An 82nd Airborne Division legend was recently laid to rest.
The life, valor and accomplishments of retired Army 1st Sgt. Harold Eatman were celebrated during his funeral services held July 11 at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Charlotte, North Carolina. Eatman died in the first week of July 2018 at the age of 102.
“Today we celebrate the life and remember a true hero and we pray he is soon welcomed into the arms of our heavenly Father,” said Fr. Christopher Roux, the Pastor of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral during Eatman’s funeral service.
Eatman was a member of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment and participated in the regiment’s four combat jumps into Sicily, Salerno, Normandy and Holland during World War II. He volunteered for the Army in early 1942 after learning of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and served his first tour of duty in Hawaii. There, he reenlisted to join the newly forming paratroop units and was assigned to the 505th PIR.
“Paratroopers of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team follow in the footsteps of legends like 1st Sgt. Eatman,” said Col. Arthur Sellers, Commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, the parent unit of the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 505th PIR. “Men and women of the Panther Brigade proudly carry on his legacy by remaining ready to answer our nation’s call to jump, fight and win on any drop zone in the world.”
In 2015, Eatman and six other WWII veterans received the French Legion of Honor, the highest decoration bestowed in France. He was also the recipient of the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart.
“Greater love has no man, that he would lay down his life and he [Eatman] was willing to do it,” said Roux, quoting a passage from the Bible. “Our country recognizes him as a hero and I suspect heaven recognizes him as a hero, too, because he lived those words of sacred scripture.”
Today, we honor the 75th Anniversary of the 505th PIR and 307th AEB’s first Star of Valor – Operation Husky. On 9 July 1943, at 1930 hours, the first of 226 planes carrying the paratroopers departed their airfields in Tunisa enroute to Sicily. There, they would conduct the first regimental-sized combat parachute jump in U.S. Army History.
Due to many factors, most of the paratroopers missed their assigned drop zones and the regiment was widely scattered. Throughout the night and well into July 10th, 505th PIR and 307th AEB paratroopers wreaked havoc on their enemies while fighting towards “Objective Y;” a series of 16 concrete pillboxes. Of the 3407 paratroopers of the 505th PIR who jumped, 424 were wounded or killed by the end of Operation Husky.
On the ground, the paratroopers fought with tenacity and aggressiveness. Their training in small unit tactics, eagerness to close with the enemy and universal understanding of the mission resulted in success.
Of Operation Husky, Gen. Gavin wrote “Here, in Sicily, he [Paratroopers] proved the hard way that vertical envelopment at night was feasible and almost impossible to stop, that the American trooper has the mental and physical courage to try anything, asking and expecting no odds.”
Take time today to learn more about Operation Husky. The heritage of the American Paratrooper, one you are building today, rests on the foundation laid by these brave Troopers.