February 11, 1924
PRIVATE JOHN COATES | AGE: (96) | RESIDES: CUMBERLAND, MD UNITED STATES ARMY – 82ND AIRBORNE, 508TH PARACHUTE INFANTRY (COMBAT MEDIC) Battles: Operation Market Garden | Northern France | Ardennes | Central European Pocket SHORT BIOGRAPHY: JOHN COATES, of Ellicott City, Maryland, served as a combat medic and paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne during World War II. He joined the unit after D-Day but jumped as part of Operation Market Garden and later fought in the Battle of the Bulge. COATES played a significant role in the Battle of the Bulge in late December 1944, during which they screened the withdrawal of some 20,000 troops from St. Vith and defended their positions against the German Panzer divisions. They also participated in the assault led by the 2nd Ranger Battalion to capture (successfully) Hill 400. On May 2, 1945, the 82nd Airborne Division overran Wöbbelin, a subcamp of the Neuengamme Concentration Camp. At its height, Wöbbelin held some 5,000 inmates, many of whom were suffering from starvation and disease. Living conditions in the camp when the 8th Infantry and the 82nd Airborne arrived were deplorable. When the divisions arrived there, they found about one thousand inmates dead in the camp. In the aftermath, the US Army ordered the townspeople in Ludwigslust to visit the camp and bury the dead.