82nd Airborne Division
15 August 15 1942 - The 82nd Airborne became the U.S. Army's first airborne division, commanded by Major General Matthew B.Ridgway. (At the same time, 82nd personnel also were used in the formation of a second airborne unit - the "Screaming Eagles" of the 101st Airborne Division).
14 October 1942 - the 82nd absorbed the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
May 1943 - the 82nd "All Americans: became the first airborne division sent overseas, consisting of the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment and the 504th and 505th Parachute Infantry Regiments.
July 1943 - Sicily - Operation Husky.
- Colonel James Gavin's 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) and the 3rd Battalion of the 504th PIR parachuted to take the high ground near Ponte Olivo airfield northeast of Gela, Sicily on July 9,1943. Despite the wide scattering of the assault, the objectives were seized and the units linked up with the 1st Infantry Division the next day.
On July 11, 1943, the remaining Battalions of the 504th PIR were dropped in the vicinity of Gela with heavy losses from both the German and Allied (friendly fire) antiaircraft fire. Despite the heavy losses the division was moved up to the front by motor and reinforced by the 39th Infantry Regiment of the 9th Infantry Division on July 12, 1943. The crossings of Fiume delle Canno were secured on July 18, 1943 and the division pushed along the coastal highway, seizing the Marsala-Trapani area of Sicily's western coast by July 23rd.
September 1943 - Salerno - The Oil Drum Drop.
- The Division's second combat operation was a night parachute drop onto the Salerno beachhead on September 13, 1943 in support of General Mark Clark's 5th Army which was in danger of being pushed back into the sea.
The 504th PIR was parachuted south of the Sele River near Salerno on September 13, 1943. In order to guide the C-47 pilots to the shrinking drop zone, oil drums filled with gasoline soaked sand were ignited every 50 yards when signalled. 1300 troopers landed that night infusing a new sense of confidence to the beleaguered soldiers of the 5th Army. The 505th PIR was dropped the following night near the same drop zone to reinforce the air assault. On September 15th the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment (GIR) was brought into the beachhead amphibiously to join the rest of the division.
Once the beachhead was secured, the 504th PIR & the 376th PFAB began an attack to recover Altavilla on September 16, 1943 and the division fought towards Naples which it reached on October 1, 1943 and moved in to the next day for security duty.
January 1944 - Anzio - Operation Shingle.
- The 504th PIR, landed on the beach at Anzio and participated in heavy combat along the Mussolini Canal. It was their fierce fighting during this defensive engagement that earned the 504th PIR the nickname "Devils in Baggy Pants." The nickname was taken from an entry made in a German officer's diary.
6 June 1944 - Operation OVERLORD.
- The 82nd was pulled out of Italy in December 1943 and moved to the United Kingdom to prepare for the liberation of Europe. Two new parachute infantry regiments, the 507th and the 508th, joined the division. However, due to its depleted state following the fighting in Italy, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment did not take part in the invasion.
September 1944 - Operation MARKET Garden.
- In September, the 82nd began planning for Operation Market Garden in Holland. The operation called for three-plus airborne divisions to seize and hold key bridges and roads deep behind German lines. The 504th now back at full strength rejoined the 82nd, while the 507th went to the 17th Airborne Division.
On September 17, the 82nd Airborne Division conducted its fourth combat jump of World War II into Holland. Fighting off ferocious German counterattacks, the 82nd captured the Maas Bridge at Grave, the Maas-Waal Canal Bridge at Heumen and the Nijmegen-Groesbeek Ridge. The next day attempts to take Nijmegen Highway Bridge failed.
On 20 September the 504th carried out an heroic assault crossing the Waal. With artillery support the first wave of the 504th assaulted, in twenty-six assault boats, under intense fire, taking 200 casualties in the process. Finally on D+4 the 504th finally secured their hold on the bridge, fighting off another German counterattack just before noon.
December 1944 - Battle of the Bulge - The Ardennes Offensive.
May 1945 - Following the surrender of Germany, the 82nd was ordered to Berlin for occupation duty. In Berlin General George Patton was so impressed with the 82nd's honor guard he said, "In all my years in the Army and all the honor guards I have ever seen, the 82nd's honor guard is undoubtedly the best." Hence the "All-Americans" became known as "America's Guard of Honor."
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