503rd Infantry Regiment (United States)
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|503rd Infantry Regiment|
Coat of arms
|Active||1941 – 45
1951 – 84
1986 – present
|Branch||United States Army|
|Engagements||World War II
Operation Iraqi Freedom
|George M. Jones|
|Distinctive unit insignia|
|U.S. Infantry Regiments|
|502nd Infantry Regiment||504th Infantry Regiment|
The 503rd Infantry Regiment, formerly the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) is an airborne unit in the United States military. It is one of the most decorated units of its kind with a distinguished battlefield record notably in World War II and the Vietnam War. It is part of 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.
World War II
On 14 February 1942, the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment was formed.
The regiment's 1st and 2nd Battalions were formed at Fort Benning, Georgia, from the 503rd and 504th Parachute Battalions, respectively. Unlike many other airborne units, who were deployed in the European Theater of Operations, the 503rd was the first airborne regiment to fight in the Pacific, and as an independent unit.
The unit's first operation was an unopposed landing at Nadzab, in the Markham Valley, New Guinea, on 5 September 1943. Although the landings were unopposed, the troops were later attacked by enemy bombers from the air. The 503rd's deployment helped force the Japanese evacuation of a major military outpost at Lae. During their overland withdrawal, the third battalion of the 503rd had a major skirmish with the Japanese rear guard.
On 3-4 July 1944, 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 503rd were delivered by parachute to Kamiri Airfield on the island of Noemfoor off the coast of Dutch New Guinea, sustaining significant casualties from the jump. To reduce further casualties, 2nd Battalion was delivered amphibiously. At the Battle of Noemfoor, the 503rd played a major role in the elimination of the Japanese garrison on that island. As a result of his heroic actions during the battle, paratroop sergeant Ray E. Eubanks was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Airfields constructed on Noemfoor after its capture enabled the advance of Allied troops from New Guinea to the Philippines.
Following a non-combat landing on the island of Leyte in the Philippines, the 503d Regimental Combat Team (RCT) made a major amphibious landing on Mindoro Island in the central Philippines on 15 December 1944. Originally, it was intended for the 503rd to jump on Mindoro, but due to inadequate airstrip facilities on Leyte, an airborne landing was not possible. During the Battle of Mindoro, the 503rd was subjected to intense air and naval actions, at one point being shelled for 25 minutes by a Japanese naval task force. One company of the 503rd RCT engaged in a fierce battle against a company-size Japanese force defending an enemy air raid warning station on the north end of the island. The success of the Mindoro operation enabled the U.S. Army Air Forces to construct and operate air strips and forward air bases to support later landings in the Philippines at Lingyen Gulf, Luzon.
On 16 February 1945, the 503rd RCT jumped on Fortress Corregidor ("the Rock") to liberate that island from occupying Japanese forces. The assault on Corregidor was the most intense combat action in which the 503rd engaged during its existence. Braving intense fire, the paratroopers rushed forward and overcame the heavy blockhouse defenses, dropping explosives into embrasures to kill hidden Japanese gunners. For its successful capture of Corregidor, the unit was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation (US) and received its nickname, "the Rock Regiment" from it. The regimental insignia was designed by PFC Thomas M. McNeill while recuperating from malaria on Mindoro Island, following the battle of Corregidor.
Deactivated at Camp Anza, California, in December 1945, it was reactivated and redesignated as the 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment in February 1951 and assigned to the U.S. 11th Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, following the departure of the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment to Korea as a separate Airborne regimental combat team. In 1956 the 503rd went with the rest of the 11th Airborne Division to posts in southeastern Germany.
The 503rd was relieved on 1 March 1957 from assignment to the 11th Airborne Division and was concurrently reorganized and redesignated as the 503rd Infantry, a parent regiment under the Combat Arms Regimental System. The lineage of Company A, 503rd AIR, was reorganized and redesignated on 1 March 1957 as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Airborne Battle Group, 503rd Infantry, and remained assigned to the 11th Airborne Division (organic elements concurrently constituted and activated). The lineage of Company B, 503rd AIR was redesignated on 1 September 1957 as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2d Airborne Battle Group, 503d Infantry (1-503rd), assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, and activated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina (organic elements concurrently constituted and activated). This year marked the point during which infantry regimental numbers ceased indicating actual tactical units but instead were used in designating battle groups of Pentomic divisions, which did not have regiments and battalions.
On 1 July 1958 the 1st ABG, 503rd Infantry was relieved from assignment to the 11th Airborne Division and assigned to the 24th Infantry Division when the 11th was reflagged as the 24th. The battle group's stay was short, and on 7 January 1959 it was relieved from assignment to the 24th Infantry Division and assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. The move was accompanied by the rotation of the only other airborne battle group, 1-187th, from the 24th to the 82nd. Concurrently 1-504th and 1-505th were relieved from the 82nd and assigned to the 8th Infantry Division in central Germany. At Fort Bragg, 1-503rd joined 2-503rd, already assigned to the 82nd, as one of the division's five battle groups.
The two active elements of the 503rd remained together under the 82nd until the following year, when 2-503rd was relieved on 24 June 1960 from assignment to the 82nd Airborne Division and assigned to the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii. The following year, on 1 July 1961, it was relieved from assignment to the 25th Infantry Division and assigned on 26 March 1963 to the 173rd Airborne Brigade on Okinawa.
The 1st ABG, 503rd Inf remained with the 82nd Airborne Division until 26 March 1963, when it was relieved from assignment to the 82nd and joined 2-503rd in its assignment to the 173rd Airborne Brigade. Shortly thereafter, on 25 June 1963, it was reorganized and redesignated as the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry. On that same date, 2-503rd was reorganized and redesignated as the 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry.
In May 1965, two battalions of the 503rd Infantry deployed as part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade to Vietnam as the first major U.S. Army ground combat unit to be deployed, joined later by 4-503rd Inf and 3-503rd Inf (bearing the lineages of the former Company D and Company C, 503rd PIR, respectively). During its six years in Vietnam, the four battalions of the 503rd participated in fourteen campaigns, earning two more Presidential Unit Citations and a Meritorious Unit Commendation. The 2nd Bn (Abn), 503rd Inf participated in the only combat jump of the war during "Operation Junction City" in 1967. It redeployed to the U.S. in July 1971, having the distinction of being one of the last units to leave Vietnam.
Following the return of the 173rd to the U.S. was its inactivation when its assets were used to form the 3rd Brigade (Airborne), 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile). Both 1-503rd and 2-503rd were relieved from the 173rd effective 14 January 1972 and assigned to the 101st. The other two battalions, 3-503rd and 4-503rd, were inactivated following the 173rd return from Vietnam. The 3rd Brigade, 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).
The lineage of 2-503rd was inactivated on 1 October 1983 and relieved from assignment to the 101st, followed by 1-503rd on 16 November 1984. The existing battalions were reflagged as units of the 187th Infantry Regiment during the implementation of the Army Regimental System (ARS).
Reactivation in Korea, assignment to Italy
On 16 December 1986 both 1-503rd and 2-503rd were reactivated and assigned to the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, in Korea when two existing infantry battalions were reflagged. (Note: On 16 March 1987 another former 101st unit, 1-506th Inf, was also assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division and activated in Korea.) The 2nd Bn, 503rd Inf was inactivated on 29 September 1990 in Korea and relieved from assignment to the 2nd Infantry Division, but 1-503rd and 1-506th remained and became Air Assault battalions within the division. The 2nd Bn, 503rd returned to active status as an airborne battalion on 16 December 2001 when it was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Italy when its colors were used to reflag the existing 3-325th Infantry. The company names were kept from its lineage in Korea: A Company (Able), B Company (Battle Hard), C Company (Chosen), D Company (Destined), F Company (Fusion), HHC (Hellbound).
Global War on Terror
In March 2003, the Turkish government refused to allow American ground forces, which were positioned at their ports, to move through Turkey in order to establish a northern front in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. America needed another option and the paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade provided that option. On 26 March at 2000 hours, fifteen C-17 aircraft delivered 20 heavy platforms and 959 paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade onto Bashur Drop Zone in the vicinity of Bashur, Iraq. This combat parachute assault was the beginning of Operation Northern Delay and established the Coalition’s northern front.
The parachute assault force consisted of HHC, 173rd Airborne Brigade; 1st Battalion (Airborne), 508th Infantry Regiment; 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment; 74th Infantry Detachment (Long Range Surveillance); D Battery (Airborne), 319th Field Artillery Regiment; 173rd Support Company (Combat); 501st Support Company (Forward), 250th Forward Surgical Team; ODA (-), 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne); 4th Air Support Operations Group (USAFE); and the 86th Contingency Response Group (assigned to the 86th Airlift Wing (USAFE). The paratroopers were under the command of Colonel William C. Mayville Jr., commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. The aircraft from which the units were delivered into battle were the C-17s of the 62d and 446th Airlift Wings from McChord AFB, Washington and the 437th Airlift Wing and 315th Airlift Wing (AFRES) from Charleston AFB, South Carolina. The C-17s were under the command of Colonel Robert “Dice” R. Allardice, commander of the 62nd Airlift Wing. This airborne operation was not only the largest since the 1990 invasion of Panama, but was the first airborne personnel insertion ever conducted with the C-17.
The successful establishment of a northern front was essential to the Coalition battle plan. Without a northern front six Iraqi divisions arrayed in northern Iraq remained free to move south to reinforce Baghdad. Fast-moving Coalition forces were closing on Baghdad with the expectation of having to capture the Iraqi capital from three defensively arrayed divisions. Six additional Iraqi divisions streaming from the north could dramatically affect the balance of power around Baghdad.
Another critical factor was the oil-rich area of Kirkuk. The oil wealth of the Kirkuk area would be crucial to rebuilding Iraq but the Iraqi army had shown a willingness to destroy their countries' own future simply to spite the Coalition. Securing the oil fields and airbases of Kirkuk was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
The success of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in its securing of Bashur and Kirkuk and its subsequent control and rebuilding of Kirkuk Province and later the As Sulaymaniyah Province was unmatched in-theater. The troopers integrated forces from fifteen other units, to include five Army divisions, to accomplish every mission.
In the summer of 2004, the 1st of the 503rd deployed to violent Ramadi, Iraq, where it's soldiers took part in the battle of Fallujah and conducted combat operations in the violent Al-Anbar province. At that point in the war, Ramadi was considered the most dangerous city in Iraq, and the battalion suffered high losses during the deployment . 1-503rd was targeted by daily small arms, RPG, and mortar attacks and received a significant amount of Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices, also known as VBIEDS or car bombs. Despite this, the 1-503rd was very successful in their mission to curb insurgent activity. According to an interview with Lieutenant Colonel James Raymer, as of February 2006, insurgent activity is markedly lowered from the year that 1-503rd conducted operations in Ramadi. Additionally, the 503rd played a critical role in the 2005 elections in Iraq in Ramadi.
Upon completion of its year-long deployment to Iraq, 1-503 did not return to Korea, but instead relocated to Fort Carson, Colorado, with the rest of the brigade. It was redesignated on 1 October 2005 as the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, inactivated on 15 November 2005, relieved from assignment to the 2nd Infantry Division, and assigned on 15 June 2006 to the 173rd Airborne Brigade when the existing 1-508th Inf was reflagged.
In May 2007, the 173rd ABCT (including both 1- and 2-503) deployed to Afghanistan. Both units fell under the NATO ISAF mission. 2-503 remained as part of TF Bayonet and the unit was the subject of several articles detailing their operations during OEF VIII. 1-503 was attached to the 4th BCT, 82nd Airborne and then 4th BCT, 101st Airborne as part of TF Fury and TF Currahee, respectively.
On 7 February 2011, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment was awarded the Valorous Unit Award for their actions during OEF VIII. The Valorous Unit Award was awarded for the unit's actions from 25 Jan. to 30 July 2008. The official citation reads: "For extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy. During the period 25 January 2008 to 30 July 2008, the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2d Battalion, 503d Infantry Regiment and its subordinate units displayed exceptionally meritorious service assigned as Task Force Rock in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Kunar Province. Task Force Rock's professionalism and dedication to the mission under fire went beyond the call of duty and contributed greatly to the success of Task Force Bayonet. The actions of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2d Battalion, 503d Infantry Regiment and its subordinate units are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon the unit, the 173d Airborne Brigade Combat Team and the United States Army". The subordinate units of HHC, 2d Battalion, 503d Infantry Regiment include: Able Company, Battle Company, Chosen Company, Destined Company, Fusion Company, Bravo Battery (4-319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment), Charlie Battery (3-321 Field Artillery Regiment), and Headquarters and Headquarters Company (173d Special Troops Battalion).
On 26 October 2011, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for the soldiers' "extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy" from 5 June to 10 Nov. 2007.
Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta received the nation’s highest award for valor after running through heavy enemy fire to rescue a badly wounded comrade during a deadly ambush 25 Oct. 2007, in the Korengal Valley. Soldiers from the battalion also earned two Distinguished Service Crosses, the second-highest valor award, and 27 Silver Stars, the third-highest award for valor.
Medal of Honor recipients
Medal of Honor Recipients:
- PFC John Andrew Barnes, III
- SPC4 Michael R. Blanchfield
- SSG Glenn H. English Jr.
- SGT Ray E. Eubanks
- SSG Salvatore Giunta
- SPC6 Lawrence Joel
- PFC Carlos J. Lozada
- PVT Lloyd G. McCarter
- SPC4 Don L. Michael
- SSG Charles B. Morris
- PFC Milton L. Olive III
- SGT Larry S. Pierce
- SPC4 Alfred Rascon
- Maj Charles J. Watters
Silver Star recipients
Silver Star Recipients:
- PFC Vincent J. Stislow, I Co 3/503, 1943 New Guinea (later DOW, 18 Feb 1945, Corregidor).
- PFC Harrison J Meyer, D Co 1/503, 2004 Ramadi Iraq(ref http://www.homeofheroes.com/valor/08_WOT/ss_GWOT/citations_USA-M.html)
- SSG Thomas E. Vitagliano, C Co 1/503rd Ramadi Iraq (ref http://www.homeofheroes.com/valor/08_WOT/ss_GWOT/citations_USA-M.html)
In popular culture
- Restrepo (film): Is a 2010 documentary film about the Second Platoon, Battle Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (airborne) of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in the Korangal Valley in Afghanistan.
- 84C MoPic (film): 1989 Mock-up documentary of a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) mission during the Vietnam War. C CO. 2/503 173rd (ABN) BDE, Bon Song, Vietnam
- Morison, Samuel Eliot (1953). History of United States Naval Operations in World War II: New Guinea and the Marianas, March 1944-August 1944. University of Illinois Press. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-252-07038-9. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
- Interview with LTC James Raymer Combat Studies Institute 24 February 2006
- "U.S. Troops Fortify Iraqi Polling Stations", Stars and Stripes, 28 January 2005
- "Into the Valley of Death"Junger, Sebastian; Vanity Fair; January 2008
- "Battle Company Is Out There"; Rubin, Elizabeth; New York Times Sunday Magazine; February, 2008
- "Hispanic Medal of Honor recipients". United States Army Center of Military History. Retrieved 3 August 2010.
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