On 20 October 1942, at Camp Blanding, Florida, the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment was activated with Major Roy E. Lindquist (left) in command. The regiment primarily came from the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment and the 26th Infantry Division. By mid-December, the 508th PIR reached full strength. The next month the 508th was moved to Camp Mackall, North Carolina, where they trained until December.

On 28 December 1943, the regiment boarded the U.S. Army Transport James Parker and set out to join the convoy across the Atlantic for the war in Europe. Twelve days later, on 9 January 1944, the James Parker docked at Belfast, Ireland and the 508th commenced training throughout Great Britain.

The Cold War

The 508th was reactivated as the separate 508th Airborne Regimental Combat Team 1951 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, served in Japan, and later moved to Fort Campbell where it once again inactivated in March 1957 as part of the reactivation of the 101st Airborne Division.[1]

When the Army abandoned the Pentomic (battle group) structure in the early 1960s, the 508th reorganized under the Combat Arms Regimental System as a parent regiment and at the same time renamed the 508th Infantry. Within the 82nd Airborne Division, the former Company A, 508PIR was reorganized and redesignated as HHC, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 508th Infantry, an element of the 3rd Brigade. The former Company B, 508PIR was reactivated as HHC, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 508th Infantry, part of the 1st Brigade. The 1st and 2nd Battalions, 508th Parachute Infantry continued to serve in the 82nd Airborne Division. They served in Operation Powerpack in the Dominican Republic in 1965 and 1966. When the 3rd Brigade was sent to Viet Nam in response to the Tet Offensive in early 1968, 1-508th accompanied it. There it took part of the heavy fighting of Hue and Saigon. It was later awarded the Valorous Unit Citation. In 1983 both battalions served in the Operation Urgent Fury with the invasion of Grenada.

From 8 August 1962 to 26 June 1968, the lineage of Co C, 508PIR was reactivated as HHC, 3-508th INF, and the unit served as an Airborne battalion within the 193rd Infantry Brigade in Panama. When the Airborne component of the battalion was reduced to a single company (Co A), the battalion was reflagged as the 3rd Battalion, 5th Infantry.

The colors of 1-508th and 2-508th departed the 82nd Airborne Division during an Army-wide reflagging of combat units in the 1980s, leaving the division with battalions of the 325th, 504th, and 505th within the 2nd, 1st and 3rd Brigades, respectively.

Operation Neptune - D-Day

Operation "Neptune" was an all-important airborne phase of Overlord, the name given to the massive plan for D-Day invasion of Europe. The 82nd Airborne was an integral part of Operation Neptune. Because the 504th PIR ranks had been depleted due to the Italian Campaigns the 507th and the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiments were attached to the 82nd for this operation.

The 82nd's mission was to destroy vital German supply bridges and capture causeways leading inland across the flooded areas behind the Normandy beaches where seaborne forces would land to gain control of roads and communications. More than 10,000 All-Americans landed by parachute and glider on June 6, 1944 - D-Day - as part of the greatest airborne assault in history.

The 508th was responsible for the Southwest portion of the 82d Airborne Division sector in Normandy.Their primary targets were bridges over the Douve River, located at Brienville and Beuzeville-la-Bastille. Clouds and heavy anti-aircraft fire caused the formations to break up and many of the planes to stray off course. The confusion was also compounded by the Wehrmarcht's presence in the scheduled drop zones. This prevented the pathfinders from marking them and consequently delayed many pilots from flashing the jump lights until they had overshot the drop zones as they frantically searched for the markers. Consequently, both the 507th and 508th troopers were widely scattered over the Normandy countryside.

Landing in the swamp lands along the river the heavily laden troopers hurriedly scrambled to assemble into fighting units. Because of the confusion they were unable to muster their forces into enough strength to occupy the west bank of the Douve River in force. Instead the troopers assembled 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. After regrouping into small units, the 508th began executing their daunting task to seize the bridge over the Douve River, at Pont L' Abbe.

Lt Colonel Thomas J.B.Shanley (Photo is a still frame from 8mm movie shot by Capt William Nation, Rgt S-1 508th PIR) However, one unit under the command of Lt.Col Thomas J.B.Shanley, (pictured right [Photo is a still frame from 8mm movie shot by Capt William Nation, Rgt S-1 508th PIR]) commanding officer of the 2d Battalion, encountered a large contingent of German infantry (Battalion strength) before reaching the town. The Germans were pushing eastward in this area most of the day under orders to counterattack and wipe out the American insertion west of the Merderet. Lt. Col. Shanley immediately realized that they were vastly out numbered, and withdrew to Hill 30. He ordered his unit to dig in. For two days, he and his men fought off repeated German attempts to overrun the main paratrooper landings and contributed substantially to establishing the Merderet bridgehead. This action has been considered decisive in helping the airborne meet its objectives at Normandy.

Cited for their bravery during this action were CPL Ernest T. Roberts, PVT Otto K. Zwingman, and PVT John A. Lockwood. They observed the formation of a German counterattack by an estimated battalion of infantry with tank support while on outpost duty in a building at Haut Gueutteville. Remaining at their posts these troopers held off the enemy attack for two hours allowing the main body of Lt Col Shanley's force to establish an all-around defense at Hill 30.

Lt Colonel Herbert F Batcheller The 508th continued their ferocious fight as infantrymen for 33 days after landing at Normandy. They had choked off reinforcements for the Axis forces defending the French coast. On 13 July 1944, the Red Devils returned to England after suffering 1,061 casualties out of 2,056 paratroopers of which 307 were Killed-In-Action (KIA). Included among the KIA was Lt.Col Batcheller, (pictured left) commanding officer of the 1st Battalion. For the remainder of WW II the 508th would remain attached to the 82nd Airborne Division.

Operation Market Garden

On 9 September 1944 Field-Marshal Montgomery proposed a plan, called Operation Market Garden, to secure a bridgegehead across the Rhine. The operation called for a combined armor and airborne assault to seize and hold key bridges and roads deep behind German lines in Holland. The airborne phase of the operation consisted of capturing five bridges ahead of the armored force. The 504th now back at full strength rejoined the 82nd, while the 507th went to the 17th Airborne Division.

At approximately 1330 hours on 17 September 1944, the Red Devils jumped into Holland as part of Operation Market Garden. Although initial resistance was light, heavy fighting ensued for days.

On September 18, 1SG Leonard A. Funk, Jr., led elements of Co. 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 FA Battalions. For his actions, 1SG Funk received the Distinguished Service Cross.

The 508th established and maintained a defensive position along the main line of resistance which measured over twelve thousand yards in length against heavy German resistance. The regiment then seized Bridge #10 and prevented its destruction by destroying the apparatus for the demolition of the Nijmegen Bridge across the Waal River. This action contributed to the successful completion of the 82nd Airborne's mission.

Meanwhile, the regiment also seized, occupied, 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.

NCOs of the 508th PIR enjoy a break at Camp Sissones NCO ClubFinally, 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.

Battle of the Bulge - The Ardennes Offensive

On 16 December 1944 the entire 82nd Airborne was thrust into Ardennes Forest in the largest battle of World War II - Battle of the Bulge

The Germans smashed through the thin US screen in the Ardennes. SHAEF reserve forces were alerted. The 101st Airborne was sent into Bastogne to try and hold the southern shoulder of the penetration while the 82d was ordered to Werbomont to pinch in the northern shoulder.

On December the 18th the 508th moved and by the 19th had set up positions in the vicinity of Chevron. The regiment held positions against the Germans until the 24th at which time they were ordered to withdraw to establish a new line of resistance. The regiment held it position until January 3, 1945 when the 82nd Airborne Division counterattack.

On January 7th the Red Devil's launched an attack with the 504th in the vicinity of Thier-du-Mont where it suffered heavy casualties. Again, the regiment was withdrawn from the line and placed in reserve until January 21st when it replaced elements of the 2d Infantry Division.

On January 24th the regiment was placed in Corp reserve, but was quickly back in action on January 26th.

On January 29, 1945 First Sergeant Leonard Funk, Jr., (pictured right receiving CMH from President Truman) of Braddock Township, Pennsylvania, Company C, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment received the Medal of Honor (CMH) for action at Holzheim, Belgium. After leading his unit and capturing 80 Germans, the enemy, by means of a ruse, captured the four American guards, freed the prisoners and prepared to attack the understrength Americans. Funk, walking around a building into their midst, had a machine pistol thrust into his stomach by a German officer. Pretending to comply with a surrender demand, he slowly unslung his Thompson submachine gun and with lightning fast motion, riddled the officer and led his men in resisting the enemy, killing 21 in the process.

On February 22, The Regiment moved back to Camp Sissonne where it became part of SHAEF reserve. The regiment performed maintenance, trained and refitted.

On April 5 the regiment was relieved from attachment to the 82d 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 remained 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.

Battles attended

  • Cold War
  • Battle of Stalingrad
  • Battle of the Bulge
  • D-Day

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