filthy 13

The Filthy Thirteen


The Filthy 13: The 101st Airborne Division’s Most Legendary Squad

On June 5th, 1944 the US Army Signal Corps filmed of a group of paratroopers with Mohawks and war paint. They were part of a new division called the “Screaming Eagles”, untried but ready for combat, and their unit was “The Filthy 13”, part of the 101st Airborne division’s, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment’s Demolitions Platoon. Their Mohawks were the idea of Private Jake McNiece who shaved his head to keep away body lice, but told the men it was part of his Native American culture, as he was part Choctaw.


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Filthy 13 member  Tommy Lonergan suited up before the parachute drop into Normandy.

The Filthy 13 were said to be full blooded Native Americans, steeped in warrior culture or convicts on parole for a suicide mission. There were none of these, but were tough men who didn’t follow orders and caused mayhem on base. They were the best men at what they did.

On D-day, the Filthy 13 jumped with the 506th’s 3rd Battalion with additional men from the 101st’s engineer regiment, the 326th. Their mission was to land south of Vierville and head to the bridges at Le Port at the mouth of the River Douve and blow or hold the bridges against a German counterattack.

The 101st Airborne Division began their jump into France at 11:45pm on the night of June 5th. The C-47 transport plane carrying the Filthy 13 was hit before the drop zone and the men started to jump as the plane lost altitude. They were scattered in an area between Montebourg and St. Come du Mont, getting out before their airplane exploded.


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Chuck Plauda applies war paint to Clarence Ware

By 3am on D-day, scattered members of the Filthy 13 and other men separated from their unit who had joined them reached the Douve River. The paratroopers set demolition charges on the bridges and waited for the German attack. The Germans came at them but the Americans held out. They were cut off from communications with US lines but were joined by other lost paratroopers who were attracted by the sounds of battle. On the third day, P-51 Mustangs came and bombed the bridges, unaware it was in American hands, then strafed the paratroopers.

With the bridge destroyed, the mission of the Filthy 13 was finished, but they continued to hold the line for another two days. They then took part in the attack on Carentan and ended their time in Normandy guarding a defensive perimeter until they were sent back to England. Of the Filthy 13, six were sent back to England fit for duty, the rest being killed, wounded or captured.

In England, the Filthy 13 was reorganized and refit and jumped again into Holland. Many of its members served as pathfinders during the battle of the Bulge. Their story lived on in 101st Airborne legend and became the inspiration for the novel and later movie “The Dirty Dozen” starring Lee Marvin. In recent years, the Filthy 13 again gained fame with a resurgence of interest in the 101st Airborne following the Band of Brothers miniseries and the colorful stories of its surviving members.


Click on the text of picture if you are interested in purchasing:

The Filthy Thirteen: From the Dustbowl to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest – The True Story of the 101st Airborne’s Most Legendary Squad of Combat Paratroopers

Other books about The Filthy 13:

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