Happy Mothers Day from the Fresh Air Fund

Editor: Mother’s Day is a special occasion to celebrate the women in our lives who take the time to care for us. Many women in the Champlain Valley take on the role of Fresh Air mom, as they open their hearts to New York City children through The Fresh Air Fund’s Friendly Towns Program. This Mother’s Day, consider sharing the pure joys of summer with a Fresh Air child.

Marion Sullivan

John Rigapoulos’ jacket

Editor: Thank you for having Catherine give me a call. Catherine wrote an article in The Charlotte News about her uncle, John Rigapoulos, who was killed during Operation Market Garden on September 20, 1944, after crossing the Maas-Waal River. I am a long time WWII collector and researcher of airborne uniforms, and the reason I called you was because I purchased the field jacket that once belonged to John, and when I was doing research, I found the article in The Charlotte News written by Catherine.

The jacket is a very rare piece of history because it belonged to an identified Pathfinder who jumped on D-Day, June 6, 1944. This M-43 field jacket has the original Type I, gauze Invasion flag on the right shoulder that was typical of those worn by the 82nd airborne during Market Garden. In addition, there is an authentic 82nd airborne patch on the left shoulder and block-inked stamp with the name “John Rigapoulos” in the collar, again typical of a military stamp. Importantly, the patches and thread do not glow under UV light. Based on this, I thought Catherine may want this jacket, so I offered it to her for exactly what I paid for it and substantially less than what I was offered for the jacket. In addition, I told her that if she could not afford the jacket that I would give it to her. She declined, but I sent her photos for her records. Ultimately, I may donate this jacket to a museum.

John Rigapoulos was a replacement in Anzio, Italy along with Albert Tarbell, also in the 82nd Airborne, 504th, Company H. John is also listed as a member of Tucker’s Troopers during the Italian campaigns. After this, John volunteered and was selected for the Pathfinders and jumped in Normandy on D-Day. He was in Serial 5, Plane (Chalk) #18 (504th, 3rd Bn., Co. H) and listed as a Pathfinder. The Pathfinders dropped after 0100 hours on D-Day.

After landing, Chalk #18 set up a EUREKA beacon that marked the landing zones and drop zones for the planes carrying paratroopers or ferrying gliders that were to follow up a short time later. On D-Day, John jumped in the 1st or 2nd slot just before or after John Baldassar (504th, 3rd Bn., Co. H) and was responsible for “security” as a perimeter guard in Chalk #18 while the EUREKA beacon was being setup and activated. EUREKA beacons were used to guide the drop of the main force of paratroopers and gliders behind Utah and Omaha beaches.

John received the Bronze Star for valor (General Order 39, HQ 82nd Airborne, A.P.O. 469, 21 Jul ‘44). Other awards include: Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge, American Campaign Ribbon and European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Ribbon with Invasion Arrowhead.

John was killed on September 20, 1944, during Operation Market Garden by a sniper. John is buried in grave K1-9, Margraten, The Netherlands.

Brent Dorval, Ph.D.
Douglas, Massachusetts

Editor’s note: See the accompanying editorial/backstory here

Response to Claudia Mucklow’s letter of April 7

Editor: Perhaps things are different for Ms. Mucklow, but in our home my husband and I think and speak independently and assume that neither of us would be found “guilty by association,” as Ms. Mucklow implied. In addition, if she had listened carefully to my comments at the end of the March 14 meeting, she would have heard me say “she (Mary) has to earn respect,” not “she hasn’t earned respect.”

Janet Morrison