Lt Colonel Joseph H “Bud” Harper was a career officer who commanded a battalion of the 326th Regiment of the 82nd Infantry Division. When the 82nd became Airborne, he was assigned the newly formed 401st GIR in August ’42, with Lt Col Henry Leveck as XO. The 327th was the “organic” Glider regiment of the 101st, with Colonel George Wear as Co, and Lt Col. Curtis Renfro as XO. He worked like crazy to make his regiment as good as the 325th, 326th and 327th GIR. In late December 1943, faced with the need to “beef up” the Para and Glider Regiments, his Regiment was disbanded, much to his indignation.
“Bud” Harper was literally stunned by the announcement of the disappearance of his beloved 401st GIR in favor of the reinforcement of the 327th and 325th GIR. The 1st Battalion of the 401st remained at the 101st to serve as the 3/327th GIR, while the 2/401st moved to the 82nd to become the 3/325th. The strength of the 327th GIR for Normandy was 3,179 men. GIR. To add insult to injury, he was notified that there would be no place for him in the invasion, and that he would remain in England. In fact, he was going to be designated “Beachmaster” to handle the arrival of the gliderists in Utah on June 6. Stung to the core, Harper called Van Horn Moseley, the CO of the 502 PIR, and explained that he wanted to participate in the invasion in some way, and wanted to jump into Normandy. Moseley called a drill sergeant and assigned Harper to him, to teach him the basics of jumping. The sergeant put Harper on a table, showed him how to raise his arms to hold the lines, jump and land in a tuck. Harper did this 4 or 5 times, and the sergeant declared him ready to jump!
A few days later, an RAF plane was requisitioned to allow Harper to make his first jump. Harper confessed that he had not slept a wink the night before, “scared to death”. On a cold April morning in 1944, he headed for the airfield where a mocking crew was waiting. The pilot was so nervous that he and his crew took bets that Harper would be petrified at the gate and refuse to jump. The plane took off, with Harper as its only passenger. The sergeant tied up the static line and told him to move toward the door. Without hesitation, Harper jumped out, much to the dismay of the English crew. Harper landed like a flower, made a second jump, and got permission from Taylor to jump to Normandy.
On 10 June, Colonel George S Wear’s 327th GIR had to make a decisive push to take Carentan, crossing the Douve River towards Brevand. This attack bogged down miserably. Max Taylor, CO of the 101st, relieved Wear of his command. It seems that he was blamed for the losses suffered by the C/327th on 9 June, when it was decimated by friendly fire while attempting to cross the Douve. Wear would not have respected the timing and by crossing too early, the Gliderists of C but also B/327th fell under friendly fire… What is certain is that the movements of the 327th from St Côme du Mont were very poorly orchestrated, with battalions and companies mixed up in all directions in an inextricable chaos that greatly irritated McAuliffe in particular.
Taylor thus entrusted the 327th to… Bud Harper. He took Rouzie as XO, while Renfro became G-3 of the 101st. Harper was very popular with his men, who nicknamed him “Dig ’em deeper”, a sign of Harper’s commitment to the safety of his men at the front. At 2 a.m. on June 10, Harper reorganized his battalions on the edge of Carentan from St Hilaire Petitville. He attacked from the dock at 5:00 a.m. on June 12 and joined up in Carentan with elements of the 2/506th.