This one was proudly worn by the late Major General Charles Billingslea, who was the commanding officer of the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne (All American!) from 1944-1946.
MG Billingslea graduated from the US Military Academy in 1936 and received his commission. The following is from the New York Times' March 18, 1989 obituary for Mr. Billingslea:
Charles Billingslea Is Dead at 74; Retired Major General in Army
By ALFONSO A. NARVAEZ
Published: Saturday, March 18, 1989
Charles Billingslea, a retired Army major general who served in World War II and Korea and later helped to enforce judicial desegregation orders in Mississippi and Alabama, died of pneumonia Tuesday at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. He was 74 years old and lived in Oxford, Md.
General Billingslea, a 1936 graduate of the United States Military Academy, served as a paratrooper in World War II, where he took part in assault landings with American forces at Algiers and joined a British unit in airborne operations in Tunisia.
He was the executive officer with the 82d Airborne Division and participated in some of the fiercest fighting in Europe. His units made jumps into Sicily and Salerno and were involved in fighting at Naples, Volturno, Cassino and Anzio and later in operations in the Netherlands.
After the war he taught at the Command and Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and later was with the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers in Europe. After an assignment at the Pentagon, he became chief of staff of the United States Eighth Army in Korea.
In 1962 he took command of the Second Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Ga,. and in late September of that year he was ordered to mobilize Army units and federalized Mississippi National Guardsmen in Oxford, Miss., as efforts were made to enforce desegregation at the University of Mississippi and enroll James H. Meredith as a student. Mr. Meredith entered the university after rioting that resulted in three deaths, In May 1963 General Billingslea was sent to Birmingham, Ala., where troops were stationed as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led five weeks of demonstrations to end segregation there.
General Billingslea retired in 1966 and moved in 1981 to Oxford, Md., from Washington.
He is survived by his wife, Bettina; a son, Charles, of Macon, Ga.; and a sister, Mabel Brooks, of Santa Rosa, Calif.
As you read through, I'm sure many of you noticed "82nd Airborne" and that he made some jumps. He did more than just than just make 4 combat jumps during the war. MG Billingslea was decorated twice with the Distinguished Service Cross for valor.
The following is the citation for his first DSC, while he was a Lt. Col.:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Colonel (Infantry), [then Lieutenant Colonel] Charles Billingslea (ASN: 0-20367), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Commanding Officer, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, 82d Airborne Division, in action against enemy forces on 2 - 3 October 1944, in the vicinity of Katerbosch, Holland. Through fearless and skillful leadership, Colonel Billingslea inspired victory for his regiment in a battle for objectives two miles beyond the forward lines near Mook. Leading troops who were tired after five days of incessant attack, he pushed the enemy back in a twenty-four hour assault. He launched the attack before dawn and under cover of fog which lifted without warning in mid-morning and exposed his forces to intense artillery fire. Key officers and men became casualties, but Colonel Billingslea moved among the disorganized company, restored command and assumed the initiative in the face if determined resistance from numerous German strongpoints in Katerbosch. He personally directed the house-to-house reduction of the enemy. His presence in this critical zone inspired officers and men to emulate his conduct in a fight for the town which lasted all day and through the night. In this valiant and successful assault on Katerbosch, Colonel Billingslea defeated powerful German efforts to break through Mook and sever the Allied corridor in the Motherland. His inspiring leadership, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, the 82d Airborne Division, and the United States Army.
Headquarters, XVIII Airborne Corps, General Orders No. 19 (March 14, 1945)
But, he was not done there, as bears out in the second DSC citation:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Distinguished Service Cross to Colonel (Infantry) Charles Billingslea (ASN: 0-20367), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Commanding Officer, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, 82d Airborne Division, in action against enemy forces on 2 February 1945, in Germany. Colonel Billingslea fearlessly exposed himself to intense enemy small arms, mortar, and artillery fire to direct his command's assault against Siegfried Line fortifications. When elements of his regiment were pinned to the ground by fierce crossfire, he advanced to the area and personally directed his command in thwarting the hostile thrust. During a second vicious counterattack, he proceeded to his reserve battalion, directed the commitment of his reserves and repulsed the counter-attack. By his display of conspicuous courage and selfless devotion to duty, Colonel Billingslea was instrumental in saving a vital position and insuring the continued success of his regiment. His intrepid actions, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, the 82d Airborne Division, and the United States Army.
Headquarters, First U.S. Army, General Orders No. 72 (1945)
Truly a brave American hero.
I sure feel honored to be the caretaker of this uniform (and two of his mess dress uniforms). I hope you enjoy looking at the piece, but I also hope you pause for a few moments to consider the number of lives lost by the brave men of the 325th GIR.