We are now able to offer a new "ride-along" Airborne experience. Individuals will be allowed to go "Airborne" along with jump team members on a C47 flight. Hear and feel what it's like to ride in a WWII vintage aircraft and watch the troops dressed in WWII uniforms and equipment "Stand Up & hook Up".
To learn more about this opportunity contact us at: operations_@_wwiiadt.org
Enlistment date: 12 February 1942
Units: A Company, 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion
Qualifications: Combat Infantryman Badge, Parachute Wings
Decorations: Bronze Star, EMEA Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal,
Discharge Date: 05 October 1945
Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Joe decided to volunteer for the Army Air Corps where he wanted to be a mechanic. Unfortunately the Air Corps didn’t think he was able to meet their standards and so the Air Corps loss proved to be the Infantry’s gain.
Joe went for three months infantry training at Camp Wolters, Texas where he developed a passion for boxing and where he decided that he wanted to be part of an elite operation and so volunteered for airborne training. At the end of September 1942, Joe arrived at Fort Benning, Georgia where he would follow the course to become a paratrooper.
Joe graduated paratrooper school in October 1942 and a month later he joined the fledgling 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion. On December 11, 1942, the battalion left Fort Benning for Camp Patrick Henry, in Newport News, Virginia. On 27 December, the men boarded on the USS Joseph T Dicram heading south towards Panama on special duty to protect the canal region.
In January 1943, the battalion arrived in the Canal Zone, landing at Balboa, from where the men were sent to Fort Kobbe. Once there, the 551st PIB was back on training and preparing for a possible invasion of Martinique. The battalion also went on manoeuvers in the jungle of Rio Hato for several weeks when on May 13, 1943, the 551st PIB was alerted for the operation on Martinique, that was eventually cancelled.
On August 20, 1943, the battalion was on the move again from Balboa, towards San Francisco from where, three days later, they were sent to North Carolina at Camp Mackall, arriving on September 3, 1943. During the last two weeks of October and during November 1943, the 551st PIB jumped 5 times from gliders in training at Camp Mackall.
On 6 January, the 551st PIB would be moving to a new target this time Rochelinval. While the 551st attacked, Joe was ordered by Lieutenant Durkee to remain in the woods with the wounded men, waiting for the medic porters and told to then join the battalion. With Larry Poston, Joe waited for the medics and after several hours, they heard approaching noise, but instead of the porters, they saw Germans soldiers passing through the American lines. This group soon took the men as prisoners. Joe was questioned by a lieutenant, who spoke English, and Joe finally joined his friend Larry in a cell. The next morning, they boarded on a non covered truck, and after a four day dreadful journey aboard a train, they arrived at Stalag 4B near Dresden. Joe and Larry were locked up with prisoners in an English camp. On May 8th 1945 Joe and Larry were finally released by the approaching allies and transferred back into American hands before being shipped back to the USA. Joe eventually arrived back on home soil near Boston.
The services of the army told Joe that the 551st PIB was disbanded and his new assignment was in the 82nd Airborne Division and Joseph Cicchinelli was finally discharged on October 5, 1945.
World War II changed Joe dramatically. Sometimes he would take his car and drive aimlessly for 2 or 3 hours. The snow in the winter was a terrible reminder scene from the past. Joe was able to get help and went through several therapies that would later help him help others when he served as a volunteer at a psychiatric facility to help veterans of the Vietnam War.