Corporal Alton Douglas Poe
- Unit: 101st Airborne Division, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment
- Service Number: 39853851
- Date of Birth: October 8, 1922
- Entered the Military: December 14, 1942
- Date of Death: June 11, 1944
- Hometown: Safford, Arizona
- Place of Death: near Carentan, France
- Award(s): Purple Heart
- Cemetery: Plot J, Row 9, Grave 19. Normandy American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, France
Mentored by Ms. Sandra Wooton
Sandra Day O'Connor High School
Alton Poe was born in Lordsdale, New Mexico, in 1922. At the age of seven, his twin brother, Alvin, died. When his mother died shortly after that, his father moved the family to Arizona. The family moved several times.
In Arizona, Poe attended one year of high school in Cochise County, dropped out, and worked various jobs. He worked as a laborer on a cattle ranch and for the Geological Survey before being drafted into the U.S. Army on December 14, 1942.
Poe volunteered and served with the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. The paratroopers led a daring airborne mission early in the hours of June 6, 1944, to secure the causeways, or exits from the beaches, to allow the invading forces to advance inland.
The Battle of Carentan took place between June 8 to 15, 1944. The 101st Airborne Division fought their way to Carentan, capturing the city on June 12. The following day, the Germans staged a counterattack. The Americans fought back and re-took the town by June 15.
Poe Alton should have landed south of Sainte-Mère-Église with the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He lost his life on June 11, 1944.
Everyone has a unique story. Every life lost is another perspective that we lose and another lesson we will never learn. The key to the future is learning from the past and from those who have lived longer than us. Many people are forgotten after they have died, and the lessons they could have taught us are gone. Many of these people are the young men and women who died trying to protect their country.
After Pearl Harbor was attacked, Poe made his new home in the U.S. Army. He served with the 101st Airborne Division “Screaming Eagles” and got to jump out of a plane. He earned his place in the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment “Geronimo” unit. He experienced two years of intense training preparing for the invasion to free Europe. He spent these two years with his unit brothers, growing up and preparing to fight for his country.
Freedom is something that most Americans take for granted. We do not realize how much freedom we have until we look at the sacrifices of the past. Going into this program, I thought I had an idea of what freedom meant, but I found out I was wrong. This program allowed me to start to understand what it costs to keep this country free, how when these people saw a need, they jumped right in and served their country…no matter the risk. The people on the homefront played supporting roles to try to the best of their abilities to help their soldiers come home. We came from different parts of the country, so we all had other thoughts and ideas we could share. These differences helped us in the long run and challenged us more. Not only did I get to travel to France with amazing people, but I also learned about freedom. The moment when it hit me what freedom costs occurred when we were at Normandy American Cemetery, and the “Star-Spangled Banner” played. When I heard the words “O’er The Land of the Free and the home of the Brave,” I saw soldiers’ graves and the American flag, and I began to understand what it cost to keep us free.
Alton D. Poe. Headstone and Interment Records for U.S. Military Cemeteries on Foreign Soil, 1942-1949. Digital Images. ancestry.com.
Alton D. Poe. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946. ancestry.com.
Alton D. Poe. World War II Hospital Admission Card Files, 1942-1954. ancestry.com.
Alton Douglas Poe. World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947. Digital Images. ancestry.com.
Arizona. Pima County. 1940 U.S. Federal Census. Digital Images. ancestry.com.
The Attack on Carentan. Map. U.S. Army Center of Military History. history.army.mil/BOOKS/WWII/utah/maps/Map17.jpg.
New Mexico. Hidalgo County. 1930 U.S. Federal Census. Digital Images. ancestry.com.
“The 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment Unit History.” The 101st Airborne, World War II. Accessed February 12, 2021. www.ww2-airborne.us/units/501/501.html.
“Battle to Control Carentan During World War II.” Historynet. Updated July/August 2006. Accessed February 12, 2021. www.historynet.com/battle-to-control-carentan-during-world-war-ii.htm.
“Corp Alton D. Poe.” Find a Grave. Updated August 8, 2010. Accessed February 12, 2021. www.findagrave.com/memorial/56648847/alton-d-poe.
Rapport, Leonard and Arthur Northwood. Rendezvous with Destiny: A History of the 101st Airborne Division. Greenville: 101st Airborne Division Association, 1965.
Utah Beach to Cherbourg. Washington: D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1948. history.army.mil/books/wwii/utah/utah.htm.