Lillyman, Frank Lewis.

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Lillyman, Frank Lewis, born 29-04-1915, in Binghamton, Broome County, New York, USA, the son Frank G Lillyman (1890-1944) and Clara Belle, born Pease Lillyman (1890–1985). Frank had one sister Arline Alicia Lillyman Kelley (1893-1993) and onr brother Walter H Lillyman (1893-1993)- Frank was in 1942 married with Jane, born Beebe Lillyman, who died 01-06- 2004 (age 88) in Madison, Madison County, Virginia, USA . The couple had one daughter  Susan Jane Lillyman Hyland ( 1942–2022)

Late in the evening of June 5, 1944, small groups of young Americans from the All American and Screaming Eagle airborne divisions began boarding C47 aircraft for a short flight from airbases in England to lead the invasion over Adolf Hitler’s Atlantic Wall in France. On the morning of June 6, 1944, 156,000 Allied troops, soldiers from Britain, Canada and the United States, landed on the beaches of Normandy, marking the beginning of the liberation of Europe and a turning point in the Second World War.  But before the soldiers could do their work, a unit of paratroopers, called Pathfinders, , 101st Pathfinder Company, of the 502 Regiment first had to do theirs’. And leading the way was a soldier from Upstate New York.

The Pathfinders parachuted behind German lines shortly after midnight of D-Day, an hour ahead of the main airborne assault and six hours before the amphibious troops landed on the beaches.

Once on the ground, they set up electronic equipment and signal lights which would tell the next wave of paratroopers when they should jump. The paratroopers dropped in small squads of a few men into hostile territory, in the dark. It was dangerous work. The first Pathfinder to land in France was Captain. Frank Lewis Lillyman, a native of Binghamton and a resident of Skaneateles.

Frank was 29 years old on D-Day and he knew he was going to be part of history. “When the newspapers and radios blare out the news,” he wrote his wife, Jane, and 2-year-old daughter, Susan, “remember that your pappy led the way.”

Frank  worked as a cub newspaper reporter in that city, at the Press and the Sun. He covered sports, high schools and helped when needed on election nights. Frank  joined the Army in 1934, serving in the infantry in Hawaii and China. From 1937 through 1941, he worked as a recruiter in Syracuse.

In 1942, with American involvement in World War II underway, he joined the paratroopers, a decision which angered his father, who he described an “an honest-to-goodness soldier of fortune,” having served in the American Army and Navy, the Brazilian cavalry and Argentine Navy.

“Dad didn’t like it much when I went in the paratroops,” Lillyman told the Associated Press in 1944. “He was an old horse cavalry man in the regular Army.”

At Fort Bragg, North Carolina, he trained and was soon named a company commander. He was sent overseas, a member of the newly formed 101st Airborne Division. He had made 47 jumps before June 6, 1944, but this one would be his first one into battle. Like his previous jumps, he planned to do it with a cigar clenched between his teeth, as was his trademark. His men thought it brought good luck.

“Paratroopers, like professional baseball players, acquire certain superstitions,” he said. “With me I have always stuck a cigar in my mouth when about to make a jump and my men all know it. They take it for good luck.” It was most of the time: “I swallowed the end of one once,” he admitted. Lillyman did not know when the Allied invasion would commence, but he did know that he had been given the number one spot.

He and his hand-picked crew of 10 paratroopers were assigned to the Douglas C-47 plane piloted by Lieutenant Colonel, nickname Joe Colonel Joe  Joel .L. Crouch of Riverside,  California,. It was the lead plane, and he was the first one out the door of that plane.

“They all trained together with secret equipment which permitted pinpoint precision landings so they could direct other parachute troops and gliders to the dropping zone,” newspaper accounts said after the invasion. Fort Bragg, North Carolina  Lillyman commanded soldiers from across the country and although he received most of the attention following the jump, he always made sure they got a share of the credit:

“But before I go any further,” he would tell reporters, “I want to tell you not to go blowing me all up for this. It was those boys with me who got the job done.”

Private Tony Rocca of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, was nicknamed “The Rock.” Lillyman said he was “knee-high to a jug of cider and hard as a keg of nails.”

“He can hold that tommy gun at his hip weaving like a hula dancer and splinter silhouette targets.” Private John McFarlen of Abilene, Texas was a “fighting son-of-a-gun.”

“What they can’t do with dynamite,” was how Captain Lillyman described Privates John Zamanakes and August Mangoni. August survived the war and died 20-02-2005 (age 84).  Frank said the unit would be lost with their scouts Bluford Williams who survived the war and died 10-06-1968 (age 55) and Frederic Wilhelm.


Franl Lillyman would remain in Europe until Germany surrendered in May 1945. He returned home with three wounds and 12 decorations, including the Purple Heart. In November 1945, Lillyman was again in the news after he wrote a letter to the manager of the swanky Pennsylvania Hotel in New York City in which he explained how, for two years, he had dreamed of home and was willing to pay $500 for a week of the “works” at the hotel. The manager invited the Lillymans to stay for the week of Thanksgiving and would not accept a “red-cent.”

A hero of D-Day was given the hotel’s most glamorous suite, equipped with a piano, a telephone for out-going calls and a buffet full of liquor. Bouquets of flowers were delivered each morning and little Susan received a new toy from Macy’s every day. “We never got the same meal twice,” he recalled. “I had English tea served in bed in the morning before breakfast. I got two gallons of dill pickles to eat before going to bed at night.”

Lillyman remained in the Army and held a variety of assignments at Fort Bragg and at Fort Benning in Georgia. He retired in 1968 with a rank of lieutenant colonel. He kept in touch with the men he jumped with on D-Day but rarely spoke about the war with his family.

Death and burial ground of Lillyman, Frank Lewis.


Frank Lewis Lillyman died on 06-03-1971,of a stroke in Winston, Culpeper, Virginia, United States, at the age of 55, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, United States.

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