Merlano, Louis Philip “Big Lou”, born on 20-10-1923, in New York, enlisted in the Army, 18 years old and became a paratrooper in the proud 101st Airborne Division. Big Lou was a corporal in the 502 A Company and shortly before the start of D-Day, his first war experience, Lou was one of the few paratroopers who talked to General Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower.
Ike encouraged the warriors before this uncertain historical event. On board Lou a tall man exchanged places with his small friend Louis Perko and came second in row of the glider on their way to Normandy. Near the coast of Normandy the glider was hit and a crash followed. The first man and Lou were the only two able to jump from the plane and landed on the beach, while the plane felt in the Channel. We, a few years ago, laid flowers on the graves of the comrade victims, on the Vierville American cemetery, in the name of the Merlano family, specially the grave of Perko. Lou Merlano got off the beach fast, ignoring mines. He climbed over a barbed-wire fence and ran for a hedgerow. Someone else was already there, Merlano didn’t stop. He ran across a road and started to climb a stone wall. Just then he heard an agonized cry behind him. He whirled around, a flame thrower was hosing the hedgerow he had just passed and outlined in the flame was the figure of a fellow paratrooper. He kept hidden and only after three days met the first American warriors. Lou survived this battle and went back to England to recover with his Company. The next two operations he survived also, Operation Market Garden, the liberation of our little Holland, on 17-09-1944, were Lou landed near Eerde (see Dick Winters)
With heavy fighting’s till end October, the 101st Airborne Division with commander General Maxwell Davenport Taylor, lost a lot of warriors. The second was the Battle of the Bulge and probably the most intensive, the last twitching of Hitler’s army and Lou, close to very cold Bastogne, could, in spite of three injuries, return home with three Purple Hearts and a the Bronze Star. The casualties of the 101st Airborne Division 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. Lou and his dear wife Jane got nine children and we had the luck to meet them in Florida and became friends. (see About) Because of his lung problems Louis couldn’t make it to Holland in 1994 for the fiftieth anniversary of Market Garden anymore, but still lived for 12 more years with his children and grandchildren.
Death and burial ground Merlano, Louis Philip “Lou”.
Corporal Louis Merlano, three Purple Hearts, who gave me a piece of his original D-Day parachute , died of lung cancer on 24-06-2006, age 82 and found a proud resting place on the National Cemetery of Arlington, Section 64. We visited his grave in Mai 2010 and gave him our respect, a great, pleasant man.
Above Lou with Cornelius Ryan and McAuliffe. Lou with Mark Bando, 101 AB historian.