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William H. Atlee

506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division

Technician Fifth Class, U.S. Army

Entered the Service from:

Iowa

Died:

6/6/1944

Grave Location:

Plot E, Row 14, Grave 44

T/5 William H. Atlee's helmet.

Technician 5thClass William H. Atlee was an accountant from Iowa, born in 1914. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on September 24, 1942, and joined the 506thParachute Infantry Regiment, 101stAirborne Division, nicknamed the “Screaming Eagles.” Atlee had the distinction of being the nephew of Clement Attlee (the American side of the family spelled the surname differently), the deputy prime minister of Winston Churchill’s wartime coalition government and later Prime Minister of Great Britain. Clement Attlee was known to William as “Uncle Kermit” and while in England, the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Robert L. Wolverton, often gave William additional leave passes so that he could visit his uncle.

Atlee along with the rest of Lt. Col. Robert L. Wolverton's stick two days before the invasion.
On the evening of June 5, 1944, Atlee climbs on board C-47 'Stoy Hora' bound for Normandy.
The 506th Parachute Infantry Division. Atlee is the first man seen on the right (holding cigarette in mouth).

Like many parachute units on D-Day, Atlee and the 506th Parachute Regiment were dropped off-target. Atlee’s 3rdBattalion was scattered over a wide area. Just after the drop, Atlee and Technician 4thClass Joseph Gorenc ambushed several German soldiers on a horse and cart. In the firefight, the two troopers managed to kill the enemy unit. The two paratroopers eventually met up with a group from the 501stled by an officer. The officer ordered Atlee and Gorenc to scout ahead. As they left the field and started to cross a sunken road in Chemins de Campagne, they were hit by crossfire from a group of German paratroopers. Atlee was killed instantly.

On the night of June 5/6, Joseph Gorenc loads onto "Stoy Hora" for his last jump in Normandy. Atlee was also a crew member on "Stoy Hora" that night.
As they flew toward France on the night of June 5/6, 1944 every member of Wolverton's stick signed war correspondent Ward Smith's notebook. Atlee was among them.

Charles Destres, a local farmer, discovered Atlee’s body a day later. Destres covered the body with a blanket and took Atlee’s helmet to a U.S. Army graves registration unit.  The unit prepared Atlee’s body for burial with other troopers who had been killed in action. Atlee, SSgt. Paul Simrell, and 1stSgt. Jim Shirley, three friends from the same battalion, lay together in the field where they had been killed.

Awards: Purple Heart

William H. Atlee is buried in Normandy American Cemetery Plot E, Row 14, Grave 44.