My Encounter with Sgt. Benjamin J. “Buddy” Stoney’s Legacy

by Valeria Gallone

Andora, Italy



Benjamin Joseph Arthur Stoney was born in Yankee Hill, Butte County, California, on October 10, 1921, to Zena Clark Stoney. His Maidu Indian heritage came through his mother, a member of the Clark family, a Clan of the KonKow Tribe. He had three full brothers, in addition to two half-brothers from his step-father, Mullens.


After high school and four years of college, Benjamin found a job as watchman and guard. When the United States became involved in World War Two on the European and Pacific fronts, his sense of duty compelled him to enlist as a paratrooper in the Army’s newly formed Airborne Infantry, where the rigor, the discipline and the hard training were demanding. When the 101st Airborne was formed, only the toughest men were chosen to serve. This Division required highly motivated men, ready for hard training, to be parachuted from airplanes in hostile territory and to fight in extreme situations. Only 1800 men were selected out of 5300 initial volunteers.


Benjamin enlisted on August 4, 1942, in Los Angeles as a simple soldier, Army serial number 39530033. After basic training Benjamin was transferred to 2nd Battalion, 506th PIR, Easy Company, which later become famous, thanks to Steven Spielberg’s TV series, “Band of Brothers”. He was in a group of like-minded men (boys, actually) who were ready to fight for their country. In December of 1942 the 506 Regiment participated in a long, 125 mile march from Camp Toccoa to Atlanta, ordered by Colonel Sink to show his troops were up to beating the Japanese troops who had already completed a similar exercise. An article about the three-day march was published in some newspapers of the time.


Benjamin established a very strong bond of friendship with his fellow soldiers, who began referring to him as "Bud". On  February 20, 1943, he was promoted to Sergeant T/5 (Technician 5th class). After their long, hard training, the 101st Airborne Division was transferred to England in September 1943 for final training. Sometime prior to the D-Day jump, Bud was promoted to Sergeant T/4 and was assigned to the Intelligence Section (S-2, HQ Company 2 BT), but he remained very close to several of the men of Easy Company, who still speak of him with the respect due a missing friend.


When D-Day came, thousands of American paratroopers were dropped behind hostile lines into countless hard battles. Benjamin had his rendezvous with destiny on June 7, 1944. Here are the testimonies of some who were with him on that terrible day.


Charlie McCallister, HQ /2/506, describes in some detail the tragic death of Sgt. Stoney:

"I remember Sgt. Stoney very well and I was with him when he was killed in Normandy. First, let me say that I joined the 506th as a teenager. I had just turned 19 and Stoney was the "older man". He must have been 23 or 24!

He was a physical specimen, and a handsome fellow. I believe he was part Indian. Anyway, I idolized him. He was an aggressive soldier, but he was soft-spoken and always kind to me. Stoney was killed at the small village of Vierville. This village is located on the road to Carentan. We were in a column of mostly 2/506 troopers, under the command of Colonel Bob Strayer. The column crossed the "T" of an intersection, where a German machine gun cut the column and the rear portion of the column could not join those up front. The machine gun was positioned very close to the intersection and could shoot anything that tried to cross. There was a stone fence that made a right angle to the corner from which the rear part of the column had approached the intersection. Stoney, myself and a couple of other troopers took cover behind the corner of this fence, while we tried to figure out what to do about the Kraut machine gun, which was holding everything up. I don't remember Stoney saying anything. He just tossed a grenade from the cover of the stone fence, in the direction of the machine gun, and then charged the gun with his Thompson blazing. It didn't work. The German Machine Gun, as we would say today, blew him away. We were up against the German 6th Parachute Regiment, which was very battle-wise and well disciplined".


Robert L. Williams, another HQ/2/506 trooper, relates:

"Stoney had jumped into Normandy just ahead of me in stick number 48. Stoney was the fourth trooper out of the door of our C-47, I was fifth. Stoney took a burst of machine gun fire at Vierville: he never knew what hit him. The battle lasted for a few hours, raging around his body. We captured 125 German prisoners and counted another 125 dead. The battalion had 6 wounded, 1 dead – Sgt. Stoney".


"Wild Bill" Guarnere, E-Co: "Stoney was a great trooper and the nicest guy you'd ever meet"


David K. Webster, of E/506, so eloquently writes of Sgt. Benjamin J. Stoney:

"Stoney was our only casualty in Vierville. Stoney, the quiet, stocky Indian from S-2. But every village had a Stoney, or two Stoneys, or many more, because that is how wars are finally fought and won- not by rich factories and the coddled Air Force, but by the infantry, who take the ground and kill the enemy, and the infantry is Stoneys".


I don’t think there is any more that can be said about Sgt. Benjamin Stoney. He, like thousands of other young Americans, left their comfortable civilian lives to undertake an ordeal that brought them to the center of history. He fought to defend his country and the nations of strangers so that they would be able to taste freedom and peace again. For this noble ideal he sacrificed his own life, with courage and pride. Together, with other brave soldiers, he deserves to be remembered by all of us so we can honor the memory of those who have given us liberty and the opportunity to live peaceful lives.



I would like to speak to the strange, deep bond between me and Benjamin. I don’t claim to understand it, but this is how it came to be.


Since I was a child, I have had a great interest in military history, for the great battles and for the men who fought them. But D-Day has always held a great fascination for me, as well as the Vietnam War and the American Civil War. I have always wanted to deepen my knowledge of these conflicts, to know the places where they were fought and the politics that drove the fighting. As I have grown older, I have continued cultivating this passion for military history, with a particular interest in the airborne troops. Everything about these historical events interests me, from the uniforms to the details of the operations.


One day while researching on the Web, I happened to be reading an honor list of the fallen of Easy Company of the 101st Airborne. Reading over the names, one by one, I came to the name of the Sgt Benjamin J. Stoney. A clear and perfect image of a wooden structure, resembling a house or an old barn on a sunny day, flashed into my mind for a second or so. I was startled by the immediate clarity of this unexpected vision and was left feeling strange, amazed and not knowing what to make of it. The experience simply left me knowing that it had something to do with Sgt. Stoney.  


This experience started my quest to find all I could about Benjamin. Little by little I began to acquire small bits of history about him and the origins of his family. This has not been an easy task, as he was a soldier from another time who was not famous and lived so long ago. As difficult as my search has been, I know more than when I started and I somehow feel his presence in the things I now know about him. After reading his military buddies’ accounts of him, I am amazed with how much he and I have in common.


After finding that Benjamin’s burial was in Colleville, Normandy, I felt compelled to honor him by visiting the memorials there. I am in my fourth year of these annual visits to Normandy. Each time I enter the cemetery and stop at the white cross engraved with his name, I am overcome with emotions of sadness, painful melancholy, and, even, pride. The pain I feel is for the circumstances in which Benjamin died so prematurely. I am melancholy because I think of what his life could have been if he had not died that day in Vierville. I think of him returning home to his family and see him living out his serene days as an old man. The pride I feel is because he died doing his duty and I know he would not have wanted otherwise. When I approach his grave I can only cry, then gather myself in silent thought.


Once, on the morning of June 7, I was approaching the villages of St. Mere Eglise and Vierville when I was struck with a sudden, intense headache. Afterward I realized that this was about the time of day Benjamin was killed near Vierville by a German Mg42 machine gun, hitting him full in the face. It was a profound experience that I could not dismiss as coincidence.


I can see where this account of my experiences could be construed to be the product of an over-active imagination. However, I consider myself to be a rational person and can only report what happened to me. All of it was very vivid and emotionally powerful. I cannot deny what I saw and felt. I feel an unbelievable affection for Benjamin and I hope to be able to find more information on him and his family. Bud is a part of me now and I hope to keep his memory alive so he will be remembered for one of the many heroes who died for his country. Above all, I want Benjamin Stoney to be remembered as the good and honorable soul that he was.



Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My sources: D-Day Paratroopers Historical Center, Saint-Come-du-Mont, Normandy