Cole, Robert George, born on 19-03-1915, in San Antonio, Texas, was an American soldier who received the Medal of Honor for his action in Carentan, in the days following the D-Day Normandy invasion of World War II. He joined the United States Army on 01-07-1934. On 26-06-1935, he was honorably discharged to accept an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Cole was a lieutenant colonel commanding the 3rd Battalion of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, nickname “Five-Oh-Deuce” or “The Deuce” on June 6, 1944, the date of his unit’s first combat jump. Commander was General Maxwell Davenport Taylor. At 02.00 on 12 June the 506th PIR, nickname “Five oh Sink” with the 101 Airborne Division , passed through their line and captured Hill 30 to the south of Carentan. From there, led by Company E, the 2nd of the 506th PIR (Band of Brothers) attacked north into Carentan at daylight as part of a 3-battalion assault. The German 6th Parachute Regiment under Freiherr Friedrich von der Heydte, virtually out of ammunition, had abandoned the town during the night, leaving only a small rear guard. By 0730 of June 12 Carentan was captured. Cole was recommended for a Medal of Honor for his actions that day, but did not live to receive it.
Death and burial ground of Cole, Robert George.
On 18-09-1944, during Operation Market Garden, Colonel Cole, here with Crilley, Joseph “Joe” James, Captain of the 101 Airborne Division, 326th Engineers C Company. My personal dear friend,
commanding the 3rd Battalion of the 502nd PIR in Best, Netherlands, (see About) (see Jack Brook) got on the radio. A pilot asked him to put some orange identification panels in front of his position. Cole decided to do it himself. He was placing a panel on the ground when he was shot and killed by a German sniper.
Two weeks later, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bayonet charge near Carentan on June 11. His Executive Officer, Major John P Stopka, led the charge on Cole’s left and received the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC). Major John Stopka
was killed, on 14-01-1945, two weeks after receiving his medal at Bastogne, by a misplaced 500 lb bomb dropped by a P47. Ivan Hershner
, the C.O. of Item Co, who died age 81 in 2005, was sent to the responsible AAF fighter squadron in spring, 1945, to determine why that fatal mistake happened. The final finding was that the 3rd Battalion of the Deuce had advanced too far and too fast the day and Stopka’s group from 3/502 was in an area that was still supposed to be occupied by German troops. As Cole’s widow and two-year-old son Bruce looked on, Cole’s mother accepted his posthumous award on the parade ground, where Cole had played as a child, at Fort Sam Houston. In September 2009, for the 65th anniversary of Operation Market Garden, Cole’s son Bruce with his wife, came to Best/Holland to unveil a monument on the spot where his father was killed by a sniper.
The 101 Airborne Division had the next losses during their campaign in Europe; In Normandy, killed/died of wounds 868, wounded in action 2.303, missing/captured 665. In Holland killed 752, wounded 2.151 and missing 398. In the battle of the Bulge in Belgium, killed 482, wounded 2.449 and missing 527, in total killed 2.043, wounded 2.782 and missed 1590. Cole is buried, age 29, at the Netherlands/American Cemetery and Memorial, in Margraten, Plot B. Close by the grave of Infantry General, Commander Third Armoured Division, Maurice Rose, killed in an ambush near Heidelberg. In Best close to the Robert Cole’s spot, Joe Mann another Screaming Eagle sacrifacied himself to save the lives of some comrades (see Joe Eugen Mann).