2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment
2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment was first constituted on 14 March 1941 in the Army of the United States as Company B, 503rd Parachute Battalion and activated on 22 August 1941 at Fort Benning, Georgia.
On 24 February 1942, the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment was first constituted. The Regiment's 1st and 2nd Battalions were formed at Fort Benning, Georgia from the 503rd and 504th Parachute Battalions, respectively. Company B, 503rd Parachute Battalion was consolidated ib 24 February 1942 with Company B, 503rd Parachute Infantry, which was concurrently constituted in the Army of the United States. The consolidated unit was designated as Company B, 503rd Parachute Infantry.
The 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment was deployed shortly thereafter as an independent parachute regiment to join General MacArthur's forces in the South Pacific theater. After several months of preparation, the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment assaulted Corregidor Island, the Philippines, for which the unit was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation. The 2 other airborne operations included an assault on the Japanese-held Nadzab airstrip, New Guinea on 5 September 1943, and Kamiri Airfield on Noemfoor Island off the coast of Dutch New Ginea on 3 July 1944.
Following a non-combat landing on the island of Leyte in the Philippines, the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment made a major amphibious landing on the island of Mindoro in the central Philippines on 15 December 1944. Originally, it was intended that the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment would jump into Mindoro, but due to inadequate airstrip facilities on Leyte, an airborne landing was not possible. The purpose of this landing was to secure sites for airstrips providing forward US Army Air Forces bases to support later landings at Lingyen Gulf, Luzon. The Regiment as a whole was subjected to intense air and naval actions during this operation and, at one point, was shelled for 25 minutes by a Japanese Naval task force. One company of the Regiment engaged in a fierce battle against a company-size enemy air raid warning station on the north end of Mindoro.
The 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment jumped into Fortress Corregidor on 16 February 1945 to liberate that island from occupying Japanese forces. This was the most vicious combat action for the Regiment in its existance up to that point. Corregidor was the bastion that withstood a fierce Japanese siege for nearly 5 months in 1941 and 1942, thereby interrupting the Japanese advance toward Australia. The 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment was proud to have been allowed the honor of recapturing the island. Japanese sources had estimated there were 6,550 Japanese on the island when the Regiment landed. Of those, only 50 survived. The Regiment, however, lost 169 men killed and many more wounded or injured. The Regiment was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its actions. Private Lloyd G. McCarter was awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery on Corregidor.
Almost immediately after returning to Mindoro from Corregidor, the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment was called upon to bolster the 40th Infantry Division, which was bogged down on the island of Negros, in the central Philippines. The Regiment was inserted into Negros by landing craft, although it had been alerted for another combat jump. Japanese forces destroyed a strategic bridge and large lumber mill, thereby eliminating the first jump objectives of the Regiment. The Regiment engaged in battles against Japanese resistance in the mountainous areas of Negros for more than 5 months. The 40th Infantry Division convinced higher headquarters there were only a few enemy troops remaining on the island and was moved to Mindanao, leaving the Regiment to battle the Japanese alone. At the end of the War with Japan in August 1945, about 7,500 of the surviving Japanese troops surrendered to the 503rd Parachute Regiment.
Official US War Department sources estimated the 503rd Parachute Infantry killed over 10,000 Japanese troops during its combat operations in the Southwest Pacific. Unfortunately, the Regiment lost many good men in accomplishing its missions. The names of 392 of these men have been identified.
By early November 1945, the 503rd Parachute Regiment ceased to be operational. All men with lengthy service in the Southwest Pacific had been rotated to the United States, while those who had served the Regiment for a shorter time were reassigned to the 11th Airborne Division and sent as occupation troops to Japan. The Regiment, along with Company B, was inactivated on 24 December 1945 at Camp Anza, California.
The unit was redesignated on 1 February 1951 as Company B, 503rd Airborne Infantry, an element of the 11th Airborne Division, and allotted to the Regular Army. It was activated on 2 March 1951 at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The unit was inactivated on 1 March 1957 in Germany and relieved from assignment to the 11th Airborne Division. THe unit was redesignated on 1 September 1957 as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Airborne Battle Group, 503rd Infantry, assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, and activated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina with its organic elements concurrently constituted and activated.
The 2nd Airborne Battle Group, 503rd Infantry was relieved on 24 June 1960 from assignment to the 82nd Airborne Division and assigned to the 25th Infantry Division. It was relieved on 1 July 1961 from assignment to the 25th Infantry Division. It was assigned on 26 March 1963 to the 173rd Airborne Brigade (Separate) and reorganized and redesignated on 25 June 1963 as the 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry.
In May 1965, 2-503rd Infantry deployed with the 173rd Airborne Brigade to Vietnam as the first major US Army ground combat unit to be deployed. In November 1967, C Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Airborne Regiment was assigned as one of the units ordered to drive a battalion of the North Vietnamese Army's 1st Infantry Division off Hill 875, about 5 miles from the Cambodian border. The NVA soldiers were dug in deep. They were a far more formidable foe than the Viet Cong had been elsewhere in the country.
The attack was ordered because it reflected Gen. William Westmoreland's strategy to "find, fix and destroy" the enemy, wrote Edward J. Murphy in his graphically detailed book, "Dak To" (Presidio, 1993). "It was just one more place where the enemy could be killed." Only 29 of the estimated 110 men in the company who went up the hill survived the battle. Many of those men, including the commander and a chaplain, were wiped out in one blinding instant by a 500-pound bomb mistakenly dropped on their position from an American plane.
During its 6 years in Vietnam, 2-503rd Infantry participated in 14 campaigns, winning 2 more Presidential Unit Citations and a Meritorious Unit Commendation. It redeployed to the United States in July 1971, having the distinction of being one of the last units to leave Vietnam. Following the return of the 173rd Airborne Brigade (Separate) to the US it was inactivated, and its assets used to form the 3rd Brigade (Airborne), 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile). Both 1-503rd and 2-503rd were relieved from the 173rd Airborne Brigade (Separate) effective 14 January 1972 and assigned to the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile). The 3rd Brigade (Airborne), 101st Airborne Division, along with other supporting division units, saw its jump status terminated on 1 April 1974 when the 101st became a completely airmobile division (renamed Air Assault on 4 October 1974). 2-503rd Infantry was inactivated on 1 October 1983 at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and relieved from assignment to the 101st Airborne Division
The 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry wa assigned on 16 December 1986 to the 2nd Infantry Division and activated in Korea. Both the 1-503rd and 2-503rd became part of the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. Two existing infantry battalions of the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division were were reflagged in the process. 2-503rd Infantry was inactivated on 29 September 1990 in Korea and relieved from assignment to the 2nd Infantry Division.
The 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment returned to active status as an airborne battalion on 16 December 2001 when it was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade and activated in Italy. The existing 3-325th Infantry was reflagged at that time. The company names were kept from the 2-503rd Infantry's time in Korea: A Company (Able), B Company (Battle Hard), C Company (Chosen), D Company (Destined), and Headquarters and Headquarters Company (Hellbound).
The 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment formed the second airborne battalion for the Southern European Task Force (SETAF), which the 173rd Airborne Brigade was designated as. This was done in part by doing away with a truck company and a missile maintenance company. The addition of this second airborne battalion gave the task force the ability to seize an enemy airfield or some other target with more than 1,000 airborne infantrymen, including reconnaissance scouts who had the technology to send digital photos of the target back to commanders before the main force jumps. The reactivation of the 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503d Infantry Regiment was also a major event for 173rd Airborne Brigade veterans, with the Battalion tracing its lineage to Company B, 503rd Parachutist Battalion, one of the original formations of the expanding US Army Airborne forces.
From 26 March 2003 until 21 February 2004, the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry served in and around Kirkuk, Iraq with the 173rd Airborne Brigade as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2005, the 173rd Airborne Brigade (Separate) was reorganized as part of the transformation to the US Army's modular force structure. In March 2005, the 173rd Brigade Support Battalion was activated. As part of this transformation, F Company (Forward Support), 173rd Brigade Support Battalion was attached to the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment. The Battalion was redesignated on 1 October 2005 as the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment. Up until that point, the formal unit did not include the term "regiment."
As of June 2006, the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry had most recently served in combat operations in Zabol province, Afghanistan beginning in March 2005 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. The 2-503rd Infantry continued to serve in Afghanistan as part of the United States contribution to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) into 2008.
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