Gerald Willen 505th PIR, 82nd Airborne – Overview
I had been able to ascertain the following basic information concerning Gerald Willen when I was contacted, via the http://www.armchairgeneral.com/ website by his son, Scott who has sent me many more details which appear here or on the other pages linked to this one.
Private Gerald Willen, ASN 37558056, from New York, got his CIB in Sicily. He jumped on D-Day with the HHC of the 505th PIR and was captured on June 22 and sent to Stalag 3C Alt Drewitz Brandenburg, Prussia 52-14 until April 25, 1945. He was born 19 Jul 1918 and died 21 Jun 1994 in Nederland, Colorado 80466. It is interesting to note that his ASN reflects Corps Area 7 (which includes Colorado) whle his induction and SSN data reflects New York which is Corps Area 2.
Willen features heavily in the manuscript written by Major Ray Elledge as he was one of the 4 men who decided to escape together from “The Monastery”. They then stayed together (picking up John Harder on the way!) until finally separated by the Germans when the fliers (Elledge, Gillespie & Harder) were separated from the “infantry” (Sheppard & Willen)
In his PoW diary, there are (in common with that of John Harder) lots of references to food – as PoWs, it appears that they were always hungry & seemed to resort to drawing up extravagent menus to pass the time! There is also a currency exchange chart showing the values of various items, all converted to the “camp currency” of cigarettes.
Scott has also sent me copies of a newspaper interview with his father which adds further information both about Willen himself (always thirsty, hence his nickname of “two canteens”) & the amount of equipment that paratroopers were required to carry into action
He injured his knee on landing & was initially captured on 22nd June 1944 at Varenguebec. He then escaped on 28th June on the way to Rennes, but was recaptured on 16th July at Lessay. He was then taken to the “Monastery of Notre Dame” near Tessy. This was a former Abbey building and girl’s school south of the town on the road from St Lo to Tessy sur Vire. With Elledge, Sheppard and Gillespie, he escaped from here on 20th July, but was recaptured on the 28th July being held briefly in the Shed before onward shipment to Germany. He was finally liberated on 31st January 1945 by the Russians.
Gerald Willen 505th PIR, 82nd Airborne – Additional information
As I have alluded to, above, I have additional information regarding Gerald Willen which is summarised here:
- Newspaper reports
- article by Willen (remembrances of D Day)
- notification of death
- PoW Logbook: pages from Willen’s PoW logbook including
- details of his time in France,
- history of his capture
- room mates details
- menus whilst in captivity
- Red Cross parcels & contents
- Trading prices
- Postcards home – Like most PoWs, Willen wrote to the folks back home; some of these cards have survived