Historian Kevin Hymel had the privilege of interviewing Bradford Freeman, the last surviving member of Easy Company who passed away on July 3, 2022, for two articles that he wrote for WWII History magazine in 2019. Mr. Freeman recalls parachuting into Normandy and the Netherlands and fighting under in Normandy, Operation Market Garden, and the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. Excerpts appear below, and you can continue reading both articles on Warfare History Network.
“Easy Company Mortarman”
The green light lit up the inside of the Douglas C-47 Skytrain’s fuselage, and 20 paratroopers from Easy Company’s Stick 70, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division charged out the door. Twenty-year-old Private Bradford “Brad” Clark Freeman, the fifth man in line, exited and his parachute quickly popped open. In the intermittent light of the full moon, he could see a pasture rushing up at him. He counted five cows below before he hit the ground.
“It was a nice jump,” Freeman recalled. He noticed one of the cows had a white face and red body, reminding him of the cows on his family farm in Artesia, Mississippi. For a brief second, he thought he was home before remembering he was now in enemy territory with a war to fight.
As Freeman freed himself from his jump harness, he looked skyward and saw paratroopers jumping out of another C-47. Their parachutes blossomed, and the men drifted to the ground. One man landed by a nearby road. Freeman rushed over and discovered it was his friend Private Lewis Lampos from Georgia, who slept across from him at their Aldbourne, England, barracks. Lampos had broken his leg. Freeman gathered up Lampos’s parachute and hid it in the woods then dragged him into some bushes. He briefly treated Lampos’s leg and told him if any vehicle passed by to shoot the driver. Then he took off to find more paratroopers as Lampos cursed after him. “They told us if you couldn’t help a wounded paratrooper,” explained Freeman, “you had to move on.”
“Easy Company Mortarman in Bastogne”
When word reached 21-year-old Private Bradford “Brad” Freeman in Mourmelon-le-Grand, France, that the entire 101st Airborne Division was being put on 24-hour alert for movement to the front, he was neither surprised nor shocked. “They told us to go, so we went,” he said.
Freeman, a farm boy from Artesia, Mississippi, served as a mortarman with Lieutenant Norman Dike’s Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, the “Screaming Eagles.” He had fought in Normandy and the Netherlands, having parachuted into both, and had survived three months of combat against the Germans without serious injury. Now he was in Mourmelon enjoying his time in reserve, watching his fellow Easy Company comrades play cards and dice and cleaning his rifle and mortar.
That all changed late on December 17, 1944, when Freeman and his comrades were put on alert. Three German armies had broken through the American First Army line in Belgium and Luxembourg—the Battle of the Bulge. To counter this threat, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, commander of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), ordered his only reserve forces—the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions—into the fray.