It’s been nearly 70 years since Vincent Speranza joined the 501st Infantry Regiment as a combat paratrooper. On Thursday, Speranza came to Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson to visit the regiment’s new generation, take a ride and share the experiences he collected while a member of the 501.
Speranza joined the 501 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division in November 1944. Within weeks he found himself in the middle of the Siege of Bastogne in Belgium, surrounded by German troops. He survived the Battle of the Bulge, and finished the war near Berchtesgaden, Germany.
After joining the Merchant Marines, Speranza settled down; he married and began a career as a history teacher and labor union representative.
On Thursday morning Speranza returned to the regiment that would define a significant portion of his life, to share his experiences as a combat paratrooper with a new generation.
“The only problem with this whole trip is they wouldn’t let me trade places with one of those guys who was ready to jump,” Speranza said. “I offered to change places with him; he wouldn’t do it.”
Speranza watched as the men and women of the 501 jumped out of the UH-60 helicopter one after the other. He drew many comparisons from the days when he used to take the plunge from the door of an airplane all those years ago.
“This is like falling off a log compared to standing in a door and jumping out with a static line,” Speranza said. “You just push off and enjoy yourself on the way down.”
It had been a long time for Speranza since he had been inside an airborne craft and watched members of the 501 jump and a lot had changed since his days.
“These guys are a lot bigger and a lot better prepared,” he said. “These boys look like they’re ready to go.”