94. Ruth Kroese was born on 17 August 1928 in Pella community, rural Adams, Lancaster County, Nebraska. She is a twin with her sister, Ruby. She received her elementary education at the Pella Country School in rural Lancaster County, Nebraska. She graduated in 1945 from Panama High School in Panama, Lancaster County, Nebraska.
Ruth Kroese and Henry Richard Kleinendorst were married on 16 June 1950 in Pella community, rural Adams, Lancaster County, Nebraska. They started married life on a rented farm located one half mile south of 176th street and Panama road. They rented other farms in Nebraska and later relocated to the Prairie City, Jasper County, Iowa area where they operated a farm owned by is Aunt. They later owned and operated this farm until Dick's arthritis made it difficult for him. Then Dick enrolled in college and became an accountant. Henry Richard Kleinendorst39, son of Cornelius "Neal" Kleinendorst and Mary Catherine Vanderbeek, was born on 30 March 1918 in Monroe, Jasper County, Iowa. He graduated from Panama High School in Panama, Lancaster County, Nebraska. He died on 20 March 1986 at the age of 67 in Prairie City, Jasper County, Iowa. He died from injuries received in an auto accident. He was buried in Pella community, rural Adams, Lancaster County, Nebraska. Henry was a Farmer in the Panama, Lancaster County Nebraska area and later in Praire City, Jasper County Iowa area. . After his mother died when he was young in Prairie city, Iowa his father remarried and moved to Minnesota taking the four boys from his first marriage with him. Work was scarce, the father had the four boys sign up with the CCC (Community Conservation Corp.) and the money sent home to help support the family. After a while Henry Richard (Dick) tired of this arrangement, left the CCC and joined a traveling Carnival Troupe. The carnival troupe traveled from town to town in the Great Plains. Eventually they set up their tents in Princeton, Lancaster County, Nebraska. While there Dick called his uncle Henry Vanderbeek and asked if he would come and get him. He lived with his uncles and aunts in Nebraska from that time on. He desired a high school education and enrolled in the Panama, Nebraska High School and completed the four year program in two years and graduated with his class. He lived with Bill and Edith Prange, his uncle and aunt, while attending high school. He supported himself by hiring out as a carpenter and farm laborer.
When World War II started he enlisted in the United States Army. He was selected to go to OCS(Officer Candidate School), graduated and volunteered for service in the United States Army Airborne. The United States Army had strict standards for the Airborne units being established at the beginning of World War II. All Officers and Enlisted Men assigned to the Airborne units would be on a volunteer basis and with only a few exceptions it was required they be unmarried. All volunteers were carefully screened, only those of above average intelligence and able to pass the physical fitness exam were accepted. All volunteers were personally interviewed by Regimental and/or Battalion staff before being finally accepted. Officers and Enlisted Men went through the same training. If you were not able to complete any part of the training program you were immediately released from the unit and sent to the regular Army. Three of every five enlisted persons that started Airborne training did not graduate and continue with the Airborne unit. The 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team was activated March 15, 1943 and was a part of the 17th Airborne Corp. Henry was accepted and assigned to First Battalion, Company B, 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team when it was activated at the famous Airborne basic training center at Camp Toccoa Georgia. The 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team and other Airborne units trained as a unit and went into combat as a unit. He completed Airborne Basic training at Camp Toccoa, Jump School at Fort Benning Georgia and earned his Silver Airborne Badge and his jump boots.
After Jump School the unit assigned to Camp Mackall in North Carolina. At Camp Mackall the training intensified with grueling physical fitness exercises, map reading and weapons training to familiarize each person with every weapon the Airborne Regiment used. From Camp Mackall they went to Tennessee in February 1944 and participated in the Second Army maneuvers where they excelled. The training was for one month, it rained 29 days and snowed on the 30th day. The unit returned to Camp Mackall and continued their combat training which concentrated of squad tactics, door to door tactics, weapons qualification and prepared to ship out. The records show that 1st. Lt. Henry Richard Kleinendorst was assigned as Army Airborne Officer in charge of a Platoon in A Company 1st Battalion of the 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team (P.R.C.T.) and remained in that assignment for the remainder of World War II. In preparation for shipping out 517th assembled at Camp Patrick Henry in Virginia for a final checkout of equipment and proceeded to Newport News Virginia, boarded the troop ship Santa Rosa and sailed for Italy.
They arrived two weeks later in Naples Italy on May 31, 1944. The 517th bivouacked North of Naples to await arrival of their crew-served equipment. After two weeks the 517 PRCT struck their tents, and from a Naples beach boarded LST's and sailed to the port of Clvitavecchia, Italy , marched inland to organize for combined operations with the 36th Infantry Division. The 517th PRCT saw their first combat action north of Grosseto in Northern Italy. The order of march was led by the 1st Battalion followed by Regimental Command next, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions trailing. At 7:00 AM they ate what proved to be their last hot meal for quite some time. The advanced about four and a half miles when a series of rifle shots and machine gun fire announced their first closing with the German enemy. The combat campaign that introduced the 517th to the nature of warfare lasted about two weeks. They had pushed forward about seventy-five miles near the coast after having jumped off from Grosseto. The capture of Montesario, Sticcano and Follonica brought the 517th to the base of Monte Peloso, a strategic high ground overlooking a valley. The 1st battalion attacked up the rugged terrain of Monte Peloso. After sweeping the Germans from their position the 517th was relieved by the famed 442nd Combat Team, the Nisei soldiers determined to demonstrate their loyalty. The 517th PRCT withdrew and set a base a Frascati, Italy. Their casualties numbered seventeen KIA and 129 wounded, with over forty accounted for on the first day fighting.
The 517th PRCT was soon to learn they were a part of the First Airborne Task Force which was designated to participate in an invasion of southern France code named ANVIL-DRAGOON. The invasion was necessary to keep the German enemy from moving troops, from southern France and Italy, north to counterattack the Allied forces that had landed at Normandy in June. The parachute component of the southern France operation was code named ALBATROSS. The First Airborne Task Force was made up of a unit of Free French and a unit of British paratroopers along with the 517 PRCT and two additional United States Army Airborne Battalions the 550th and 551st. They would remain in Frascati, Italy for six weeks planning and training for their mission. The targets for the 517th were the France towns named La Motte, Le Muy and Les Arcs. The mission was to disrupt enemy communications and seize roads to block the movement of enemy reinforcement to the coastal area where the invasion landing was to take place. The parachute drop was to be a night drop. At midnight in August of 1944, 405 C-47 transport planes airlifted the First Airborne Task Force to southern France where they jumped in and started operations. The drop was hampered by fog and lack of experience of the pilots. The paratroopers were scattered with few landing near their targeted drop zones. Henry's unit, A Company of the 1st battalion landed 25 miles from their drop zone. They began assembling immediately and as daylight came they determined from the local population where they were and started for their objectives. The fighting was very intense, the 517th casualties were 14 percent, nineteen killed in action, 126 wounded in action and 137 injured in the jump. All the casualties occurred in less than a week of action. The invasion proceeded on schedule and after five days the First Airborne Task Force objectives had been achieved. The 517th PRCT was prepared to move to a rest area near Nice France and thought they were going back to Italy and await their next assignment.
The 517th PRCT found out the next day they were to remain in combat action guarding the eastern flank of the Allied Armies as they pushed the German Forces back toward Germany. The course set for the 517th ran roughly parallel to the Riviera coastline into the Maritime Alps. Ultimately it would pinch off the border between France and Italy, tie down German forces and protect the flank of the troops moving up in central France. Because of the vineyards and wine produced in the area it became known as the "Champagne Campaign" but it would be anything but a bubbly pleasure. There were many rivers to cross, many steep gorges to clear of the enemy and cross and start the climb toward their new objectives. The 517th had few vehicles so the entire operations was on foot, the conditioning they had received during training paid off. They were relieved by the 10th mountain Division of the French Italian border and had been in continuous combat action for ninety three days. The Regiment retired to La Collen, France for rest and relaxation which lasted for one week.
On December 1, 1944 the 517th PRCT was reassigned to the newly formed XIII Airborne corps and ordered to proceed to area of Session in Central France. The regiment received 500 replacements to fill out their depleted ranks and went into intensive training to integrate the new troops into the organization. Little did they know the worst was yet to come.
In summary, Lt. Kleinendorst jumped with his Regiment in the Allied operation code named "Anvil Dragon" and landed at Cote d' Azure, Riviera area in southern France. He saw front line combat action during one period of 93 consecutive days in southern France. He was awarded the Silver Star, the Purple heart, several war theater participation ribbons, Combat Infantry Badge and of course the Parachute qualification Badge.
In discussions with his Company Commander, Donald Fraser, in 2002 I was told that Lt. Kleinendorst was a very competent Combat Officer. He was a careful planner of actions assigned to his platoon, followed the Airborne philosophy of leading from the front and had the respect and trust of the paratroopers assigned to him. He was recalled at the start of the Korean War and after a period of refresher training was sent to Korea. On his return from Korea he was sent to Company Commanders school. He resigned his commission shortly thereafter and return to farming in his beloved Nebraska.
Ruth Kroese and Henry Richard Kleinendorst had the following children: