The first official Army parachute exercise was conducted on August 16, 1940. The Army Test Parachute Platoon convinced "the powers that be" that forcible entry or mass vertical envelopement - or whatever you want to call dropping thousands of pissed off paratroopers to take and hold ground until reinforcements arrive - was possible. On August 15, 1942, the 82nd Infantry Division was re-purposed and renamed...well, you know damn well what they were renamed...AIRBORNE!
This led to the creation of a force of airborne soldiers that included the 11th, 13th, 17th, and 101st Airborne Divisions.
These men knew, as do Airborne men and women of today, that, in the air and certainly upon landing, will be outnumbered by the enemy, surrounded, and have to fight like hell until they are reinforced by heavier ground units...in many cases, surprising and quickly killing the enemy is the only way that they will survive.
In November of 1942, just a few months after the unit was formed, those paratroopers would perform the first combat jump into North Africa.
Airborne 1943 - Troops of the 82nd Airborne Division jump en mass, during a demonstration at Oujda, French Morocco, North Africa, on 3 June 1943, shortly before the Sicily invasion. (World War II Signal Corps Collection). Photo courtesy of SOCOM.
In 2001, President George W. Bush proclaimed that August 16th was National Airborne Day. In 2002, he issued this proclamation, which more or less, has been designated by Congress. That means that you Legs have to deal with our glorious egos for one whole day.
Here is the first proclamation from President GW Bush:
The history of airborne forces began after World War I, when Brigadier General William Mitchell first conceived the idea of parachuting troops into combat. Eventually, under the leadership of Major William Lee at Fort Benning, Georgia, members of the Parachute Test Platoon pioneered methods of combat jumping in 1940. In November 1942, members of the 2nd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, conducted America's first combat jump, leaping from a C-47 aircraft behind enemy lines in North Africa. This strategy revolutionized combat and established airborne forces as a key component of our military.
During World War II, airborne tactics were critical to the success of important missions, including the D-Day invasion at Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge, the invasion of Southern France, and many others. In Korea and Vietnam, airborne soldiers played a critical combat role, as well as in later conflicts and peacekeeping operations, including Panama, Grenada, Desert Storm, Haiti, Somalia, and the Balkans. Most recently, airborne forces were vital to liberating the people of Afghanistan from the repressive and violent Taliban regime; and these soldiers continue to serve proudly around the world in the global coalition against terrorism.
The elite airborne ranks include prestigious groups such as the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, "Sky Soldiers," 82nd Airborne Division, "All American," and the "Screaming Eagles" of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). Airborne forces have also been represented in the former 11th, 13th, and 17th Airborne Divisions and numerous other Airborne, glider and air assault units and regiments. Paratroopers in the Army's XVIII Airborne Corps, the 75th Infantry (Ranger) Regiment and other Special Forces units conduct swift and effective operations in defense of peace and freedom.
Airborne combat continues to be driven by the bravery and daring spirit of sky soldiers. Often called into action with little notice, these forces have earned an enduring reputation for dedication, excellence, and honor. As we face the challenges of a new era, I encourage all people to recognize the contributions of these courageous soldiers to our Nation and the world.
Now, therefore, I, George W. Bush, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim August 16, 2002, as National Airborne Day. As we commemorate the first official Army parachute jump on August 16, 1940, I encourage all Americans to join me in honoring the thousands of soldiers, past and present, who have served in an airborne capacity. I call upon all citizens to observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.
In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this fourteenth day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-seventh.
George W. Bush
Today, Airborne forces of the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force serve around the world. Not only did they volunteer to go into harm's way and be tired, cold, wet, and hungry, they also volunteered to be delivered to that fight by a very violent and risky means...
Today is the day that we honor those who have honored that commitment - past and present.
ALL THE WAY!