4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division
508th Parachute Infantry Regiment
"Fury from the Sky"
During the reorganizations of brigade and division structure during the 1980s, an attempt was made to re-establish regimental affiliations with divisons that had effectively ended in the period after the Korean War. The battalions within divisions were redesignated and grouped into brigades in order to be uniform. The battalions ended up grouped in the same brigade by regiment and the brigades were often referred to, informally, and confusingly, as regiments. In the 82nd Airborne Division, the informal usage included reversion to a mixing of World War II and Korean War era designations. With the transformation of the brigades of the 82nd Airborne Division to modular brigade combat teams beginning in 2006, the informal designations remained, despite the brigades retaining only 2 battalions with the regimental affiliation.
The mission of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division is to, within 18 hours of notification, strategically deploy, conduct a forcible entry parachute assault, and secure key objectives for follow-on forces in support of the 82nd Airborne Division and US national interests.
The 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) was activated at Camp Blanding, Florida in 1942 under the command of LTC Roy E. Lindquist. Colonel Lindquist remained in command of and led the regiment in combat throughout the hostilities in Europe and relinquished command of the regiment to LTC Otho E. Holmes in December 1945.
The regiment was organized and conducted basic training at Camp Blanding until it was relocated to Fort Benning, Georgia on 5 February 1943. Basic airborne training commenced immediately and the regiment successfully completed this phase of its training and moved on to Camp Mackall, North Carolina where it closed into its new home on 25 March 1943. From that period of time until 19 December 1943, the Regiment conducted advanced and specialized training, as well as spending 6 weeks on the famous Tennessee maneuvers.
Camp Shanks, New York was the next and shortest stop (from 20 December to 29 December 1943) for the Red Devils. On 29 December 1943, the Regiment boarded the US Army Ship James Parker bound for northern Ireland. After an uneventful crossing of the Atlantic, the James Parker docked at Belfast, Ireland on 8 January 1944.
After a 2 month stay in Ireland, the Regiment was once again on the move, this time to England and what was to become their home base and rear detachment until the cessation of hostilities in Europe. The Regiment closed on Wollaton Park located on the outskirts of Nottingham, England on 13 March 1944. The Regiment set up housekeeping and commenced training for what they knew would be their part in the invasion of Europe. Hard field training, parachute jumps and live fire exercises kept the Red Devils busy. Even so, there was time to visit the city of Nottingham and its citizens. The troopers of the 508th Parachute Infantry were warmly welcomed by the citizens of Nottingham and many warm and lasting friendships were established. Many troopers remembered their visits to the Heart and Hand, the Jolly Higgler and The Admiral Rodney Pubs with fondness.
On 29 May 1944, the troopers were informed by their respective commanders that the invasion was immanent and the camp was sealed. Subsequently, the Regiment was moved to 3 departure airfields, one of which was Folkingham. There the troopers were issued the necessary gear and detailed planning commenced to insure that all concerned knew their DZ, objectives, pass word and the many other factors involved in such an undertaking. Finally, on the evening of 5 June 1944 the Regiment embarked on the invasion of Europe and initial elements landed on French soil at 0215 hours 6 June 1944.
In general, the mission of the 82nd was to drop astride the Merderet River, clear the western portion of the beachhead area between the sea and the Merderet from the Douve River north to Ste. Mere-Eglise, and establish a bridgehead on the west bank of the Merderet. The 505th Parachute Infantry was to capture Ste. Mere-Eglise, secure the crossings of the Merderet near laFiere and Chef-du-Pont, and establish a defensive line north from Neuville-au-Plain to Breuzeville-au-Plain to tie in with the 502nd Parachute Infantry of the 101st Airborne Division. The 507th and 508th Parachute Infantry, dropping west of the river, were to consolidate the 2 505th bridgeheads and push out a defensive line about 3 miles westward, anchored on the south at the crossroads just west of Pont l'Abbe and thence extending north in an arc through Beauvais. Both Regiments would be prepared to attack west on order.
Both the 507th and 508th Parachute Infantry were widely scattered over the Normandy countryside and were unable to muster their forces in strength in order to occupy the west bank of the river in force. The drop zones lay in the triangle at the confluence of the Douve and Merderet Rivers, an area of about 12 square miles, and along the outer perimeter of the VII Corps planned beachhead. The presence of the enemy in the scheduled drop zones prevented the pathfinders from marking them, and the pilots of the two regimental serials, looking in vain for the markers, in most cases delayed flashing the jump lights until they had overshot the zones. Dropped in the swamp lands along the river the heavily laden troopers were absorbed with the basic problem of assembling and tended to collect along the embankment of the main railroad from Cherbourg to Carentan, both because it was high ground and because it was a recognizable terrain feature. Gathering in small groups the troopers continued to fight.
Perhaps the most significant action involving a number of Red Devils occurred at Hill 30. Elements of the 508th Parachute Infantry, amounting to about 2 companies of men under the command of LTC Thomas J.B. Shanley, commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion, were the most important of at least 4 groups of paratroopers who assembled west of the Merderet, but who for the most part, being forced to fight for survival, could contribute little toward carrying out planned missions. Dropped near Picauville, LTC Shanley gathered a small force of troopers, too small to proceed with his mission of destroying the Douve bridge at Pont l'Abbe. He tried during the day to join other groups in the vicinity with whom he had radio contact, but under constant enemy pressure he was unable to effect a junction until late in the day. It had then become apparent to him that he was engaged with an enemy force of at least battalion strength, and he decided to withdraw to the battalion assembly area on Hill 30.
In fact, the Germans, elements of the 1057th Regiment, had been pushing eastward in this area most of the day under orders to counterattack in order to wipe out American parachutists west of the Merderet. Once he was firmly established on Hill 30, Shanley formed a valuable outpost against continuing German attacks and a few days later would be in position to contribute substantially to establishing the Merderet bridgehead. For LTC Shanley's success 3 enlisted men received a large share of the credit. They were CPL Ernest T. Roberts, PVT Otto K. Zwingman, and PVT John A. Lockwood who, while on outpost duty in a building at Haut Gueutteville, observed the forming of a German counterattack by an estimated battalion of infantry with tank support. They stayed at their posts holding off the enemy attack for 2 hours and allowing the main body of Shanley's force to establish an all-around defense at Hill 30.
The 508th continued to regroup and consolidate and remained in contact with German forces until relieved on 7 July 1944, when they became the Division reserve force. On 13 July 1944, they were transported back to England via 2 LST's and returned to their station at Wollaton Park. Of the 2056 troops who participated in the D-Day landings, only 995 returned. The regiment suffered 1061 casualties, of which 307 were killed in action.
Once at Wollaton Park, a leave rotation was instituted. At this time the Regiment began to receive replacements, reequip, and training once again commenced. This phase continued until early September 1944 when the regiment was alerted for and began preparations to participate in Operation Market Garden.
17 September 1944 saw the Red Devils in the sky over Holland at 1327 hours as part of a massive Allied airborne invasion designed to shorten the war in Europe. The Regiment quickly assembled upon landing and moved out to secure their assigned objectives. The following day, 18 September 1944, 1SG Leonard A. Funk, Jr., led elements of Company C in a fierce counterattack to clear the LZ of attacking Wehrmacht infantry and anti-aircraft artillery to allow the landing of reinforcing gliderborne troopers and artillery of the 319th, 320th and 456th Field Artillery Battalions. For his actions, 1SG Funk received the Distinguished Service Cross.
On 29 September 1944, the 3rd Battalion was placed under Division control as Division Reserve at 0110 hours, and the 2nd Battalion relieved a battalion of the 504th Parachute Infantry in the Voxhil area. At the same time, the 1st Battalion of the 508th went into position immediately to the rear of the 2nd Battalion. At 2400 hours an extremely heavy artillery barrage commenced followed by an infantry and armor supported attack. Heavy fighting occurred with the right platoon of Company E being forced back approximately seven hundred yards. Company F counterattacked and restored the original position by 0430 hours, 30 September 1944.
On the night of 5-6 October 1944, the Regiment was relieved by the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment. On 6 October 1944, the regiment, with the 319th Field Artillery Battalion; Company D, 307th Engineer Battalion and Battery B, 80th AAAT Battalion moved to the vicinity of Bemmel, Holland and was attached to the 53rd British Division at 1200 hours on 7 October 1944, where it maintained a defensive position.
On 28 October 1944 the regiment was sent to Nijmegen where it rested until 2 November 1944 and then relieved the 231st Brigade (British) in the Bemmel area. On 10 November 1944, the regiment was relieved by a British Brigade and the Regiment reverted to the control of the 82nd Airborne Division once again. They immediately closed to Nijmegen and ultimately to Camp Soissons, France on 14 November 1944.
The 508th contributions during Operation Market Garden cannot be overstated. The Regiment established and maintained a defensive position along the main line of resistance over 12,000 yards in length, with enemy on 3 sides of the position. They seized Bridge #10 and prevented its destruction. Elements of the Regiment destroyed the apparatus for the demolition of the Nijmegen Bridge across the Wall River, thus making possible the successful completion of the major Division mission.
The Regiment seized, occupied, organized and defended the Berg EN Dalkamp Hill mass, terrain which controlled the Groesbeek-Nijmegen area. They cut Highway K, preventing the movement of enemy reserves, or escape of enemy along this important international route.
Last, but not least, the Regiment withstood and repulsed the major enemy efforts at Wyler and Beek to penetrate the Division position and assault units to the north. While accomplishing these missions, the regiment captured 483 prisoners. During this period of combat the regiment suffered 139 KIA, 479 WIA, and 178 MIA. No Red Devils were captured by the enemy.
On 16 December 1944 the Germans smashed through the thin US screen in the Ardennes. SHAEF reserve forces were alerted. The 101st was sent into Bastogne to try and hold the southern shoulder of the penetration while the 82nd was ordered to Werbomont to pinch in the northern shoulder.
The 508th Parachute Infantry moved on 18 December 1944 and by the 19 December 1944 had set up positions in the vicinity of Chevron. The Regiment held positions against the Germans until 24 December 1944, at which time they were ordered to withdraw to establish a new line of resistance. The Regiment remained in contact until 3 January 1945 when the Division counterattack with the Regiment in reserve.
On 7 January 1945 the Regiment launched an attack through the 504th Parachute Infantry in the vicinity of Thier- du-Mont, where it suffered heavy casualties. The Regiment was withdrawn from the line and placed in reserve until 21 January 1945 when it replaced elements of the 2nd Infantry Division.
On 24 January 1945 the Regiment was placed in Corps reserve, but was back in action on 26 January 1945 and continued engagements until 22 February 1945. It was during this period of time that 1SG Funk again distinguished himself by gallantry in action near Holzheim, Belgium. On 29 January 1945, 1SG Funk encountered a group of the enemy holding American troopers prisoner. When ordered to surrender he pretended to comply and began to slowly unsling his sub-machine gun from his shoulder, then with lighting motion brought the muzzle into line and riddled the German officer. He turned upon the other Germans, firing and shouting to the Americans to seize the enemy's weapons. In the ensuing fight, 21 Germans were killed, many wounded and the remainder captured. For his heroism in this action 1SG Funk was awarded the Medal Of Honor by President Harry S. Truman.
On 22 February 1945, The Regiment moved back to Camp Sissonne where it became part of SHAEF reserve. The Regiment performed maintenance, trained and refitted.
On 5 April 1945 the regiment was relieved from attachment to the 82nd Airborne Division and placed under the direct control of First Allied Airborne Army. The Regiment moved to Chartres with a contingency mission to liberate POW camps in Germany by airborne assault if the situation demanded. The 508th Parachute Infantryremained at Chartres until late May 1945. After a brief stay at Sissonne, the 508th was moved to Frankfort-Am-Main for occupation duty and served as guard to General Eisenhower's SHAEF Headquarters. In December 1945, LTC Otho E. Holmes assumed command of the Regiment.
The 508th remained on occupation duty in Frankfurt until November 1946, when it was transported as a unit to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. It was subsequently deactivated on 25 November 1946.
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 Parachute Infantry 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 major roles 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 Urgent Fury. Within days the Peoples' Republican Army had surrendered and Cuban Soviet personnel on the island were expelled. The 1-508th remained as a peacekeeping force and returned on 11 November 1983 to Ft. 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, 1-508th Infantry served as part of an 11 nation force in accordance with the Camp David Treaty. Following the Sinai, the Battalion was inactivated at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina and relieved from assignment to the 82nd Airborne Division.
On 10 July 1987, the 1-508th was withdrawn from 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 became the 1-508th Infantry regimentally affiliated with Ft. 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 TF Devil, cleared the Amador Yacht Club, Amador Marina, La Boca, and Balboa Housing Area. The HHC continued to patrol the housing area while A and B Companies moved back to Amador to secure Panamanian Defense Buildings while the scouts and TOW company secured the front gate of Fort Amador.
C Company, 1-508 had the mission to secure the Comandancia. As C Company approached the objective, they received sniper fire from high-rise buildings in the area. The Company called for indirect fire on the buildings and then breached a hole in the wall of the PDF compound with a 40 lb cratering charge. C Company received 3 KIAs and 2 WIAs and began offering the Panamanians an opportunity to surrender. C Company then began its assault on the Comandancia and began clearing the area. C Company secured 14 of the 15 buildings in the Comandancia and conducted a relief in place with the Rangers on 21 December 1989.
The Devils conducted numerous follow-on missions including perimeter security at refugee camps Fort Amador, and the La Boca and Balboa housing areas and as a QRF for any contingencies included reconning for possible weapons caches, mine fields, and other violations of the cease fire.
The 1-508th returned to duty at Ft. Kobbe, Panama until 1994. In compliance with provisions of the Panama Canal Treaty of 1977, which mandated US Forces withdraw from Panama by noon, 31 December 1999, and the US Army South's Treaty Implementation Program, the Red Devils officially inactivated on 15 October 1994.
On 17 February 1996, the 1-508th was officially reactivated on the United States Army rolls, replacing the 3rd Battalion, 325th Infantry. However, with the advent of a pending change of command, the decision was made to make the reflagging and redesignation effective with changing of the colors. This piece of trivia would in years to come show the 1-508th as having participated in Operation Joint Endeavor and non-combatant evacuation operation Assured Response in Liberia (April 1996).
On 27 April 1996, while training in Grafenwohr, Germany, the passing of the colors from LTC. Curtis Scaparrotti to LTC. Arnold Bray marked the Red Devils official reactivation in Vicenza, Italy as part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade (Seperate).
While the 1-508th was serving in Vicenza, Italy it took part in many training and real world missions in surrounding countries from 1996-2000 to include: the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Spain, Norway, Lithuania, Germany, Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Kosovo, Albania, Italy, Sardinia, Tunisia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Zaire, Burundi, and Botswana.
The 82nd Airborne Division held a reorganization ceremony at Simmons Army Airfield on 6 January 2006. This ceremony represented the Division's formal organization into Brigade Combat Team formations while remaining ready to deploy as the Nation's Strategic Response Force. The 4th Brigade Combat Team derived its lineage and heraldry from the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment and was formed with Paratroopers from the 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment.
In January 2006 the 82nd Airborne Division began transformation to the US Army's new modular force structure. As part of this transformation the Division activated a fourth Brigade Combat Team. 2nd Battalion, 504th Infantry was reflagged as 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry, while 3rd Battalion, 325th Infantry was reflagged as 2nd Battalion, 508th Infantry. The 4th Brigade Combat Team also included the 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment; 2nd Battalion, 321st Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, and the 782nd Brigade Support Battalion. The 782nd BSB had previously been the 782nd Main Support Battalion, an element of the 82nd Airborne Division Support Command (DISCOM), which was inactivated as part of the modular transformation.
Following its activation, staffing and initial training, the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division deployed to Afghanistan, where it operated into 2007 before returning to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|