Bob Blankenship

Bob Blankenship entered military service in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1942 he was stationed at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. Lieutenant Blankenship saw combat action during World War II in the European Theater of Operations with the 82nd Airborne Division.

In the battle to take the bridge across the Waal River in Nijmegen, Lieutenant Blankenship received the first of his two Silver Stars. Gen. James "Jumpin Jim” Gavin described in the book Into the Valley the battle to cross the Waal River and capture the Nijmegen Bridge as "the most brilliant and spectacular battle of all.”

In order to get to the north end of the Nijmegen Bridge, Lieutenant Blankenship and his men had to cross the swift-current Waal River in collapsible canvas boats, often using rifle butts as paddles. Blankenship and his men crossed the river in broad daylight, taking enemy machine gun fire, mortar, and artillery. CBS war correspondent Bill Downs reported on the crossing this way: "A single isolated battle that ranks with Guam, Tarawa, Omaha Beach. A story that should be told to the blowing of bugles and the beating of drums for the men whose bravery made the capture of this crossing over the Waal possible.”

The first wave of paratroopers included DeRidder's future mayor. Blankenship's actions on this mission, which are described in T. Moffatt Burris's book, Strike and Hold: A Memoir of the 82nd Airborne in World War II, earned him a Silver Star and induction into the Military Order of the Knights of William. The decoration is the highest decoration granted by the government of Holland. For his gallantry, he was Knighted and assigned the name of Sir Robert.

In his citation for the Silver Star, Blankenship is credited with "unhesitatingly, by leaps and bounds, moving across 100 yards of open terrain” and silencing a sniper by use of hand-to-hand combat, killing a four-man machine gun crew with his rifle, and helping neutralize a flack wagon with hand grenades. For his military actions during World War II, Bob Blankenship was awarded two Silver Stars, one Bronze Star, and five Purple Hearts.

Additional information on Lieutenant Blankenship's military career can be found in the books, All the Way to Berlin (James Megellas), Strike and Hold: A Memoir of the 82nd Airborne in World War II (T. Moffatt Burriss), and All American, All: The Combat History of the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II (Phil Nordyke). Further insights can be gathered by viewing the famous movie, A Bridge Too Far.

In 1964, Blankenship received an award for "Citizen of the Year” from the city. In 1962, he was elected as the mayor of DeRidder and served in that post until 1970. For his outstanding performance, in 1968, the Louisiana Association of Municipalities selected him "Mayor of the Year.”