries, family, and the public in honoring the life and sacrifice of T-5 Osburn.

As part of the ceremony several of us performed a reading consisting of letters Victor had written home and journal entries by battalion surgeon Carlos “Doc” Alden. Victor’s letters were non-descript and almost dull to keep friends and family back home at ease.

“November 25, 1943 – We are having a lot of rain over here. It rained all day on Thanksgiving. We had turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. But it wasn’t much on the account of where we had it. Well there isn’t any news so I will close for this time. Your Brother, Victor.”

Doc Alden’s journals were more telling:

“November 26, 1943 – Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day. Thanks for being alive … All hell was breaking loose up at Company D, on the left flank and crest … Several casualties came in… (We) tagged (our dead) and wandered about our positions. We could hear the Germans digging in 25-30 yards away …”

Doc Alden also talks of the close relationship between the Officers and Enlisted men of the 509, a precursor to modern day Special Forces units.

“…Stanley is making fudge – Junior is cleaning his German rifle – Pat’s looking for bread and cereal – Mull laughing … (Victor is) cutting the top out of a can to heat some water for shaving … Me – writing here at the desk – innocuous – the boys know me well – and I’m one of them … They’re a good bunch … It’s a crime that I cannot promote these men as they deserve…”

The Bridge will stand as a remembrance to a true hero, who gave his life while saving the life of others.

Rest in peace Victor. All the way.


See More:
News report from WBOY – Channel 12
News report from WDTV – Channel 5
See more photos on FaceBook

509 in Black and White

We recently came across some great looking black and white photos of the 509 by “Mathias89” on DeviantArt. Be sure to see his full gallery from Midway Village’s WWII Days during 2011 in Rockford, IL.

Jump School Graduation

Congratulations to two 509 reenactors who recently graduated from jump school facilitated by the WWII Airborne Demonstration Team (ADT) in Frederick, OK. Joe (5th from left, standing) and Russ (2nd from right) each participated to the grueling 9-day jump training, including 5 jumps from a vintage C-47. ALL THE WAY!

2011 Recap

Another great year for the 509th. Key events included Lowell, IN, a very wet Anzio event, Airventure in Osh Kosh, WI working with EAA Warbirds of America, and Midway Village’s WWII Days in Rockford, IL. However, the most impacting event was the loss of our friend and brother, Doug Holloway to his battle with cancer.

Images by Tom George Davison

We came across these amazing photos from photographer Tom George Davison via his FaceBook page. These photos capture the faces of 509ers during a solemn memorial service for Doug Holloway and “Doc” a member of the 82nd Airborne, (UNIT NEEDED), during WWII Days at Midway Village.

We crossed paths again with Tom at Military History Fest 2012. He snapped this photo of Russ and Joe commemorating their recent completion of Jump School.

All Photographs: copyright Tom George Davison. Used by permission.

Arnold Greenwell Photography

At Osh Kosh every year WWII reenactors have performed maneuvers right on the flight line during the Warbirds portion of the air shows. This year, the 509th had a “correspondent” ride along. Air Show/Air Racing photographer Arnold Greenwell joined us and captured these shots.

All Photographs: copyright Arnold Greenwell Photography. Used by permission.