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The Filthy Thirteen was the name given to the Demolition Section of the Headquarters Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, of the United States Army, which fought in the European campaign in World War II.
The Demolition Section was assigned and trained to demolish enemy targets behind the lines. They were ordered to destroy a bridge over the Douve River during the Normandy Invasion of Europe in June 1944, a mission that cost the lives of most of these men. The group was airdropped for the mission by aircraft of the 440th Troop Carrier Group of the U.S. Army Air Forces.
This unit was best known for the famous photo which appeared in Stars and Stripes, showing two members wearing Indian-style "mohawks" and applying war paint to one another. The inspiration for this came from Jake McNiece, who was part Native-American.
After a disciplinary incident while on leave, McNiece joined the Pathfinders. These were paratroopers sent in ahead of the main force to guide them in. Expected casualties were 80–90%. The pathfinders were dropped into the encircled town of Bastogne at the height of the Battle of the Bulge. Their equipment enabled them to guide in subsequent airdrops of supplies crucial to the continued resistance of the trapped 101st Airborne Division.
McNiece considered that any activities not directly concerned with killing the enemy were irrelevant, an attitude that led him to be in constant trouble with the military authorities. Nevertheless, McNiece finished the war with four combat jumps, a very rare feat for an American paratrooper. His jumps were made in Normandy, the Netherlands as part of Market Garden, the Pathfinder jump in to Bastogne, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge, then his last jump as an observer with the 17th Airborne Division during Operation Varsity.
Of the activities of the Filthy Thirteen, Jack Agnew once said, "We weren’t murderers or anything, we just didn’t do everything we were supposed to do in some ways and did a whole lot more than they wanted us to do in other ways. We were always in trouble."
The name "Filthy 13" referred to the fact that, while training in England, they washed and shaved once a week and never cleaned their uniforms.
- Jack Agnew
- Roland R. Baribeau
- Robert S. Cone
- James F. Green
- John Hale
- James E. Leec
- Charles Mellen
- Jake McNiece
- Joseph Oleskiewicz
- Frank Palys
- Herb Pierce
- Charles Plaudo
- George Radeka
- Andrew Rasmussen
- Brincely Stroup
- Clarence Ware
- Jack Womer
An interview with Jake McNiece and Jack Agnew can be found on the two disc version of the Dirty Dozen DVD. Jack Agnew died at the age of eighty-eight on April 8, 2010.[dead link] Jake McNiece died at the age of ninety-three on January 21, 2013.
- "'Filthy Thirteen' veterans recount their antics during WWII". Stripes. 2008-11-10.
- "The Filthy Thirteen: The U.S. Army’s Real "Dirty Dozen"". American Valor QUarterly. 2008/2009 Winter.
- A band of brothers.
- WoolfWoolf, Chris (24 January 2013). "Jake McNiece, D-Day Paratrooper Dies, the Last of the ‘Filthy Thirteen’". The World. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
- The Filthy Thirteen: The True Story of the Dirty Dozen Amazon.com
- War Paint; The Filthy Thirteen Jump Into Normandy http://www.victoryartgallery.com/
- Fighting With the Filthy Thirteen; The World War II Story of Jack Womer - Ranger and Paratrooper, http://www.amazon.com/FIGHTING-WITH-THE-FILTHY-THIRTEEN/dp/1612001009
- Jake McNiece speaks to AMBUCs in Enid, Oklahoma Enidnews.com