What is National Airborne Day?
August 16th is National Airborne Day. President George W. Bush designated the first Airborne Day in 2001 as a way to pay tribute to the airborne troops of the U.S. military. Airborne troops are also sometimes referred to as “jump troops” or “parachute troops”.
History of U.S. Airborne Troops
During the early days of World War II, the Allies were looking for any advantage they could get against the rapidly advancing Axis forces in Asia and Europe. Even though the United States was not yet involved in the war, military planners were working hard to develop strategies and tactics that they could deploy should the U.S. enter the war.
Parachuting elite troops behind enemy lines was a daring idea, but no one was sure if it was practical. Brigadier General William Mitchell is credited with first developing the idea of using airborne troops and pushed for the military to give the revolutionary strategy a try.
The first official military test jumps were conducted by the Army on August 16, 1940. Forty-eight volunteer members of the Parachute Test Platoon carried out a successful jump over Georgia.
The first combat airborne mission was conducted in November of 1942 over North Africa. Members of the 2nd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment jumped out of a C-47 behind enemy lines.
Airborne troops would be used extensively throughout World War II, and later American conflicts all over the world.
Modern Day Airborne Troops
Today airborne troops are more important than ever to U.S. military strategy. Airborne troops are seen as elite soldiers who are often called on at short notice to jump behind enemy lines and carry out dangerous, often covert missions with limited or no support from other units.
Today the military has seven different airborne divisions:
- 11th Airborne Division
- 13th Airborne Division
- 17th Airborne Division
- 80th Airborne Division
- 82nd Airborne Division
- 101st Airborne Division
- 108th Airborne Division
The Army also has several other smaller airborne units, the most famous being the elite special forces 75th Infantry Ranger Regiment.
Airborne troops served with particular distinction in the liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq. They continue to complete critical missions in these theaters and other hot spots around the world.
President Bush’s Official Proclamation
On the second Airborne Day in 2002, President George W. Bush issued a proclamation as a tribute to the “Sky Soldiers”.
His proclamation reads in part:
"The elite Airborne ranks include prestigious groups such as the 82nd Airborne Division, "America's Guard of Honor," and the "Screaming Eagles" of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). Airborne forces have also been represented in the former 11th, 13th, and 17th Airborne Divisions and numerous other Airborne, glider and air assault units and regiments. Paratroopers in the Army's XVIII Airborne Corps, the 75th Infantry (Ranger) Regiment and other Special Forces units conduct swift and effective operations in defense of peace and freedom.
Airborne combat continues to be driven by the bravery and daring spirit of sky soldiers. Often called into action with little notice, these forces have earned an enduring reputation for dedication, excellence, and honor. As we face the challenges of a new era, I encourage all people to recognize the contributions of these courageous soldiers to our Nation and the world."
Airborne Day is set apart to give all Americans a chance to celebrate and honor the brave soldiers who jump behind enemy lines whenever duty calls.