HQ Company, 506th
Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division
Combat Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Wings
Silver Star, Bronze Star, EAME Theater Medal with 2 Bronze Arrowheads
and 4 Bronze Stars, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal, WWII Victory
Medal, Presidential Unit Citation with Oak Leaf Cluster,
French Legion of Honor, Belgian
Croix de Guerre, French
Fourragère, Belgian Fourragère, Netherlands Orange Lanyard
28 October 1945
Louis Venditti was born in Chicago and grew up in the Hungry Hill
neighborhood of Chicago Heights. He attended Bloom Township High School
and was working in a factory that manufactured landing mats for
airfields in the South Pacific when he was drafted into the Army in
Venditti completed basic training at Camp Beale,
Calif., and was attached to the 13th Armored Division. He learned how to
drive everything from a motorcycle to a tank.
When two new
airborne divisions were being formed, and when officers came around
asking for interested men, Venditti volunteered, saying, "Sure, I want
to jump out of an airplane!"
So Lou was shipped on to Fort Benning, Ga., where he learned the
ins and outs of parachuting.
In the winter of
1943, Venditti boarded a crowded troop ship, crossed the rough North
Atlantic Ocean and landed in Liverpool, England with the 101st Airborne
and began preparing for an
invasion of Fortress Europe.
His training continued until the end of May, when Venditti
learned that the Normandy invasion was his objective and, as a
paratrooper, he would be among the first men in, jumping behind enemy
The night of June 5, 1944, the paratroopers geared up and
boarded their planes. General Dwight Eisenhower came around to each
plane and talked to the men as long as he could before takeoff.
It took almost two hours for the 500 planes from the 101st and the 500
planes from the 82nd Airborne Divisions to get into formation. Instead
of flying across the English Channel, the planes headed over the
Atlantic Ocean to sneak in and attack the Germans from behind.
They ran into a fog bank as they reached the French coast, and when they
came out, the low-flying planes were detected by the enemy. They were
hit with all types of artillery: anti-aircraft guns, machinegun fire and
Just off to his right, Venditti saw a plane get
hit and spiral downward. The jumpmaster told the men to stand up, hook
up and prepare to jump in case their plane was hit. Nearing his jump
zone, Venditti parachuted right after midnight under gunfire all the way
down. He landed in a field
surrounded by hedgerows. "That kind of protected me a little bit," he
recalls. He peered through the darkness and discovered that nothing
looked like the maps and photos he studied in England.
spotted movement, thought it was the enemy and was relieved when he saw
cows instead of German soldiers.
Moving cautiously along the hedgerows, he met up with two other
paratroopers. They knocked on the door of a farmhouse and two frightened
farmers, relieved to see the American flag on the soldier's sleeves,
helped the paratroopers determine that their rendezvous spot was about
two miles away.
They met up with more paratroopers along the way,
using clickers almost continuously to find one another in the darkness.
In the jump zone, Venditti saw paratroopers hanging from the trees, shot
and killed in their parachutes.
Less than half of the 600
paratroopers reached the spot, and General Taylor led them to their
objective, the capture of Pouppeville and Causeway 1, the road leading
inland down to Utah Beach, so the 4th Infantry Division could land.
Venditti's battalion captured the town and waited for the invasion
to begin. The Air Force bombed at 6 a.m. and the Navy started shelling
at 6:30 a.m. Venditti moved in closer to the beach and saw all the
Venditti fought in Normandy for a month and his next
mission was Operation Market-Garden. He jumped 20 miles behind the line
in Holland where his objective was to capture bridges so the
British-Canadian infantry could advance.
The fighting was
non-stop and shrapnel was flying through the air. Crouching in a ditch,
Venditti watched as the Germans approached, "walking artillery" toward
them, setting it down every 75 yards, and firing. Suddenly, a shell
landed behind him and a piece of shrapnel struck him in the foot.
recuperated, rejoined his unit near Paris, and headed to the Battle of
The fighting in the Ardennes forest was as fierce as
the weather. Venditti remembers burning charcoal in his foxhole to keep
warm, and rubbing his feet to prevent frostbite.
Venditti was discharged in November 1945 and returned to Chicago
Heights, where he still resides. Widowed, Venditti has two children and
two grandchildren. He is a retired Chicago Heights Fire Department