Frank Drzal, Pfc 33016851 326 AEB, 101st. Attached to 501PIR.
Having received an email from the USA, asking for any information about a Father, that served in the 326 Airborne Engineer Battalion, I began to research the few details that were given, and after only a few hours, found a paratrooper like so many others, who had landed on D-Day and yet survived the war but was reluctant to tell his story...
I hope to share just a little of what this brave Husband and Father did..
Pfc Frank Drzal of, Pennsylvania, enlisted into the army, 09 April 1941.
After basic training served as a heavy truck driver in the army before volunteering to be a paratrooper.
Eventually leaves for the UK on 5 Sep 1943 from pier 90, North River, New York, on board the Ship 294 (SS Samaria) and lands in Liverpool, England. From there the 326 are transported by train to Basildon Park, near the River Thames, in the town of Pangbourne, which is located west of Reading in the County of Berkshire, host to a 91-room, 200+ year-old manor.
It is here he trained as a Demolition Specialist and eventually a Demolition Instructor. The men trained for the invasion of europe and training focused on physical conditioning, including long and short marches, weapons training, bridge construction and demolition, laying mines, road blocks, unit and divisional tactical exercises.
It was in Newbury on March 23, 1944 that the men of the 101st were inspected by Supreme Allied Commander, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Field-Marshall Montgomery and General Omar Bradley.
May 28, 2nd Platoon, C-Co. were transported by train from Reading to Merryfield airfield in Somerset, to prepare for the invasion. The Platoon was billeted in squad size tents (Pyramid tents). The mission was to destroy the bridge over the River Douve.
George Richko, was attached to the 1st Battalion 501st, along with a stick of engineers on C47a 42-101019, 100th TCS, 441st TCG.
C47A 42-101019. 8C Chalk #30 No.14 Serial. From Merryfield Airfield.
Piloted by; Cpt. John D. McCue
Co-Pilot; Lt. Ernest J. Wheeler
Navigator; SSgt. Archer B. Hughes
Radio Op: Sgt. James A. Freda
Drop Zone D. Angoville Au Plain. Drop 0126hrs. Stick: 2 Plt. C Co. 326 AEB
Crew Position listed by Lt. Hugget, Narrative 1992.
1. 2nd Lt. Huggett, Howard L.
2. Pvt. Namowicz, Edward J.
3. Sgt. Elmore, Harry E.
4. T-5. Preloh, John Jr.
5. T-5. Murphy, William J.
6. PFC. Richko, George.
7. Sgt. Rutkowski, Micheal J.
8. PFC. Drzal, Frank J.
9. PFC. Bleiler, Richard.
10. PFC. Van Horn, Gordon B.
11. Pvt. Lediger, Joseph W.
12. Pvt. Kobierecki, Eugene.
13. Pvt. Holin, Julius A.
On 5 June 1944 2330hrs the aircraft started down the runway for take-off, heading for a flight of approximately two hours. As the plane reached the coast of France, Pfc Drzal was asked by the paratrooper engineer stood up and hooked up behind him if he would swap places, so that the other man could be next to his buddy. Once they swapped position, by Pfc Drzal unhooking his snap hook, the other paratrooper, possibly Pfc Julius Holin, the plane headed for a wall of anti-aircraft fire and small arms fire and was hit by flak, hitting the paratrooper and knocking him to the floor. Pfc Frank Drzal, believed his was dead. Lt. Huggett, had alerted the men to get ready and stand up and hook up, prior to the red warning light, incase they had to exit in an emergency. As they flew over the coast of France, inland they were covered by a fog bank. It was at this point that the anti-aircraft fire became more intense. An aircraft on the Port-side was hit and blew up in mid-air, also at this point the Port engine and wing caught fire.
A heavy burst of flak hit the forward section of the plane, killing the Radio Operator Sgt. James Freda and wounding Pvt. Julius Holin.
It is also noted that this may have killed or seriously wounded the Pilot, Cpt. John McCue and Co-Pilot, Lt. Earnest Wheeler.
The planes port wing, engine and C-2 explosive bundles (held under the plane for parachute bundle drop) were on fire. Jump Master Lt. Huggett and No.2 man, Pvt. Edward J. Namowicz, were ready to jump, when Pvt. Namowicz found he had also been wounded. On Lt. Huggett's advice he was told to jump and not stay in the plane as previously ordered by memo. (wounded men in the plane were told not to jump, but stay in the plane and return to England) Lt. Huggett thought the plane was losing control at this point, and the plane was then hit again by flak that burst through the bottom of the aircraft, between Pvt. Namowicz and Lt Huggett, hitting Pvt. Namowicz reserve parachute, strapped to his chest.
The aircraft was now on fire and in a dive, and Lt. Hugget noted that the Pilot and Co-Pilot were slumped forward and no communication could be made to the crew through intercom.
Lt. Huggett gave the order to jump at this point, (0137hrs) estimating the approximate altitude of the aircraft at 350 feet.
The plane was seen to crash approximately 1 Kilometre away near St. Pellerin in the Parish of Brevands, South East of Carentan.
After action-Morning Reports, state that Pvt. Julius Holin, died of his wounds after escaping the plane by jumping and the crew of C47A 42-101019 were killed in action.
Pfc Frank Drzal had made the jump along with the other paratrooper engineers.
He hit the ground after a short jump, not knowing how long to count before pulling the ripcord, which would suggest he used his reserve parachute because he did not have time to reattach his static line due to the port engine catching fire and being told to jump.
They jumped through the flames of the engine and he landed just as his chute blossomed, landing in a field unhurt but stunned. After getting his bearings he used his clicker. He came across another paratrooper who was lying facedown, and when he turned him over discovered he had been shot and killed.
Pfc Drzal was captured on the night of June 6. Taken to holding camp before being transported to St. Lo. From there was transported to a POW camp in Czechoslovakia.