written by Todd DePastinoPatches for the 319th Glider Field Artillery 'All the Way'I got to know Bill Bonnamy on our 2018 WWII Battlefield of Europe, where we traveled from Paris and Normandy, through Holland, Luxembourg, and Belgium, ending at the Eagle’s Nest above Berchtesgaden in Bavaria–the “Band of Brothers” route.

Bill joined us, in part, to trace the footsteps of his father, William M. Bonnamy, who served in the 319th Glider Field Artillery, a unit of the 82nd Airborne Division. The 319th had a seemingly impossible mission: to deliver and fire big guns brought into battle on wooden glider planes.

The 319th held the distinction as the first U.S. Airborne artillery unit to fire against and engage the enemy. The 319th and its sister battalion, the 320th, were the only glider field artillery units to make two glider assaults behind enemy lines during the Second World War.

WWII portrait of William M. Bonnamy, Sr., member of the 319th Glider Field Artillery

William M. Bonnamy, Sr. in Class A uniform with European-African-Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon with 1 Silver and 1 Bronze Battle Stars (Courtesy 319Gliderman)

On the tour, as we stopped in museums filled with WWII trucks, tanks, planes and other equipment, Bill taught me about the CG-4A Waco and British Horsa gliders used by the 319th: unique, large, plywood aircraft designed to transport a variety of military equipment, including howitzers, jeeps, ammunition, and personnel.

Towed by C-47 transport planes, these gliders silently glided into enemy territory, a mode of transport fraught with danger, leading some to quip that “the combat glider was the only aircraft built to crash.”

Since our tour in 2018, Bill has built a most remarkable website that serves both as tribute to the men who fought in the 319th Glider Field Artillery and a unique historical repository of records, stories, photographs, and artifacts about this unusual unit.

William M. Bonnamy served in the 319th’s A-Battery. His wartime journey started at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, in October 1942. After rigorous training, the unit shipped out to Casablanca, Morocco, in May 1943, experiencing the first taste of combat during enemy air raids in Algeria and Tunisia.

The 319th’s combat debut occurred in the mountainous Chiunzi Pass, overlooking the Amalfi coast, Naples, and Mt. Vesuvius. The unit played a crucial role in cutting supply lines to German troops at the Salerno beachhead. The battalion then entered Naples, engaged the enemy at the Volturno River, and returned to Naples for occupation duties.

After training in Ireland and a move to England in February 1944, the 319th Glider Field Artillery participated in the perilous D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944, executing a nighttime glider assault into Normandy as part of Mission Elmira. Subsequent operations included a daylight glider assault for “Operation Holland,” combat in the Battle of the Bulge, and intense fighting in the Hurtgen Forest.

The unit’s valor extended to operations in the city of Cologne and a significant link-up with Soviet troops across the Elbe River. As the war drew to a close, the 319th Glider Field Artillery played a role in liberating the concentration camp at Wobbelin, ensuring a proper and decent burial for 200 victims amid the horrors of Nazi atrocities.

The 319th Glider Field Artillery’s journey, marked by sacrifice, courage, and resilience, reflects the broader experiences of countless unsung heroes of World War II. Bill Bonnamy’s desire to share these stories honors the sacrifices of those who served, ensuring that their legacy lives on with each retelling of their remarkable and harrowing tale.

In the coming weeks. we’ll be sharing some of the great stories and artifacts Bill has collected and analyzes on his website.