A break between Fallschirmjägers and destiny

TEC5 Thomas “Red” O’Brien, C Company, 101st Infantry Regiment, 26th (Yankee) Division, getting a quick meal in while parked on a snowbank near Mecher, Luxembourg, 75 years ago yesterday.

Photo by TEC5 Arthur Hertz, 166th Signal Photo Company, for Stars and Stripes. Via LOC

O’Brien’s unit had been engaged with elements of the tough German 5. Fallschirmjäger-Division, fighting small unit actions in the snow for the past several days prior to this image being shot. Veterans of the 101st would refer to the Battle of the Bulge as “Our Valley Forge.”

Sadly, CPL. O’Brien was killed less than two weeks after this image was captured, on 25 January, by German sniper fire at a crossroad outside Clervaux, Luxembourg, aged 23. He was a native of Rhode Island but a Massachusetts resident when he volunteered in 1942 and is interred at the American Military Cemetery, Henri-Chapelle, Belgium.

The 101st, as was most of the 26th ID, hailed from New England, where they had previously served as a Massachusetts National Guard and state militia outfit dating back to the Civil War. While the regiment cased their colors in 1993, the 26th is still around as the 26th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade in the MARNG, headquartered at Natick.

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