Christopher Russell
Chris Russell


Capt. Clyde R. Russell Jini Russell

These enclosed pictures are of of my mom and dad taken in the early 1940ʼs;
Virginia "Jini" Arends and Captain Clyde R. Russell. They were "All American" kids from Des Moines, Iowa. Dad was a successful life insurance saleman and mom a devoted housewife and socialite.

Then, on December 7, 1941 the Imperial Japanese Navy bombed Pearl Harbor and ushered in the Second World War. Like millions of other Americans, Clyde and Jiniʼs lives were inexorably altered as dad was immediately drafted into the US Army. Because Clyde was college educated, he was selected (ordered) to attend the Infantry Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, GA and he became a commissioned Army Infantry Officer fondly remembered today as a "90 day wonder". He quickly voluteered for the newly formed Airborne Corp and became "jump qualified" after completing the Airborne School at Ft. Benning, GA.

In the Airborne School, Clyde met up with a West Point graduate named Lt. Colonel James Gavin and together they (and others) formed the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) within the 82nd Airborne Division. Meanwhile, lonely and missing her husband, Jini heard that the American Red Cross (ARC) was assigning women volunteers to their newly created "Club Mobile" teams to the Airborne units. Armed with this information, she rushed to Washington, DC to volunteer for the ARC in order to be close to her man. She asked if she could be assigned to the 505th PIR. She ran into the usual "catch 22" however as she was quickly advised that only "single" gals were being recruited and assigned to these Airborne ʻClub Mobileʼ units. Not to be deterred, she rushed back to Des Moines, Iowa and filed for divorce. Once her divorce was approved she hurried back to Washington, DC and the ARC to sign up for the 82nd Airborne Divisionʼs 505th PIR. She was told that she was too late for the 82nd as all the 82nd positions had all been taken. But she was advised that another Airborne Unit was being formed in Georgia called the 101st Airborne Division and that they were to be the "sister unit" of the 82nd. She quickly joined and was assigned to Hqs. & Hqs. company, 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division.

The attached letter from Mr. Dan Peterson, the curator of the 101st Airborne Divisionʼs Pratt Museum reveals that mom was either "the first or one of the first women in uniform to be assigned to the 101st". She traveled with the 101st throughout the war while all the time she kept her eyes focused on her ex-husband in the 82nd Airborne Division. Her scrap book which contains many pictures and memorabilia of the 101st Abn. Division (and in particular the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR)) and is today on display at the 101st Abn. Divisionʼs Pratt museum in Fort Campbell, KY. She was a good friend of Colonel Sink. Her ʻClub Mobileʼ team member and associate was another gutsy American gal by the name of Polly Baker. Mom and her new team member Polly Baker were with the 506th parachute infantry regiment (PIR) when they (506th PIR) enterred Hitlerʼs Burchesgarden Retreat near the end of the war. She and Polly "liberated" some pictures, personal stationairy and silverware belonging the the Fuhrer; all of which are today on display at the Pratt Museum.

Meanwhile, Clyde was jumping into combat and was one of the 505ers that made all four combat jumps in the war with "Jumpin" Jim Gavin and the 82nd Airborne Division. The photo of Captain Clyde R. Russell (above) was taken one week before he led his beloved "E company", 505 PIR into St. Mere Eʼglise in Normandy during the "D-day" invasion of Europe. Dad was later wounded-in-action during his 4th and final jump into Holland during "Operation Market Garden". As a result of his combat wounds, he was medivaced back to the hospital in England. As soon as Jini learned of Clydeʼs being in the hospital, she rushed back to be by his side. They were re-married during Clydeʼs recuperation in the hospital in England. Colonel Clyde R. Russell survived the war and went on to have an illumened career in the Army. He rose through the ranks in the 82nd Airborne Divison becomming the first officer to hold all of the command positions, from platoon leader, company commander to regimental commander of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

From there he fought in Korea and Vietnam. In 1964 he was asked by the White House and the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon to create a "Top Secret special operations group" to spearhead the war effort in South-East Asia. He created and was the first commander of what came to be known at MACV-SOG.Colonel Clyde R. Russell euphemistically called his newly created unit, "The Studies and Observations Group" (SOG) to keep it more arcane sounding. It was Colonel Clyde R. Russell who was in command during the "Gulf of Tonkin" incident and which heralded in the US army forces (USARV) into Vietnam. Following Vietnam, Colonel Clyde R. Russell was nominated for but taken off the Brigadier Generalʼs list because of his age. He retired from the Army in 1968. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) to complement his many other awards and decorations.

Today the old XVIII Airborne Corps G-4 (Director of Industial Operations) building on Fort Bragg is named in his honor. Jini Russell is burried at Arlington cemetary in Washington, DC while Clyde is burried next to his beloved first-born daughter, Polly (named after Polly Baker), in Fayetteville, NC.

Chris Russell joined the army in 1968 and was commissioned an officer (2nd Lt) following Infantry Officer Candidate School in 1969. He served a tour with his dadʼs beloved 505th PIR (82nd Abn. Div.) and then went to the JFK Special Warfare School (Fort Bragg, NC) and became a psychological operations unit officer assigned to the Joint US Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO) in Can Tho Vietnam from 1970-71.

In 1999 he learned that he had contracted lung cancer from Agent Orange, a defoliant used in Vietnam. After experiencing a "near-death experience" NDE, he was miraculously healed and today lives with his wife in Fayetteville, NC.

The Russell Family

Airborne All the Way,
Chris Russell MSW PLCSW