Lt Col. Cole parachuted into Normandy with his unit (Third Battalion of the 502 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101 Airborne Division)  in Normandy. By the evening of June 6, he had gathered 75 men. They captured Exit 3 at Saint-Martin-de-Varreville behind Utah Beach and were at the dune line to welcome men from the U.S. 4th Infantry Division coming ashore. After being in division reserve, Cole’s battalion had guarded the right flank of the 101st Airborne Division attempts to take the approaches to Carentan.

On the afternoon of June 10, Cole led 400 men of his battalion single file down a long, exposed causeway  now knpwn as Purple Heart Lane, with marshes at either side. A hedgerow behind a large farmhouse (Ignouf Farm) on the right was occupied by well dug-in German troops. At the far end of the causeway was the last of four bridges over the Douve River flood plain. Beyond the last bridge was Carentan, which the 101st had been ordered to seize to effect a linkup with the 29th Infantry Division coming off Omaha Beach.

During the advance Cole’s battalion was subjected to continuous fire from artillery, machine guns and mortars. Cole’s battalion, advancing slowly by crawling or crouching, took numerous casualties. The survivors huddled against the bank on the far side of the causeway. An obstacle known as a Belgian gate blocked nearly the entire roadway over the last bridge, allowing the passage of only one man at a time. Attempts to force this bottleneck were futile, and the battalion took up defensive positions for the night.

During the night, Cole’s men were exposed to shelling by German mortars and by a strafing and bombing attack by two aircraft, causing further casualties and knocking Company I out of the fight. However the fire from the farm slackened and the remaining 265 men infiltrated through the obstacle and took up positions for an assault.

With the Germans still resisting any attempt to move beyond the bridges, and after artillery failed to suppress their fire, Cole called for smoke on the dug-in Germans and ordered a bayonet charge, a rarity in World War II. He charged toward the hedgerow, leading only a small portion of his unit at first. The remainder of the battalion, seeing what was happening followed as Cole led the paratroopers into the hedgerows, engaging at close range and with bayonets in hand-to-hand combat. The German survivors retreated, taking more casualties as they ran away.

Lt Col Cole was killed in action on 18 September 1944 during the first day of Operation Market Garden near the Dutch town of Best.  Posthumously, Cole was awarded with the Medal of Honor.

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