17th Airborne Division: Uniform

17th Airborne Division

This month a minor miracle occurred when I was able to buy the jacket to a large paper grouping that I purchased six years ago. The US GI that owned the jacket had a unique WWII experience, first he was a member of the 17th Airborne Division and secondly, he was transferred to the scratch-built force sent to Norway to accept the German Surrender in May 1945. Six years ago, I purchased three scrapbooks from a collector/dealer in Neosho, Mo. they had been assembled by the Soldier’s wife during the war and had all kinds of information about the 17th Airborne Division and this Soldier’s role in it. This division was sent to England in August 1944 and flown to Rheims, France on Christmas Eve 1944 and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. After the Ardennes it then made an Airborne Assault across the Rhine River north of Wesel, Germany.

474th Infantry Regiment

When the Germans surrendered on 8 May 1945 the Allies realized that they had a problem. There were over 430,000 German Soldiers in Norway and there was no Allied Forces in Norway to disarm them. They quickly formed a Combined Force of British and American Forces and sent them to Norway. The Soldiers were taken from Airborne units as they were trained to move by airplane. US Soldiers from the 1st Special Service Force, and other Airborne qualified personnel were added along with the Norwegian speakers of the 99th Infantry Battalion to form the 474th Infantry Regiment. Fortunately, the Germans were in no mood to resist and peacefully surrendered. In Norway’s capital Oslo the King was reinstalled on the throne and a big Victory parade was held to celebrate the end of the five-year German Occupation.

474th Infantry Regiment patch     British Army Patch

The unit wore this patch which was actually a British Army Patch. The British wore unit patches on both sleeves that faced in different directions. The GI sewed the patches on his jacket and did not bother to separate them.

So, six years later I was able to reunite the jacket with the scrapbooks. This often occurs at auctions as different people buy things and most of the groups are split up.