In March of 1942, the 325th was reactivated under the 82nd Division as a Motorized Infantry Regiment at Camp Claiborne in Louisiana. When the 82nd Division was selected to be part of an experimental Airborne unit under the leadership of General Matthew Ridgeway, the 325th was designated to support the Airborne troops utilizing gliders. Thus, the 325th Regiment became the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment.
Because paratroopers and their supplies often ended up scattered accross dropzones, it was believed the 325th could ride gliders into the battlefield and land with equipment intact and be ready to fight. This all hinged on the glider arriving safely and in one piece, of course. The fact that heavy equipment, such as jeeps and howitzers, could be loaded onto gliders meant that the cut-off Airborne forces would have better chances of holding their positions against heavily armored German units.
Being a glider rider was no easy task. The gliders themselves were made out of plywood and had no armored protection for the troopers riding inside. This made the gliders susceptible to anti-aircraft and machine gun fire as they were pulled behind transport aircraft. The weight of the gliders also caused them to descend extremely fast and with little control possible by the pilots. In essence, the gliders sole purpose was to crash, hopefully in a somewhat gentle way. Any sort of geographical obstacle could mean serious injuries or death for the troopers inside. Fence posts, ditches, and trees could all be responsible for an entire glider crew being wiped out. According to a veteran paratrooper who had to ride a glider into Normandy, “These people don’t get paid enough.” In fact it would not be till after Normandy that the glider riders would receive hazardous pay and have the privilege of wearing the same uniforms as the paratroopers.
As the 325th trained to go to war in Europe, Colonel Harry Lewis would take over command. The 325th would first see combat at Salerno, Italy. On September 15th 1943 the 325th would board landing craft and arrive by sea, not air, in Salerno. The 325th would board landing craft again and land further north to relieve Colonel William O’Darby’s Rangers on Mount St. Angelo di Cava. The Germans pounded the hill with artillery and attempted to throw the 325th off the hill numerous times, without success.
Following combat in Italy, the 325th was sent to England to begin preparation for Operation Overloard. On D+1 the 325th landed in Normandy around the town of St. Mere Eglise in an operation codenamed HACKENSACK. A large portion of the 325th casualties were due to obstacles known as “Rommel’s asparagus,” telephone poles topped with mines placed in landing fields. Numerous other casualties were from troopers drowning when their gliders crashed into flooded farm fields. The 325th helped hold back German counter attacks on the beaches of Normandy and was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation. Here, the 325th joined the battle at La Fier Causeway, which would later be known as the bloodiest small unit engagement of the war. After 16 June the unit was sent back to England to rearm, retrain and reorganize for their next operation.
Operation Market Garden was the largest airborne operation in the history of warfare. For this operation the 325th was tasked with capturing bridges to the south of Nijmegen bridge, the major objective of the 82nd Airborne Division. Due to poor weather and the priority to land glider-borne artillery units, the 325th landed on September 23, six days later than planned. The landing was smooth, out of the 2,900 troopers who landed only 10 were unfit for combat. The regiment was able to help the tired and overworked paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne beat off German attacks, earning them a second Distinguished Unit Citation.
On November 14, 1944 the 325th was sent back to France to rest and refit. This abruptly changed when the Germans launched their counter-offensive on December 16th, 1944 which would later be known as the Battle of the Bulge. Lacking adequate supplies of ammunition and cold weather equipment, the entire 82nd Airborne Division was loaded on trucks and quickly rushed to the Ardennes Forest to blunt the German advance. On December 22nd and 23rd the 325th took part in one of the most ferocious battles during the Ardennes, fighting at the Baraque de Fraiture crossroads. It was here that an American tank destroyer was retreating when a Private First Class from the 325th asked, “Are you looking for a safe place?”
“Yeah”, the tanker answered.
“Well, buddy, just pull your tank up behind me, I’m the 82nd Airborne and this is as far as the bastards are going!” he replied.
The 2nd S.S. led assaults on the crossroads under control of F Company, 325th GIR and after numerous attacks managed to dislodge F Company, only after suffering massive casualties themselves. Of the 116 men defending the crossroads, only 45 men from F Company would return to the 325th at Fraiture.
The 325th continued to endure heavy casualties into January 1945 and eventually participated in the drive into Germany. The 325th would then join the rest of the 82nd Airborne Division as the American occupation force in Berlin, earning the name “America’s Guard of Honor.” They would leave Berlin in in 1946 and be deactivated on December 15, 1947.
Other suggested reading about the 325th:
- All American, All the Way: The Combat History of the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II by Phil Nordyke
- Flying Coffins Over Europe: The Odyssey of a Glider Infantryman by James E. Bryant
- Glide to Glory: 325 Glider Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division by Jerry Lee Richlak
- Let’s Go!: The Story of the Men Who Served in the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment by Wayne Pierce