Robert Lee Wolverton
Robert Lee Wolverton
|Born||October 5, 1914|
Elkins, West Virginia
|Died||June 6, 1944 (aged 29)|
|Service/||United States Army|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Legion of Merit European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with Service Star and Invasion Arrowhead American Defense Medal American Campaign Medal
Lt. Col. Robert Lee "Bull" Wolverton was the commander of the American 3rd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, from 1942 until his death at Saint-Côme-du-Mont, Normandy, on D-Day, June 6, 1944, during World War II  .
Despite being killed before landing on French soil (Order of battle for the American airborne landings in Normandy), Wolverton's legacy endured, particularly on the strength of a prayer spoken to the 750 men in his battalion hours before the D-Day parachute drop behind enemy lines.
Wolverton's words were cited by President Ronald Reagan in a 1984 speech from Normandy on the 40th anniversary of the invasion  and recounted in numerous books and in Newsweek and Associated Press stories on a battalion reunion held in Kansas City on the first D-Day anniversary after the war .
Following is a recounting of the prayer:
The men were called together, and they stood in the orchard on either side of a low earthen mound which fenced the fields. Upon the earthen hedgerow stood Lt. Col. Robert L. Wolverton, commanding officer of 3rd battalion, 506th PIR. And the colonel said:
- "Men, I am not a religious man and I don't know your feelings in this matter, but I am going to ask you to pray with me for the success of the mission before us. And while we pray, let us get on our knees and not look down but up with faces raised to the sky so that we can see God and ask his blessing in what we are about to do:
- God almighty, in a few short hours we will be in battle with the enemy.
- We do not join battle afraid.
- We do not ask favors or indulgence but ask that,
- if You will, use us as Your instrument for the right and an aid in returning peace to the world.
- We do not know or seek what our fate will be.
- We ask only this,
- that if die we must,
- that we die as men would die,
- without complaining,
- without pleading
- and safe in the feeling that we have done our best for what we believed was right.
- Oh Lord, protect our loved ones
- and be near us in the fire ahead
- and with us now as we pray to you."
All were silent for two minutes as the men were left, each with his individual thoughts. Then the colonel ordered, "Move out."
A few hours later, Robert Wolverton was killed by German machine gun fire in an orchard outside Saint-Come-du-Mont, Normandy, France. According to Ed Shames, Wolverton sustained "162 bullet holes and bayonet wounds" due to German troops using him as target practice. Of the paratroopers in his plane, 5 were killed (including Wolverton), 7 were captured (some later escaped) and 3 successfully fought on.
Wolverton in Museums
Original World War II uniforms and memorabilia from Lt. Col. Wolverton are on display at these museums:
Monument to Lt. Col. Robert Wolverton
At Saint-Come-du-Mont, Normandy, France
- D-Day Paratroopers Historical Center: http://dday-experience.com/en/visit-us/d-day-experience
- "A Warrior's Spirit Endures Unbroken", Editorial in The News Virginian of Waynesboro, Va., authored by the colonel's grandson: http://www.specialforces.com/newsletter/2008_10/
- Text of the colonel's prayer: http://www.ww2airborne.com/airborneprayers.html
- Text of President Reagan's 1984 speech from Pointe du Hoc on the 40th anniversary of D-Day: http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/speeches/1984/60684a.htm
- Order of battle for the American airborne landings in Normandy:
- Trigger Time, Web site devoted to 101st Airborne, maintained by historian and author Mark Bando: http://www.101airborneww2.com/
- "The Forgotten Battalion," a Web site devoted to a documentary and book focusing on Col. Wolverton's 3rd Battalion: http://www.theforgottenbattalion.com/index.html
- Carentan - Linking Omaha and Utah Beach" by Michel De Trez & Mark Bando