During World War II, the Army’s 45th Infantry Division, one of the most racially integrated units of the era, entered into battle wearing on their shoulders the image of the Thunderbird, a supernatural entity said to protect humans from spirits Evil and take revenge on their moral enemies The Thunderbird is made up of a disparate group of Native Americans, Mexican Americans and Southwestern cowboys, and has become known as one of the most combative combat groups in the war
Premiering Veterans Day, a new series on Netflix that tells the story of this popular section that fought across Sicily, Italy, France and Germany Based on a book by Alex Kershaw, « The Editor » depicts how thunderbirds tumbled through more than 500 days of fighting in less Two years ago, causing heavy losses to the Axis forces while incurring nearly 10,500 casualties during the course of the war
In addition to their impressive war experience, what distinguished the squad were three of its regiments – the 157th, 179th and 180th Regiment, made up of mostly young men from Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Oklahoma – who brought in Mexican Americans and at least 1,500 Native Americans. From 50 tribes together as a combat unit
A cross between « Band of Brothers » and A Scanner Darkly, the four-part mini-series uses animation to tell the real-life story of Felix Sparks, the company leader who ultimately rose through the ranks of the band, and the experiences of fictional Sgt. Samuel Coldfoot and Corporal Abel Gomez, two compound stances of Native American and Mexican soldiers, respectively, who made up the bulk of Thunderbird.
“The two characters are based on the many people in my book,” says Kershaw, author of The Liberator: One World War II Soldier for 500 Days of Odyssey from the shores of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau. “When you see it, you often look at a citizen Native American and Mexican American You are looking at a different ethnic dimension of WWII «
The series and book sheds light on the truly powerful and remarkable drama of the 45th General George S. Patton considers the Thunderbirds « one of the best, if not the best, division in American arms history »
Jay Priestia, a native of Pennsylvania, joined the Thunderbird Division before leaving in 1943 for North Africa, the staging ground for the conquest of Sicily. The 45 played an important role in the campaign as part of Patton’s 7th Army, where he encountered fierce resistance against Hermann’s division Goering, a Nazi Panzer force After the conquest of Sicily, Priestia participated in the amphibious landings at Salerno and Anzio on the Italian mainland. Bloody battles took the lives of several Thunderbird men as they tried to push inland towards Rome
In May 1944, a Choctaw sergeant named Van Parfoot took out three machine gun nests and captured 17 German soldiers. Later in the day, Barefoot counterattacked three Nazi tanks by destroying the main vehicle with a bazooka for these exploits. Honor is in Congress and was also commissioned as Second Lieutenant
Priestia, now 98 years old, recalls: “I was not far from him” “It was near Carano in Italy Barfoot did a lot that day”
A few days later, Salvador C. As Lara showed the courage that earned him the Medal of Honor, he led a Mexican-American squad of his rifle in several assaults on German strongholds, resulting in large numbers of casualties. In one of the attacks, Lara seriously injured his leg but did not stop until the goal was complete
Written in Alex Kershaw’s trademark narration engine and spirited instant, The Liberator traces the fascinating battle journey of U-s army officer Felix Sparks during the Allied liberation of Europe – from the first landing in Italy to the last throes of death of the Third Reich
Sparks takes center stage in « The Liberator », the heroic second lieutenant, was awarded the Silver Star for his bravery, and was one of only two men from his unit to return to the Allied lines after being interrupted by the Germans at Anzio at a later time, as commander of the E Company in the 157th Infantry Regiment. Sparks’ leadership talent was demonstrated in how he dealt with his Mexican American subordinates After growing up in Arizona, Sparks witnessed firsthand the intolerance that afflicted many Latinos.
“He told me that they were treated like second-class citizens and there was terrible discrimination,” says Kershaw. “Before Sparks fought a battle in Salerno, he worried would they die for a country that treats them this way? After the first day of battle, he was so proud that they are They were great soldiers. ”
After Italy, the 45th Division went to France, where it participated in its fourth amphibious landing of the war at St Maxim Thunderbirds continued to push the Germans to their borders with the liberation of many towns and cities and breach of the Maginot Line.
The forty-fifth line broke through the Siegfried line and entered Germany in March 1945 the unit fought in the battles of Aschaffenburg and Nuremberg, then orders were issued at the end of April to establish a beehive line for Berchtesgaden in the hope of arresting Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in his retreat in the Alps along the way. Unit by turning to a place called Dachau
“We didn’t know what that was,” said Dan Dougherty, 95, who joined the Thunderbirds right after the Battle of Bulge. “We weren’t told about the concentration camps the only thing they warned us about was lice.”
“Entering was a terrible experience,” he recalls, “We came along a long train of transport wagons full of meager corpses. It stunned everyone”
In Dachau, Sparks, who was then ahead, truly became a troop legend. They really liked him for his sympathy and ferocity as a commander but worshiped him after he stood before a superior officer for assaulting a soldier
Major General Henning Linden led the 42nd Division to Dachau around the same time as Sparks did as commander of 3rd Battalion with the 157th Regiment When the two units met inside the Grand Camp, Linden tried to take control of the situation – and grabbed the headlines as editor Sparks had none, he told his boss He received orders to close his part of the concentration camp, then the Lieutenant Colonel ordered one of the soldiers to accompany the general out of their area.
“Linden took his riding crop and woke up the soldier on the helmet,” Kershaw says. “Sparks told me it wasn’t that hard but he pulled out his gun and pointed to the general’s head and said, ‘Touch another of my men and I’ll kill you (expletive) here now. God to his men after that. ”
Sparks was finally relieved of command of his regiment, but by that time, the war was nearly over and the serious fighting was nearly over. Sparks later moved to college under the command of Gene. Bill became a lawyer, eventually serving as a judge on the Colorado Supreme Court. / p>
Sparks, who died in 2007, was deeply moved by his time with the Thunderbirds. He became a civil rights advocate and spoke a lot against racism of any kind. He also stood up to the Holocaust deniers and angrily told them about what he saw
“I worship this man like everyone else from WWII,” says Kershaw, “I admire him and respect him for his toughness, resilience, spirit, love, immense humanity, and tenderness. He was an American working-class hero I had never encountered before My life he’s been a kicking warrior who led Mexican Americans, Native Americans, poor cowboys and kids who have nothing about them into an amazing fighting team that defeated Nazism «
Priestia was also impressed with Sparks’ interest in others, especially the soldiers working under him. He recalls one incident in France when a regiment commander put his life on the line for his men. Several soldiers were wounded by the Germans, and Sparks went to the line of fire to drive them
Priestia recalls: “He was in the open.” “Across the square there was a submachine gun. They put it in their eyes. The German commander said to his soldiers:“ Don’t shoot that man. Anyone with that kind of courage to pull his soldiers to safety, no Shoot anyone like that
Like Thunderbird, the Liberator himself was a force for good against evil spirits
David Kennedy is a journalist, freelance writer, and book reviewer based in Plymouth, Massachusetts who writes on history, culture, and other topics for Air & Space, military history, World War II, Vietnam, aviation history, Providence magazine and other publications and websites
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World News – California – Real history for « The Editor » on Netflix
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