The 82nd Airborne Division was born on August 15th, 1942. It had served previously as a leg infantry unit, in World War I, in the "organized reserves," and had on Active Duty again since 25 March 1942, on August 15th, it became the Nation's first Airborne Division.
Jumping out of planes, trusting a few strings tied to silk to slow your fall enough, that you will be healthy enough to fight an entrenched enemy, after you hit the ground, takes a special resolve. It's not freefall parachuting, but this means to get to the battle was not the sole factor in their success on the battlefield. They trained harder. They learned more. They fought harder than other Troops. The Germans nicknamed them "Devils in Baggy Pants" while the official motto was the "All-American" Division, as they had originally been consituted with citizens of all 48 states on August 5th, 1917.
Being the best doesn't mean never losing comrades. The leg 82nd fought hard in WWI and from May to November of 1918 lost 995 Soldiers, Killed in Action, 7,082 Wounded in Action, and gained two Medals of Honor; Colonel Emory Pike, KIA 1918, and Sergeant Alvin C York, of Tennessee. SGT York's expert marksmanship had led to masses of German soldiers surrendering to him in the final weeks of World War I. It was deactivated on 27 May 1919 when it returned from the War.
Great Generals trace their history to their time in the 82nd including Omar Bradleey, Maxwell Taylor, James Gavin, Matthew Ridgway, George Van Pope, and Matthew D Query. Olympic Medalists have served in the 82nd.
The first Airborne Attack was onto Sicily on July 9th, 1943, followed shortly by parachuting into Salerno on 13 September 1943. It continued to fight in Italy until pulled and reinforced to prepare for D-Day. On the 5th and 6th of June, 1944 the 505th, 507th, and 508th Parachute Infantry Regiments of the 82nd parachuted into Normandy to free Europe. Scattered across the battlefield, it fought as small units, retaining all ground it gained in 33 days of battle that cost it 5,245 Soldiers. During WWII, 1,619 Soldiers of the 82nd were Killed in Action, 6,560 were Wounded in Action, and 332 Died of Wounds, in less than 2 years. Japan surrendered before the 82nd could be sent to finish them off.
In April 1965, the 82nd was sent to the Domincan Republic where is ended a Civil War. It would be used significantly in Viet Nam, though would not earn a combat jump there.
In 1967, it was sent to Detroit to end the race riots, which took it less than 2 days.
From the end of World War II, the 82nd Airborne was the Nation's Rapid Deployment Force. It was required to be ready to have the Division anywhere in the world in 72 hours and a Brigade in the fight in 24 hours. This kept it out of Korea as a strategic reserve against the Communist threat of World War III. It was alerted for operations in Jordan in September 1970, the Middle East in 1973 & 1980, for Zaire in 1978, and for Iran in 1979.
On 23 October 1983, along with the 1st and 2nd Battalions of 75th Ranger Regiment, it defeated the Communists on Grenada, marking the first time since World War II that Communism lost a Nation. In March of 1988, it parachuted into Honduras sending Communist Nicaraguans scurrying out of that country. In 1989, it jumped into Panama, defeating the drug lord, Manuel Noreiga.
On 8 August 1990, it became the first Troops to draw a line in the sand against Saddam Hussein's Iraqi Forces, which were threatening to invade Saudi Arabia, after having overrun Kuwait on the 2nd. It would remain on the ground until April 1991, after having provided the Northernmost and deepest penetration into Iraq of the ground war.
It was sent to end the violence in Haiti in September 1994, ready for another combat jump, the threat of which was sufficient to cause the belligerent leader to end his rule. It was called up for deployments in Bosnia and Kosovo, making its combat jump entry on 1 October 1999.
Its first deployment to Afghanistan was in June 2002 and elements of it crossed into Iraq on 21 March 2003.
The Division has earned 4 Presidential Unit Citations, a Meritorious Unit Citation, a Valorous Unit Citation, 3 French Croix de Guerre (2 with Palm), a Belgian Fourrageere, and a Dutch Military William Award. The most recent awards were for OIF 1.