1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment
1st Battalion (Airborne), 508th Infantry Regiment
1st Airborne Battalion Combat Team, 508th Infantry Regiment
The 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry, had previously acted as the 173rd Airborne Brigade's primary deployable unit, based at Vicenza, Italy. It was organized and equipped as an Airborne Battalion Combat Team. Backed by supporting artillery, signal, medical, aviation and transportation units, the compact yet formidable 1-508th ABCT gave the Southeast European Task Force (SETAF) a significant "forced-entry" capability. That ability to put troops and equipment on the ground quickly, whether to fight, rescue imperiled civilians or support peacekeeping operations, had made SETAF a vital part of General Eric K. Shinseki's vision for the 21st-century Army.
In September 1942, Major Roy E. Lindquist began planning the activation of the unit he was to command. On 20 October 1942, at Camp Blanding, Florida, the 508th was born. The members of the new unit primarily came from the 502nd Parachute Infantry and the 26th Infantry Division. By mid-December 1942, the 508th Parachute Infantry reached full strength. In February 1943, the Regiment adopted the "Red Devil" emblem and the battle cry "Diablo" as they moved to Fort Benning for parachute training. In March, the 508th was moved to Camp Mckall, North Carolina, were they trained until December.
On 28 December 1943, the Regiment boarded the US Army Transport James Parker and set out to join the convoy across the Atlantic for World War II. On 9 January 1944, the James Parker docked at Belfast, Northern Ireland and the 508th commenced training throughout Great Britain. During Operation Overlord, the Regiment was responsible for the Southwest portion of the 82nd Airborne Division sector in Normandy. Their primary targets were bridges over the Douve River, located in Brienville and Beuzeville-la-Bastille. Clouds and heavy anti-aircraft fire caused the formations to break up and many of the planes to stray off course. Despite these obstacles, 2,056 Red Devils jumped into Normandy on 6 June 1944. The paratroopers hit the ground, assembled into small groups, and started establishing themselves in the most strategic positions possible. The Regiment focused on 3 particular targets: the bridges over the Mederet River at La Fiere and Chef-du-Pont, and Hill 30, a small knoll on the west bank of the Mederet. On 12 June 1944, the Red Devils returned to England after suffering 1,161 casualties out of 2,056 paratroopers.
At approximately 1330 hours on 17 September 1944, the Red Devils jumped into Holland as part of Operation Market Garden. Although initial resistance was light, heavy fighting followed for days. In November 1944, the Regiment returned to England for another rest, but soon found itself on 16 December 1944 in Ardennes. The 508th faced off against 12 German divisions in the famous "Battle of the Bulge." On 29 January 1945, First Sergeant Leonard Funk earned the Medal of Honor for rescuing approximately 10 paratroopers from German capture by killing over 45 German soldiers and wounding the rest. As a result, President Harry Truman awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor to Leonard Funk.
The 508th returned home on 24 November 1946, and was later inactivated at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. A Company was reactivated in April 1951 and by 1964, the 1st Battalion had been reformed and reactivated. On 20 April 1965, the Red Devils received a mission to restore peace and provide security to the Dominican Republic under Operation Power Pack. Despite slow progress and bitter fighting, the paratroopers succeeded and returned home to the US in July 1965.
With the outbreak of the Tet offensive, the 508th was on the move again. On 15 February 1968, led by Colonel Alexander Bolling, the Regiment began arriving in the Republic of Vietnam. The Red Devils played a major role in Operation Yorktown Victor and many others. The paratroopers served in Vietnam for over 22 months sacrificing 212 soldiers.
On 25 October 1983, US Army Rangers jumped into Grenada to rescue American medical students. By the morning of 27 October 1983, the Red Devils arrived to take part in Operation Urgen Fury. Within days, the People's Republican Army had surrendered and Cuban and Soviet personnel on the island were expelled. The Battalion remained as a peacekeeping force and returned on 11 November 1983 to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
In January 1985, the Red Devils deployed again as a multi-national observer force in the Sinai Desert. For a 6 month period, the Battalion served as part of an 11 nation force in accordance with the Camp David Treaty. Following the Sinai, the Battalion was inactivated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and relieved from assignment to the 82nd Airborne Division.
On 10 July 1987, the 1-508th was withdrawn from the Combat Arms Regimental System and became part of the 193rd Infantry Brigade (Light) in the Republic of Panama under the United States Army Regimental System. The 193rd Infantry had reorganized on 4 December 1986, with a reaffiliation of its 2 infantry battalions and a field artillery battalion. As a result, the 187th Infantry was reflagged the 1-508th Infantry, regimentally affiliated with Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
On 20 December 1989 at 1600 hours, the Battalion received the executive order to put Operation Just Cause into effect. The Battalion commander ordered the front gate of Fort Amador shut down. On 21 December 1989, the 1-508th, known as Task Force Devil, cleared the Amador Yacht Club, Amador Marina, La Boca, and Balboa Housing Area. After conducting a relief in place with the Rangers, TF Devil conducted numerous follow-on missions including perimeter security and acted as a QRF for any contingencies, which included conducting reconnaissance for possible weapons caches, mine fields, and other violations of the cease fire.
The 1-508th returned to active duty at Fort Kobbe, Panama until 1994. In compliance with provisions of the Panama Canal Treaty of 1977, which mandated US Forces withdrawal from Panama by noon, 31 December 1999, the Red Devils officially inactivated on 15 October 1994.
On 27 April 1996, the Red Devils traveled to Italy and officially reactivated as the 1-508th Airborne Battalion Combat Team. The Battalion participated in numerous training and contingency operations throughout the EUCOM Area of Responsibility including Kosovo, Tunisia, Hungary, Poland, Germany and many others.
On 1 October 1999 approximately 130 soldiers from Company A, 1st Battalion, 508th Airborne Battalion Combat Team, jumped from several C-130 Hercules aircraft about one mile outside of Vitina. The joint effort between the Army and Air Force proved the unparalleled capabilities of US forces. Company A, 1-508th soldiers accomplished their mission by deploying within approximately 24 hours notice during Operation Rapid Guardian, an Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise. The EDRE also showed that US forces were able to rapidly deploy into a war-torn province at a minute's notice. Preceeding the C-130s were F/A-18 Hornets, which performed a combat air patrol and F-16 Falcon fighter planes that escorted the Hercules to the drop zone. After parachutists departed the aircraft, they had Army AH-64 Apache helicopters pulling security for them, ensuring the drop zone was safe. Army Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and M1A1 Abrams tanks pulled ground security around the drop zone perimeter. The jump made history by being the first of its kind since World War II, which was the last time US forces parachuted into a European country during a major conflict or peacekeeping operation.
On 12 June 2000, the Red Devils became a part of the Sky Soldier team as the 173rd Airborne Brigade was reactivated in Vicenza, Italy.
Exercise Veneto Rescue 2000 brought together 1-508th ABCT soldiers, Italian troops and helicopters, and Air Force transport and fighter aircraft. Conducted at sites in northern Italy and Slovenia, the exercise included a mass parachute drop of more than 425 US and Italian soldiers, the securing of an imperiled "US embassy" and the evacuation of several dozen "noncombatants." Reflecting actual events in Africa, the exercise scenario was built around increasingly widespread factional fighting among 3 groups in the fictitious country of "Anglia." Mounting violence had isolated and endangered American and third-country citizens. US European Command had determined that a NEO was likely and directed SETAF to begin preparations to remove the noncombatants safely and, if possible, without the use of force. Tapped for the job were more than 300 American paratroopers from Headquarters and Headuarters Company and companies A and B of the 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry Regiment, which was organized and equipped as an Airborne Battalion Combat Team and referred to as 1-508th ABCT, based at Caserma Ederle in Vicenza. A platoon from SETAF's 13th Military Police Company also took part, as did members from the 22nd Area Support Group.
The 1-508th was ideally suited to this kind of operation. The soldiers were tough, capable, well-trained and motivated. The Battalion had often undertaken vital, real-world missions on short notice, and the soldiers put tremendous effort into tough and realistic training.
On 26 March 2003, the Battalion participated in the largest combat airborne operation since World War II as 447 Red Devils jumped into Bashur DZ in Northern Iraq as a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. For 12 months, the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 508th Infantry Regiment conducted combat patrols and civil affairs engagements in Kirkuk, Al-Hawija, Al-Zaab, Taza/Layland, Daquq, and Tuz. Three Red Devils gave their lives during combat operations in Iraq.
On 1 October 2005 the unit was redesignated 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry Regiment. On 15 June 2006 the unit was relieved from its assignment to the 173rd Airborne Brigade and reactivated with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. On 26 May 2006 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment was inactivated, its personnel later being reflagged as 1-508th Infantry. The unit was reorganized and redesignated as the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment. This transformation was part of the shift of the entire 82nd Airborne Division to the US Army's new modular force structure.
The 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry Regiment was reactivated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina on 15 June 2006 to become part of the newly activated 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. This was part of the US Army's modularization process. The personnel came from 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division's 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, which had been inactivated and reflagged.
In 2007 1-508th Parachute Infantry deployed along with other elements of the 82nd Airborne's newly activated 4th Brigade Combat Team, to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The unit continued to operate in that country into 2008.
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