C-47 "Ride-Along"


"Airborne Experience"

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











 Joseph M Cicchinelli

 Born:                             27 August 1923                     

Enlistment date:            12 February 1942

Deployments:                Europe

Units:                             A Company, 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion

Rank:                            Corporal                 

Specialisations:             Parachutist

Qualifications:              Combat Infantryman Badge, Parachute Wings

Decorations:                  Bronze Star, EMEA Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal,

Discharge Date:            05 October 1945

Other Information:     




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.

In October 1943 the battalion received a new Commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Graves and it was he who, on February 16, 1944 chose this time to make the battalion a jump night near Camp Mackall. The DZ was located between two lakes near the town of Hoffman and Joe jumped near the Broad Acres Lake. During this period at Camp Mackall, Joe married Viola Ickes, on March 14, 1944 at Bennetville, South Carolina.


On April 2, 1944, the 551st PIB embarked on the Abraham Lincoln at the port of Hampton Roads in Norfolk for 3 weeks of travel by sea. During this time the convoy was attacked by U-Boats and 14 ships were damaged. On May 12th, 1944, the battalion landed in Oran to be led towards Merz-El-Khebir. After a few days, the battalion sailed for Naples, where it arrived on May 23, 1944 and then transferred to Messina, Sicily. After 4 weeks in Sicily, the 551st was sent to Rome and on August 12, 1944, the Joe was taken on the Montalto Airfield, northern Rome. Here, they got told about the proposed mission Operation Dragoon. On the morning of August 15, 1944 after their briefing Joe and the 551st were served a meal, before being ready to go. At 3.30pm, Joseph Cicchinelli climbed aboard his C-47 that would head towards Drop Zone, located 800 meters south of La Motte. Joe jumped around 6.10pm, and was the 3rd man in his stick. After landing, he got rid of his parachute, gave the rockets he was carrying to the bazooka team and I headed to the staging area. Battling his way through southern France, Joe eventually made his way to Cannes where the 551st PIB took the city on August 25 1944 and then onto Nice.

On September 2, 1944, a patrol was sent to Monaco and Joe was part of it. On September 4, 1944, the 551st was sent onto Var as the men got very little rest. They then joined the 509th PIR in the Maritime Alps where Joe and his company occupied the town of Isola. It was a very stressful situation for Joe and his comrades because their positions were continually harassed by the firing of mortars and guns.

On December 8th, Joe and his comrades were transferred to Reims where on December 18th they heard the news of the German attack in the Ardennes. The next day at 14:00hrs, the men boarded on trucks to get to Werbomont in Belgium. They arrived during the night of 20th to 21st December 1944. On 25 December the 551st was under orders of the 82nd Airborne Division and were ordered to launch a raid on Noirefontaine.  On what seemed a suicide mission, the 551st accomplished their task, the men returned with the prisoners. General Gavin came in person to congratulate them. Later the 82nd Airborne was designated to lead a counter attack on and January 3, 1945, with the support of the 551st and 517th, they jumped off. The objective of the 551st was to take Sol Mé, Hèrispehé and Dairomont. Despite very heavy enemy fire, they 551st continued to advance and achieve their objectives and finally captured Dairomont. As the advance man, Joe was the head of his company. Again, in the open field, the Germans opened fire causing heavy casualties. However, on January 5, 45 the town was taken.


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.