||505th Parachute Infantry Regiment.||
1942 to December 1944
On 6 July 1942, at Fort Benning, Georgia, the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment was activated under the Airborne Command, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. On 4 February 1943, the Regiment was assigned to the 82d Airborne Division. The Regiment arrived at Fort Bragg, North Carolina on 12 February 1943. During World War II, the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment participated in seven major campaigns and four regimental airborne assaults.
On 9 July 1943, the 505th made the first regimental size combat parachute attack as part of Operation Husky l. Under the capable leadership of Colonel James M. "Jumping Jim" Gavin the 505th was organized into a Regimental Combat Team which included the 3rd Battalion of the 504th. Their objective was to parachute behind enemy lines into an egg-shaped area around Gela, Sicily. With Sicily secure, the Allies continued attack on the Axis powers with landings on the Italian mainland.
A landing on mainland Italy took place in the early morning of 12 September 1943 at Salerno under General Mark Clark. On the night of 14 September 1943, Jim Gavin's 505th Parachute Infantry totaling roughly 2100 combat hardened paratroopers dropped onto the tenuous Salerno beachhead. It was an encore performance of the previous night's precise parachute jump by the 504th and no less spectacular. Within 24 hours these two units of the 82nd Airborne had jumped on short notice and shored up the faltering Salerno beachhead. Two weeks later on 29 September the 505th had probed into the outskirts of Naples thereby capturing the first major European city for the Allies. During the early months of 1944, the Division was moved to England as the allies were preparing for the assault on Western Europe.
The largest combined military operation in history, "D-Day", was to be spearheaded by the 82d and 101st Airborne Divisions. 6 June 1944, at 0300 hours, found the paratroopers of the 505th landing on the Normandy Peninsula. It was one of the first airborne units to hit the ground and liberated the first town in France, St. Mere-Eglise. The paratroopers jumped prior to the actual start of the invasion "H-Hour". Because of that tradition, of being the first into the fight, the 505th Regimental motto is "H-MINUS". For their performance in the invasions the 505th was awarded the Presidential unit citation, the unit equivalent of the Medal of Honor awarded to individual soldiers. In the words of author Clay Blair, the paratroopers emerged from Normandy with the reputation of being a pack of jackals; the toughest, most resourceful and bloodthirsty in Europe.
On 17 September 1944, as part of "Operation Market Garden", the 505th made its fourth jump at Groesbeck, Holland, the largest airborne assault in history. During that fierce combat, two lightly armed platoons, at most 80 men, were surrounded by an entire German Infantry Battalion supported by tanks. The paratroopers fought back three savage German assaults and held their ground until relieved. The 505th received a second Presidential unit citation.
The Battle of the Bulge: December 1944 - January 1945.
Later that winter the airborne troopers were thrown into the breach of the famous "Battle of the Bulge". Despite a lack of cold weather equipment once again airborne spirit, courage, and hard-nosed determination won the day as the 505th withstood the bleak winter and stopped the fanatic German attacks cold. For its valor in the seven major campaigns the 505th was awarded two Distinguished Unit Citations and three Foreign decorations: the French Forragere, Netherlands Military Order of William, and Belgium Forragere.
Created : June 04, 2001
Updated : August 15, 2005
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