Peters, George Joseph, born 1924, in Cranston, Rhode Island, one of seven children born to Portuguese immigrants in Cranston, Rhode Island, George had three sisters and three brothers. George was a kind, unassuming young man who lovingly teased his mother and looked after his younger sisters. He was the only one of the children who enjoyed helping his father tend the family’s backyard garden. At the time he was believed to be in love with a neighborhood girl. George did not attend high school but went to work at the Cranston Print Works when he finished classes at Hugh B. Bain School in Cranston. Going to and from work he often witnessed tearful goodbyes in front of the local police station as groups of young draftees departed for military service. Peters was drafted in 1943 and, after having seen many a tearful goodbye in Cranston, decided to go to the Providence train station for his trip to begin his military service. During his basic training George volunteered to be a paratrooper.
When George returned to Cranston after completing his airborne training at Fort Benning, Georgia, his family was surprised to see he was wearing his paratrooper jump boots as part of his uniform. According to his sister Isabelle, “George hated heights and was nervous on a roller coaster.” The young paratrooper assured his family that his additional monthly $10.00 jump pay provided him with more money to send home to them. By 24-03-1945 George was serving as a private in Company G, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 17th Airborne Division. “Golden Talons” under command of William Maynadier “Bud” Miley,
as a Brigadier General, who commanded the 17th Airborne Division for the entirety of its activation. Casualties during their European campaign, total battle casualties 6.745, killed in action: 1,191, wounded in action: 4.904, missing in action: 224 and prisoners of war 426.
Peters shipped out for duty in Europe as a member of the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment under command of Colonel George Van “Aip”. Millett. of the 17th Airborne Division. Plans for an Allied airborne assault (Operation Varsity) into Germany had been in the works since the end of the Battle of the Bulge in January of 1945. The airborne drops would be combined with the simultaneous crossing of the Rhine River by the Allied forces to gain a foothold for the final push to Berlin. On the morning of March 24-03-1945, approximately 10,000 American and British soldiers headed to Germany. It would be the last major airborne operation of World War II and the first for the 17th Airborne whose divisional motto was “Down to Earth.” Colonel “Aip” Millett survived the war and died 08-11-1955, age 51 in Germany. The Battle of the Bulge, also known as the Ardennes Offensive, was the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II. The battle lasted for five weeks from 16 December 1944 to 28-01-1945, towards the end of the war in Europe. It was launched through the densely forested Ardennes region between Belgium and Luxembourg. It overlapped with the Alsace Offensive, subsequently the Colmar Pocket, another series of battles launched by the Germans in support of the Ardennes thrust.
On that day, 24-03-1945, his unit was dropped by parachute across the Rhine river near Flüren, suburb of Wesel, Germany. Immediately upon landing, Peters single-handedly attacked a German machine gun emplacement which was firing on his group. Joseph succeeded in destroying the position despite being mortally wounded during his advance. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor eleven months later, on 08-02-1946.
Death and burial ground of Peters, Joseph George.
Private George Peters, age 21, a platoon radio operator with Company G, “nicknamed “Raff’s Ruffians” motto “Down to Earth” under command of Colonel Edson Duncan Raff
made a descent into Germany near Fluren, east of the Rhine. With 10 others, he landed in a field about 75 yards from a German machinegun supported by riflemen, and was immediately pinned down by heavy, direct fire. The position of the small unit seemed hopeless with men struggling to free themselves of their parachutes in a hail of bullets that cut them off from their nearby equipment bundles, when Private Peters stood up without orders and began a 1-man charge against the hostile emplacement armed only with a rifle and grenades. His single-handed assault immediately drew the enemy fire away from his comrades. He had run halfway to his objective, pitting rifle fire against that of the machinegun, when he was struck and knocked to the ground by a burst. Heroically, he regained his feet and struggled onward. Once more he was torn by bullets, and this time he was unable to rise. With gallant devotion to his self-imposed mission, he crawled directly into the fire that had mortally wounded him until close enough to hurl grenades which knocked out the machinegun, killed 2 of its operators, and drove protecting riflemen from their positions into the safety of a woods. By his intrepidity and supreme sacrifice, Private Peters saved the lives of many of his fellow soldiers and made it possible for them to reach their equipment, organize, and seize their first objective.The 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment was shipped home to the United States and inactivated in September 1945.
On the same day that Private Peters died, 24-03-1945, another American paratrooper gave his life in action “above and beyond the call of duty.” Private First Class Stuart Statton Stryker
of Company E, 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 17th Airborne Division, company E under command of Colonel James Winfield Coutts from Portland, Oregon led an attack by his platoon which had been pinned down by heavy fire from a strongly defended building held by the enemy. Stryker, age 20, was killed 25 yards from the objective, but his courage and initiative provided a diversion which allowed other elements of his Company to seize the building, capture 200 enemy soldiers and free three American airmen who had been held prisoner by the Germans. Colonel Coutts survived the war and died age 86 on 01-07-1996.
By the time World War II was over in Europe, the 17th Airborne had suffered 6,292 killed and wounded, almost double the daily combat average of any American Airborne division. It also had the most recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor (four).
George Joseph Peters was buried at the Netherlands American Cemetery, in Margraten, the Netherlands. Section G- Row 17- Grave 8
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