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Cornelius Ryan and Herbert Buffalo Boy

Cornelius Ryan passed away on this date in 1974.  Ryan was an Irish journalist and author well known for writing World War II military history.  His most famous books were “The Longest Day” about the June 6th, 1944 D-Day landings on Normandy; “The Last Battle” about the Battle of Berlin; and “A Bridge Too Far” about the ill-fated invasion of the Netherlands called Operation Market Garden.  The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far were made into major motion pictures. 

Ryan researched his books in large part by interviewing and corresponding with participants in those battles.  One of these individuals was Herbert Jeffery Buffalo Boy Jr. of Fort Yates, North Dakota.  Herbert served as Staff Sergeant with the 82nd Airborne Division and was one of a limited number of Airborne members involved in four combat jumps -- one of only a handful of Native Americans earning the Four-Star Airborne Veteran honor.

Another Four-Star Airborne Veteran was Brigadier General James Gavin, the only General in history to make 4 combat jumps.  General Gavin commanded the 82nd Airborne and Buffalo Boy and Gavin knew each other personally.  Herbert Buffalo Boy made combat jumps at Sicily and Salerno in Italy; Normandy in France; and in the Netherlands.  His jumps were made from a C-47, the military version of the DC-3.  He carried 125 to 150 pounds of gear and was expected to engage the enemy as soon as he reached the ground.  Herbert was well thought of in his unit and known for his bravery and fighting ability, having continued to fight, even after being wounded several times.  He at one time was the most decorated Native American from North Dakota. 

After also serving in Korea, Herbert came home to North Dakota, farmed and ranched, married, and had 5 children.  One of his sons, Robert, continued his dad’s legacy, serving 2 tours in Vietnam and coming home as a decorated veteran.

Over the years, Herbert participated in many ceremonies and activities sponsored by the American Legion, including a turn as Commander of the Albert Grass Post in Fort Yates. He passed away in 1984.

Dakota Datebook by Scott Nelson

Sources: 

Ryan’s book “The Longest Day”, book “You or Me” by Milton Schlesener, phone interview with Herbert’s daughter, Roselyn/phone visit with Herbert’s great nephew, Scott Davis, Indian Affairs Commission Executive Director.

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