Pottawattamie County

Lt. William "Billy" Sherman



He Knows Where Silk, Nylon Go
Sherman Tells of Paratrooper’s Life

Anyone who wonders where their silk and nylon stockings have gone might ask 1st Lt. William “Billy” Sherman, 25, son of Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth H. Sherman of 2400 Avenue F, who has spent two years overseas as a paratrooper officer. “Every man who jumps leaves behind two parachutes,” Sherman stated, “each of them containing enough silk or nylon for 199 pairs of hose.”

The returned officer believes he has led a charmed life, since he made his first paratroop jump in Africa in June, 1942, with the “guinea pig” battalion – he hasn’t suffered a scratch yet he’s fought with companies whose casualties have averaged more than 50 per cent.

Lt. Sherman, former Thomas Jefferson and University of Iowa athlete, told of landing 30 miles behind the lines near Salerno with enough rations to last three days. But something went wrong with the plans and nine days stretched ahead before he could rejoin his troops. The mission itself, Sherman said, failed, but the men brought back information which made the conquest possible. The Germans reported 6,000 parachute troops in the mountains while in reality there was only one company.

There he joined the rangers and fought in the mountains until the victory was complete. Among another loot was a gun he took from an Italian tank driver who was still bleeding when Sherman and a buddy raided the tank.

Among other things are trinkets of all kinds, a Luger (sic) gun and one of the troopers’ most coveted possessions – a German flag.

The rigorous training of the paratroopers stood them in good stead in the mountains near Salerno, he asserted, when some of them found themselves stranded for weeks in the mountains. One of the men taken prisoner jumped off a German prison train and rejoined the outfit 56 days later. Another officer killed three Germans with a pickaxe when his knife failed to cut them.

At Anzio, where the group was under constant artillery fire, Sherman’s group received the presidential citation.

The paratroopers are organized much the same as a small infantry unit, the former athlete stated, and each paratrooper jumps loaded down with rifle, grenade, bayonet, demolition kit and K-rations.

His personal valor award would go to the French air troops called Goumers, on the Faid Pass in Tunisia, Sherman said. The groups went into the fight against a group of Germans with only four rounds of ammunition each.

Sherman has been returned to the United States and will report for reassignment at Hot Springs, Ark. A physical education major at Iowa City, he plans to stay in the army after the war.

“I like the paratroops. They really are like the army,” he asserted, “but there are many who’d want to be out if they could.”

The former athlete said the paratroopers are kept in excellent condition and wherever they were based there was always football, baseball, volleyball, boxing and soccer.

Source: The Council Bluffs Nonpareil, Council Bluffs, Iowa, Thursday, December 07 1944, Page 9