Battle Relic # 9             

Item Description: Original Eyeglasses of Captain Fred Hancock of "C" Company of the 502nd Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army.

Introduction: Although the US Army set high standards when it came to physical requirements for paratroopers, a number of Airborne soldiers did wear eyeglasses. Even in combat. These are the glasses of an Infantry Captain in the 101st of Normandy Campaign fame.

The Story: This Battle Relic is part of the collection of one of Battle Detective’s sources, who’s proven unquestionably reliable in previous investigations. It’s an object that was quite uncommon among US Army paratroopers; the elite Sky Soldiers of World War Two.

Paratroopers were all volunteers and the Army had set high standards regarding their physical requirements, including eye vision. Photographic evidence illustrates that Airborne men with glasses were exceptional.

 

This is one well known, and often published, photograph of Pvt. James Flanagan of 2nd Platoon, C Company, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment. Flanagan is seen wearing eyeglasses and displaying a highly relished Nazi-souvenir at the Marmion Farm outside the town of Ravenoville in Normandy:

Other examples of Airborne men wearing prescription eyeglasses:

 

(Click on the images to enlarge)

Lieutenant General Lewis H. Brereton

Commanding Officer of the First Allied Airborne Army

Captain Roy M. Kessler

Commanding Officer of "A-Co./506th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Colonel Roy E. Lindquist

Commanding Officer of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Captain Laurence S. Critchell

Headquarters Company of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment

Colonel Joseph H. "Bud" Harper

Commanding Officer of the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment

Staff Sergeant Carl E. Dickinson

"F"-Co./327th Glider Infantry Regiment

 

The subject of this Battle Relic are the eye glasses of Captain Fred A. Hancock, ASN O-337023.

 

 

Captain Hancock commanded “C” Company of the 502nd. In Normandy he led and attack into the outskirts of Carentan; one of the main objectives of the 101st Airborne Division. Colonel Cole of the 502nd’s Third battalion had just led the legendary bayonet attack from Purple Heart Lane to the Ingouf Farm.

 

"Purple Heart Lane":

 

  Start: "Dead Man's Corner"                                             End: Bridge No. 4

 

The Ingouf Farm:

 

 

Note film footage still of Lt. Col. Cole being interviewed in front of the Ingouf Farm after the Bayonet Charge, pasted as an inset on the sign posts in the center of the photograph.

 

Cole won the Congressional Medal of Honor for this action. Unfortunately he was Killed In Action in Holland on the 18th of September 1944.

 

Source: UTAH BEACH TO CHERBOURG (6 June-27 June 1944) Department of the Army Historical Division,

Washington D.C., 1 October 1947

 

After establishing Cole’s Battalion’s position around the farm, “C” Company made use of a brief lull in the fighting and moved forward from Bridge No. 4 to a cabbage patch between the second and third hedgerows where they could fire down along the forward hedgerow as well as along the highway.

 

For Captain Hancock’s contribution in the liberation of Carentan, the city has put up a monument on the location of the Cabbage Patch and named this area “Camp d’Hancock” or “Hancock Field”.
 

Battle Detective took these pictures of the monument:

 

(Click on the images to enlarge)

Wounded in Holland

A few months after the actions in Normandy, in September of that same year 1944, Captain Hancock again led his "C" Company into battle. In Holland this time. On D-Day of Operation Market Garden, his Company, together with other elements of 1st Battalion of the 502nd, liberated the Dutch town of Sint-Oedenrode.

Later during the operation, Captain Hancock took charge of the defense against a German counter attack on the Northern edge of town. Along the road leading from Sint-Oedenrode to the town of Schijndel, Captain Hancock was wounded in action.

Our source told us that after the war, Captain Hancock showed him the exact location.

 

The Captain's eyeglasses

Whether Captain Hancock wore his glasses in combat is unknown but likely as contact lenses had yet to be invented in 1944.  

These photographs show “C” Company’s commander:

 

Our source is in the possession of the glasses in the photographs. We asked him about how he got them. Modestly, he answered:

 

"Actually it is quite a plain story. Unexpectedly, in March of 2006 I found a parcel in my mail box... from the son of Fred Hancock (C/502). He thought that I could do something with it... It fits on the M42 jumpsuit of Fred nicely. The son had found the glasses when he was clearing his father's house. Of course, I had been in touch with Fred for the last 10 years and after his death I still am in contact with his sons on a weekly basis.

I am sorry, I can't make the story any longer...!"

 

 

These are the glasses:

(Click on the images to enlarge)

Back to Battlerelics

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
(c) 2007-Present Day Battledetective.com. Email: tom@battledetective.com. all rights reserved.