World War II - Set. Eugene C. Deibler - Part Two
“I flew twenty-one times as a paratrooper, and I never landed in a plane during any of those flights”. Those are the words of World War II veteran, Sgt. Eugene C. Deibler.
My conversation continues this week with Eugene aka Doc. That’s how he was introduced to me by Carl Hamm a US Army veteran who served during the Vietnam era as a Vietnamese Crypto-Linguist. After the war Eugene became a dentist and that’s when people started calling him Doc and he said it just stuck.
After basic training in Toccoa Georgia, he moved on to Fort Benning for jump training. After a broken ankle and recovery, Eugene successfully made the five required qualification jumps to become a paratrooper and then moved on to Camp Mackall. Right after News Years 1944, Eugene loaded on liberty ship George Goebbels, which was at the end of the one hundred ship convoy. The seas were rough for much of the ten-day journey which landed them in Glasgow, Scotland. The 501 would join the 101 Airborne on January 30, 1944.
Eugene recalls being in Newburn, England where they went back in training and learned among other things house to house fighting. There was a two-week stay in Southern England to prepare for D-day and on June 4th Headquarters Company was taken to the airfield, excessive rain caused a one-day delay, and at 10:30 pm the following night they took off. As the clouds began to clear the anti-aircraft fire was heavy. Company G lost two planes. During basic training, Eugene was in Company G, and if he had remained, he would have been in one of the two Company G planes that were shot down.
There were twelve guys in Eugene’s company that never got hit throughout the war and he was one of them.
Eugene reflected on the hard facts of the war: that during World War II over 16 million Americans served. 405,399 were killed in action, 671,278 were wounded and 130,201 Americans were prisoners of war, of which 116,129 returned home after the war.
Eugene shared many interesting stories about his time of service, he recounted his one and only encounter with General George S. Patton. Eugene was on guard as General Patton was approaching. Patton was standing; he was wearing his well know ivory-handled revolvers. Eugene saluted, and General Patton returned.
As the war was coming to an end and Eugene returned to England he did an interesting thing. He had saved his reserve parachute and he sent it home to his fiancée, Mary Smith.
Eugene C. Deibler received his Honorable Discharge on December 17, 1945. He was excited to get back home and see his Mary. It was a great homecoming, and he was very excited to see Mary. He was excited because he knew that his sweet Mary said she would be his wife after he returned from the war. The wedding was planned, and he got home just in time, and to his great surprise, Mary had taken the reserve parachute material to a local seamstress who created a stylish yet straightforward six-tier wedding dress.
Eugene and Mary did get married and were together for more than 60 years. Eugene would become a Dentist and known as “Doc” and practice for 35 years. A striking painting of Mary hangs in his home: it was painted when Mary was 40. With sentimental reflection and a glance toward the painting he said she was beautiful inside and out.
Doc said, “The military turned me into a man, they gave me the ability to take care of myself, and my wife, she always supported me, she was never against me and that made me feel good”
Doc donated Mary’s wedding dress to the Airborne museum. Denise Wald, the museum’s collections manager confirmed that it is the only parachute wedding dress in their collections.
Doc continues to have a remarkably active life, our visit was full of many stories we don’t have time to tell now, including his love and performance of music. Doc played the trombone from the age of 15-87.
Well done Sgt. Eugene C Deibler, better known as Doc to his friends.