Command of elite World War II paratroopers
Mark J. Alexander is the jump commander. He signed up as a private in the national guard in the fall of 1940 and went to drill once a week. A little more than two and a half years later, Major Alexander led 525 men in the first wave against Hitler's fortress Europe.
Descending from the sky, they landed 25 miles off target on and among a network of fiercely defended Italian pillboxes. The fight was on.
In unknown land, surrounded by the enemy, his battalion would have to fight it's way to the invasion beaches to join up with the rest of the 82nd Airborne Division. Along the way he and his men confronted entrenched enemy positions, a key staff member melts down in the heat of battle, and they would witness possibly the worst friendly fire incident of the entire war. That was all within the first two days.
More fighting in Sicily was followed by an invasion of the Italian mainland. With long bloody attacks by now Lt. Col. Alexander's 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment against dug in, combat experienced German troops, their mighty 88 mm cannons and a landscape full of tripwires, the paratroopers captured five bridges and a key town on the Volturno River.
This campaign was followed by the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France. Alexander arrived as second in command of the 505 and was used to plug holes and lead battalions in both the 505 and 508 Parachute Infantry Regiments. Leading from the front and scouting well beyond front lines almost got him killed on more than one occasion.