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506th Infantry Regiment

World War II

The regiment was initially formed at Camp Toccoa, Georgia in 1942 where it earned its nickname, "Currahees", after Currahee Mountain which is located inside the boundaries of the camp. The Cherokee word, which translates to "Stand Alone", also became the unit's motto. During World War II, the only commander of the regiment was Colonel Robert F. Sink. As such, the 506th was sometimes referred to as the "Five-Oh-Sink". On June 10th, 1942, the 506th became part of the 101st Airborne Division.

At the completion of their training at Camp Toccoa, COL Sink read an article in Reader's Digest about how a unit in the Japanese Army broke the world record for marching, COL Sink thought his men could do better than that, and as a result, the 2nd Battalion marched 118 miles (190 km) to Atlanta, Georgia. This march was conducted over 75 hours and 15 minutes, with 33.5 hours being used for marching. Only 12 out of 556 enlisted men failed to complete the march. All 30 officers completed it, including their commander, Major Robert L. Strayer. Newspapers covered the march and many civilians turned out to cheer the men as they neared Five Points (Atlanta).

The 506th would participate in three major battles during the war: D-Day, Operation Market Garden, and the Battle of the Bulge. (They would have participated in Operation Varsity, which would have been 3 combat jumps, but SHAEF decided to use the 17th Airborne instead.)

D-Day: Operation Overlord

Like almost all paratroop units, the 506th was widely scattered during the Operation Chicago night drop on the morning of D-Day. The most famous action for the 506th on D-Day was the Brécourt Manor Assault. Although promised they would be in battle for just 3 days, the 506th did not return to England for 33 days, participating in the battle for Carentan. Of about 2000 men who jumped into France, 231 were killed in action, 183 were missing or POWs, and 569 were wounded — about 50% casualties for the Normandy campaign.

Operation Market Garden

The airborne component of Operation Market Garden, Operation Market was composed of American units (101st Airborne Division, the 82nd Airborne Division, and the IX Troop Carrier Command), British units (1st Airborne Division) and Polish units (1st Independent Parachute Brigade). The airborne units were dropped near several key bridges along the axis of advance of the ground forces, Operation Garden, with the objective of capturing the bridges intact in order to allow a deep penetration into German occupied Holland and to capture the key bridge crossing the Rhine River at Arnhem.

The 101st Airborne was assigned five bridges just north of the German defensive lines northwest of Eindhoven. The parachute drop was in daylight resulting in well targeted and controlled drops into the designated drop zones. The 101st captured all but one bridge, the one at Son which was destroyed with explosives by the German defenders as the airborne units approached the bridge. The ground forces of XXX Corps linked up with elements of the 101st Airborne on the second day of operations but the advance of the ground forces was further delayed while engineers erected a Bailey Bridge at Son replacing the destroyed bridge. XXX Corps then continued its advance into the 82nd Airborne area of operations where it was halted just shy of Arnhem due to German counter attacks along the length of the deep penetration.

The 101st Airborne continued to support XXX Corps advance during the remainder of Operation Market Garden with several running battles over the next several days.

The Battle of the Bulge

The unit was directly involved in the Battle of the Bulge in December, 1944-January, 1945. While resting and refitting in France after Operation Market-Garden, General Eisenhower called upon the 101st Airborne on December 16 to be moved into the Belgian town of Bastogne by December 18, so that the Germans would not gain access to its important crossroads. The short notice of a move left the unit short of food, ammunition, arms, men, and lacked winter clothing. The unit, along with the rest of the 101st Airborne, was encircled immediately. The 506th was sent to the eastern section of the siege. During the siege, there were reports of problems with tying in the gap in between the 501st PIR and the 506th. To stall the Germans so that the defense could be set up, the first battalion of the 506th (along with Team Desobry from the 10th Armored Division) was sent out to combat and slow down the Germans in the towns of Noville and Foy. 1/3 (about 200 men) of the battalion was destroyed, but in the process had taken out 30 enemy tanks and inflicted 500-1000 casualties. The battalion was put into reserve and the 2nd and 3rd battalions were put on the lines. A supply drop on December 22 helped to some extent. After the Third Army broke the encirclement, the 506th stayed on the line and spearheaded the entire offensive by liberating Foy and Noville in January, until being transferred to Haguenau. They were pulled off the line in late February 1945.

The rest of the war

The unit was put back on the line on April 2nd, and continued so until the rest of the war, taking light casualties. It assisted in the encirclement of the Ruhr Pocket and the capture of Berchtesgaden, then took up occupational duties in Zell am See, Austria. The 506th began training to be redeployed to the Pacific war but the war ended in August 1945.

 

Images

506th

CHECKING THE PRIZES OF WAR
MP40 gets passed around for inspection

506th

INTO BATTLE
506th troopers form up after the big drop

 
         
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