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3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment
"Iron Rakkasans"

3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry deploys 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. Its mission is to deploy within 36 hours worldwide to close with the enemy by means of fire and maneuver to destroy or capture him, or to repel his assault by fire, close combat and counterattack.

The Iron Rakkasans of the 3-187th Infantry are assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. The Table of Organization and Equipment (TO&E) authorizes three infantry line companies (A, B, and C Companies), a headquarters company (HHC), and an anti-tank company (D Company).

The 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment was activated on 25 February 1943 at Camp Mackall, North Carolina as an organic element of the 187th Glider Infantry Regiment. In March of 1944, the Battalion deployed with the regiment to the Pacific Theater of World War II as part of the 11th Airborne Division. After 6 months of training in New Guinea, the 187th was committed to combat in Leyte in the campaign to regain control of the Philippine Islands. In the subsequent fighting, the unit repelled and destroyed a 500-man Japanese parachute assault and earned the Battalion's first Presidential Unit Citation (Army) for an amphibious assault on Luzon, the battle of Tagatay Ridge, and the attack on Manila.

Following the Japanese surrender, the troops of the 187th were the first American soldiers to set foot on Japanese soil, flying there as part of Gen. Macarthur's advance guard. It was during the first four years of occupation duty in Japan that the soldiers of the 187th Infantry Regiment, now all parachute qualified were given the name "Rakkasans" by the Japanese. Loosely translated as "falling down umbrella", the name stuck. Since then, members of the regiment have made the name synonymous with the fighting spirit of America's airborne and air assault soldiers.

In early 1949, the 187th rotated to Camp Campbell, Kentucky, where it became an Airborne Infantry Regiment and was assigned to the 11th Airborne Division. With the outbreak of the Korean War, the Rakkasans returned the Orient as a separate unit, the 187th Airborne Regiment Combat Team. During the conflict, the Rakkasans earned 6 campaign streamers. They also earned a Presidential Unit Citation (Navy) for an attack up the Kimpo Peninsula as part of the amphibious assault at Inchon, and their second Presidential Unit Citation (Army) for a parachute assault above the enemy capital of Pyongyang at Sukchon-Sunchon in 1950. Months later the regiment made a second combat jump at Musan-ni, cutting off and destroying large number of forces above the 38th parallel.

The Rakkasans returned stateside in 1955, this time to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. Their stay there was short-lived, and in February 1956 the unit road marched to Ft. Campbell to serve as the first test combat group and the nucleus of the newly reactivated 101st Airborne Division. In 1963, the Rakkasans served under the 11th Airborne Divisions colors when the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry became the Army's first air assault battalion and participated with the 11th Air Assault Division in the validation of the Army's airmobile concept.

In December 1967, the 3rd Battalion deployed to Vietnam as part of the 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. Over the next 4 years the Iron Rakkasans fought with extreme valor in twelve major campaigns, conducting numerous air assaults and search and destroy missions.

At 0800 hours on the 10 May 1969, the first soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment lifted off from Firebase Blaze to a landing zone 1800 meters from Dong Ap Bia. Their mission was to conduct a reconnaissance-in-force of Dong Ap Bia and the surrounding area as part of Operation Apache Snow, one of the largest air mobile operations of the Vietnam War. Operation Apache Snow was a direct attack into the A Shau Valley, a long-held bastion of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) along the Laotian border. The NVA had two choices: 1) abandon their arms caches, as well as their base camps, and flee to Laos or 2) stand and fight. They chose to stand and fight. This set the stage for the toughest single battle of the Vietnam War. After 10 days and 4 assaults, fighting NVA units in well prepared spider holes, trenches, bunkers and bomb craters, the first elements of 3-187th Infantry reached the top of Hill 973. Through heavy rain and dense jungle, the soldiers of 3-187th Infantry had driven the enemy off Dong Ap Bia, blowing bunkers apart with 90mm recoilless rifles, M79 grenade launchers, and fighting tenaciously for every foot of ground. Assisted by A Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry, the soldiers of 3-187th Infantry had almost single handedly driven the numerically superior, determined enemy from dug in positions. Killing over 350 enemy soldiers through direct contact and hundreds more through indirect fire and close air support, while suffering 56 Americans killed, the Rakkasans had proven their mettle.

The Battalion colors returned to Ft. Campbell in 1971, bringing home two Valorous Unit Awards, and the Battalions third and fourth Presidential Unit Awards for the battles of Trang Bang and Dong Ap Bia Mountain (commonly known as "Hamburger Hill"). The Iron Rakkasans emerged from the Vietnam War as the country's most highly decorated airborne battalion.

For the next 19 years the battalion was assigned to the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division. In August 1990, the battalion deployed to southwest Asia for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. During Operation Desert Storm the battalion was part of the largest air assault in history, assaulting 175 miles into enemy territory. Here the battalion isolated the Iraqi elite Republican Guard by blocking key routes along the Euphrates River Valley. This action helped support the end of one of the most devastating and quickest victories in modern war. The Rakkasans were the northern most coalition force in Iraq, only 150 miles from the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

In 2001 the 3-187th deployed with other elements of 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. In 2003 the 3-187th was deployed on Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2004 the unit returned to Fort Campbell as part of the transformation of the entire 101st Airborne Division to the US Army's new modular force structure. In 2005 it returned to Iraq with the transformed 3rd Brigade Combat Team, where it served through 2008.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:25:34 ZULU