The Greatest Generation-- Part IV: Sky Warriors - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

The Greatest Generation-- Part IV: Sky Warriors

Bill Bishop Bill Bishop

May 26, 2004

Cairo-- An adrenaline rush - that's why World War II Veteran Bill Bishop says he wanted to become an Army paratrooper. The thrill of the fall landed Bishop in the middle of the most intense fighting during the war in Europe.

"I was in G-Company, 505th Parachute Regiment." Bill Bishop was one of the Army's elite para-troopers in World War II. "Our main purpose was to make the enemy give his life for his country. And, that's what we did."

His first combat jump came during the battle of Sicily. "A 15-knot ground wind is considered dangerous. And, it was at a 30-knot ground wind." "Everybody hit hard. We had a lot of injuries. I got knocked out on the jump."

But he came to and started fighting. "Bullets were flying everywhere. After we hit the ground, we could be in action in less than five minutes time."

The parachute soldiers would jump directly onto the enemy. "Jumping on top of them like that, they were just as confused as we where." The element of surprise made the regiment highly successful, but suffered an unusually high number of casualties. "You're dog-gone right I was scared, and everybody else was scared."

Bishop remembers flying into Normandy, sticking his head out the planes door, and seeing a sight to behold. "It was a fabulous sight to see. All the aircrafts and ships going in one direction. I wasn't scared."

Bishop's mission in Normandy was to jump into a town near the shore and cut off the Germans headed to the beach, but, the jump went bad. "I knew something was wrong. Come to find out, I had blown nine panels out of my parachutes."

Bullet pierced his chute and he slammed into the ground, but survived. "I drug myself off the field, with a femur sticking out. I pulled into this drainage ditched. I laid out my weapons, my grenades and things, and got ready - like Custer's Last Stand."

But, Germans soon found him. "I thought they were going to kill me, but they didn't." Amazingly, they only took his weapons and left. "They came back an hour later, picked me up and carried me to their aid."

He was a prisoner of war, but not for long. "The 4th infantry came in and overran these position." The Germans fled from the U.S. soldiers, leaving Bishop behind. "I couldn't  have thanked them enough, even though they were the enemy." He spent more than a year in the hospital. "I wound up with an 11 inch plate in my femur with six screws."

But he came home, and only 8 of the original 300 men in G-Company 505 Parachute Regiment can say that. Bishop was honored with two purple hearts for his bravery and service in World War II. He now lives in Cairo with his wife.

posted at 9:50AM by dave.miller@walb.com