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101st History

The 101st Airborne Division — the "Screaming Eagles"— is a U.S. Army modular infantry division trained for heliborne air assault operations. During World War II, it was renowned for action during the Normandy Landings and in the Battle of the Bulge. During the Vietnam War, the 101st Airborne Division was redesignated first an airmobile division, then later as an air assault division. For historical reasons, it retains the "Airborne" tab identifier, yet does not conduct parachute operations at a division level. Many modern members of the 101st are graduates of the U.S. Army Air Assault School, and wear the Air Assault Badge, but it is not prerequisite for assignment to the division. The division's headquarters are at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is the only U.S. Army division with two aviation brigades.

General Order Number Five, which gave birth to the division, reads:

''The 101st Airborne Division, activated at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, has no history, but it has a rendezvous with destiny. Like the early American pioneers whose invincible courage was the foundation stone of this nation, we have broken with the past and its traditions in order to establish our claim to the future.''
''Due to the nature of our armament, and the tactics in which we shall perfect ourselves, we shall be called upon to carry out operations of far-reaching military importance and we shall habitually go into action when the need is immediate and extreme.''
''Let me call your attention to the fact that our badge is the great American eagle. This is a fitting emblem for a division that will crush its enemies by falling upon them like a thunderbolt from the skies.''
''The history we shall make, the record of high achievement we hope to write in the annals of the American Army and the American people, depends wholly and completely on the men of this division. Each individual, each officer and each enlisted man, must therefore regard himself as a necessary part of a complex and powerful instrument for the overcoming of the enemies of the nation. Each, in his own job, must realize that he is not only a means, but an indispensable means for obtaining the goal of victory. It is, therefore, not too much to say that the future itself, in whose molding we expect to have our share, is in the hands of the soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division.''

During World War II, the Pathfinders of the 101st Airborne Division led the way on Battle of Normandy|D-Day in the night drop prior to the invasion. They left from RAF North Witham having trained there with the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division 82nd Airborne Division.

On 25 August 1944 the division became part of the XVIII Airborne Corps in the First Allied Airborne Army. As part of this formation, the division took part in Operation Market Garden.

During the Battle of the Bulge the 101st, as one of the few forces available to contain the German advance, was rushed forward by truck to defend the vital road junction of Bastogne. Famously, Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe answered the German demand for surrender with the reply "To the German Commander: NUTS! -The American Commander" and the division fought on until the siege was lifted and the German advance halted.

On 1 August 1945, the 101st Airborne Division left Germany for Auxerre, France, to begin training for the invasion of Japan. When Japan surrendered two weeks later, the operation became unnecessary. The 101st deactivated on 30 November at Auxerre. For their efforts during World War II, the 101st Airborne Division was awarded four campaign streamers and two Presidential Unit Citations. The division suffered 1,766 Killed In Action; 6,388 Wounded In Action; and 324 Died of Wounds during World War II.

Units 101st Airborne troops retrieving air dropped supplies during the siege of Bastogne.

Division Headquarters
501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, attached 1 May 1944 – past 9 May 1945
502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment
506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, assigned 1 March 1945, previously attached 15 September 1943 - 1 March 1945
327th Glider Infantry Regiment
401st Glider Infantry Regiment, disbanded 1 March 1945 in France; assets to 327th GIR

HHB, Division Artillery
321st Glider Field Artillery Battalion (75mm)
463d Parachute Field Artillery Battalion (75mm)
907th Glider Field Artillery Battalion (75mm)
377th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion (75mm)
81st Airborne Antiaircraft Battalion
326th Airborne Engineer Battalion
326th Airborne Medical Company
101st Parachute Maintenance Company
101st Signal Company
101st Counter Intelligence Corps Detachment

Headquarters, Special Troops
801st Airborne Ordnance Maintenance Company
426th Airborne Quartermaster Company
Headquarters Company, 101st Airborne Division
Military Police Platoon
Reconnaissance Platoon
Band (assigned in 1 Mar 45 reorganization)

Source: Order of Battle: U.S. Army World War II by Shelby Stanton, Presidio Press, 1984.

Helmet insignia

The 101st is distinctive partly by their helmet decorations. The soldiers used card suits (diamonds, spades, hearts, and clubs) to indicate the regiment to which they belonged. The only exception being the 187th, who were added to the division later. These insignias were first seen in World War II, and can still be seen on 101st Division soldiers today.

327th: Clubs (♣) (Currently worn by the 1st Brigade Combat Team)

501st: Diamonds (♦) (Currently 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment is part of the 4th Brigade (ABN), 25th Infantry Division in Alaska.) (The Diamond is currently used by the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade)

502d: Hearts (♥) (Currently worn by the 2d Brigade Combat Team)

506th: Spades (♠) (Currently worn by the 4th Brigade Combat Team) 187th: Torii() (Currently worn by the 3d Brigade Combat Team; not during World War II, when the 187th Infantry Regiment was part of the 11th Airborne Division.)




101st Airborne troops posing with a captured Nazi flag, two days after landing at Normandy