501st PIR- 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment 501st Parachute Infantry (PIR) History Parachute Infantry - PIR - Parachute Infantry Regiment The 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment (501st PIR) was activated in Toccoa, Georgia in November 1942 where the young paratroopers to be were given basic Infantry training. In May 1943 they earned their jump wings at Fort Benning. Shortly after Jump School and throughout the summer the Regiment undertook Company, Battalion and Regimental training at Camp MaCall, North Carolina, and participated in the Tennessee maneuvers. Col Howard (Jumpy) JohnsonThe 501stPIR, commanded by Colonel Howard Johnson (Jumpy Johnson), was attached to the 101st Airborne Division just before the Regiment departed for England in December of 1943. They made their first jump into Normandy in the early morning hours of D-Day, June 6, 1944. In July of '44 the Regiment returned from Normandy and began to re-fit and train for the next operation. After several false starts the 501st PIR, along with the entire 101st Airborne, was alerted for Operation Market Garden Holland on September 17, 1944. On 17 September 1944 Operation Market Garden, Montgomery's ambitious plan to perform an end run around the retreating German Army, began with the largest Airborne operation in history. Operation Market GardenAs part of the 101st Airborne the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment parachuted near the town of Veghel, 25 miles behind the German front lines. The 501st was specifically tasked to drop 4 miles south of Veghel and seize railroad and highway bridges over the Aa River and the Willems Canal. Though Lt Colonel Kinnard's 1st Battalion landed wide of their mark, they landed all together and were were quickly able to seize two railroad bridges to the west of Veghel. Meanwhile, the other two battalions were able to seize intact the road bridges over the Willems Canal and Aa River. The result was the rapid taking of one of the first major barriers on the route of Montgomery's Second British Army to Arnhem. The 501st, along with the rest of the division, moved from initial objective areas to positions on "the island" between the Waal and Rhine Rivers. It became clear that they would not be withdrawn from Holland after a few days, as had been planned because their combat skills were sorely needed by the British. However, the prolonged fighting on "the island" was contrary to airborne tactics and strategy. After the initial hard fighting it became a static war of patrolling and attrition, principally by artillery and mortars. One such mortar attack, near Heteren, on 8 October 1944, fatally wounded Colonel Johnson. As he was being evacuated, his last words to Lt Colonel Ewell were, "Take care of my boys" son bridge. In late November 1944, the 101st division was returned to France to receive replacements, re-train, re-equip and prepare for additional operations after the new year. Three weeks after arriving at Camp Mourmelon, France the Germans launched the offensive in the Belgian region known as the Ardennes, the Battle of the Bulge had begun.501st PIR - 101st Airborne Division going to Bastogne The 101st Airborne was alerted and within hours was jammed into trucks and rushing through the night to the town of Bastogne, Belgium arriving in the predawn morning of Dec. 18th. The 501st PIR was the first unit to arrive and moved through the town as dawn broke to meet the approaching German's three miles beyond the town. The Regiment fought the enemy to a stand still and held kept the Germans at bay until the rest of the division could arrive. The 101st Airborne Division, "Battered Bastards of Bastogne " fought off elements of seven German divisions before Patton broke through the encirclement on December 26th. On January 20, 1945 "Operation Nordwind", the last offensive action by the Germans during WWII was launched. The 101st Airborne, tattered and worn from fighting in the "Bulge" was rushed to Alsace to bolster the defense of the Seventh Army. The 501st PIR, of only 60% strong, occupied defensive positions there until returning to Camp Mourmelon, France early in March 1945. As the war in Europe was nearing its end, the 101st division was sent to the Ruhr pocket to help in mop-up operations. The 501st remained in France, preparing to jump on Prisoner Of War camps if necessary to rescue and free American POW's. In August 1945 the regiment was detached from the 101st and sailed for home to be deactivated at Fort Benning, Georgia. In the course of the three campaigns through January 14 1945, 517 paratroopers of the regiment were killed or died of wounds in action, 1639 were wounded or injured, and 328 were captured or missing, according to the 101'st Airborne Division History, "Rendezvous with Destiny". 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment Awards and Decorations The 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) received the following Awards and Decorations for distinguished performance on the battlefields of Europe. United States Two Presidential Distinguished Unit Citations for operations in Normandy and Bastogne. France The Croix de Guerre with Palm for operations in Normandy. Belgium Two Croix de Guerre and one Fourragere for operations at Bastogne Netherlands Netherlands Orange Lanyard for operations in The Netherlands
Other Comments: CIB & CMB Conversion As a result of a study conducted in 1947, the policy was implemented that authorized the retroactive award of the Bronze Star Medal to soldiers who had received the Combat Infantryman Badge or the Combat Medical Badge during World War II. The basis for doing this was that the badges were awarded only to soldiers who had borne the hardships which resulted in General Marshall's support of the Bronze Star Medal.
Distinguished Unit Citation Battle Honors As authorized by Executive Order 9396 (sec. I, Bul. 22,WD , 1943), superseding Executive Order 9075 (sec. III, WD Bul, 11, 1942), the following unit is cited by the War Department under the provisions of section IV, Circular No. 333, War Department, 1943 in the name of the President of the United States as public evidence of deserved honor and distinction. The citation reads as follows: 101st Airborne Division (less 2nd Battalion, 401st Glider Infantry Regiment), with the following-attached units: 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment; 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment; 463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion; Counterintelligence Detachment, 101st Airborne Division; Order of Battle Detachment Number 5; Military Intelligence Interpreter Team Number 410; Photo Interpreter Teams Number 9 & 81; Prisoner of War Interrogation Teams Number 1, 9 & 87; Third Auxiliary Surgical Group, Team Number 3; 969th Field Artillery Battalion; 755th Field Artillery Battalion; 705th Field Artillery Battalion; Combat Command B, 10th Armored Division including: Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Combat Command B, 10th Armored Division; 3rd Tank Battalion (less Company C); 20th Armored Infantry Battalion (less Company A); 54th Armored Infantry Battalion (less Company A and C); 420th Armored Field Artillery Battalion; Troop D, 90th Calvary Reconnaissance Squadron (Mechanized); Company C, 609th Tank Destroyer Battalion (less 1st Platoon; with 2nd Platoon Reconnaissance Company attached); Battery B, 796th Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion; Company C, 55th Armored Engineer Battalion ; Company C, 21st Tank Battalion; Reserve Command, 9th Armored Division including: Headquarters Reserve Command, 9th Armored Division; Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 12th Armored Group; 2nd Tank Battalion; 52nd Armored Infantry Battalion; 73rd Armored Field Artillery Battalion; Company C, 9th Armored Engineer Battalion; Company C, 811th Tank Destroyer Battalion; Battery C, 482nd Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion (Self-Propelled); These units distinguished themselves in combat against powerful and aggressive enemy forces composed of elements of 8 German divisions during the period from 18 December to 27 December 1944 by extraordinary heroism and gallantry in defense of the key communications center of Bastogne, Belgium. Essential to a large scale exploitation of his break-through into Belgium and northern Luxembourg, the enemy attempted to seize Bastogne by attacking constantly and savagely with the best of his armor and infantry. Without benefit of prepared defenses, facing almost overwhelming odds and with very limited and fast dwindling supplies, these units maintained a high combat morale and an impenetrable defense, despite extremely heavy bombing, intense artillery fire, and constant attacks from infantry and armor on all sides of their completely cut off and encircled position. This masterful and grimly determined defense denied the enemy even momentary success in an operation for which he paid dearly in men, material, and eventually morale. The outstanding courage and resourcefulness and undaunted determination of this gallant force is in keeping with the highest traditions of the service. [General Orders No. 17, War Department, 13 March 1945.] BY ORDER OF THE SECRETARY OF WAR: G. C. Marshall Chief of Staff Official: J. A. ULIO Major General The Adjutant General