Combat Jump: The Young Men Who Led the Assault into Fortress Europe, July 1943 by Ed Ruggero, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Combat Jump: The Young Men Who Led the Assault into Fortress Europe, July 1943

Combat Jump: The Young Men Who Led the Assault into Fortress Europe, July 1943

by Ed Ruggero

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Combat Jump is the exciting story of valiant ⢩tizen soldiers⟷ho risked their lives during the dramatic paratrooper invasion of Sicily in July 1943 that set the stage for the ground troop invasion of Fortress Europe.

The hair–raising, frontline account of the first American airborne invasion of World War II and of the young


Combat Jump is the exciting story of valiant ⢩tizen soldiers⟷ho risked their lives during the dramatic paratrooper invasion of Sicily in July 1943 that set the stage for the ground troop invasion of Fortress Europe.

The hair–raising, frontline account of the first American airborne invasion of World War II and of the young paratroopers who risked their lives for freedom.

By 1943, the war in Europe had reached a turning point. General Dwight Eisenhower was given orders to invade Sicily and head north. To achieve this, Ike had a new weapon: U.S. paratroopers. Their mission was to seize the approaches to the invasion beaches and to hold off German attacks.

Combat Jump tells the little–known story of these paratroopers and how they changed the American way of war. It takes readers on their journey from civilians to citizen soldiers, through training in the United States and later in North Africa, and then shows their daring jump into the darkness over enemy–held Sicily.

By first light on D–day, July 10, 1943, it looked as if the mission would fail. Inexperienced pilots, lost or blown off course, dropped 80 percent of the troopers from one to sixty–fice miles from their targets. The American commander, James Gavin, landed so far from his objective that he was not even sure he was in Sicily. Arthur Gorham, commanding 500 men of the First Battalion, encountered two surprises when the sun came up. He and just over 100 of his men were the only GIs–out of 3,400 dropped–near their objective.

He discovered that the Germans on Sicily had tanks. The lightly armed paratroopers, with their rifles and hand grenades, were not equipped to take on the forty–ton panzers. But against all odds, they did. The costly lessons they learned shaped the war in Europe, for without Sicily, there might have been no airborne invasion of France in June 1944.

Combat Jump recounts the extraordinary contributions these young men made when their country called them to war, and it tells a classic tale of military action and remarkable courage.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
It takes a special type of soldier to jump from a perfectly good airplane, even more so those young men who joined the first Airborne units during World War II. Ruggero, author of The Making of American Leaders and five military novels, uses extensive interviews to weave the personal lives of the first Airborne soldiers into the account of their first combat jump in 1943 into Sicily just prior to the Allied invasion. Combat Jump follows the men of the 505th Airborne Regiment from their induction, training, and finally their heroic actions on the island of Sicily. Ruggero writes a realistic story portraying not only the men's fears but, more important, their actions, which were based on hard training. He also recounts the arguments that ensued after the mission and the ultimate official decision to keep and use Airborne troops in the future based largely on their success in Sicily. Well written and flowing like a good novel, this book is highly recommended for larger public and academic libraries.-Lt. Col. Charles M. Minyard (ret.), U.S. Army, Blountstown, FL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A former infantryman compiles, from interviews with survivors, the story of the first major US airborne action of WWII. Stalin wanted a second front; Churchill agreed and sold Roosevelt on it. Skip down a few steps in the command chain and find Lt. Col. James Gavin and 3,400 men of the 505th Regimental Combat Team headed across the Mediterranean to Sicily in C-47s. Jumping at night for the first time in combat from low-flying planes under fire, wandering far from their drop-zones, the 505th hit concrete-like hillsides and sun-dried furrows waiting in the dark to snap ankles or legs like twigs. The mission of this advance unit was to keep German and Italian defenders from counterattacking the most massive Allied landing force yet assembled on its beachheads. With little in the way of ground cover, save gullies, streambeds, vineyards, and farmers’ fences crafted from cactus rows, pockets of widely scattered paratroops who could still walk or hobble proceeded to "attack the enemy wherever he could be found." The big surprise: German armor, which all had been assured would not be found on the island, was—including massive, nearly unstoppable Tiger Tanks. (Allied high command, it turns out, knew very well they were there; it was decided to withhold the knowledge from Gavin on down to guard a secret British decryption method that had obtained it.) The operation wound up being judged a marginal success (with Eisenhower dissenting) due to the bravado of small units who harried German defenders and caused them to seriously overestimate Allied strength. (Gavin would later become the youngest two-star Army general since the Civil War.) Three bloody days of courage and confusion, both elementsfaithfully reflected with frustratingly minimal overview, from Ruggero (Duty First, 2001, etc.). Agent: Matt Bialer/Trident Media
Los Angeles Times
“A master of the World War II genre.”
Denver Post
“Ruggero is a first-rate storyteller, abetted by the vivid memories of the soldiers who lived through it.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.34(w) x 9.22(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

Combat Jump
The Young Men Who Led the Assault into Fortress Europe, July 1943

Chapter One

In Theory

The United States Military Academy at West Point was a backwater assignment in the winter of 1941. While the cadets studied the Napoleonic Wars and waited out the endless gray days in upstate New York, the Army was in an uproar. America's first peacetime draft had been signed into law during the hot summer of 1940, though the term of enlistment for draftees and federalized National Guard troops was optimistically limited to one year. Although large segments of the public still hoped the war raging in Europe and Asia would pass America by, a million men were about to be inducted into the armed forces. Whatever happened in the diplomatic world, the nation was girding for war. For professional soldiers like Captain James M. Gavin, the only prudent thing to do was to prepare.

Gavin was thirty-three years old that winter, tall and slender -- his nickname was Slim Jim -- with movie-star looks and a passion for athletics. He was also one of the most junior officers assigned to the Academy's Tactical Department. He didn't draw one of the plum assignments for a "Tac," overseeing the military development of a company of cadets, but his duties did include supervising the seniors who ran the cadet corps. Like other members of the Tactical Department, he spent time enforcing the mind-numbing minutiae of regulations: inspecting how cadets folded their clothes, polished their shoes, cleaned their weapons and their rooms. Officers in the Tactical Department also taught classes about the organization of the Army and the role of the junior officer. Major Johnny Waters even instructed cadets on the proper table etiquette an officer and a gentleman needed to know. Waters was aided in this by his wife, Bee, who was herself the daughter of a not-yet-famous West Pointer named George Patton.

Though classes on the Army supply system were necessary, they were hardly inspiring, for instructors or cadets. Fortunately, the department was also responsible for teaching tactics: how small elements actually battled the enemy, the artistry of fire and maneuver, the use of artillery and machine guns and tanks to overwhelm an enemy position or defend a hilltop, all the things the cadets, as future combat leaders, had to master. Jim Gavin shone as a teacher, and the cadets could see the fire in the young infantry officer as he coached them on the technical side of their new profession. Like all good teachers, Gavin wasn't satisfied with simply covering the curriculum; he expanded his students' horizons to an in-depth study of modern war. He wanted the cadets to see the bigger picture.

In his classes, often conducted in the high-ceiling rooms above the mess hall, where the cadets learned to draw engineering diagrams of bridges, roads, and machinery, Gavin took the cadets on a world tour of modern military organizations. Together they dissected the German Wehrmacht -- at that point the world's most formidable and successful army -- studying how it was built and how it fought. The young captain and his younger charges discussed how the Germans blended tanks and low-flying attack aircraft with their maneuver formations, how they coordinated all the arms -- artillery, air power, armor, and infantry -- to bring the greatest amount of force to bear on the critical spot on the battlefield. The cadets began to understand that war, particularly since the introduction of the internal combustion engine and all that did for speed, required a complex set of skills. It was more than a matter of training individual soldiers and pointing them toward an enemy (which had proved so disastrous in the trenches of World War I). The modern commander had to choreograph air and sea power, had to communicate over vast distances to put his units at the exact right place at the exact right time, with the right arms and the will to use them. He had to master new techniques: faster artillery, motorized formations, more lethal weapons. He had to understand his enemy, and that understanding had to go beyond organization, tactics, and weapons. It had to include the social system that put enemy soldiers on the battlefield, all the cultural and political factors that made men fight.

Gavin was soft-spoken for a soldier, but he made the war headlines come alive, and in his teaching there was always an undercurrent, that this was knowledge the West Point class of 1941 would soon put to use. The lessons on how small units fought were often conducted over sand tables, large flat boxes filled with dirt the instructor used to shape hills and valleys, like museum dioramas. (Although the organizations varied depending on the mission, the basic element in the infantry was a squad of ten or eleven men, led by a sergeant. Three to four squads made up a platoon, led by a lieutenant, and three or four platoons made up a company, commanded by a first lieutenant or captain. West Point cadets who went into the infantry could expect to become platoon leaders.)

Gavin would brief the cadets on situations they might face as platoon leaders. While these lessons were designed to help cadets see and understand how to employ soldiers, they had another use as well. Gavin and other instructors added elements to drive home the point that warfare, especially the up-close kind of fighting they would see as junior officers, was often a confusing mix of incomplete information, rapidly shifting priorities, and the highest stakes imaginable.

Most important, Gavin wanted his cadets to think -- not just spit back programmed responses to questions about military history or tactics. Although he didn't invent it, the technique he used would become the norm in all the forces Gavin would command: he pushed decision-making down to the level where decisions would actually be made, to the junior leaders on the ground ...

Combat Jump
The Young Men Who Led the Assault into Fortress Europe, July 1943
. Copyright © by Ed Ruggero. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Ed Ruggero is the author of Combat Jump: The Young Men Who Led the Assault into Fortress Europe, July 1943 and Duty First: A Year in the Life of West Point and the Making of American Leaders. He was an infantry officer in the United States Army for eleven years and is an experienced keynote speaker on leadership development. He lives in Wallingford, Pennsylvania.

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