Item description for Descending From The Clouds: A Memoir of Combat in the 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82d Airborne Division by Spencer Wurst...
Wurst, a rifleman, spent the most of World War II in the European Theater of Operations as a squad leader or platoon sergeant in Company F, 505. He made three of the four regimental combat jumps, dropping into Italy, Normandy, and Holland. Highlights include his baptism of fire in Italy during the Battle of Arnone; the jump on D-Day and the liberation of Ste. Me're Eglise (for which he was awarded a Purple Heart); a grueling month of combat in the hedgerows of Normandy (a second Purple Heart); the ferocious battle with the SS for the highway bridge at Nijmegen, Holland (Silver Star); and survival in the Ardennes, where he found himself as point man on his twentieth birthday, in a long, bitter march toward the shoulder of the Bulge.
Wurst's narrative, set against a carefully researched historical background, offers a unique view of the heat of battle as experienced by a noncommissioned officer in the 82nd Airborne Division. Initial chapters chronicle his training before mobilization, when he lied about his age (15) to the National Guard in Erie, Pennsylvania, and his later experience in a heavy weapons company of the 112th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division. In 1941, Wurst was on a truck returning from First Army maneuvers in the Carolinas to Indiantown Gap Military Reservation when he heard the news of the attack at Pearl Harbor. He recounts life at Camps Livingston and Beauregard in Louisiana, and at the newly formed Parachute School at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he was stationed in the infamous "Frying Pan" area.
Descending from the Clouds portrays the passage from innocence to experience. Wurst begins as a 135-pound kid marching down his hometown streets in the National Guard, wearing the remnants of a World War I uniform and pulling by hand a water-cooled .30-caliber machine-gun mounted on a wooden cart. Five years later, he is a hardened platoon sergeant, leading his troopers through the frozen killing fields of "Death Valley" in Germany's Huertgen Forest.
His story is the story of the coming of age of the American military: fewer than twenty men per company who started with the 505 in the Frying Pan returned home.
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Reviews - What do customers think about Descending From The Clouds: A Memoir of Combat in the 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82d Airborne Division?
INTERESTING READ May 31, 2008
It's an excellent war yarn that could have been squared away a little bit better.
82ND AIRBORNE FROM PEARL HARBOR TO THE SIEGFRIED LINE. Aug 18, 2007
This book has been in The Military Book Club for awhile but I did not buy it. Came across it at the local library and picked it up since the guy jumped into Normandy. Well, the book has a lot more info in it than just Normandy.
Initially his relating his training brought back certain memories of my own basic training, though I was never in the Army nor a 'trooper'. This single book sort of attemps what Donald Burgette accomplished with his four books on the 101st Airborne and the book does it well.
The author's straight forward rekindling his personal history is very satisfying. And on some points his honesty is very refreshing, as when he says he just doesn't remember certain things, or that when two or three guys get together they can remember a certain event in different ways.
His out-of-the way episodes are very interesting: take for instance on page 67 as he relates a major event with a sister regiment, the 504 PIR, being flown into Gela as reinforcements. A German Luftwaffe attack from JU 88 bombers had just concluded a run, as the American C-47s unaware and "full of troopers appeared in the sky." Needless to say as the Air Corp passed over the Navy antiaircraft guns they opened fire on the "low-flying American troop transport planes. "He continues, "Within minutes, 318 American paratroopers and many C-47 crew members lost their lives." Personal stories such as, though very sad, help make this book an interesting read.
Though I have the four volumes on 101st from Burgette on my shelves, I am glad to have read this book on the 82nd Airborne and can readily recommend it to anyone interested in first person accounts in the WWII genre of "I was there".
Worth reading again Jun 14, 2007
This is really one of the better stand-alone books written by an American paratrooper from World War Two. It really sets quite the scene when a young boy, enthralled by the military joins his state's national guard out of pride and hunger. But I won't ruin the book by giving away too many details in this review.
Wurst survived his national guard duty, joined the 82nd Airborne and made three combat jumps in the war and fought in Italy, Normandy and Holland from the platoon level.
Some of the more interesting details regarding this book are descriptions of the 1930s and 40s, the national guard at the time, training, and blistering street-to-street combat. But I also enjoyed his commentary on the state of the guard in the late 30s and early 40s. He makes clear how rapidly we advanced as a military in the 1940s.
If you liked this book I would recommend any of Don Burgett's famous books, Parachute Infantry by David Webster, Those Devils in Baggy Pants and All the way to Berlin.
Best WW2 infantry tactics book you'll ever read! Sep 19, 2005
I really enjoyed this book. I've read dozens and dozens of books about World War Two. What distinguishes Descending from the Clouds from most of the others is the feeling and passion contained in the pages. Col. Wurst recounts not only what he saw, heard, and felt, but also the impression it left on him for the rest of his life. When I finished reading this book I took some time to reflect on what I had read. I came away thankful for the sacrifices men and women like Col. Wurst have made in the history of our nation that allow me to live free and relatively safe.
Honestly, this book is the best first person account of infantry tactics relating to World War Two that I've ever read. I highly recommend it.
Must Read Sep 19, 2005
One really needs more than 5 stars to rate this book. It deserves 7 or 8 stars. I have read many personal accounts from veterans of the 82nd Airborne Division and this is by far the best. If one is interested in knowing what it was like to be a WWII paratroopoer day by day, battle by battle one absolutely has to read this book.