The “All American” 82nd Airborne Division
On April 6th, 1917, the United States of America entered WWI. That August 25th, 1917 the 82nd Infantry Division was born at Camp Gordon, Georgia. Then as there was a push to fill so many units as they prepared to move overseas to join the fight, the Army wanted to have a unit that would be highly publicized to give the American population a single unit to pay attention to and follow, to help with morale of the American people here back at home. So the power within the brass decided to make sure that they draft a soldier from all 48 states that would be assigned to the newly created 82nd Division. So they did just that, every soldier newly drafted from all the 48 states to the 82nd division, as this gave the citizens of every state in the Union a reason to follow this great new fighting unit.
The new Commander of the 82nd Division was Brigadier General W.P. Burnham. He wanted to give this new unit a nickname to add to the publicity it was going to receive, so he decided to hold a contest and put it in the local paper. Because the unit had troops from all 48 states the winning nickname was most appropriate as the “All American” 82nd Division.
This kind of historical development also made the camaraderie or brotherhood building among the troops more natural as training began.
When warriors train hard, fight hard, and begin to experience real-world situations together as a team, as a unified unit, a sense of never forgotten is tattooed onto the soul each other. Even today the same thing goes on and when reunions happen whether it be one on one, or as a group, gestures such as getting and receiving a gift from one another mark a point in time that continues that bond them. Just like the Oath of Enlistment shot glass from OldSouthernBrass.com has in their store. Truly a great memento of times gone by.
Brigadier General W.P. Burnham went on to lead the 82nd during combat in France during WWI. After the great war in 1919, the 82nd returned back to the United States bringing with them the numbers they suffered as 995 KIAs, 7,082 Wounded, and a total casualty count of 8,077. As in any war, these numbers come back with a great remembrance of service and for the fellow soldier a loss that will stay with them for life. The division was demobilized and deactivated at Camp Mills, New York that same year.
Then just 2 months following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the fear throughout the United States was real, morale was low once again and the U.S. Army was developing a new kind of soldier. A soldier that was not a regular Army nor a National Guard. But a new elite soldier that for the first time in human combat would jump out of airplanes with parachutes onto the battlefields. This new elite paratrooper needed a new type of unit, so the 82nd was reactivated on the 25th of March 1942. It was reorganized under the command of Major General Omar Bradley then August of the same year was redesignated as the first ever airborne division in the history of the United States Army and Major General Ridgway became the first Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division.
This leads me to a specific All-American Soldier within these ranks. That was one PFC Martin, a glider pilot of the 82nd Airborne 325th glider regiment and was one of many troopers in the unit that was from the deep south. PFC Martin was no different than any other new breed of soldiers being created by the United States. The Rangers, Special Forces (Green Berets), and Airborne soldiers all were being trained with higher standards, a true installment of duty. Duty to a country, unit, and mission, and a commitment to their Airborne brothers and their oath of service to their nation. On the morning of December 23rd, 1944, the German armored units forced the U.S. 3rd Armored unit to go into retreat from the Ardennes Forest, the mountainous terrain of the High Fens region of south-eastern Belgium.
A mission given to the glider regiment was already underway, and PFC Martin’s glider crashed miles short of the objective. He gathered his bearings, grabbed his weapons, including a bazooka, and began marching in the direction he knew the objective was, towards the Ardennes Forest. PFC Martin marched till he couldn’t go any further, then stopped. Being sore and banged up from the crash, bruised and cut up, hungry and determined he dropped his gear and began digging a foxhole facing the direction he knew the objective was. That is when from the retreating 3rd Armored unit, a Sergeant in a tank destroyer spotted this sole American digging a foxhole in the middle of nowhere. He drove up to him to pick him up, but as he did, PFC Martin looked up to the tank commander from the foxhole and said with his southern draw, “Are you looking for a safe place?” the Sergeant said, “Yeah” then Martin replied, “Well buddy, just pull your tank behind me then, because I am the 82nd Airborne, and this is as far as those bastards are going.” That so inspired this Sargent, that he did just that, and a buildup of American forces over the next few days happened right there on that spot, and the battle you know to be called the Battle of the Bulge was fought and won on January 25th, 1945, by the 82nd Airborne Division of the United States of America. Until next time, “Charlie Mike” (Continue The Mission)