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The Normandy American Heroes Blog

World War Two, Normandy and More

American Hero: Dale R. Cocklin - 82nd Airborne Division Recorded Life as a Soldier in WWII

Posted by Rodolphe Passera on Jun 14, 2018 9:30:00 AM

 

  

Corporal Dale R. Cocklin was born in 1920. He came from Ohio and, at the age of 21, joined the US Army on March 16th, 1942 at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana. He was called “Bob,” as his middle name was Robert.

Bob took a lot of photos of himself and his friends during the war; the following picture was taken at Fort Benjamin Harrison.

 

He wrote on the back of the photo : “This is the top section of me and my dress suit. Looks like Rogues Gallery! Ft Benjamin Harrison

 

Bob was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division “All American” in April 1942, just after it was reactivated in March at Camp Claiborne Louisiana. The 82nd Airborne Division was initially called the 82nd Infantry Division and was under command of Major General Omar Bradley.

In August 1942, the Division was commanded by Major General Ridgway; it became the first Airborne Division in the history of the U.S. Army, and was redesignated as the 82nd Airborne Division.

Dale was assigned to the 80th AAA battalion (Airborne Anti-Aircraft Battalion) and he started his training at Camp Claiborne Louisiana.

 

 

Bob wrote on the back of this photo : “On the front of my tent in Camp Claiborne Louisiana”

In 1943 Bob and his comrades left Camp Claiborne to join the big camp, Fort Bragg in North Carolina. It was one of the largest military installation in the world with a population peak of 159,000 during the war. 

 

 

Fort Bragg in 1942

  

This photo was taken in Fort Bragg October 1942, Bob wrote on the back “Mallet cutting hair in our open air barber shop situated in front of our barracks”

 

In April 1943, after several month of hard training, some regiments of the 82nd Airborne Division were deployed to the Mediterranean Theater of Operation. Bob left the port of New York aboard one of the two ships: SS George Washington and SS Monterey. He landed at Casablanca in May 1943 and trained in North Africa to prepare the invasions of Sicily and Italy.

 

They finally arrived by landing craft in September 1943 at Maiori in Italy, the regiment moved to Naples and received a Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy. The regiment left Italy to Northern Ireland in November 1943 in order to start their training for the allied invasion of France, Operation Overlord.

 

 

Bob in Sicily in 1943

 

 

 

Bob and his friends of the 80th AAA battalion in Sicily in 1943

 

 

After several month of intense training in Northern Ireland, the battalion moved to England near Leicester on February 1944.

This will be the last stop before the Invasion of Normandy.

 

 

 

 

 

Mail for the 82nd Infantry Division in Leicester, England. Bob is the first man at the back of the truck.

  

Bob and his comrades left England on the evening of June 5th 1944, with British Horsa and American Waco gliders. They landed near Sainte Mère Eglise and took part in the battle for the town and La Fiere bridge area. The 80th AAA battalion was given assignments to support the 505th PIR, 325th GIR, 507th PIR and 508th PIR.

 

The regiment returned to England at the middle of July 1944 and were ready for their next mission, Operation Market Garden in Holland, on September 17th, 1944.

The 82nd Airborne Division left Holland for Camp Suippes in France on November 1944.

In December, Bob and the 80th AAA battalion arrived in Belgium for the battle of the Bulge; their objective was to protect the Allied lines in the Ardennes forests. It was very difficult for the soldiers. They suffered from the cold and a lack of supplies in this difficult land well known by the German troops.

 

 

 

82nd Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/82nd_Airborne_Division#/media/File:Tanks_and_Infantrymen_on_the_way.jpg)

 

Then the battalion with the 82nd Airborne continued to move along the Siegfried line; they went back in February 1945 to Camp Suippes in France.

At the beginning of April, they were sent to Germany, where one of their objective was to break up of defensive enemy positions on the East side of the Rhine river. 

 

 

This photo of Bob was taken in Epinal, France

  

The men were finally transferred to the 17th Airborne in July 1945 and were sent to Berlin as troops of occupation.

Bob and the 80th AAA battalion returned to the USA at the end of December 1945 and Bob continued his life.

  

Jerry Sykora was Bob’s friend, this picture was taken in Marseilles, France. It is written on the back : “Jerry Sykora on front porch of the building we stayed in outside of Marseilles France waiting to go home”

 

 

Bob is on the left

 

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