SDBB – Two Special Observances of Memorial Day Weekend, 2017 – Part #2

For those of you who have enjoyed Part #1, we expect you will enjoy Part #2 equally.

By Bill Wheeler

 George B Tullidge, III

George Bowler Tullidge, III, was born on January 22, 1924 in San Francisco, CA, the son of George Tullidge and Anne Archer Hogshead.  By age one, he and his family had moved to Richmond, VA; and one afternoon he awoke from a nap and could not use his right arm.  He was diagnosed with Polio, the family was placed in quarantine, and precautions were taken to protect the other children in the apartment building.  After several months, the disease did not spread and George was able to use his atrophied right arm.  Shortly after getting out of quarantine, the family moved to Staunton, VA.

His parents encouraged George to participate in as many sports as possible and he attended “Buck” Pitt’s camp several summers as Counselor.  He attended Staunton Military Academy for the last 2 years of high school.  While at SMA, he met a young man named Peter Fick, who was on the swim team.  Peter encouraged 12-year old George to practice with the team and in May 1936, Mr. and Mrs. Tullidge drove Peter and George to the Olympic Trails in Washington DC.  Peter entered George in a Freestyle event.  That summer, Peter swam for the US Olympic team in Berlin and he went on to become a great swimmer.

George had to compensate for his atrophied right arm in the swimming pool and found that he competed best in the Backstroke and Freestyle.  His parents drove him to AAU and regional swimming events through out the Mid Atlantic states in which George continuously set records. Swimming was not his only passion, he also focused on church, its youth group, his two younger brothers, and he became an Eagle Scout.  George entered Virginia Polytechnic Institute (now Virginia Tech) in 1941 where he joined the swim team and was a member of the Cadet Corp.  On February 6, 1942, Duke held a joint varsity and Freshmen swim meet against VPI. Newspaper headlines stated “Six pool marks shattered in Duke Meet.” Duke’s varsity out swam VPI, but the VPI freshman distanced themselves from Duke’s Blue Imps 37-22.  Tullidge won the 100 yard backstroke in a new pool record of 1:05.  He also helped the 150 yard medley Relay Team set a pool record of 1:26.

During the winter of his Sophomore year, George struggled with fellow cadets going off to war and decided to enlist in the Army in January 1943.  He graduated from Paratroopers’ School and was assigned to the 507th Paratrooper Infantry Regiment (PIR) of the 82nd Airborne Division.  George was sent to the United Kingdom to train.  While there, his mother sent him a small handwritten notebook of Bible verses, poems and uplifting quotes.  George shared this booklet with some fellow soldiers and mentioned it in a May 10, 1944 letter home to his brother, Tommy:

“… I just know and pray that you will turn out to be the kind of boys Mother and Dad are teaching you to be …”

“Another thing that has helped me a lot is my firm belief in the Lord. Often times when I feel depressed and blue it does me an awful lot food to read my Bible and a little book that Mother sent me…”

The 507th PIR’s D-Day mission was to assist the 505th PIR take the Mederet River at La Fiere, and advance to the western flank in St Mere Eglise.  This town had been occupied by the Germans since June 1940 and was in a strategic location for access to 2 beaches on Normandy (Omaha and Utah).  On June 6, 1944, around 1 am, members of the 505th began to drop into Normandy.  Low clouds prevented a lot of the C47s carrying the paratroopers to miss their marks by miles. A home next to a church in St Mere Eglise caught fire and illuminated the skies, which alerted the Germans.  They shot many of the paratroopers before they made it to the ground.  2,400 paratroopers from the 507th descended on their mission around 2:30 AM.  Tullidge successfully made his jump, and his next few hours were recounted by George Slosson, a fellow soldier in paratroopers’ school:

About an hour after we landed, George and I met each other near a small farmhouse.  10 minutes later we were fired upon by a German Sniper almost hitting us both.  The sniper was not alone, so we tried to outflank them but ran into all kinds of machine gun fire.  (Our officers) told us to set up positions.  It was hard for us believe we were in combat.   The Germans began shelling out positions so we had to move.  We walked down a road and onto a railroad track.  A Colonel called us out to come help his unit.  George went up a bank to get on a (Le Fiere Bridge) a bridge … I went on the other side of the tracks.  Tullidge took up a machine gun position and helped hold off the Germans.  Later I found out George had been wounded in the right hip and evacuated to a field hospital, but only Tullidge refused to withdraw until the enemy had been routed.  On June 8, 1944, Sergeant Tullidge died from his wound and was buried at Cambridge American Cemetery, England.

Mrs. Tullidge’s grief over her son’s death and love, led to her publishing and distributing over 300,000 copies of “A Paratroopers Faith” for 50 years.  The small booklet was a printed version of the notebook she sent George in England..  In 1989, she received a “Decoration for Distinguished Civilian Service” from the Pentagon for her dedication to her moral support of soldiers. Today at Fort Bragg, NC, there is a road named Tullidge Way in honor of George Tullidge.

*************************************

References

  1. Polio to Paratrooper by Anne Tullidge
  2. Camp Virginia notes and WWII Memorial
  3. Sainte Mere Eglise – US Paratroopers WWII
  4. BE – 507th PIR
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