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Historical account of the 82nd Airborne division (#1)

Creation of the 82nd Airborne division

Initially, the 82nd division is a classic infantry division, which was created on August 25, 1917 at Camp Gordon, Georgia. The division was sent to France during the First World War and participated in three major offensives which precipitated the collapse of the armies of the German Empire.

On August 15, 1942, the U.S. military creates for the first time an airborne division, turning the 82nd infantry in the 82nd Airborne. It is placed under the command of General Omar Bradley and his second in command, Brigadier General Matthew Ridgway and it is based at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, along with the 101st Airborne division.

Composed as a first step of a parachute infantry regiment (PIR) and two glider infantry regiments (GIR), the 82nd Airborne is reinforced once in its new home at Fort Bragg (North Carolina) in October 1942. It is ultimately composed of the 504th and 505th PIRs, the 325th GIR, the 319th and 320th glider artillery battalions (GFAB), the 376th and 456th Airborne artillery battalions (PFAB), the 80th Airborne anti-aircraft bataillon (AAAB), the 370th Airborne engineer battalion (AEB) and various support elements.

After numerous and very intense trainings, the 82nd Airborne division is sent to Casablanca (Morocco), where it arrived on May 10, 1943. It has to train harder for the invasion of Sicily: operation Husky.

Operation Husky

This operation is led by Colonel James Gavin, commander of the 505th PIR. This is the first airborne military offensive of the history of the United States of America: on July 9, 1943,paratroopers of the the 505th are dropped over Sicily. Separated into different fighting groups, the paratroopers are preparing the ground before the amphibious operation that must follow in Gela. The 504th PIR was to be dropped on July 11 over Sicily. But when American airmen flew over the Allied fleet, the sailors have mistaken them with enemy bombers and they opened fire with their anti-aircraft guns: 23 C-47 aircraft were shot down. 81 paratroopers were killed, including the Assistant Divisional Commander, Brigadier General Charles Keerans.

On the soil of Sicily, Operation Husky is a success: in 5 days, the 82nd traveled almost 94 kilometers and has about 23.000 prisoners.

Operation Avalanche

General Clark, commander of the 5th U.S. Army, has to launch an amphibious attack, called operation Avalanche, at Salerno. On September 9, 1943, the landing begins and for 4 days, the American beachhead is threatened. Clark therefore appeales to the 82nd Airborne division, still in Sicily. On September 13, is organized an airborne raid led by Colonel Reuben Tucker and part of the 504th PIR on the city of Paestum, south of Salerno. The next day, it is the turn of the 505th PIR to be dropped. The paratroopers of the 82nd repel enemy forces.

 

 

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Image : The shoulder patch of the 82nd Airborne division: two white letters "AA" for "All Americans" on a blue circle in a red square.

The shoulder patch of the 82nd Airborne division: two white letters "AA" for "All Americans" on a blue circle in a red square.

 

During the two months that follow, the 82nd fights in the region of Salerno and Naples, where the airborne division is the first to enter. It continues to progress up to the Volturno river, then it is sent to England to prepare operation Overlord.

However, the 504th PIR remained in the area of Anzio, where it continued to fight the enemy (operation Shingle).

D-Day

The 82nd is now in England but without one of its parachute tnfantry regiments. It is decided that the airborne division should be strengthened by two new regiments, the 505th and the 507th PIRs.

The 82nd Airborne division must conquer different objectives in early June 6, 1944 during operation Neptune, part of operation Overlord.

Thus, in the early hours of June 6, 1944, paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne jump over Normandy: they have to capture different objectives in the area west of the Allied amphibious invasion, such as the town of Sainte-Mère-Eglise or the La Fière bridge.

The airdrops, as for the 101st Airborne division, are vague and often American soldiers land miles from their drop zone. On the morning of June 6, the airborne troops make the junction with the landed troops belonging to the 4th infantry division at Utah Beach.

On June 9, 1944, La Fière sector, soldiers of the 82nd, including men of the 325th GIR fiercely defend the bridge against German tanks attacks.

Thus, the 82nd Airborne division fought for 33 days in Normandy until early July 1944 and received for its galantry actions the Presidential Unit Citation. But the war is not over at that date and if the 82nd is removed from the front and returnes to England, it is precisely to prepare a new offensive in Europe.

 

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