One of the missions of the 82nd Airborne Division – the “All-Americans” – in the Battle of Normandy was securing crossings over the Merderet River on the Cotentin Peninsula. The Merderet had to be secured to both protect the flank for the beachhead at Utah Beach, plus open up the path to Cherbourg at the peninsula’s north tip. Cherbourg was a key target because its port was vital for keeping the growing Allied army in Normandy supplied.
On June 9, 1944 along the Merderet, two 82nd Airborne soldiers met the challenge of separate Nazi counter attacks single handedly and placed their names among our nation’s greatest heroes.
Charles Neilans DeGlopper was born on November 30, 1921 and was a high school graduate and farmer when he was drafted into the United States Army shortly before his 21st birthday on November 9, 1942. Prior to landing in Normandy on the day after D-Day (June 7, 1944), he had served with the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy.
*DEGLOPPER, CHARLES N.
Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Co. C, 325th Glider Infantry, 82d Airborne Division. Place and date: Merderet River at la Fiere, France, 9 June 1944. Entered service at: Grand Island, N.Y. G.O. No.: 22, 28 February 1946
Citation: He was a member of Company C, 325th Glider Infantry, on 9 June 1944 advancing with the forward platoon to secure a bridgehead across the Merderet River at La Fiere, France. At dawn the platoon had penetrated an outer line of machineguns and riflemen, but in so doing had become cut off from the rest of the company. Vastly superior forces began a decimation of the stricken unit and put in motion a flanking maneuver which would have completely exposed the American platoon in a shallow roadside ditch where it had taken cover. Detecting this danger, Pfc. DeGlopper volunteered to support his comrades by fire from his automatic rifle while they attempted a withdrawal through a break in a hedgerow 40 yards to the rear. Scorning a concentration of enemy automatic weapons and rifle fire, he walked from the ditch onto the road in full view of the Germans, and sprayed the hostile positions with assault fire. He was wounded, but he continued firing. Struck again, he started to fall; and yet his grim determination and valiant fighting spirit could not be broken. Kneeling in the roadway, weakened by his grievous wounds, he leveled his heavy weapon against the enemy and fired burst after burst until killed outright. He was successful in drawing the enemy action away from his fellow soldiers, who continued the fight from a more advantageous position and established the first bridgehead over the Merderet. In the area where he made his intrepid stand his comrades later found the ground strewn with dead Germans and many machineguns and automatic weapons which he had knocked out of action. Pfc. DeGlopper’s gallant sacrifice and unflinching heroism while facing unsurmountable odds were in great measure responsible for a highly important tactical victory in the Normandy Campaign.
Charles DeGlopper rests in peace in the Maple Grove Cemetery in his hometown.
Joe Gandara was born on August 25, 1924 in Santa Monica, California. He was employed as an aircraft assembler when he was drafted on February 20, 1943. He was still nineteen years old when he parachuted into Normandy with the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, normally of the 17th Airborne Division. The 507th was reassigned to the 82nd for D-Day because one of its regular regiments, the 504th Parachute Infantry, was still recovering from action in Italy.
Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Army, Company D, 2d Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82d Airborne Division. Place and date: June 9, 1944, Amfreville, France. Entered service at: Los Angeles, CA.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
Private Joe Gandara distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Company D, 2d Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 17th Airborne Division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Amfreville, France on June 9, 1944. On that day, Private Gandara’s detachment came under devastating enemy fire from a strong German force, pinning the men to the ground for a period of four hours. Private Gandara voluntarily advanced alone toward the enemy position. Firing his machinegun from his hip as he moved forward, he destroyed three hostile machineguns before he was fatally wounded. Private Gandara’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness at the cost of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.
Gandara originally received the Distinguished Service Cross for his valor. His decoration was upgraded to the Medal of Honor upon review of the records of soldiers who may have suffered from racial discrimination in the awards process. His Medal was presented to his niece nearly 70 years after the fact on March 18, 2014 at the White House by President Barack Obama. Private Gandara rests in peace in Santa Monica’s Woodlawn Cemetery.