Who Are the Screaming Eagles?

These two men, members of the 101st Airborne—also known as the “Screaming Eagles”—are preparing for D-Day before leaving England. Now maintained at the U.S. National Archives, the photo was taken by a member of the U.S. Signal Corps. Its original caption states:  “Pvt. Clarence C. Ware [of San Pedro, California] gives a last second touch to Pvt. Charles R. Plaudo [of Minneapolis, Minnesota]; make-up patterned after the American Indians. Somewhere in England.” Image online via the US National Archives; National Archives / ARC Identifier 5957435.


With a 70% chance of being killed, as they paved the way for ground action, paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division had a “Rendezvous with Destiny,” to use the words of their first commander, Major General William C. Lee.

These paratroopers, whose stories were told in the HBO series “Band of Brothers,” were called-upon to do some of the most-dangerous work of the war in Europe.

Their official history contains these words:

The 101st continued training in England until D-day, 6 June 1944, when its pathfinders became the first Americans to set foot in occupied France.

Following them, the Screaming Eagles parachuted into Normandy and cleared the way for the 1st and 4th Infantry Divisions at Omaha and Utah beaches. After 33 days of continuous fighting, including a bitter battle for the town of Carentan, the 101st returned to England to prepare for future airborne operations.

On 17 September 1944, the 101st jumped into Holland during Operation “Market Garden.” Holding a narrow corridor 16 miles long, through enemy territory, from Eindhoven to Grave, the division fought against heavy odds for ten days. The division then continued its role in the liberation of Holland, spending a total of 72 days in combat.

In November 1944, the 101st returned to France for a well-deserved rest, only to be called to action again in the Battle of the Bulge. While defending the critical transportation hub of Bastogne, Belgium, the 101st was surrounded by advancing enemy forces who demanded immediate surrender.

The acting division commander, Brigadier General Anthony C. McAuliffe, made history with his classic reply, “Nuts!” The siege was broken on 26 December 1944, but the fighting continued until 18 January 1945.

After moving through Alsace and the Ruhr Valley, the 101st captured Hitler’s mountain retreat at Berchtesgaden. On 30 November 1945, eight months after the German surrender, the Screaming Eagles were inactivated.

Why do you think the paratroopers, of the 101st Airborne, were known as “Screaming Eagles?”

What does that name mean to you?

What would it be like to do a job knowing the risk of death was seventy percent? How would you prepare yourself to face such a difficult task?

On the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Tom Rice—a 97-year-old D-Day paratrooper—made another jump over Normandy. Why do you think he did that?

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