Biography of Donald Silas Greene
P.F.C., 3rd Ranger, Battallion, "Darby's Rangers"
I would like to post this tribute to my uncle, Donald Silas Greene, nicknamed Jiggs. Somewhere out there, he has a daughter. I wish I could find her.
Jiggs was born March 23, 1924 in Groton, MA, the first son of Donald Sargent and Marguerite Elsie (Bedell) Greene. He had an older sister, Pauline and 3 younger siblings, Bernard, Shirley (my Mom), and Robert. Later his parents would divorce and after his mother's remarriage, he would gain a baby sister, Bette and a baby brother, John. My Mom said he was a wonderful big brother and never minded her tagging along with him. She adored him.
April 15, 1943 at age 19, he enlisted. He took his basic training at Ft. Blanding, FL, went on to Little Rock, AR, and then to Italy. He volunteered to join Darby's Rangers and was with the 3rd Ranger Bn.
On Nov 11, 1943 he wrote, "I am fine and happy. This Ranger outifit is a swell outfit but plenty tough. I was with the Air Force Service Command but got the chance to volunteer into the Rangers so here I am." Dec 17th, 1944, "I have seen enough action to last me forever but still can't complain. I am fine and right in the groove."
Dec 19th, "....don't ever let anyone tell you the Germans aren't great fighters and soldiers because they certainly are [but] they are bound to lose in the end." Dec 24, 1943, "We are back from the front lines now for a rest period and it seems plenty good......Don't worry about me...I was always a lucky little cuss." In a second letter written that evening he wrote, "You asked about the Rangers. Our Colonel said once that he guessed by some of the jobs we got that the generals figured we were a cross of a General Sherman Tank and a mountain goat. But we are really like a commando outfit, organized at Dundee, Scotland and trained with the British Commandos. Just a commando outfit but we think about the best."
He wrote often, always reassuring his family that he was fine & would be home soon. Always telling them to keep their chins up and not to worry. He always closed with "Loads of love, Jiggs"
But then, the letters stopped. Polly's letters were returned marked "MIA, Missing, Peronneau Mitchell, Capt 3rd Ranger Bn., Adjutant" and in March, 1944 my grandmother received a telegram from the War Dept. saying her son had been missing in action since Jan 30, 1944. Their hearts were broken.
Finally in June, 1944 they received a letter from Stalag VII A in Germany. Jiggs was a prisoner of war. Again, he reassured everyone that he was fine and signed off "Loads of love & don't worry, Jiggs"
Cards and letters later came from Stalag II b, all saying he was fine, all sent with loads of love, and all telling them not to worry about him. It would be a long time before he would talk about the horrors that changed him forever and he would only speak of it once, to his sister, Polly.
On Jan 29, 1944 Gen. Truscott instructed Col. Darby to infiltrate 2 of his 3 Ranger Bns. into the town of Cisterna, Italy. The 1st and 3rd Ranger Bns. slipped across the Mussolini Canal at about 0130 Jan 30th. They were in a long column, moving silently along a half dry irrigation channel called the Pantano Ditch.
Unknown to the Rangers , the Hermann Goering Division was dug in at Cisterno and heavily supported by artillery and tanks and reinforced by the 715th Division just arrived from Southern France.
At dawn, as the Rangers emerged from the ditch, they walked into an ambush. They fought valiantly all morning but their light weapons were no match for the heavier German arms. Col. Darby listened to his field radio in horror as his Rangers called for support. Support that would not come. The American regiments on the flanks could not make enough progress to remove the German pressure. The tanks and infantry from the rear could not break through the enemy opposition to relieve the Rangers. Col. Darby wept as he listened to his beloved Rangers being destroyed. Of the 767 Rangers who had started toward Cisterna, only 6 returned; the rest were killed or captured. According to Gen. Truscott,the fighting around Cisterna was the "most severe his division has encountered."
In January, 1985, my Aunt Polly was notified that her brother Donald had died in Maine but, the truth is, Jiggs died in 1944. He was buried in 1985.
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