Croteau, Wilbur David.

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Croteau, Wilbur David born 22-12 1921 in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, to Hazel M. Gonyea and Wilbur Croteau, Sr.. The last name Croteau is French, derived from the Latin word “crypta,” meaning “crypt.” Living in the town of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, the Croteaus were a small family of three until the arrival of his sister, Shirley Marie, on 14-12-1943. Wilbur attended school until he was about 15 years old. He dropped out after two years of high school, likely to help his family during the worst of the Great Depression. He worked as a semiskilled routeman up until his move to Los Angeles, California where he was drafted.

Croteau grew up in the town of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, which was a huge contributor to the war effort. Nearly everyone, from women and children, to young men and elders, were willing to do their part. According to the St. Louis Park Historical Society, “on Valentine’s Day 1942, 737 men between ages 20 and 40 registered for duty at the Village Hall.” Citizens traded in their vehicles for bicycles to help conserve rubber. Local colleges offered courses to young women so they would be educated to fill the labor shortages that were left by the men who were shipped off overseas.

The beginning of America’s involvement in World War II affected the west coast the most. Californians not only played their part in the war by rationing and enlisting to go overseas, but they also had to be prepared if Japan were to launch another attack on the United States, after the attack on Pearl Harbor..

The San Francisco Bay area was transformed into a massive shipbuilding operation practically overnight. Thousands of mothers placed their children in daycares while they worked long days contributing to the creation of these massive battleships. Many of the historic ship building sites still remain in San Francisco to this day as a reminder of the great contributions the state made during one of the most significant wars the world has ever seen.

Wilbur David Croteau was drafted on 18-08-1942. He volunteered to join the paratroopers and the 101st Airborne Division, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. “Easy Company”. The regiment was originally stationed at Camp Toccoa, Georgia and was activated on 20-07-1942, nearly one month before Croteau’s enlistment. It was commanded by Colonel Robert Frederick Sink, from North Carolina.

Colonel Sink trained the men of the 506th Infantry Regiment with one of the most difficult schedules of any American military unit serving in World War II. This regiment was made up of three battalions. Croteau belonged to 3rd Battalion, G Company. Between the three battalions, 7,000 soldiers were recruited and trained for 13 weeks. By the end of these excruciating weeks of ‘A’ stage training, only 2,000 of the strongest men remained. Croteau was one of them.

Members of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment played a very important role during the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. In this parachute combat assault, known as Operation Albany, over 6,900 paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division landed inland five hours ahead of the D-Day landings. They descended into the southeast corner of the Cotentin Peninsula of France from more than 400 C-47 troop carrier planes. However, the landings were scattered outside of the intended area due to bad weather and ground anti-aircraft fire from the German ground troops.

Death and burial ground of Croteau, Wilbur David.

Croteau volunteered to be a pathfinder, and landed in one of the earliest waves on D-Day. Reports indicate that he landed just after midnight, west of Saint-Côme-du-Mont and faced intense enemy machine gun and anti-aircraft fire. Their job was to set up Landing Zone D and organize the men who would follow him.

The 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment was intended to be in battle for three days, but those three days turned into a painful 33 days. The paratroopers did not return to England for nearly a month due to the battle for Carentan. About 2,000 men from the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment jumped into Normandy; 569 of these heroes were wounded, 183 were reported missing or considered POWs, and 231 were killed in action. However, Wilbur Croteau survived three days in battle, dying on 09-06-1944 in fighting around Saint-Côme-du-Mont. He was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his acts of heroism and achievement.

Wilbur David Croteau is buried at the Normandy American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, France, Plot A, Row 4, Grave 44.

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