An Army photographer captured this  image of Arno Whitbread, left, during the defense of Bastogne in December 1944.

An Army photographer captured this image of Arno Whitbread, left, during the defense of Bastogne in December 1944.

Arno Whitbread: Normandy veteran shares story 70 years after D-Day

By: Brian Louwers | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published June 4, 2014

 Whitbread served with the 101st Airborne Division’s 327th Glider Infantry Regiment.

Whitbread served with the 101st Airborne Division’s 327th Glider Infantry Regiment.

Photo by Brian Louwers

 Whitebread landed 10 miles behind German lines on D-Day.

Whitebread landed 10 miles behind German lines on D-Day.

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Arno Whitbread
94, Clinton Township (formerly of St. Clair Shores)
Landed behind German lines

Arno Whitbread was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942 and eventually found himself in the 101st Airborne Division’s 327th Glider Infantry Regiment.

Two gliders carrying his group of 10 men, a jeep and a 37mm gun were towed by C-47 transports across the English Channel and landed in a farmer’s field 10 miles behind German lines at noon on D-Day. They spent June 6, 1944, looking for American paratroopers before they tangled with the Germans early the next morning.

“It seemed like, every day, there was trouble,” Whitbread said of his time in Normandy. “That’s why we lost so many.”

The division went back to England after a month in France and later landed in Holland under British control during Operation Market Garden.

“I lost my best friend going into Holland,” he recalled during a 90-minute interview. “He was hit in another glider. It went down and smashed, and he was killed right away.”

The 101st eventually got a short break after months of fighting in the Low Countries, only to be loaded onto trucks during the Battle of the Bulge and sent to the woods around Bastogne in knee-deep snow and bitter cold, where they were surrounded and besieged for a week in the days before and after Christmas 1944.

Whitbread was later wounded when a shell exploded near him in France. He spent five weeks in the hospital with amnesia.

He was in Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps when the war in Europe ended, not far from Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest, which he visited twice after the Germans surrendered.

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