Paratroopers who had just graduated jump school, as well as veterans alike enjoyed a thrill last week at Frederick Army Airfield in Oklahoma — they got to sing their song, “Blood Upon the Risers (Gory, Gory What a Helluva Way to Die)”, the cautionary tale to the melody of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, with a living World War II legend.
Vince “Nuts!” Speranza.
Uniform on, cigar and shillelagh firmly in his left hand, the proud former soldier conducted his fellow men through the rendition in a manner that transcended his age. Thankfully, it was all captured by a witness, and posted for America to see via the following YouTube clip (if you’d like to sing along, the lyrics can be found here):
Born and raised in Illinois, Speranza joined the United States Army in 1943, right after he received his high school diploma. He was assigned to the 101st Airborne, and by the winter of 1944 he was in Belgium, in a frigid foxhole, a participant in one of the bloodiest, and toughest fights in American military history.
The Battle of the Bulge.
Despite his courageous role in the weeks-long struggle against the Nazis, it was one bold moment in fulfilling one of his injured, fellow paratrooper’s request that has taken his legacy to mythic heights.
This via Stars and Stripes:
On the second day of the siege, a friend named Joe Willis was wounded with shrapnel in both legs and brought to a makeshift combat hospital in a blown-out church. When Speranza tracked him down, the fellow paratrooper asked him to get him something to drink.
Speranza explained they were surrounded and no supplies were coming in. The soldier asked him to check a devastated tavern nearby.
Speranza found a working beer tap there. He filled his helmet — the same one he had used as a foxhole toilet — and made two trips to the wounded in the church. He was caught by an angry major and told he would be shot if he did not stop, for fear he would kill the wounded.
Seven years ago, the former paratrooper visited his old foxhole back in Belgium. What surprised him even more than the fact that it was still there, was that the beer story had been lapped up by the locals for decades and memorialized, to the point that spawned commerce: there’s now a beer being brewed there called Bastogne’s Airborne beer.
It’s bottled in a ceramic helmet.
**Note from the YouTube publisher: “This has been shared for you bros. pleasure and if you repost, please make sure to include that this drinking occurred hours after graduation and closing of all Airborne Operations. WWIIADT rules require at least 8 hours after drinking before doing anything, but in this case there were absolutely no operations the next day as we were all dragging ourselves through TSA lines and going home.”**