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 82nd AB History

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PostSubject: 82nd AB History   Fri Nov 12, 2010 9:00 pm

Louisiana to Italy
The 82nd Division was re designated February 13, 1942 as Division Headquarters, 82nd Division. After the outbreak of World War II, it was recalled to active service on March 25, 1942, and reorganized at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, under the command of Major General Omar N. Bradley. During this time spent in training, the division brought together three officers who would ultimately steer the US Army during the next two decades: Matthew B. Ridgway, James M. Gavin, and Maxwell D. Taylor.

On August 15, 1942, the 82nd Infantry Division became the first airborne division in the U.S. Army, and was redesignated the 82nd Airborne Division. In April 1943, paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division deployed to North Africa under the command of Major General Matthew B. Ridgway to participate in the campaign to invade Italy. The Division's first two combat operations were parachute assaults into Sicily on July 9 and Salerno on September 13, 1943. The initial assault on Sicily, by the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, was the first regimental sized combat parachute assault conducted by the United States Army. The first glider assault did not occur until Operation Neptune as part of the D-Day (Invasion of Normandy, June 6, 1944) Glider troopers of the 319th Glider Field Artillery, the 320th Glider Field Artillery and the 325th Glider Infantry did participate in the Italian campaign but came in by landing craft at Maiori (319th) and Salerno (320th, 325th).

In January 1944, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, which was temporarily detached from the division to fight at Anzio, adopted the nickname "Devils in Baggy Pants," taken from an entry in a German officer's diary. While the 504th was detached, the remainder of the 82nd was pulled out of Italy in November 1943 and moved to the United Kingdom to prepare for the liberation of Europe. See RAF North Witham and RAF Folkingham.


France to Germany
With two combat assaults under its belt, the 82nd Airborne Division was now ready for the most ambitious airborne operation of the war so far, as part of Operation Neptune, the invasion of Normandy. The 82nd Airborne Division conducted Operation Boston, part of the airborne assault phase of the Overlord plan.

In preparation for the operation, the division was reorganized. Due to a need for integrating replacement troops, rest, and refitting following the fighting in Italy, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment was not assigned to the division for the invasion. Two new parachute infantry regiments, the 507th and the 508th, were attached to provide it, along with the 505th, a three-parachute infantry regiment punch. On June 5, 1944 and June 6, 1944, these paratroopers, parachute artillery elements, and the 319th and 320th Glider Field Artillery Battalions, boarded hundreds of transport planes and gliders to begin the largest airborne assault in history. Its 325th Glider Infantry Regiment would follow-up by glider on June 7 to provide a division reserve.

By the time the All-American Division was pulled back to England, it had seen 33 days of bloody combat and suffered 5,245 troopers killed, wounded, or missing. The Division's post-battle report, authored by Ridgway, stated in part, "...33 days of action without relief, without replacements. Every mission accomplished. No ground gained was ever relinquished."[1]

Following the Normandy invasion, the 82nd became part of the newly organized XVIII Airborne Corps, which consisted of the U.S. 17th, 82nd, and 101st Airborne Divisions. Ridgway was given command of XVIII Airborne Corps, but was not promoted to Lieutenant General until 1945. His recommendation for succession as commander was Brigadier General James M. Gavin. Ridgway's recommendation met with approval, and upon promotion Gavin became the youngest two-star general since the Civil War to command a US Army division.


82nd Airborne Division drop near Grave in the Netherlands during Operation Market Garden. (National Archives)On 2 August 1944 the division became part of the First Allied Airborne Army. In September, the 82nd began planning for Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands. 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, was reassigned to the 82nd, while the 507th was assigned to the 17th Airborne Division. On September 17, the 82nd conducted its fourth combat assault of World War II, into the Netherlands. Fighting off German counterattacks, the 82nd captured its objectives between Grave, and Nijmegen. Its success, however, was short-lived because the defeat of other Allied units at Arnhem. After a period of duty on the Arnhem front, the 82nd was relieved by Canadian troops, and sent to France.


504th Regiment, 82nd Airborne troops advancing through snow-covered forest during the Battle of the BulgeOn December 16, 1944, the Germans launched a surprise offensive through the Ardennes Forest which was known as the Battle of the Bulge. Two days later the 82nd joined the fighting and blunted General Gerd von Rundstedt's northern penetration in the American lines. During this campaign, PFC Martin, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, told a sergeant in a retreating tank destroyer to, "...pull your vehicle behind me - I'm the 82nd Airborne, and this is as far as the bastards are going!"[2] After helping to secure the Ruhr, the division ended the war at Ludwigslust past the Elbe River, accepting the surrender of Lieutenant General Kurt von Tippelskirch's 21st Army. Over 150,000 troops surrendered to the division. General Omar N. Bradley's reaction is worth an aside; he claimed in a 1975 interview with Gavin that Montgomery told him German opposition was too great to cross the Elbe. When Gavin's division crossed it, it moved 36 miles in one day and captured over 100,000 troops, causing great laughter in Bradley's 12th Army Group headquarters.[citation needed]

Following the surrender of Germany, the 82nd was ordered to Berlin for occupation duty. This lasted from April until December 1945. 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-American" became also known as "America's Guard of Honor." The 82nd was scheduled to partake in the invasion of Japan, but the war ended before their departure.

During the invasion of Italy in World War II, Will Lang Jr. of TIME was considered an honorary member of the 82nd Airborne Division by General Matthew B. Ridgway.

Casualties
1,619 Killed in Action
6,560 Wounded in Action
332 Died of Wounds
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