The Other Combat Jump

If I mentioned Airborne divisions making combat jumps to you, almost certainly the first thing that pops into your head is D-Day at Normandy. Or at least, that’s what pops into mine. You think of the 101st ABN from Band of Brothers, naturally. Or the 82nd ABN at St. Mere Eglise from The Longest Day.

You probably also think of the 101st and the 82nd in Holland, courtesy of A Bridge Too  Far.

The more historically inclined of us will recall that there were combat jumps in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. There were even combat jumps by the 11th ABN Division in the Pacific.

But even though I know better from study, somehow when I casually consider the history of combat jumps, I always forget the jump across the Rhine.

Raise your hand if you instantly thought of the 17th ABN Division making its combat jump in Operation Varsity.

I think a large part of why the jump doesn’t get a lot of press is that 17th ABN was under Montgomery’s 21st Army Group for the operation.

21 thoughts on “The Other Combat Jump”

  1. Or, apparently even more forgotten, Operation Dragoon. Division-sized, but the jump was under the First Allied Airborne Task Force.

    Interestingly, COL Edson Raff, who commanded the 507th in Varsity, had commanded the first combat jump, by the 509th PIB into North Africa. He was in Normandy (served for a few days as ADC to Gavin) but had come ashore with glider-borne troops.

    1. Yeah, you can tell I put a lot of thought and research into this post.

      Actually, if someone knows a good free online source on Dragoon, I’d like to read more.

      As to First Allied ABN TF, I’ve long wanted to write about Frederick and the 1st Special Service Force.

    2. “Riviera to the Rhine” (Tarl’s second link) is a good intro. You can also check and I have some on my blog

      I’d recommend dropping the $9 for a Kindle version of Rick Atkinson’s “The Guns at Last Light”

      I also have videos of all 6 Operation Dragoon conferences/reunions we’ve held here in northern Virginia, if I ever get around to processing them.

      1. One of the nice things about being a blogger, Holt sent me an Advance Reader’s Edition of The Guns at Last Light for review. Though I certainly encourage all of YOU to order it via the Amazon link here on the right sidebar, so I can get a little change.

  2. My compliments on an Airborne theme on this string. The jump across the Rhine also was one of the first uses (mass) of the C-46 Curtiss Commando with the ability to put paratroopers out of two doors. Actually in Band of Brothers and late in the series CPT Nixon jumps on this very operation. I appreciated the inclusion of, yes, this veritably forgotten WWII Airborne Operation. Of course then there was the 187th Rakkasans in Korea and a Company of Rangers (who were then “leg” or non-airborne qualified albeit elite light infantry), those were some under the radar ops. Thank-you

    1. Since I’m a Leg, I don’t usually talk much about Airborne, Ranger, and SF guys. Not that I don’t respect them. They’re just kind of a different Army than I spent most of my time in.

      And I find it interesting that YOU of all people mention the 187th in Korea, but neglect to mention the 173rd in Vietnam!

  3. Also when the 509th jumped into North Africa early on in included a paratrooper by the name of Rod Serling…yes THAT one.

    1. In which the reader is invited to consider the dangers of jumping out if a working aircraft into combat as opposed to the more peaceful pursuit of writing and smoking.

  4. We stand on the shoulders of Giants and I thought that data on Operation Junction City would be widely available, plus I am hesitant to talk about long gone operations that happened in my life…you know, not being dead yet and all. I am MOST thankful of your inclusion. I gained much respect for the Armored/Mech Inf folks after their (your?) performance in Desert Storm. I’m sure the Master of Tank Warfare (Rommel) was greatly impressed. Again my thanks although I have to say I’ve gained a certain wealth of knowledge reading these posts about things I’ve not studied much if at all, mostly about the Navy.

  5. There were actually multiple airborne assaults by the Allies in the Pacific theater.

    – The 503rd PIR jumped onto to Corregidor while elements fo the 24th ID conducted amphibious operations. The small parade field was the LZ. They had previously made 2 jumps in support of the fight for New Guinea.

    – The 11th Airborne made a total of 5 parachute assaults of varying sizes in the Phillipines, he most famous being the 300+ man jump to free the Allied civilians held at Los Banos internment Camp.

    – The Chindits under Orde Wingate landed by glider assault behind Japanese lines. MEDEVAC occurred by the same gliders being snatched up by passing C-47s.

    – A Battalion of Gurkha Paras jumped in support of the 26th Indian Division invasion of Phuket Island in Thailand

    Also not to be forgotten, the Japanese conducted multiple parachute assaults in seizing the Dutch East Indies. Also a battalion sized raid was attempted against US airfields in the Phillipines following Liberation with very poor results.

    So as you see there were ample instances of Troopers putting the knees in the breeze and Ass in the blast!

    1. Spoken perfectly. Compliments especially on the IJA airborne forces of WWII. To my knowledge the force strength was never more than a Brigade and somewhat oddly divided between their Army & Navy.

    2. Because who doesn’t love getting ones knees in the breeze and 4th point in the blast!!! Dead on Buck Buchanan. Did not know the Chindits had any vertical envelopement capability much less the Gurkha entity….THAT was news to me and I’ve got more time in a T-Shirt than most in a T-10. Thank you very much.

  6. If I mentioned Airborne divisions making combat jumps to you, almost certainly the first thing that pops into your head is D-Day at Normandy.

    Or Crete. =)

  7. OK, I was WRONG, like two naked boys in a wall locker wrong. The Ranger elements that were with the 187th RCT “Rakkasans” in Korea were in fact true “Airborne Rangers” being the first class or two to have graduated from the then new Ranger course. Before the course was set up there was no formal Ranger School. Somewhat oddly the two Ranger Companies in the operation (the 2d & 4th Ranger Companies) were caught up in the desegregation operation in that the 2d Ranger Company was all Black as the tide of war and desegregation hadn’t yet made the 2d available to go through Truman’s edict. After the operations in Korea the Ranger Companies were disbanded until later on and those Rangers farmed out to conventional Airborne units that existed at the time. Most of the Ranger candidates were from Airborne units and as such were already Jump Qualified. Interesting reading on the Gurkha operations, very interesting. My apologies gentle people.

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