82nd Airborne Division
(In the Second World War)

The 82nd Infantry Division, was originally an unit with its roots in the First World War, and known as the ‘All American’, due to the effect that it’s service personal came from all states in the United States. In March 1942 it was reactivated at Camp Clairborne, Louisiana. On 16 August of the same year the 82nd was divided to form the first American Airborne Division, together with the 101st 'Screaming Eagles' Airborne Division. The 82nd moved directly to the training camp Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Part of the division becomes the 504th Airborne Infantry Regiment that was called into life at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Col. James M. Gavin, 505th PIR CO, inspecting his troops in Oujda, Marocco

The 82nd AD, under command of Major General Matthew B. Ridgway, left New York by ship at the end of April 1943, and reached North-Africa after 12days at sea, on May 10. They disembarked at Casablanca, Marocco. There First camp was near Oujda. They stayed here for six week and during this period did training for the battles to come. An advanced unit of the 82nd, was brought by truck to Tunisia, towards the frontline at Kairouan, to settle a camp. Between June 21 and July 6, the rest of the 82nd Airborne were flown in by plane.

Operation 'Husky'

The 82nd Airborne Division ready to jump over Sicily

In Tunisia the division prepares for the invasion of Sicily. ‘Operation Husky’ takes place in the night of 9 and 10 July 1943 when units of the 82nd Airborne Division, consisting of the 505th Airborne Regiment and the 3rd Battalion of the 504th Airborne Regiment step aboard their transport planes for there jump over Sicily. The First units of the 82nd that would jump into action were; the 505th PIR, 456th PFAB, and Company 'B' of the 307th AEB and the 3rd Battalion 505th PIR.

Major General Matthew B. Ridgway (midden) nabij Ribera, Sicilië, 25 juli 1943

When the C-47's approach the island the American navy opens fire at them by mistake, they thought that the planes were from the German Luftwaffe. Despite that there are a couple of C-47’s destroyed with the costly price of the life of many young men, the main force with the ‘All American’ reach their drop zone. Ten days later the front troops are withdrawn. When the allied landings near Salerno in Italy are under threat to fail, units of the 82nd were swiftly brought in on 13 September, 1943. The Airborne Division manages to force a breakthrough to Naples.

De 82nd Airborne Division in Napels
The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment receives in Bagnoli, out of hands from Major-General Mark Clark, the Presidential Unit Citation for their part during the Anzio campaign.

Now that Naples was secured, the 82nd was shipped to Liverpool where they arrive on 22 April, 1944. The division goes in training for their next mission, D-Day.

Presidential Unit Citation

6 JUNE, 1944, D-DAY

The targets for the 82nd Airborne Division on 6 June, 1944, were west and south of Ste-Mere-Eglise. Their mission was to destroy two bridges over the river Douve and to secure the bridge over the river Merderet. This to prevent that the Germans could bring reinforcements to the landing beaches. The first group that were dropped were the ‘Pathfinders’. Their mission was to place the beacons for the main force of C-47’s. Unfortunately only 38 of the 120 ‘Pathfinders’ reach their specific target.

'All American' troopers are getting ready to go to France,... a jump into darkness

After the first men have made their jump the German flak becomes more intents. The pilots try to climb their planes and to throttle up. This made the jump for the men much harder. Due to the fact of the bad weather and the lack of radar the flak was very inaccurate. Of the 805 transport planes that flew that night over the peninsula Cotentin, ‘only’ 20 were lost because of the flak.

Pathfinders from the 508th PIR who will mark the DZ's

The 82nd, under command of Major-General M.B. Ridgway were fortunate. The first regiment, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Krauze, drops in by surprise with 75% of the men within a few miles of their target (dropping zone, DZ). At 04.00 hours, two hours after the main force has landed, Ste-Mere-Eglise is captured.

But the problems started to grow. Of the 52 gliders loaded with the heavy weapons, only 22 reach their landing zone (LZ). The bridges that had to be taken were strong defended. Further more, a lot of paratroopers were lost wandering around in search of their units. A whole group was lost between the river Merderet and the area that was intently swamped. The Germans predicted a landing in this area, and whole area’s were drowned and were impenetrable. Everywhere in the field stood high poles against gliders, the so called ‘Rommels-asparagus’.

Links: 82nd Airborne troopers talk to men from the 4th Infantry Division

Due to the scattered landings of the paratroopers in the whole area, there were small conflicts with the Germans. It was for the defending German a nightmare. All around them were small groups of paratroopers. In this area operated the German 91st Infantry Regiment, special trained to deal with paratroopers, but there was no strategy in the fighting of the 82nd Airborne Division. At daybreak of the 6th of June the reinforcements arrive in gliders or were dropped. Around 10.00 hours in the morning the first contact is made with the troops who landed at UTAH Beach. There is a firm bridgehead with a depth of 12 kilometre. The 82nd Airborne Division is appointed to break out to the west and close off the peninsula Cotentin and secure it against retreating Germans from the north. Four other American Division will then steam up north, to Cherbourg. On 18 June, the 82nd reaches Barneville on the other side of the peninsula. At least 30.000 German soldiers are trapped and these pull back on Cherbourg.

A small unit of the 507th PIR fought against heavy German oposition
when they were trapped in the village of Graignes. For the whole story:

After 33 days of non-stop fighting, the 82nd is finally evacuated back to England. The losses were 40% of the initial strength from the month before. The troops had fought against five German divisions, 77th, 353rd, 243rd, 91st and the 265th, in which case the last two were almost wiped out. Further more, they destroyed 62 tanks and 44 pieces of artillery and anti-tank cannons.

One Medal of Honor was awarded in this period. 2.PFC Charles N. Deglopper was trapped with his men by a German opposition. Deglopper took up his machinegun and positioned himself in the middle of a road, and began firing towards the Germans. This evasive action gave his men the change to retried to a save place. Later Deglopper was found, lying in a heap of spelled shells, killed by the German. It would earn Deglopper his Medal of Honor.


During their period in Great Britain the 82nd and 101st were brought back to fighting strength and prepared for their next operation, Market-Garden. Their target was the capture of several bridges, with the final goal the bridge at Arnhem. Montgomery had the idea to use this point to spearhead into Germany. The British 1st Airborne Division would be landing west of Arnhem, with support from the Polish Parachute Brigade. The 101st Airborne Division had its DZ in a area between Veghel and Son, north of Eindhoven. The 82nd would be dropped between the river Waal and the river Maas, south of Nijmegen. Under command of Major-General James Gavin their task was to capture the bridges, among them the longest (then) in Europe, over the Maas near Grave.

The bridge at Nijmegen

On sunday 17 September, 1944 a 1000 transport planes and almost 500 gliders fly to Holland. The Americans who dropped in the area Eindhoven-Nijmegen faced little opposition, other than the British, who were under heavy fire from the start. A battalion of the 82nd Airborne Division captured the bridge near Grave within the hour. Before dark set in, the route leading into Nijmegen was secured by capturing the bridge over there. The next day, 18 September, the counter attack from the Germans began from the Reichswald. This was around the same time when the reinforcements of the 82nd were due to arrive. From England 1203 gliders started that morning. They left late because of the bad weather. At that time the LZ for the gliders was overrun by the Germans. General Gavin ordered to clear the landing zone from Germans. With only thirty minutes to spare the paratroopers pushed the Germans back. But the gliders landed under heavy fire, but despite of that, the casulties were minor. Had the gliders left on time from their airfields, they would have landed in a by Germans captured area. But because of their late arrival it was to late to capture the bridge of Nijmegen that day.

Lieutenant-General 'Boy' Browning converse with Major-General 'Jumping Jim' Gavin

In the night of 19 and 20 September German reinforcements were brought in over the Rhine to Nijmegen. These were units from the battle-group 10.SS-Pantzer-Grenadier-Division. It took most of the Wednesday to clear Nijmegen from German defences in and around Nijmegen, and at the shore of the river Waal. This was of great importance because the 504th Parachute Regiment were given the order to cross the Waal with boats. Around 15.00 hours the men boarded the rowing boats and under a smokescreen they set off. Unfortunately the wind blew the smoke apart and the fast flowing river made it hard to row. Only half of the boats reached the other side, the rest was adrift or were destroyed by German fire. But somehow 200 men reached the other side and with additional reinforcements they captured the bridge. There was no medal big enough in the world for this heroic act, to cross a fast moving river of 400 metres wide in brought daylight under heavy enemy fire. General Dempsey told General Gavin: "I'm very proud to meet the commander of the finest division in the world today". All of the British officers who witnessed the 82nd Airborne Division on that day, agreed with this wholeheartedly, how they fought the river, the Germans, and against death,… Despite their heroic effort, not a single Medal of Honor was handed out to an 82nd trooper, they ‘just’ did their job.

During the whole of Operation Market-Garden, one Medal of Honor was awarded to a paratrooper of the 82nd Airborne Division. On September 21, near Oosterhout, John R. Towle, from 504th PIR, was sitting in his foxhole. When he noticed that some German tanks, and at least a 100 men, were approaching, he knew at once that not only his position and that of his mates were in danger, but also the complete bridgehead was in jeopardy. Towle took his Bazooka and ran unprotected to the top of the dyke. Despite the incoming German bullets, he managed to hit two tanks, which retrieved. Towle saw nine Germans enter a house, and at once he fired a shot into it, which killed them all. After that, he ran at least 125 meters further upon the dyke, to fire at an armoured car. But an incoming mortar hit Towle, which killed him instantly. On March 15, 1945, Towle received the Medal of Honor.

Unfortunaly, Arnhem would not be liberated and the British had to give up their positions at the bridge overthere. The planned breakthrough to the east before the winter had failed.


When the 82nd and the 101st Airborne Division were pulled back to take some rest, the ‘Battle of the Bulge’ began in the Belgium Ardennes. In great hurry the 101st was directed to Bastogne and the 82nd took positions on the left flank. During the total isolation of the 101st at Bastogne, the 82nd hold of the Germans west of Bastogne with the help of the 17th Airborne Division.

On Januari 29, 1945, a small group from Company C of 508th PIR moved through Holzheim, Belgium. When the leading officer was wounded, Sergeant Leonard A. Funk Jr. took over his roll. When the group searched the houses, some 30 Germans were taken prisoner. After Holzheim was cleared, they had at least 80 Germans in their custody, and placed under guard by four paratroopers. A German patrol attacked the American troopers, and freed the German prisoners. When Sergeant Funk went around a corner, he was confronted by the German group. A German officer pushed a sub-machinegun into the stomach of Funk, and ordered him to surrender. Funk slowly let his sub-machinegun slide over his arm, and set his weapon from safe to fire. In one fast move, he opened fire, and shot the officer, and turned his weapon towards the other Germans and shot some of them. He shouted to the American troopers, to grab German weapons and shoot at them. After the short fire exchange, 21 Germans lay dead and a double was wounded. The Germans that surrendered were again placed under guard. On September 5, 1945 Sergeant Funk received the Medal of Honor.

When finally the Germans were defeated and drove back, the pursue of enemy troops takes over. The river Rhine was crossed and the allies headed for Berlin. The 82nd crossed the river Elbe together with British units. 50 Kilometres further, in Ludwiglust, they shook hands with the Russians. Meanwhile they liberated the concentration camp of Wobbelin and they accepted the surrender of 145.000 German troops from the 21st Army, under command of General-Leutnant von Tippelskirch. After VE-Day (Victory Day-Europe) the 82nd Airborne Division was tasked to be a administrate force and policing the American sector in Berlin.

In the Second World War, 1619 paratroopers of the 82nd would be killed, 6560 were wounded, and 332 para’s would die of their wounds. Three Medals of Honor were awarded to members of this division.

The shoulder sleeve insignia of the 82nd Infantry Division

The original shoulder sleeve insignia of the 82nd Infantry Division dates back to the First World War and was accepted on 21 October 1918. It consist of a red square with a blue circle bearing the white letters ‘AA’ (All American). When on 31 August, 1942 the 82nd Airborne Division is reactivated the same insignia is accepted with the addition of a half circle with the word ‘Airborne’ above it.

To the 101st 'Screaming Eagles' Airborne Division.