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82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

 

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Fallout Boys: The true story of an atom bomb, a group of Paratroopers, and the most dangerous drop zone in America

We often get comments on here about how we do not show the full breadth of the 82nd AIrborne Division. And, the truth is, not everything we do is as alluring as our hype videos may depict. Every task is not as exciting as jumping out of airplanes. Some of it is tedious and ALL of it is hard work. But, hey, we never said this airborne life is easy.

So, this video is for all of our men and women our there doing the hard work. You make this THE DIVISION.

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THIS DAY IN ALL AMERICAN HISTORY: JULY 15, 1968

Happy 50th Birthday, 4th Brigade, 82nd Airborne!

On July 15, 1968, the 4th Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division was activated on Ft. Bragg to fill in for 3rd Brigade which was deployed to Vietnam.

Fourth Brigade would provide The Division with another quick-response brigade in the event that anything popped off during the Cold War.

Fourth Brigade was inactivated in December of 1969 when 3rd Brigade returned but would reemerge (in a much different configuration) from 2006 to 2014.

The original fourth brigade consisted of a Headquarters and Headquarters Company and three infantry battalions:
- 4th Battalion, 325
- 3rd Battalion, 504
- 3rd Battalion, 505

Today let's hear from all of you who served in Fourth Brigade!!!

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Right now only on our official Twitter (@82ndABNDiv), we are sharing the remarkable story of 2nd Battalion, 504th jumping into the immediate aftermath of an atomic bomb in 1952.

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It's Saturday Morning! Caption This!

This picture was actually taken yesterday. This is our Devil Brigade conducting a raid during Operation Devil Storm. Lookin’ tough, Devils! Go get the bad guys! Pew pew!

Actually these are our awesome male and female spouses and parents who do so much to support our Paratroopers!!!

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THIS DAY IN ALL AMERICAN HISTORY: JULY 14, 1944:

The Normandy Campaign ended on this day 74 years ago.

The Division was withdrawn from Normandy and returned to England.

In the 39 days we fought in Normandy, 1,833 All Americans Paratroopers were killed (156 of those were killed on D Day) and 2,404 were wounded. 926 All American Paratroopers were categorized as Missing In Action. The vast majority of those were later determined to have been killed in action. 37 of those in the MIA category remain unidentified to this day.

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This weekend's All American Saturday Story: "Fallout Boys"

On April 22, 1952, 300 All American Paratroopers parachuted into the immediate aftermath of a 31-kiloton atomic blast to test the 82nd Airborne Division's ability to respond to nuclear war. This is their story.

Tomorrow, Saturday, July 14, at 2PM Eastern. Only on Twitter @82ndABNDiv.

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Check out this 360-degree POV footage of All American Paratroopers conducting a stress shoot earlier today. Make sure to swipe around for the full perspective on the action.

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THIS DAY IN ALL AMERICAN HISTORY - JULY 13, 1943

HORSES, BIKES, AND MILES: THE DEVILS BEGIN THE PUSH ALONG THE SICILIAN COAST

Operation Husky continues. On this day, the 504th moved out in the attack, spearheading the 82nd's drive 150 miles Northwest along southern coast of Sicily.

Using captured Italian light tanks, trucks, and motorcycles, as well as horses, mules, bikes and even wheelbarrows, the 82nd took 22,000 prisoners.

This was the 82nd Airborne Division first sustained contact with Nazi and Fascist forces. Our boys took only light resistance.

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Today from noon to 1PM Eastern, only on Twitter, we are taking any and all questions live.

Log onto Twitter at noon and go to @82ndABNDiv and fire away with your questions.

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THIS DAY IN ALL AMERICAN HISTORY: JULY 12, 1943

THE RIDGE

We are getting messages from all over the country. The entire Nation is following along with our day-by-day account of The Division in Operation Husky. We appreciate all the tens of millions of you reading these and, to answer all of your questions: Yes! We will keep it up!

By the time the sun came up on July 12th, it was clear that Colonel Reuben Tucker's 504th was as badly scattered as Gavin's 505th had been 48 hours earlier. Shaken by the horrific fratricide and rough landing, they nonetheless gathered in LGOPs for the attack Northeast.

Meanwhile, Gavin's 505th sat atop Biazza Ridge. Biazza Ridge is a place of honor for us, with a road and neighborhood on Fort Bragg name after it. This was a piece of key terrain and the 505th, having beaten back a portion of the elite German Herman Goering Armored Division the day prior, held it on the morning of July 12th. In this picture, 505th Paratroopers lie in the prone on Biazza Ridge on July 12, 1943.

Despite holding the high ground, the 505th was decimated from the rough landing, the follow-on fighting, and a series of Herman Goering counterattacks on July 11th.

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Today is National All American Pet Photo Day, a day when pets all over the country show their appreciation for the 82nd Airborne Division. Let's hear it for our All American dogs, cats, ferrets, hamsters, and horses. Let's see a pic of your pet with some 82nd swag!

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THIS DAY IN ALL AMERICAN HISTORY- JULY 11 1943

FIRE IN THE SKY: CATASTROPHE OVER SICILY

We're back to Operation Husky. Hopefully, you've been following along.

On July 11th, Allied ground forces attempting to establish a series of offensive lines following the seaborne invasion. More importantly for our role in the story, Patton's 7th Army capturing the key port of Licata and the 1st Infantry Division established a command post inland.

Ridgway, the Division Commander, did not jump in. He came by boat on the morning of the 11th and by noon made link up with General Terry De Le Mesa Allen, the 1st Infantry Division commander, at the 1st Infantry Division command post. Allen told Ridgway that his Soldiers had not seen any of the All American Paratroopers and that they may have been dropped off of designated drop zones.

Patton orders the second wave of All American Paratroopers (technically the 7th Army reserve) to jump in and reinforce the center. This second wave consisted of the rest of the 504th (remember, 3rd Battalion already jumped in with the 505th) under the command of Colonel Rueben Tucker.

The 504th was standing by, knowing the were likely to be called in. The call came in around 9AM and they began loading for a drop on the night of the 11th, morning of the 12th.

Meanwhile at around 10AM, Axis forces began some of thee heaviest aerial attacks to date in the Mediterranean. Axis forces bombed Allied ships all day.

By 5PM on July 11, 144 Douglas C-47 transport launched from North Africa with Rueben Tucker's boys.

The Axis bombing raids continued. They were 24 Axis bombing raids that day. By evening, Allied antiaircraft gunners nerves were frayed. The picture here is of Allied ships under attack from the sky from July 11th, 1943 off Sicily.

By 8PM, with thee 504th inbound, Patton and Ridgway were concerned about the possibility that thee C-47s would be mistaken for another Axis bombing raid. The Allied forces never worked out clear identification or fire-control measures between forces in the air, on the land, and at sea. Patton tried to call off the drop and turn the C-47s around but was unable to make contact with the pilots.

At around 8:40 PM, the first C-47s arrived over Sicily and dropped their Paratroopers. As the remainder of the aircraft approached the Sicilian coast, jittery Allied naval gunners mistook them for a German air raid. One gunner opened fire. Then a second. Many other gunners took this as a signal to open fire both from the beach, the ships offshore, and the ships at sea.

23 transport aircraft were shot out of the sky. Another 37 were badly damaged. More than 80 Paratroopers were killed, including General Charles Keerans, our Assistant Division Commander. It was a catastrophe. In fact, it was such a horrific fratricide that afterward Eisenhower - already concerned about the missed drops from the night of thee 9th - considered completely scrapping large airborne forces.

Meanwhile, on the 11th, Gavin and the 505th continued to raise hell, rallying in small groups, engaging Axis forces in fire fights.

And that's where we'll leave it until tomorrow.

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All Americans, Today is National Cow Appreciation Day (seriously....look it up).

After D Day, Sainte-Mère-Église farmers painted white stripes on their cows so they would not be mistaken for Germans by our Paratroopers at night during enforced blackout curfew hours!

Evolutionary Biologist Dr. Marc Berkoff tells us that cows are capable of long-term memory and great emotional depth, so let's hear it for our friend, the cow!

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Have something to ask the 82nd Airborne Division? Want to know about unit history, the future of the Division, what it's like to be an All American Paratrooper, where your Division is headed?

Log into Twitter this Thursday at noon Eastern, go to @82ndABNDiv and fire away. We are taking any and all questions live for one hour this Thursday.

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THIS DAY IN ALL AMERICAN HISTORY: JULY 10, 1943

LITTLE GROUPS OF PARATROOPERS

Yesterday we left off with the 505th and a battalion from the 504th loading into 226 C-47s and departing North Africa for Sicily.

Just before takeoff, an airman from the weather squadron informed Colonel Gavin that winds in Sicily would be around 35 miles per hour. Ridgway normally cancelled training jumps at 15 miles per hour, but Gavin pressed on.

The high winds were not the only problem. Many of the pilots got lost in the dark. Also, the Division had no standard way of marking drop zones.

As a result of all of these things, less than 20 percent of our Paratroopers landed where they were supposed to. Most who did not had no real way of knowing where they were or where to go. Nonetheless, they did as Ridgway trained: they searched the ground for parachutes, linked up with fellow Paratroopers, gathered into small groups (Little Groups of Paratroopers) and moved to the sounds of the guns.

While they did not really know where they were, they found Italian commo lines and cut them, they fired on Italian defensive positions, they created the impression of tens of thousands of well-coordinated Paratroopers. In short, they created confusion.

This confusion allowed the 1st Infantry Division to fight its way ashore. By the end of July 10th, Gavin was proud. The airborne mission had succeeded, at least thus far. What Gavin did not know was that disaster loomed.

Tomorrow we'll pick back up with the rest of the story.

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Let's start the week off with some motivation, All Americans.

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THIS DAY IN ALL AMERICAN HISTORY: JULY 9, 1943 -

"THE EYES OF THE WORLD ARE UPON YOU"

Just before midnight, more than 4,000 All American Paratroopers depart Tunisia in a single column of C-47s for Sicily. The mission, Operation Husky, would be the first division-level combat airborne operation in American history.

The Paratroopers, comprised of most of the 505th and a battalion of the 504th, operates as a single Regiment Combat Team under the command of Colonel Jim Gavin, embarking on his first combat mission.

In this image of 505th Paratroopers preparing for takeoff from Tunisia on the night of July 9th, you can see the white invasion arm bands worn on the left arm. These were intended to identified the men as American Paratroopers once they were on the ground in Sicily. The All Americans wore a variety of types of these arm bands during the war. After Sicily, they began wearing white bands with the American flag. These "arm flags" are the predecessor to the American flag worn on the right shoulder of the Army uniform today.

Due to security concerns, the Paratroopers were not told of their destination until just prior to loading aircraft. As they prepared to load, each Paratrooper was handed a piece of paper with this letter:

“Soldiers of the 505th Combat Team: Tonight you embark upon a combat mission for which our people and the free people of the world have been waiting for two years.

"You will spearhead the landing of an American Force upon the island of Sicily. Every preparation has been made to eliminate the element of chance. You have been given the means to do the job and you are backed by the largest assemblage of air power in the world’s history.

"The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of every American go with you.

"James M. Gavin.”

No one knew if this airborne concept would work. For the most part, it didn't. More on that tomorrow as we continue the story into July 10, 1943.

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The 82nd Airborne Division is saddened to announce the death of First Sergeant (retired) Harold Eatman, an original member of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, at age 102 at his home in Matthews, North Carolina.

Harold is one of less than 2,800 All American Paratroopers to have made all four World War II combat jumps with the 82nd Airborne Division (Sicily, Salerno, Normandy, and Holland). Fewer than 16 now remain living.

Born December 22, 1915, Harold volunteered for Army service in 1942. He served in H Company, 505th Regimental Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, from October 1942 through September 1945. His awards and decorations include the French Legion of Honor, the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, 2 Army Commendation Medals, and the Senior Parachutist Badge with four bronze stars.

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THIS DAY IN ALL AMERICAN HISTORY - July 8, 1968:

Our 1 Panther Battalion, part of the Golden Brigade, conducts a 3-day operation in South Vietnam's Long An Province (in the Mekong Delta).

This was a mission to capture or kill North Vietnamese Army forces in the area. Long An was considered a low-threat, low-risk area at the time and this mission was also an opportunity for the brand new 1 Panther Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Franklin, to grow accustomed to the terrain.

The mission was a "dry hole," with virtually nothing significant found.

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A WWII Paratrooper is coming home.

The remains of Private First Class Willard "Bud" Jenkins, Missing In Action since Sep, 1944, have been identified.

Bud operated a rudder boat with our 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion during the Waal River Crossing, transporting our 504th "Devils in Baggy Pants" Paratroopers across the river during daylight to secure the Njimegen bridge (think of the assault boat scene from "A Bridge Too Far" when our Paratroopers were crossing the river against overwhelming German fire).

Bud made at least one successful pass across the river. On a subsequent pass, he was shot in the chest and fell in the river. He could not be recovered.

Willard, from Scranton, Pennsylvania, was drafted in June of 1942. He will be returned to his Family and given a proper burial.

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Caption This, Paratroopers.

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THIS DAY IN ALL AMERICAN HISTORY: JULY 7, 2003: Sergeant Chad Keith, 21, of Batesville, Illinois, assigned to our White Falcons, was killed in Baghdad when his vehicle was struck with an explosive device. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Chad, a 2000 graduate of Batesville High School, is celebrated in his hometown, as he should be.

Well see you at Final Manifest, Chad!

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