Jump Commander

In Combat with the 505th and 508th Parachute Infantry Regiments, 82ndAirborne Division in World War II

Mark J. Alexander, John Sparry

Col. Mark James Alexander was the only airborne officer to lead three different battalions into combat in World War II. This memoir is based on hundreds of hours of recorded interviews made by Alexander's grandson, John Sparry. It contains a wealth of new detail and casts insight on some of the most crucial battles in the ETO.
Date Published :
April 2012
Publisher :
Casemate
Language:
English
Illustration :
illustrated throughout
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Paperback
ISBN : 9781612000916
Pages : 288
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
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+
In stock
$18.95
Hardback
ISBN : 9781935149286
Pages : 288
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
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+
Available
$36.95

Overview
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Col. Mark James Alexander was the only airborne officer to lead three different battalions into combat in World War II, successively commanding the 2d and 1st Battalions, 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment, and the 2nd Battalion, 508 PIR, of the 82nd Airborne Division. A legend in his own time, he fought in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and France, and even after being seriously wounded in Normandy, insisted on playing a role in the Battle of the Bulge.

Airborne Generals Gavin and Ridgway recognized Alexander’s superior battle skills and were more than happy to use him to plug holes in the ranks. His reputation excelled among the rank and file, right down to the lowest private. He led from the front, pressing the attack while simultaneously looking out for his men. In Sicily, Alexander’s battalion landed 25 miles from its drop zone, into a network of Italian pillboxes, upon which the Colonel personally directed fire, thence captured hundreds of prisoners. Dropped into the desperate inferno at Salerno, he refused to give ground against German counterattacks, forming his paratroopers against enemy efforts to push Allied forces back into the sea. At Normandy one seasoned lieutenant, John “Red Dog” Dolan, 505 PIR, called him “the finest battalion commander I ever served under,” after Alexander had led the 1/505 for ten days through the bloody battle for La Fière Bridge and Causeway.

Alexander’s passion and truest talent was leading men in the field, and he insisted on sharing their risks. On one occasion in Normandy he and his runner (he went through several) were caught behind German lines and encountered a platoon of SS. Opening fire, the Colonel killed or wounded several and brought the rest in as prisoners. An 88mm shell finally got the best of him, shrapnel tearing through his lungs, and while the 82nd was engaged in the Bulge, Alexander was only allowed to run its base camps in France— despite his protests—as General Gavin noted that he was still coughing up blood.

This memoir is based on the transcription of hundreds of hours of recorded interviews made by Alexander’s grandson, John Sparry, over a period of years late in his life. Providing valuable insight into the beloved commander who led three of the most storied battalions in the US Army, Jump Commander also contains a wealth of new detail on 82nd Airborne operations, and casts insight on some of the most crucial battles in the ETO. This highly readable and action-packed narrative may well be the last remaining memoir to be written in the voice of a major airborne officer of the Greatest Generation.

About The Author
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Col. Mark James Alexander was the only airborne officer to lead three different battalions into combat in World War II, successively commanding the 2d and 1st Battalions, 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment, and the 2nd Battalion, 508 PIR, of the 82nd Airborne Division. A legend in his own time, he fought in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and France, and even after being seriously wounded in Normandy, insisted on playing a role in the Battle of the Bulge.

John Sparry is an active member in the Friends and Family of the 505 RCT Association, and maintains the 505 Regimental Combat Team website. He is passionate about preserving the stories of the greatest generation and making them available to current and future generations. He lives in Campbell, California with his wife, sons, and pet dog.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Acknowledgments
Introduction: A Word from the Author
Prelude: First Jump

Chapter 1: Learning to Fight
Chapter 2: Preparing for War
Chapter 3: Early Days in the 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment
Chapter 4: North Africa
Chapter 5: Sicily: From the Jump to Biazzo Ridge
Chapter 6: On to Trapani
Chapter 7: Return to North Africa and Preparations for Italy
Chapter 8: From Salerno to Naples
Chapter 9: To the Volturno: The Battle of Arnone
Chapter 10: Duty in Naples
Chapter 11: Northern Ireland
Chapter 12: England
Chapter 13: D-Day: June 6, 1944
Chapter 14: La Fière Bridge and Causeway
Chapter 15: Montebourg Station
Chapter 16: Westward to the Douve: The Battle of St. Sauveur-le-Vicomte
Chapter 17: The 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment
Chapter 18: Hill 95
Chapter 19: Recovery, Holland and the Bulge
Chapter 20: Return and Transition
Chapter 21: You Can Take the Paratrooper Out of the Fight, but…

Note to Veterans
Editor’s Note
Notes
Bibliography
Index

REVIEWS
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“…contains new details on 82nd Airborne operations and provides insight into crucial battles. It is illustrated with a wealth of b&w historical photos.”

- Book News, Inc.

“…well worthwhile book covering the story of the US 82 Airborne Division and one of their finest unit commanders.”

- Military Modelling

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