Albert Blithe at Camp Toccoa, Georgia in 1942.
June 25, 1923|
|Died||December 17, 1967
|Place of burial||Arlington National Cemetery|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1942-1967 (intermittent)|
|Unit||Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division
*Quartermaster Co., 82nd Airborne Division
*187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team
Master Sergeant Albert Blithe (June 25, 1923 – December 17, 1967) was a career soldier who had been a Private First Class with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 101st Airborne Division during World War II. Blithe was portrayed in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers by Marc Warren. Blithe's life story was featured in the 2010 book A Company of Heroes: Personal Memories about the Real Band of Brothers and the Legacy They Left Us.
Blithe had also served in Korea with the 187th ARCT after the end of hostilities and later was assigned to the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) in Taiwan. He never retired from military service.
World War II
Blithe trained at Camp Toccoa, Georgia in August 1942 under Captain Herbert M. Sobel. Blithe jumped with the rest of Easy Company into occupied France as part of the massive Airborne invasion; however, when he landed, he found himself lost. Blithe was joined by a number of other paratroopers who were also part of the mis-drops. They teamed up together and found the rest of Easy Company.
As portrayed in Band of Brothers by Marc Warren, Blithe was struck with a temporary case of hysterical blindness following the fierce fight to capture Carentan. He recovered and was part of a patrol investigating a farmhouse a few days later, where he was shot by a sniper in his right shoulder. He would recover from the wound and receive a Purple Heart on June 25, 1944, his 21st birthday. Due to his wound, on 1 October 1944 he was sent home and never returned to the European Theater of Operations.
See Misreports of an early death, below.
Blithe was released from the Army Hospital October 8, 1945 which has been verified by his discharge paperwork at the end of World War II. He attended the 1st Annual Reunion of the 101st Airborne Division Association. He returned to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and started a career with Westinghouse Electric. He reenlisted on March 28, 1949 and was discharged on March 27, 1952. He reenlisted again on March 24, 1954, received his Master Parachutist Badge May 13, 1954, and went on to serve in post-war Korea with the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team. Later, he was named the 82nd Airborne Division's 1958 Trooper of the Year. He then served in the 82nd Quartermaster Corps, 82nd Quartermaster Parachute Supply and Maintenance Company (aka "82nd Quartermaster Parachute Maintenance").
Before his sudden death in 1967, Blithe had achieved the rank of Master Sergeant and had completed over 600 parachute jumps, and was given a Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) assignment in Taiwan.
Blithe died December 17, 1967, while on active duty with the 8th Supply and Transport Battalion, 8th Infantry Division, in West Germany at Wiesbaden Air Force Hospital. A week before his death, he had attended a weekend at Bastogne, Belgium commemorating the Battle of the Bulge, from which he had returned feeling unwell. He was taken to the emergency room on December 11 and diagnosed with a perforated ulcer. Emergency surgery was performed on December 12, 1967. He subsequently developed peritonitis and on December 16, he suffered renal failure and died at 0055 hours on December 17. After a memorial service conducted by Chaplain (Major) Thomas F DesChamps, Blithe was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia with full military honors on December 28.
Misreports of an early death
Blithe is the subject of a particularly glaring error in the book and mini-series, Band of Brothers. Fellow Easy Company Currahee veterans interviewed while writing the book and mini-series had believed, in error, that Blithe was wounded in the neck, and that he did not recover. In the book, author Stephen Ambrose reported those errors as fact, and stated that Blithe had died in Philadelphia in 1948. Ambrose's errors were compounded in the mini-series, in which episode 3, "Carentan", episode ends with a slide stating that "Albert Blithe never recovered from the wounds he received in Normandy. He died in 1948."
After viewing the mini-series, the Blithe family publicly corrected this historical error, and requests were made to edit the mini-series to remove it. Photographs and records documenting his service after 1948 and his 1967 death are now posted on the website of the 506th Airborne Infantry Regiment Association. However, the error has not been corrected in the book (though the 2001 UK edition makes no mention of Blithe's death) and has been perpetuated in the DVD editions of the mini-series. It is still in repeated broadcast of the series as recently as the November 13, 2012 broadcast of the episode on Spike TV, the April 27, 2013 broadcast on SoHo in New Zealand and the May 12, 2013 broadcast on Rai 4 in Italy.
The Blu-ray version has an interactive guide called "In the field with the men of Easy Company", stating correctly that Blithe died in 1967, but Episode 3 still contains the error.
- Blithe's DA-638 Recommendation for Award lists the Silver Star, 3 Bronze Stars, and 3 Purple Hearts.
- Blithe G., Albert (2007-10-24). "MSG Albert Blithe". Currahee. Archived from the original on 11 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
- Social Security Death Index record
- WWII Army Enlistment Records: on-line NARA Archival Database
- Ambrose, p.98.
- Ambrose, p.103.
- "Albert Blithe". Arlington National Cemetery. 2004-08-27. Retrieved 2006-09-27.
- Ambrose, Stephen E. (1992). Band of Brothers: Easy Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7434-6411-6.
- Brotherton, Marcus (2010). A Company of Heroes: Personal Memories about the Real Band of Brothers and the Legacy They Left Us. Berkley Caliber. ISBN 978-0-425-23420-4.