Lieutenant Colonel John “Iron Mike” Hershey Michaelis (West Point 1936) was born on August 20, 1912 in San Francisco. He jumped to Normandy as Executive Officer of the 502nd PIR, commanded by Colonel George Van Horn Moseley. He was then a Lieutenant Colonel and could be proud to be, at 32 years old, one of the pioneers of the US Airborne. He was one of the first 300 recipients of the Parachute wings, the parachutist certificate designed by William Pelham Yarborough.
Michaelis landed in Normandy near Saint Germain de Varreville. He then moved with his RHQ/502nd group to Audouville la Hubert and then Blosville. He took part in the assault due west towards Houesville, where furious fights took place against the German parachutists. Colonel Moseley broke his leg on landing. The historical leader of the 502nd directs the fighting from a wheelbarrow. General Anthony McAuliffe observed the scene from St. Como du Mont and decided to relieve Moseley of his command and ordered him to return to England. It was Michaelis who took charge of the regiment. He coordinated the dramatic actions of his 1st and 3rd Battalions along Purple Heart Lane and up to the Cabbage Patch. He was awarded the Silver Star at Carentan.
On September 22, 1944, he was in Holland leading the 502nd. A German shell exploded just above his command post in Schindel. 14 senior officers including Michaelis were wounded. Michaelis was evacuated. He returned to the battle of the Bulge, as Chief of Staff of the 101st. He commanded the 27th Infantry Regiment in Korea and was Eisenhower’s aide-de-camp from 1947 to 1948.