504th Infantry Regiment (United States)

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504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
504PIRCOA.PNG
504th Parachute Infantry Regiment coat of arms
Active 1942–present
Country USA
Branch Regular Army
Type Airborne infantry
Garrison/HQ Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Nickname Devils in Baggy Pants
Motto Strike Hold
Colors Blue
Engagements

World War II

Vietnam War
Armed Forces Expeditions

Southwest Asia

Decorations Presidential Unit Citation (3)
Valorous Unit Award
Meritorious Unit Commendation
Army Superior Unit Award
Military Order of William
Belgian Fourragere
Netherlands Orange Lanyard
Cited in Order of the Day of the Belgian Army (2)
Commanders
Current
commander
Col. Trevor J. Bredenkamp [1]
Notable
commanders
Major General Reuben Tucker
General William Westmoreland
General Hugh Shelton
General John Abizaid
General David Petraeus
Insignia
Distinctive unit insignia 504 PIRDUI.PNG
Beret flash 504th Infantry Regiment Beret Flash.svg
U.S. Infantry Regiments
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503rd Infantry Regiment 505th Infantry Regiment

The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (504th PIR) is an airborne infantry regiment in the United States Army, first formed in 1942 as part of the 82nd Airborne Division. A parent regiment under the U.S. Army Regimental System, two battalions from the regiment, 1st Battalion (1-504 PIR) and 2nd Battalion (2-504 PIR), are currently active, both assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.

Beginnings[edit]

The regiment was initially constituted on 24 February 1942 in the Army of the United States as the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. The First, Second and Third Battalions were constituted on 24 February 1942 as Company A, B, and C, respectively, of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and were activated 1 May 1942 at Fort Benning, Georgia, and was assigned to the United States Army Airborne Command. When it completed its regimental training, it was assigned on 15 August 1942 to the 82nd Airborne Division.

World War II[edit]

The regiment moved from Fort Benning to Fort Bragg on 30 September 1942 to finish its training, fill its Table of Organization and Equipment, and prepare for its Staging Call. When the call came, it Staged at Camp Edwards on 18 April 1943, and it made its Port Call on 10 May 1943, when it departed the New York Port of Embarkation.

North Africa, April 1943[edit]

Members of the 504th prepare a weapon for stowage aboard a glider in April 1943.

On 29 April 1943, the 504th boarded the troop ship USS George Washington which steamed to North Africa and the regiment's first overseas port of call, Casablanca. Upon arrival on 10 May 1943, the troops marnd eight miles south of the city where they established a cantonment area consisting of a few stone huts and a tent city.[2] Soon, the regiment was moved by "40 and 8’s" northward to Oujda, Algeria. The "40 and 8’s" were railroad cars dating from the First World War, so called because they were designed to carry 40 men or 8 horses.

Training intensified and Generals Eisenhower, Clark, and Patton, along with the Sultan of Morocco and officials of every Allied nation watched the 504th go through its paces. Training included many practice jumps, and one conducted in winds of up to 30 miles-per-hour put nearly 30% of the unit in the hospital with broken bones, sprains and bruises. Finally, the order came and the regiment moved by truck to Kairouan, Tunisia, which was to be the 82nd Airborne Division’s point of departure for the invasion of Sicily.[2]

Sicily, July 1943[edit]

General James M. Gavin led the division during the Operation Husky, and on 9 July 1943, the 504th PIR helped spearhead the invasion of Sicily in the first airborne military offensive of the history of the United States of America.[3] The 504th paratroopers crossed over the Sicilian coast on schedule. Despite extensive precautions to avoid an incident, near the Sicilian coast a nervous Allied naval vessel suddenly fired upon the formation. Immediately, all other naval vessels and shore troops joined in, downing friendly aircraft and forcing planeloads of paratroopers to exit far from their intended drop zones in one of the greatest tragedies of World War II. Colonel Tucker’s plane, after twice flying the length of the Sicilian coast and with well over 2,000 holes in its fuselage, finally reached the drop zone near Gela, Sicily. By morning, only 400 of the regiment’s 1600 soldiers had reached the objective area. The others had been dropped in isolated groups on all parts of the island and carried out demolitions, cut lines of communication, established island roadblocks, ambushed German and Italian motorized columns, and caused so much confusion over such an extensive area that initial German radio reports estimated the number of American parachutists dropped to be over ten times the actual number.[2]

On 13 July 1943, the 504th moved out, spearheading the 82nd Airborne Division’s drive northwest 150 miles (240 km) along the southern coast of Sicily. With captured Italian light tanks, trucks, motorcycles, horses, mules, bicycles, and even wheelbarrows pressed into service, the 82nd encountered only light resistance and took 22,000 prisoners in their first contact with enemy forces. Overall, the Sicilian operation proved costly both in lives and equipment, but the unit gained valuable fighting experience and managed to hurt the enemy in the process. It was with this experience and pride that the 504th returned to its base in Kairouan to prepare for the invasion of mainland Italy.[2]

Devils in Italy[edit]

Back in North Africa, replacements arrived, training resumed, and 3rd Battalion was again detached, this time to Bizerte for special beach assault training with the 325th Glider Infantry and the Rangers. The 1st and 2nd Battalions moved back to Sicily and trained for a drop at Capua —in vain, however, because the enemy had been tipped off and was waiting on the drop zone. Another disappointment followed with the cancellation of the drop on Rome. Last minute intelligence disclosed that "negotiations" between General Taylor and Marshal Badoglio were a trap. Finally, in early September, the 3rd Battalion rejoined the 325th and the Rangers, boarded landing craft, and set out to sea. The men knew they were going to Italy, but little else. Troopers from H Company, with a group of Rangers, made the initial landing on 9 September 1943 on the Italian coast at Maiori. They quickly advanced inland to seize the Chiunzi Pass and a vital railroad tunnel.[2]

On 11 September 1943, the 3rd Battalion headquarters and G and I Companies, along with the remainder of the 325th Combat Team, swerved south and landed on bloody Salerno beach. The military situation deteriorated with each passing hour as German tanks and infantry forces tried to push the unit back into the sea. The 3rd Battalion troopers dug in and held on.[2]

On standby at airfields in Sicily, the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 504th were alerted, issued chutes, and loaded on aircraft without knowledge of their destination. Receiving their briefing aboard the plane, the men were told that the 5th Army beachhead was in danger and they were needed to jump in behind friendly lines. Flying in columns of battalions, they exited over the barrels of gasoline-soaked sand that formed a flaming "T" in the center of the drop zone. The regiment assembled quickly and moved to the sounds of cannon and small arms fire within the hour. By dawn, the unit was firmly set in defensive positions.[2]

In September 1943, members of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment prepare to fire an 81mm mortar during the battle for Italy.

The days that followed were, in the words of General Mark Clark, Commander of the 5th Army, "responsible for saving the Salerno beachhead." As the 504th (minus 3rd Battalion) took the high ground at Altavilla, the enemy counterattacked and the Commander of 6th Corps, General Dawley, suggested the unit withdraw. Epitomizing the determined spirit of the regiment, Colonel Tucker vehemently replied, "Retreat, Hell! —Send me my other battalion!" The 3rd Battalion then rejoined the 504th, the enemy was repulsed, and the Salerno beachhead was saved.[2]

The operation secured the flanks of the 5th Army, allowing it to break out of the coastal plain and drive on to Naples. On 1 October 1943, the 504th became the first infantry unit to enter Naples, which it subsequently garrisoned. The operation was not only a success, but it also stands as one of history’s greatest examples of the mobility of the airborne unit: within only eight hours of notification, the 504th developed and disseminated its tactical plan, prepared for combat, loaded aircraft and jumped onto its assigned drop zone to engage the enemy and turn the tide of battle.[2]

During the next several months in Central Italy, the 504th fought in difficult terrain against a determined enemy. On steep, barren slopes, the regiment assaulted one hill after another. Mule trains aided in the evacuation of wounded to some extent, but casualties were often carried for hours down the steep hillsides just to reach the road.[2]

Finally, the regiment was pulled back to Naples on 4 January 1944 as rumors of another parachute mission spread. The operation was to be called "Shingle," and it involved an airborne assault into a sector behind the coastal town of Anzio, 35 miles south of Rome. It seemed, however, that even the locals in Naples knew of the operation, so the 504th was glad that the beach would be assaulted from troop-carrying landing craft.[2]

The landing on Red Beach went smoothly—at least until enemy planes started their strafing runs on the landing craft. The unit disembarked under fire and was sent shortly thereafter to patrol in force along the Mussolini Canal. After several days of intense German artillery fire, the enemy launched his main drive to push the Allies back into the sea. The 3rd Battalion was committed with the British First (Guards) Division in the heaviest fighting, with the paratrooper companies reduced in strength to between 20 and 30 men. H Company drove forward to rescue a captured British General and was cut off. I Company broke through to them with their remaining 16 men. For its outstanding performance from 8 to 12 February 1944, the battalion was presented one of the first Presidential Unit Citations awarded in the European Theater of Operations.[2]

For the remainder of their eight week stay on the Anzio beachhead, the men of the 504th found themselves fighting defensive battles instead of the offensive operations for which they were better suited. For the first time the men were engaged in trench warfare like that of the First World War, with barbed wire entanglements and minefields in front and between alternate positions. It was during this battle that the 504th acquired the nickname "The Devils in Baggy Pants," taken from the following entry found in the diary of a German officer killed at Anzio:[2]

"American parachutists...devils in baggy pants...are less than 100 meters from my outpost line. I can't sleep at night; they pop up from nowhere and we never know when or how they will strike next. Seems like the black-hearted devils are everywhere..."

On 23 March 1944, the 504th was pulled out of the beachhead by landing craft and returned to Naples. The campaign had been costly, but enemy losses exceeded those of the regiment by over tenfold, and the Allies maintained control of the beachhead. Shortly thereafter, the 504th boarded the Capetown Castle and steamed to England.[2]

Because of the significant casualties suffered in Italy, the 504th was withheld from the Normandy invasion to reorganize. (The 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment was used in its place.)

From England to the Netherlands[edit]

Although Nazi broadcasters warned the unit by radio that German submarines would never let the Capetown Castle past the Straits of Gibraltar, the only danger the ship encountered came when all the troops rushed to the same side of the vessel as it pulled into Liverpool on 22 April 1944. The 82nd Airborne Division band greeted them with "We’re All American and proud to be...," and it was assumed that the 504th would rejoin the 82nd for the upcoming invasion at Normandy. As D-day approached, however, it became apparent that the 504th would be held back. A lack of replacements prevented the regiment from participating in the invasion, so only a few dozen 504th troopers were taken as pathfinders.[2]

The 504th thus remained in England as "Dry Runs" came one after another. Missions were scheduled for France, Belgium, and the Netherlands and then canceled at the last moment. For three days the troopers waited for the fog to lift to allow them to drop into Belgium, but the wait proved long enough for General Patton’s Army to overrun the drop zones, thereby returning the 504th to its English garrison.[2]

So, when the word came on 15 September for the 82nd to jump in ahead of the Second Army, 57 miles behind enemy lines in the vicinity of Grave, few believed the mission would actually be conducted. The operation would require seizing the longest bridge in Europe over the Maas River and several other bridges over the Maas-Waal Canal. The men of the 504th became even more doubtful the mission would go when told that the planned flight was through the Scheldt Estuary (nicknamed "Flak Alley" by Allied bomber pilots) and that they were reportedly outnumbered by 4,000 of Hitler’s Schutzstaffeln(SS) troops and an unknown number of German tanks.[2]

No cancellation was received, however, and on 17 September 1944 at 1231 hours, the pathfinders of the 504th landed on the drop zone, followed thirty minutes later by the rest of the regiment and C Company, 307th Engineer Battalion, to become the first Allied troops to land in the Netherlands as part of Operation Market Garden—the largest airborne operation in history. By 1800 hours, the 504th had accomplished its assigned mission (although the enemy had managed to destroy one of the bridges). In just four hours, the regiment had jumped, assembled, engaged the enemy, and seized its objectives.[2]

The 504th were the first Allied troops to land in the Netherlands as part of Operation Market Garden, the largest airborne operation in history.

For the next two days, the regiment held its ground and conducted aggressive combat and reconnaissance patrols until the Irish guards made the ground link-up, spearheading the advance of the 30th Corps of the Second British Army. However, the Nijmegen road and rail bridges, which were the last remaining link to British Airborne forces in Arnhem, remained in enemy hands, and the far bank was heavily defended by the Germans. An assault crossing of the river was necessary, but it was a seemingly impossible task. Gavin intended to make a pre-dawn crossing[4]:103 after consulting with British Generals Brian Horrocks and Frederick Browning in the presence of senior officers of the Guards Armoured and 82nd Airborne divisions, and Colonel Reuben Tucker of the 504th PIR,[5] and during the night he drew up a plan, and alerted the troops at 0600 in the expectation of the boats to be provided by the British XXX Corps.

However, the crossing did not commence until 1500 after the guns of 376th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion and 153rd Field Regiment Royal Artillery, and two troops of the Grenadier Guards Sherman tanks opened fire on the northern (Lent) bank. The British provided 26 canvas boats, each 19 feet (5.8 m) long, that the 504th used to cross the 400 yards (370 m)-wide river. The 3rd Battalion's H and I companies, and some engineers from the 307th Engineer Battalion crossed in the first wave, 15 men to a boat, and they were immediately on leaving the far shore the target of German 88mm cannons, 20mm cannons, flak wagons, machine guns and riflemen. Nonetheless, the crossing was launched. With only 2-4 oars in each boat, the remaining men rowed with the rifle butts. Only 13 boats made it across, and only 11 of those were in condition to return across the river to deliver succeeding waves.

The 1st Battalion formed the second wave, and they established a firm bridgehead from which the units carried the battle to the enemy defending the old Fort Belvedere[6] and captured the bridge from the north side. Dempsey, commander of the Second British Army, after witnessing the crossing, characterized the attack with a single word as he shook his head and said, "Unbelievable."[2] Six crossings were made by 1900. It was there that Dempsey called the 82nd Division the greatest in the world.[7] Because only 11 boats returned from the first crossing, eight from the second and five from the third,[6] A Company that followed used locally sourced wooden fishing boats.[8]

France and Belgium, November 1944[edit]

On 16 November 1944, the 504th arrived at Camp Sissone near Rheims in Northern France on British lorries, greeted again by the traditional "We’re All American..." of the 82nd band. Soon after, the Division moved to Camp Laon and began training with the new C-46 Commando aircraft, the first aircraft with two troop doors for parachute exits.[2]

At 2100 hours on the night of 17 December 1944, Colonel Tucker was summoned to the 82nd Airborne Division headquarters. There he learned that the Germans had broken through into Belgium and Luxembourg with a powerful armored thrust launched south of Aachen in what became known as the Battle of the Bulge.

Soldiers of the 504th move through Aachen, Germany, the first large German city to be taken by the Allies.

The next morning the 504th paratroopers started for Bastogne, not in airplanes, but in large trucks. Along the way, their destination was changed to Werbomont—a point more seriously threatened. The Devils conducted a night movement on foot for eight miles to take up defensive positions. On 19 December Colonel Tucker was ordered to Rahier and Cheneux to link up with the 505th at Trois Ponts. The 1st Battalion was ordered to take the towns Brume, Rhier, and Cheneux. At 1400 on 20 December 1944, 1st Battalion (less A Company) moved out toward Cheneux, where it was immediately engaged by a battalion of the SS-Obersturmbannführer Joachim Peiper's Kampfgruppe Peiper of the I SS Panzer Corps. Crossing an open 400-yard field laced every fifteen yards with barbed wire, the 1st Battalion faced the heaviest enemy fire the 504th had ever encountered, including heavy machine-guns, a 20mm gun, and a half-dozen German armored vehicles.[4]:201-203

While digging in near Bra, soldiers of Co H, 3rd Bn, 504th PIR, met Nazi SS troopers on reconnaissance. Several Germans were killed and one captured. 25 December 1944

The 504th deployed a captured German halftrack armed with a 70mm gun manned by two paratroopers with no training in its use. They were successful in knocking out several enemy positions. Still, the 504th took very heavy losses crossing the open field, and at 1700 were ordered to withdraw 200 yards (180 m) to the edge of a wood. Col. Tucker ordered the 1st Battalion to engage in an assault on the German forces in Cheneux that night.[2][9] The Devils pressed forward, and by nightfall had given the Germans their first defeat of the Battle of the Bulge.[2][9] Through heavy fire, Companies B and C wiped out an estimated five companies of German forces, as well as fourteen flak-wagons, six half-tracks, four trucks, and four 105mm howitzers.[10] However, the two companies were decimated, with 23 killed and 202 wounded; eighteen enlisted men remained in Company B, and thirty-eight men and three officers in Company C.[10] Minus Company A, the 1st Battalion of the 504, as well as the first platoon, Company C, 307th Engineer Battalion, were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for their outstanding performance during this action.[10]

Throughout the initial days of battle with experienced German troops, the regiment wore down the enemy and discovered the Germans had only poorly organized and inadequately equipped follow-on forces. Soon thereafter, the paratroopers received the orders they had been expecting—to attack the Siegfried Line. The regiment was positioned on the right flank of the 1st Army, and on 28 January 1945 the 504th advanced through the Belgian forest of Bullingen in columns of two along a deep snowy trail, meeting only spotty resistance along the way.[9]

While approaching Herresbach, the regiment encountered an enemy battalion in a head-on engagement that surprised both elements. The battle-wise paratroopers, without hesitation, accelerated their pace and moved on the enemy. The machine guns of the lead tank opened up on the Germans, while the men of the 504th fired their weapons from the hip at shooting-gallery speed. Within ten minutes, the enemy was overrun with more than 100 killed and 180 captured. Not a single 504th paratrooper was killed or wounded.[2]

Troops of 340th Tank Bn., Headquarters Co., 3rd Bn., 504th PIR advance in a snowstorm behind a tank to attack Herresbach, Belgium. 28 January 1945

Finally, on 1 February 1945, the order came to conduct the assault on the Siegfried Line through the Belgian Fort Gerolstein. The following day the 1st and 2nd Battalions jumped off on the attack. Moving cautiously from bunker to bunker, the troopers encountered heavy machine gun and small arms fire at all points. Ironically, the German Army’s own Panzerfaust (a light anti-tank weapon with which the 504th was well-equipped) was the regiment’s most effective weapon against the German pillboxes. Despite the presence of thousands of mines and booby traps, only a small number of those disturbed actually detonated. Freezing temperatures, snow, ice and years of exposure had corroded the detonators. Vicious enemy counterattacks on 3 and 4 February were repulsed, and the unit was relieved. The regiment moved back to Grand Halleux where it spent several days before being trucked across the Belgian-German border. From Aachen, it moved by train back to Laon, France to await orders.[2]

On to Berlin[edit]

Colonel Tucker and the advance detail left Laon on 1 April 1945 and traveled by jeep 270 miles to Cologne (Köln), Germany. Three days later the regiment arrived, mostly in "40 and 8s," and immediately took up positions along the West Bank of the Rhine River. 504th patrols crossed nightly in small boats, engaging in brisk fire-fights almost every patrol. The enemy made a few attempts to cross to the regiment’s side of the river, but all efforts were turned back.[2]

On 6 April 1945, A Company crossed the Rhine at 0230 hours and immediately made contact with the enemy. Under heavy fire and in a minefield, the first wave of 504th troopers was split into two elements, each of which fought its way independently to the predesignated objective. There they rejoined forces, knocked out several machine gun nests, and established a roadblock. Using similar tactics, succeeding waves infiltrated the enemy and set up a defense in the village of Hitdorf. For a short time, all was calm.[2] Company A was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for its action during this engagement.[11]

Then the enemy counterattacked. The first counterattack was broken less than fifty yards from the perimeter, while the second was preceded by heavy artillery preparation. As enemy tanks and infantry closed in, the outnumbered and outgunned A Company fought its way back to the river's edge. The regiment sent I Company across to support the withdrawal. The 504th had lost only nine men to the enemy’s 150, but whether the two companies achieved the higher aim of diverting enemy forces from a more important sector upstream is unknown. For the men involved, it was a small-scale "Dunkirk" with a hollow satisfaction achieved.[2] The 504th was then relieved of its active defense of the Rhine and was directed to patrol the area north of Cologne until 1 May 1945. With little resistance to slow it down, the regiment established its command post in the town of Breetze, Germany on the west bank of the Elbe River. Although tanks had been attached to the unit, the 504th was outnumbered 100 to 1 by German troops clogging every road. Nevertheless, throughout the next several days, the Americans stood at 100-yard intervals collecting souvenirs by the jeep-load as almost never-ending columns of enemy forces poured through the regiment’s lines to surrender.[2]

At 1000 hours on 3 May 1945, a jeep full of I Company men grew tired of waiting for a Russian element to link up with them, so they drove down the south side of the Elde and then twelve more miles to the town of Eldenburg. There they were entertained by a company of Cossacks, whose specific unit designation none of the men could recall after partaking of the various toasts offered in honor of Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin.[2]

The war officially ended in Europe on 8 May 1945. The 504th returned briefly to Nancy, France until the 82nd Airborne Division, the 11th Armoured Division (United Kingdom) and the 5th Cossack Division were called upon to serve as the occupation forces in Berlin. Here the 82nd Airborne Division earned the name, "America’s Guard of Honor," as a fitting end to hostilities in which the 504th had chased the German Army some 14,000 miles (23,000 km) across the European Theater.[2]

Following their occupation duty with the 82nd Airborne Division in Berlin, the Devils reported to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Post World War II service[edit]

Occupation and garrison[edit]

Following their occupation duty with the 82d Airborne Division in Berlin, the Devils reported to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The regiment remained at Fort Bragg until 1957, when the era of infantry regiments as tactical units ended and the Pentomic era began, in which designations were used to perpetuate lineages and honors. On 1 September of that year the lineage of Company A, 504PIR was reorganized and redesignated as HHC, 1st Airborne Battle Group, 504th Infantry and remained assigned to the 82nd as one of five battle groups that replaced the three regiments previously assigned to the division. The lineage of Company B, 504PIR was used to reflag existing elements of the 11th Airborne Division in Germany as HHC, 2nd Airborne Battle Group, 504th Infantry.

The 1st ABG, 504th Infantry remained assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division until 11 December 1958 when it rotated to Germany (along with 1-505th) to become part of the Airborne component of the newly reactivated 8th Infantry Division (Mechanized). Both 1-504th and 1-505th were replaced in the 82nd by 1-187th and 1-503rd, which rotated from the 24th Infantry Division in Germany to the 82nd. The colors of both remained with the 8th until the end of the Pentomic era, at which time (1 April 1963) they were reorganized and reflagged as 1st and 2nd Battalions (Airborne), 509th Infantry, elements of the division's 1st Brigade (Airborne). The colors of 1-504th returned to the 82nd, and on 25 May 1963 they were reorganized and redesignated as 1st Battalion (Airborne), 504th Infantry, an element of the 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division.

The 2nd ABG, 504th Infantry remained with the 11th Airborne Division in Germany only until 1 July 1958, when its colors were inactivated and the unit was reflagged as a non-Airborne battle group and the division was reflagged as the 24th Infantry Division. The colors were relieved on 9 May 1960 from assignment to the inactive 11th Airborne Division and assigned to the 82d Airborne Division and reactivated on 1 July 1960, and then reorganized and redesignated on 25 May 1964 as the 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 504th Infantry, joined 1-504th as an element of the 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division.

The Dominican Republic, April 1965[edit]

On 26 April 1965, the 82d Airborne Division received orders to prepare to deploy forces to the Dominican Republic. Two days earlier, a revolution had erupted in the Caribbean nation which put the safety of almost 3,000 American citizens in jeopardy. The initial deployment of 82d Airborne soldiers came on 30 April 1965, and the two battalions of the 504th followed on 3 May 1965, landing at San Isidro Air Base to perform both military and humanitarian missions in support of Operation Power Pack. The 504th conducted military operations to help establish and maintain control of Santo Domingo and to provide security along the All American Expressway that ran through the city.[2]

During these operations, the 504th was often subject to sniper fire and in repeated contact with enemy factions, as it contributed greatly to the establishment of security and to the distribution of food and medical supplies to those in need. Only five days after the arrival of the first U.S. forces, approximately 2,700 American citizens and 1,400 civilians from other nations were evacuated without injury. However, it became apparent that to restore stability to the Dominican Republic would require a continued U.S. presence, so the 504th remained as part of the Inter-American Peace Force for over a year, not returning to Fort Bragg until the summer of 1966.[2]

U.S. troops were opposed by forces loyal to Juan Bosch, the Cuban/Soviet puppet president who was committed to spreading the totalitarian communist revolution to other island nations.[2]

Operation Golden Pheasant, Honduras 1988[edit]

In March 1988, 1st and 2nd Battalions, 504th joined soldiers from the 7th Infantry Division (Light) at Fort Ord, California in a deployment to Honduras as part of Operation Golden Pheasant - The 7th ID was the first unit on the ground and went directly to protect the local population from attack by Cuban armed communist guerrillas - a deployment ordered by President Reagan in response to actions by the Cuban and Soviet-supported Nicaraguan Sandinistas that threatened the stability of Honduras’ democratic government. On 17 March 1988, 1st Battalion, 504th landed at Palmerola, a Honduran Air Force Base (now known as Soto Cano Air Base) that is the headquarters for the U.S. military presence in Honduras. 2nd Battalion jumped onto the airfield a day later, and the troopers of the 504th began rigorous training exercises with orders to avoid the fighting on the border. Had those orders changed, the Devils were prepared to fight, but the invading Sandinista troops had already begun to withdraw. In only a few days, the Sandinistan government negotiated a truce with Contra leaders, and by the end of March the paratroopers of the 504th had returned to Fort Bragg.[2]

Parachutes in Panama, 1989[edit]

On 20 December 1989, the 504th was again sent into battle as part of Operation Just Cause. The intent of this operation was to protect U.S. civilians in Panama, secure key facilities, neutralize both the Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF) and the "Dignity Battalions," and restore the elected government of Panama by ousting General Manuel Noriega. The 3-504 PIR had been prepositioned at Fort Sherman two weeks prior to the operation and was under the control of the 7th Infantry Division. The battalion conducted air and sea assaults in northern and central Panama to seize the dam that controlled the water in the Panama canal, a prison, several police stations, several key bridges, a PDF supply point, the PDF demolitions school and an intelligence training facility. The operations were designed to neutralize the PDF while protecting U.S. nationals and the canal itself during the first few hours of the battle.[2]

The 1-504 PIR and 2-504 PIR, along with 4th Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment (4-325 PIR) and the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment (1/75 RGR), conducted a parachute assault on the Omar Torrijos International Airport. Following the airborne assault, the paratroopers soon found themselves engaged in fierce combat in urban and rural areas. As a testament to the discipline of the soldiers, however, the unit achieved all key objectives while causing only minimal collateral damage.[12]

Devils in the desert, 1990[edit]

On 2 August 1990, the Iraqi Army (the world’s fifth largest) attacked Kuwait. Paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division were quickly committed to Saudi Arabia and were positioned against an enemy that greatly outnumbered them. As diplomatic efforts failed, it became clear that the Iraqi Army would not withdraw. Plans were thus developed for Operation Desert Storm.

President Bush’s warning to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait by 15 January 1991 went unheeded, and on 27 January 1991 the air war began. Allied sorties pounded the enemy for more than a month as the XVIII Airborne Corps made a rapid movement westward to position its units to roll up the flank of the multi-echeloned Iraqi defense. In a powerful offensive lasting only 100 hours, the Allied forces—with the 82nd on the far western flank—crossed into Iraqi territory, devastated the Iraqi Army and captured thousands of enemy soldiers. The dangerous task of clearing countless enemy bunkers was quickly completed by the 82nd troopers, and the 504th returned to Fort Bragg in April 1991.[2]

Hurricane Andrew, 1992[edit]

In August 1992, 2nd Battalion, 504th PIR was alerted to deploy with a task force to the hurricane-ravaged area of South Florida to provide humanitarian assistance following Hurricane Andrew. For more than thirty days, the troopers provided the citizens with food, shelter and medical attention.[2]

Operation Uphold Democracy, Haiti 1994[edit]

Demonstrating its readiness again in September 1994, the regiment was called upon to take part in Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti. As the main effort of the 82d Airborne Division, the 504th, along with 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, was tasked to conduct an airborne assault to seize Port-au-Prince International Airport and to secure key objectives in Port-au-Prince and the surrounding area to oust Jean Bertrand Aristide. Several months of rigorous training had been conducted prior to the invasion. Less than three hours from drop time, however, the mission was terminated, and the aircraft returned with the 82nd units to Pope Air Force Base.[2]

Global War on Terror (Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom)[edit]

In July 2002, 1-504 PIR deployed to Afghanistan with the Task Force (TF) Panther (3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division) in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Areas of operation included Kandahar, Bagram Air Base, FOB Shkin, FOB Salerno, FOB Asadabad, and others. In December 2002 to January 2003, TF Devil (1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division), including both 2-504 PIR and 3-504 PIR replaced TF Panther. In January 2003, 2-504 PIR was operating from Bagram Air Base, while the 3-504 PIR was operating from Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The 1-504 PIR deployed again with TF Panther in September 2003 to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Areas of Operation included FOB Murcury, Fallujah, Abu Ghraib (surrounding environs) and al Karma. In January 2004, TF Devil deployed to Iraq with 2-504 PIR and 3-504 PIR. The 2-504 PIR conducted operations in southern Baghdad, while most of 3-504 PIR conducted security of Balad Air Base, and Company C, 3-504 PIR conducted security of Cedar II near Talil Air Base.

In July 2005, 2-504 PIR was operating in Afghanistan close to the Pakistan border.[13] In October 2005, 1st Battalion, 504 Parachute Infantry Regiment "Red Devils" deployed to Kurdistan in Northern Iraq in order to establish and run a maximum security detention facility for high risk detainees.

In September 2005, 3-504 deployed to Iraq to assist in providing security for the upcoming elections. The Blue Devils operated throughout the Al Anbar Province along the Euphrates River, in or near the cities of Haqlaniyah, Ramadi and Al Qaim. After the elections were complete the battalion was attached to USASOC in what was the first ever pairing of a battalion sized infantry unit to a USASOC task force and the beginning of the "Torch Mission." The battalion conducted combat operations in and around Ramadi in support of task force objectives. The Blue Devils redeployed to Ft Bragg in late January 2006.

In November 2005, 2nd Platoon, Company A, 2-504 PIR took part in Operation Sorkh Khar, which translates to "Operation Red Donkey" in the Korengal Valley. The 2-504 PIR returned to Fort Bragg in March 2006.

The 1-504 PIR with only one weeks’ notice, deployed again in January 2007[14] to Baghdad as part of the surge and continued operations in Baghdad for 15 months.

The 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82d Airborne Division, minus the 1st Battalion, 504th PIR, deployed to Iraq in June 2007 and the Brigade (-) conducted operations in Southern Iraq for 14 months based at Talil Air Base and several smaller locations. The 2nd Battalion, 504th PIR, initially deployed to Al Asad Airbase and conducted area security operations until January 2008 when they joined the BCT at Talil Air Base to replaced the Australian Battle Group. They conducted major operations in Basra and Al Amarah, Iraq until July 2008.

The 1st Brigade Combat Team, including both 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 504th PIR, deployed again to Al Anbar Province, Iraq, in August 2009 as the first Advise and Assist Brigade (AAB) in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and redeployed in late July 2010. During the deployment, they trained and supported Iraqi Security Forces, helping to make the second national elections a success in Anbar, with few injuries and no loss of life. They also conducted parachute training jumps out of Al Asad Airbase.

A U.S. Army paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team fires his M4 carbine at insurgents during a firefight June 30, 2012, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan. The vehicle he is using for cover is a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod, Task Force 1-82 PAO)

Roughly 2,500 of the 3,500-strong 1st Brigade Combat Team deployed to Afghanistan from March to September 2012 to spearhead the last major clearing operation of the war, fighting insurgent forces in southern Ghazni Province. The brigade conducted nearly 3,500 patrols, killed or captured 400 enemy combatants, found nearly 200 roadside bombs and weapons caches, and engaged the enemy over 170 times. Seven paratroopers were killed in action, including two with 1-504 PIR and two with 2-504 PIR.

Lineage[edit]

Regiment[edit]

504th PIR background trimming

Constituted 24 February 1942 in the Army of the United States as the 504th Parachute Infantry

  • Activated 1 May 1942 at Fort Benning, Georgia
  • Assigned 15 August 1942 to the 82d Airborne Division
  • Reorganized and redesignated 15 December 1947 as the 504th Airborne Infantry
  • Allotted 15 November 1948 to the Regular Army.
  • Relieved 1 September 1957 from assignment to the 82d Airborne Division; concurrently reorganized and redesignated as the 504th Infantry Regiment, a parent regiment under the Combat Arms Regimental System (CARS).
  • Withdrawn 1 May 1986 from the Combat Arms Regimental System and reorganized under the U.S. Army Regimental System (USARS).

First Battalion[edit]

1-504th PIR background trimming
  • Reorganized and redesignated 15 December 1947 as Company A, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
  • Allotted 15 November 1948 to the Regular Army
  • Reorganized and redesignated 1 September 1957 as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Airborne Battle Group, 504th Infantry, and remained assigned to the 82d Airborne Division (organic elements concurrently constituted and activated)
  • Relieved 11 December 1958 from assignment to the 82d Airborne Division and assigned to the 8th Infantry Division
  • Relieved 1 April 1963 from assignment to the 8th Infantry Division and assigned to the 82d Airborne Division
  • Reorganized and redesignated 25 May 1964 as the 1st Battalion, 504th Infantry.
  • Known as the "Red Devils."

Second Battalion[edit]

2-504th PIR background trimming
  • Reorganized and redesignated 15 December 1947 as Company B, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
  • Allotted 15 November 1948 to the Regular Army.
  • Reorganized and redesignated 1 March 1957 as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2d Airborne Battle Group, 504th Infantry, relieved from assignment to the 82d Airborne Division, and assigned to the 11th Airborne Division (organic elements concurrently constituted and activated).
  • Inactivated 1 July 1958 in Germany.
  • Relieved 9 May 1960 from assignment to the 11th Airborne Division and assigned to the 82d Airborne Division.
  • Activated 1 July 1960 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
  • Reorganized and redesignated 25 May 1964 as the 2nd Battalion, 504th Infantry.
  • Known as the "White Devils."

Third Battalion[edit]

3-504th PIR background trimming
  • Reorganized and redesignated 15 December 1947 as Company C, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
  • Allotted 15 November 1948 to the Regular Army.
  • Inactivated 1 September 1957 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and relieved from assignment to the 82d Airborne Division; concurrently redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3d Airborne Battle Group, 504th Infantry.
  • Redesignated 3 July 1968 as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3d Battalion, 504th Infantry (organic elements concurrently constituted).
  • Assigned 15 July 1968 to the 82d Airborne Division and activated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

(The battalion was part of the 4th Brigade, temporarily activated when the 3rd Brigade was sent to Viet Nam. Units of the division's 4th Brigade remained in skeletal status, never being fully manned, and were inactivated upon the return of the 3rd Brigade from Viet Nam.)

  • Inactivated 15 December 1969 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and relieved from assignment to the 82d Airborne Division.
  • Assigned 1 May 1986 to the 82d Airborne Division and activated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
  • The Blue Devils deployed as a contingency force to OIF from Sep 2005 to Jan 2006 under the command of LTC Larry Swift. Acknowledged by only a handful in the 82d Airborne Division, during this deployment 3-504 started the famed "Torch Mission": the enduring attachment of an infantry battalion to USASOC for missions.
  • Inactivated June 2006 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and relieved from assignment to the 82d Airborne Division; concurrently reflagged as 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry Regiment.[1]
  • Known as the "Blue Devils."

Decorations[edit]

Notable commanders[edit]

References[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Army.

  1. ^ "Leaders of 1st Brigade Combat Team". U.S. Army. Retrieved 11 September 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al "History of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment". Archived from the original on 15 October 2009. Retrieved 8 September 2009. 
  3. ^ "Historical account of the 82nd Airborne division". DDay-Overlord.com. Retrieved 12 September 2009. 
  4. ^ a b Nordyke, Phil (11 March 2010). All American, All the Way: A Combat History of the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II: From Market Garden to Berlin. Zenith Imprint. ISBN 978-0-7603-3823-0. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  5. ^ Nordyke, Phil (2006). The All Americans in World War II: A Photographic History of the 82nd Airborne Division at War. Zenith Imprint. p. 122. ISBN 978-1-61060-102-3. 
  6. ^ a b Time Magazine, World Battlefronts: The Battle of Desperation, 2 October 1944 (US Edition)
  7. ^ p.199, Stewart, Vance, Three against one: Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin vs Adolph Hitler, Sunstone Press, 2002
  8. ^ Jim Broadhead interview of his father, PFC Daren Broadhead, in early 2004. Daren served in the 2nd Platoon, A Company
  9. ^ a b c "Narrative of Action of the First Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry at Cheneux, Belgium". Retrieved 8 September 2009. 
  10. ^ a b c Nordyke, Phil (2008). More Than Courage: The Combat History of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War II (illustrated ed.). Zenith Press. p. 868. ISBN 978-0-7603-3313-6. 
  11. ^ "The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment Unit Citations". Retrieved 11 September 2009. 
  12. ^ "Panama Deception". 
  13. ^ "2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment "White Devils"". Archived from the original on 4 September 2009. Retrieved 12 September 2009. 
  14. ^ "82nd Airborne battalion arrives, doubles FOB Loyalty’s population". Stars and Stripes. 22 January 2007. 

Recommended reading[edit]

  • Frank van Lunteren, "The Battle of the Bridges: The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in Operation Market Garden", Casemate Publishing, 2014.
  • James Megellas, All the Way to Berlin: A Paratrooper at War in Europe, Presidio Press, 2003.
  • Ross S. Carter, "Those Devils in Baggy Pants", 1945.

External links[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Army Center of Military History document "504th Infantry Lineage and Honors".