One of the original members of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment — and one of fewer than 2,800 All American paratroopers to have made all four World War II combat jumps with the 82nd Airborne Division — has died.
Retired 1st Sgt. Harold Eatman was 102. He died Friday at home in Matthews, North Carolina, the 82nd Airborne Division announced this weekend.
“Harold Eatman was among the generation of All American paratroopers who defeated Nazism, liberated Europe, and inspired many generations of paratroopers to follow,” said Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, spokesman for the 82nd Airborne, in a statement. “We always say that when you wear the Double A patch, you walk among legends. One of those legends has passed.”
Eatman was one of fewer than 2,800 paratroopers to have made all four World War II combat jumps with the 82nd Airborne Division — in Sicily, Salerno, Normandy and Holland. Fewer than 16 now remain living, according to the 82nd Airborne.
Eatman volunteered to serve in the Army in 1942, according to the 82nd Airborne. He served in H Company, 505th Regimental Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, from October 1942 through September 1945.
His awards and decorations include the French Legion of Honor, the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, two Army Commendation Medals, and the Senior Parachutist Badge with four bronze stars.
“Some of my first memories of my grandfather are looking through an old, leather-bound edition of ‘Saga,’ the World War II history of the 82nd Airborne,” Eatman’s grandson, Micheal Kelly, told the 82nd Airborne. “I made my first five jumps with his wings in my pocket for luck, and he pinned my wings on me at graduation from jump school. My grandfather influenced my whole life.”
“The 82nd is part of my family’s history, and my family is part of the division’s history,” Kelly added. “My grandfather was the first paratrooper in my family, but not the last. Myself, my older brother and his son all served in the 505.”
Michelle Tan is the editor of Army Times and Air Force Times. She has covered the military for Military Times since 2005, and has embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Haiti, Gabon and the Horn of Africa.