506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division
Plot E, Row 14, Grave 44
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.
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.
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.