3rd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment
As part of the Army's transformation towards a modular force, the 3rd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment stood down in September, 2004. At the time most of its personnel were reflagged as 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment.
3rd Battalion, 502nd Infantry mission was to deploy rapidly worldwide by air, land, or sea, occupies an ISB, and on order, conducts air assault or ground operations to destroy enemy forces, seize key terrain or facilities and control specific land areas including populations and resources.
The 3rd Battalion, 502nd Infantry was constituted on 14 March 1941 in the United States Army as Company C, 502nd Parachute Battalion and activated in July 1941 at Ft. Benning, Georgia. After intensive training, the unit became an organic element of the 101st Airborne Division. The unit deployed to England and made preparations for the Invasion of Normandy.
On 6 June 1944, a three pronged attack on the town of Carentan led to one of the bloodiest days of fighting in the entire war. At the center of the attack, LTC Cole led his men in a courageous bayonet charge to seize a heavily defended position and eliminate its devastating fire. His daring leadership succeeded, but final victory in Carentan only came when he repeatedly called in artillery fire almost on top of his position. The men remembered the road upon which they fought as "Purple Heart Lane." For his gallant charge across the field, LTC Cole received the first Medal of Honor awarded in the 101st.
The 3rd Battalion, 502nd Infantry continued to demonstrate tenacity during World War II and distinguished itself in campaigns throughout Holland and the defense of Bastogne. In recognition of the unit's courage and outstanding combat achievements, the Battalion earned two Presidential Unit Citations, the French Croix de Guerre with Palm, the Belgian Croix de Guerre, the Belgian Fourragere, and the Dutch Orange Lanyard.
On 30 November 1945, the battalion was inactivated with the rest of the 101st Airborne Division.
Reactivated and assigned to the 101st Airborne Division on 5 June 1984, the 3-502nd Infantry was deployed to the Sinai, Egypt as part of the Multinational Force and Observers from July to December 1985. For outstanding service, the task force received the Army's first Superior Unit Award. TF 3-502d's return home was marred by the tragic Gander air crash in which 248 soldiers lost their lives.
On the morning of 12 December 1985, at 0645 local time (0515 EST), Arrow Airlines flight 1285, a DC-8-63 charter carrying 248 passengers and a crew of 8, crashed just after takeoff form Gander International Airport, Gander, Newfoundland, Canada. All on board perished as a result of the impact or the post-crash fire, which, fed by the contents of the stricken aircraft's full fuel tanks, took local fire fighters nearly four hours to bring under control and approximately thirty hours to completely extinguish. The firefighters were hampered in their efforts because of the rugged terrain, which initially prevented more than one fire truck at a time from being used.
The passengers on the ill-fated charter were US Soldiers. All but 12 were members of the 3rd Battalion, 502nd Infantry, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). 11 were from other Forces Command units and one was a CID agent form the Criminal Investigations Command. They were returning to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, home station of the 101st Airborne Division, after completing a 6-month tour of duty in the Sinai with the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO). This international peacekeeping organization, made up of contingents from ten nations, had been established under terms of a protocol between Egypt and Israel signed on 3 August 1981. The MFO had the mission of implementing security provisions contained in the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.
Perhaps no other event in its peacetime history so wrenched the soul and torn at the heart of the US Army as the Gander tragedy, which ranked as the worst military air disaster in the nation's history. In spite of its grief, the Army moved quickly in responding to the tragedy.
From 22-30 August 1990, TF 3-502d Infantry deployed to Saudi Arabia as part of Desert Shield to deter the possible Iraqi invasion of Saudi Arabia and to prepare for the possibility of forcing the Iraqis from Kuwait. On 23 February 1991, LTC David J. Benjamin led the task force on an air assault into Forward Operating Base (FOB) Cobra, 149 km into Iraq, and then on a second air assault 149 km northeast to FOB Viper on 27 February 1991. The Battalion mission was to facilitate raids and aviation attacks on enemy positions and encircle the Republican Guard. After an unprecedented victory in the Gulf War, the task force completed its redeployment to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky on Easter Sunday, 31 March 1991.
On 15 January 1995, 3rd Battalion, 502nd Infantry, led by LTC Ben F. Clawson, deployed to Panama as part of Operation Safe Passage. The mission was to transport Cuban Migrants from Operation Safe Haven camps to Howard Air Force Base in preparation of travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. After successfully executing its mission, TF 3-502d Infantry returned to Campbell Army Airfield on 23 February 1995.
During November 2000, the Widowmakers accomplished a challenging set of simultaneous missions. B Company ("Bulldogs") deployed to the National Training Center to augment the Strike Brigade's rotation. The Bulldogs served with their brothers in 2-502th Infantry in their efforts to defeat the OPFOR. B Company represented the Battalion well, demonstrating the tenacity, professionalism, and discipline evident in every Widowmaker.
While B Company was deployed to California, the battalion seamlessly conducted a battalion level training (Gold) cycle, developed and built the 101st Airborne's Individual Readiness Training site in preparation for deployment. The Gold cycle consisted of numerous squad level live fires for A and C Companies, and TOW Gunnery Tables for D Company. The IRT site was built from the ground-up, and consisted of four days of training. Day 1 training was set up for classes in Mann Theater, and Day 2-4 training sites were built in Training Area 17 and Craig Village. The architects for the site were highly applauded by the Corps Certification Team and awarded an impact Meritorious Service Medal. The entire IRT site was ready for training within a month. The Widowmakers then conducted IRT training for soldiers from throughout the XVIII Airborne Corps throughout January and February 2001, ensuring the members were fully prepared for peacekeeping operations.
During the month of January 2001, the D Company (Maddogs) deployed to Ft. Knox, Kentucky to conduct TOW Tables IX and X on the Yano Multi-Purpose Range Complex.
In 2004 3rd Battalion, 502nd Infantry was inactivated and the majority of its personnel reflagged as 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment. This was part of a transition by the entire 101st Airborne Division to the US Army's new modular force structure.
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