By Katie Lange, DoD News, Defense Media Activity
D-Day. The Battle of the Bulge. Korea’s Operation Tomahawk. The 1989 removal of Manuel Noriega from Panama. The 2003 invasion of Iraq.
These were all major events in which U.S. military paratroopers played a pivotal role. U.S. airborne units have a long and honorable history of projecting ground combat power to the far reaches of the Earth to defend the U.S. and its allies.
Aug. 16 marks National Airborne Day, which commemorates the first official Army parachute jump 77 years ago. Our nation’s airborne divisions have played integral roles in major operations dating back to World War II, so it’s pretty fitting they have a day to themselves to be honored.
National Airborne Day was first designated in August 2002 by then-President George W. Bush. A few years later, Congress also recognized it.
Why We Celebrate It
The War Department first authorized the Army Parachute Test Platoon on June 25, 1940, when 48 soldiers from the 29th Infantry Regiment volunteered to begin training at Fort Benning, Georgia, to become airborne infantrymen. The goal was to see if the U.S. could insert ground combat forces behind a battle line.
The first jump happened less than two months later, on Aug. 16, 1940, when the test platoon jumped from a Douglas B-18 over Lawson Army Airfield.
The success of that test and America’s entry into World War II shortly thereafter led to the formation of several formidable airborne forces that included the 11th, 13th, and 17th Airborne Divisions, as well as the legendary 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions.
In November 1942, members of the Army’s 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, succeeded in completing America’s first combat jump from a C-47 behind enemy lines in North Africa.
Since that first jump, airborne-capable troops spread into units across the services, including Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance battalions, Navy SEALs, the 75th Infantry (Ranger) Regiment, and Air Force combat control and pararescue teams.
These units have played integral roles in combat operations in Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. They’ve also helped out in peacekeeping missions in Lebanon, the Sinai Peninsula, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo. And quite often, they’re called into action with little notice.
Dozens of these service members have earned the Medal of Honor, while hundreds of others have earned the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star or other decorations that honor heroism and valor.
So if you know a paratrooper, be sure to thank them for their service today, and use #NationalAirborneDay on any social media posts you make!