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A Decorated Glider Guy, right?


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#1 USMCRaiderGirl

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 03:31 PM

As many of you know, I'm narrowing my focus in collecting and finally taken the time to unpack items and put up "new home needed" (aka For Sale ads) in the forum. I've had a good number of members ask me about items I'm holding on to. So, I decided I would post up a picture of this one item that I am definitely holding on to. Some of you may recognize as I got it from a forum member who I believe got it from another forum member who got it from Billingslea's estate.

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.

billingslea1.jpg

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.

billingslea2.jpg

billingslea3.jpg

#2 USMCRaiderGirl

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 03:32 PM

Some more pics...

billingslea4.jpg

billingslea5.jpg

#3 USMCRaiderGirl

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 03:34 PM

billingslea6.jpg

billingslea7.jpg

#4 USMCRaiderGirl

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 03:37 PM

Here is a picture of Billingslea in one of his uniforms. It was taken earlier than the uniform I have was decorated, as it doesn't include all the ribbon bars. One thing to say about this guy was that his uniforms are HUGE!

Everyone enjoy!

billingslea9.jpg

#5 KurtA

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 05:24 PM

2 DSC's 4 combat jumps and no Purple Heart!??!?! He was one lucky guy! Outstanding uniform. Really nice sew-on ribbon rack. I can understand why you're holding onto it.
Kurt

#6 Wailuna

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 06:29 PM

Here is a picture of Billingslea...taken earlier than the uniform I have was decorated, as it doesn't include all the ribbon bars...

billingslea9.jpg

The only ribbon missing from this picture is the Korean Order of Military Merit, Ulchi Class (link here), which is shown on Major General Billingslea's uniform in Post #1.

You can further refine the dating of this picture of Major General Billingslea from the Combat Developments Command SSI he is wearing. He was Deputy Commanding General of USACDC at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, from 1964 until he was retired in 1966. The Korean order probably was for his service as Deputy Chief of Staff, Eighth U.S. Army, 1961 - 1962, which evidently was late in catching up to him.

#7 CNY Militaria

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 02:01 AM

That is definitely a keeper! Thanks for showing.

#8 Blake_E

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 02:44 AM

Amazing, how nice is that?!

#9 Ricardo

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 03:12 AM

The best!! :w00t:

Regards,

Ricardo.

#10 Brian D

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 11:13 AM

Just amazing. I have met and talked to many of the vets who served under Billingslea in the 325th and they all loved him. A true American hero....and BTW USMCRaiderGirl, my great uncle was a S/Sgt. in B Company and was one of those glider riders that gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country in Holland fighting w/his platoon. God bless..... :salute:

#11 J_Andrews

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 02:51 PM

Billingslea was a big, tall man, so much so that he was turned away from the parachute troops at one point,as too tall. (He was 6'3".)

He did manage to get jump-qualified, however, and jumped as a liason officer with the Brits in TORCH. IIRC from speaking to veterans of the 325th, he joined the 82nd in North Africa just before Sicily, after a stint on Ike's AFHQ staff. He jumped in Sicily as a strap-hanger with Gavin, then replaced a WIA LTC as XO of the 325th.

In wartime photos, he is often wearing a USAAF B-10 flight jacket -- because he could never get an issue jacket that fit his long arms. Don't know why he did not get a tailor-made M42 jump jacket or M43 field jacket.

#12 USMCRaiderGirl

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 07:12 PM

Billingslea was a big, tall man, so much so that he was turned away from the parachute troops at one point,as too tall. (He was 6'3".)

He did manage to get jump-qualified, however, and jumped as a liason officer with the Brits in TORCH. IIRC from speaking to veterans of the 325th, he joined the 82nd in North Africa just before Sicily, after a stint on Ike's AFHQ staff. He jumped in Sicily as a strap-hanger with Gavin, then replaced a WIA LTC as XO of the 325th.

In wartime photos, he is often wearing a USAAF B-10 flight jacket -- because he could never get an issue jacket that fit his long arms. Don't know why he did not get a tailor-made M42 jump jacket or M43 field jacket.


I appreciate the extra info and all the kind comments! :) I'm always glad to see an item enjoyed for its history!!!!

All, please feel free to add to the history of the thread or even post a reminder of a brave 325th GIR soldier, like Brian D did. :)

#13 Herman v

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 01:21 AM

Hi, great item.

I own another jacket of Charles Billingslea. This one is from the mid fifties. He was a Colonel at SHAPE, Paris then.

I shall post pictures when i can find them on my harddrive. It has some real old badges and emblems (jumpwing / cib). It also has an orange lanyard at the left sleeve and a BELGIAN fouragere at the right sleeve. This Belgian fouragere of the Belgian warcross is old and documented.

I'm a bit puzzled, your jacket shows a FRENCH fouragere of the French warcross. This fouragere is worn on the left sleeve as seen in many pictures (like LTG James Gavin).

Love the ribbons. Great item.
Herman


#14 tsakers85

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 05:45 AM

A wonderful uniform indeed!

#15 Torch03

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 06:04 AM

Awesome Uniform!!!! Thanks for posting pics of it!

#16 J_Andrews

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 07:48 AM

Re Post #1: General Officers do not wear branch insignia, with only a few specific exceptions. Check his photo -- no rifles.

The tip-top BRANCH bosses of non-combat arms DO wear appropriate branch insignia, to wit the Provost Marshal of the Army (MP), the Chief of Chaplains, the Judges Advocate General, and the Surgeon General of the Army. I am not sure but the head of the Army Nurse Corps, and Medical Corps, who may be GOs, used to also wear the branch brass.

The CG of the QM Center and School in 1971-1972 considered himself "the QM General" and liked to wear QM brass. He also wore jump wings, but rumor was he had made only one jump as a 2LT at Benning, then none until he was a COL. He was booted out a few years later for financial shenanigans in Germany....

#17 1SG_1st_Cav

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 11:57 AM

Thanks for showing us a wonderful piece of military history. The soldier was the "REAL DEAL" by leading from the front. We had commanders in Vietnam sitting in choppers at 3,000 to 5,000 feet above the battle areas trying to lead platoons on the ground. The racked-up a lot of Air Medals that way! Danny

#18 Herman v

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 04:12 AM

as promised.

Mid fifties and Colonel
Kopie van billingslea col 3.jpg

and I really like the ribbons
Kopie van billingslea 2.jpg

Please note that in the McCarthy-fifties it was not done to wear your Soviet Order of the Red Star ribbon.


regards
Herman

Edited by Herman v, 22 February 2013 - 04:27 AM.


#19 Herman v

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 04:22 AM

the inside pocket
billingslea 10.jpg

and the 82nd AB patch
billingslea 6.jpg

the SHAPE patch
billingslea 15.jpg

and the sleeve stripes
Kopie van billingslea 16.jpg

and offcourse..... the jumpwing
billingslea  parawing.jpg

Edited by Herman v, 22 February 2013 - 04:26 AM.


#20 Brian D

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 06:21 AM

Man, I just love these Billingslea uniforms! Thanks for posting and bringing the original back up to the top again.....these are just stunning all!

#21 patches

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Posted 07 January 2019 - 07:43 PM

Here he is in 1964 at Aggressor maneuvers at Ft Benning Georgia when he was commander, 2nd Infantry Division, two French Army officers we see with him there.

 

 

post-34986-0-50051100-1546918778.jpg



#22 doyler

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Posted 07 January 2019 - 07:51 PM

Look like French Legion




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