Private First Class
Raymond Anthony Szwak

September 26, 1926 - March 24, 1945

Camden, New Jersey - Wesel, Germany

 


RAYMOND ANTHONY SZWAK was born in Camden NJ on September 26, 1926.

He was a student when he entered the Army on 3 June of 1943. He most likely lied about his age to join, as his enlistment card states he was born in 1925 while he was 16 when he joined.

He volunteered for the parachute infantry and received training at Fort Eustace VA, Camp McCain MS, and Fort Benning GA.

Raymond joined the 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 17th Airborne Division.

The 17th Airborne Division departed the Boston Port of Embarkation on 20 August 1944.

 


 


513th Parachute Infantry Regiment

17th Airborne Division
 

The 513th PIR arrived in England under the command of Colonel James W Coutts who was formerly the assistant commandant of the Fort Benning Parachute School. The regiment was then shuttled to Camp Chisledon, the 17th Airborne Division staging area, on August 28, 1944. Flight and tactical training continued and night maneuvers were added to the training schedule. When Operation Market Garden was initiated, the 17th Airborne was still in training and was held in strategic reserve.

Although meant to conduct Airborne operations, the 513th found itself receiving their baptism of fire is an unexpected way. On 16 December 9144 the Germans launched the Ardennes offensive. Elements of the 17th Airborne, including the 513th were flown into France to stem the German advance.

From 23 to 25 December, elements of the Division were flown to the Reims area in France in spectacular night flights then hastily trucked into Belgium. Meanwhile, Patton's Third U.S. Army had finally broken the siege at Bastogne with a marathon thrust from the south. Upon arriving the 513th PIR and the other elements of the 17th Airborne Division were attached to Patton's Third U.S. Army and ordered to immediately close in at Mourmelon. After taking over the defense of the Meuse River sector from Givet to Verdun on 25 December, the 17th moved to Neufchateau, Belgium, then marched through the snow to Morhet, relieving the 28th Infantry Division on 3 January 1945 and establishing a Division Command Post.

In the ensuing days, the 513th PIR would gain their baptism of fire that would have tested the mettle of the most experienced airborne units.

In early February 1945, the tide of battle was such as to enable an accurate estimate as to when and where the 2nd British Army would be ready to force a crossing of the Rhine River. It was determined that the crossing would be in conjunction with an airborne operation by XVIII Airborne Corps.

The sector selected for the assault was in the vicinity of Wesel, just north of the Ruhr, on 24 March 1945. Operation Varsity would be the last full scale airborne drop of World War II and the assignment went to the British 6th Airborne Division and the 17th Airborne Division. The 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion was also part of the attacking forces.

This would be the last full scale airborne operation of the war and the first combat jump for the 513th PIR. As General Eisenhower watched the operation from a church tower on the west side of the Rhine the 513th had the misfortune of flying over a concentration of German antiaircraft weapons. Two-thirds of the C-46's were either damaged or in flames. The pilots remained with the aircrafts until the troopers jumped. However, the 513th landed in the wrong area in the midst of the heavily fortified town of Hamminkeln. Irregardless, the 513th began conducting frontal assaults on the heavily entrenched German positions as British gliders started to land practically on top of them. By mid-afternoon on 24 March 1945 the 513th had secured all of its objectives including the capture of 1,100 German prisoners.

Private Raymond Szwak was killed in action during airborne operations near Wesel Germany on March 24, 1945.  The exact circumstances of his death are unknown.He was survived by his parents, a brother, Stephen, and a sister, Eleanore.

Pfc Raymond Szwak is buried at Margraten American Military Cemetery, Plot D Row 19 Grave 4.


Margraten, The Netherlands

See also:

Other casualties of the 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Sources and Acknowledgements:
www.ww2-airborne.us
American Battlefield Monument Commission
The National Archives

Phil Cohen for the use of Raymond's picture (www.dvrbs.com)

Directions to Margraten American Military Cemetery

Posted 24 May 2006

If you have any suggestions, comments or additional information, please contact me.

This website is dedicated to the men and women who died and/or are buried in The Netherlands during World War II.

 

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