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Brightwood Boys, The History of the Men from the North End of
Springfield, Massachusetts, During World War II
by Christopher P. Montagna



Pvt. Alexander Samol's unit, the 550th Glider Infantry Battalion had been undertaking  glider training in Sicily since their arrival in the ETO on May 10, 1944, having departed aboard a troopship that left the United States on April 21, 1944.  Their training was Alexander Samolabout to pay-off.  On August, 15, 1944, Alexander Samol and the men of the 550th underwent their baptism of fire as they participated in Operation Dragoon, the invasion of Southern France. 

Over ninety-four thousand troops and eleven thousand vehicles were landed on the first day. A number of German troops had been diverted to fight the Allied forces in Northern France after Operation Overlord (D-Day) and a major attack by French resistance fighters, helped drive the remaining German forces back from the beachhead in advance of the landing.  As a result, the Allied forces met little resistance as they moved inland. The quick success of this invasion, with a twenty-mile penetration in twenty-four hours, sparked a major uprising by resistance fighters in Paris.

The rapid retreat of the German Nineteenth Army resulted in swift gains for the Allied forces. The plans had envisaged greater resistance near the landing areas and under-estimated transport needs. The consequent need for vehicle fuel outstripped supply and this shortage proved to be a greater impediment to the advance than German resistance. As a result, several German formations escaped into the Vosges and Germany

In Glatton, England, Bert Sitek was preparing for his thirteenth bombing mission.   Suspicion has long been the norm for bomber crews.  And this number was not lost on Bert and his fellow crewmen.   The mission briefing on the morning of August 27, 1944 sent a wave of excitement through Bert Sitek and the aircrews of the 457th Bomb Group.  For the first time the squadron would be hitting the heart of the German third Reich, Berlin. 


All of the centers of aircraft production, engines, parts and final assembly in the area around Berlin were selected for bombing. The formations flew north over Denmark and the Baltic Sea, as if to strike at north German targets as was done two days prior. Upon nearing the Danish coast, the scouting force advised the Division Leader that because of weather conditions it was impossible to continue on the briefed course.   However, high clouds over Denmark forced the bombers of the 457th Bomb Group to return to Glatton without having dropped their bombs.  Bert completed his thirteen bombing mission without encountering a single enemy aircraft.